Visiting Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Adjunct Professor of Business at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Bernard Avishai delivered the third annual Jeremy Zwelling Lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 13. In the lecture, titled “Is the Two-State Solution Really Dead?,” Avishai laid out an argument for the necessity of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Avishai has written three books on Israel, most recently “The Hebrew Republic,” which discusses the changing peace process in the age of globalization. Avishai addressed similar material in his lecture.
Assistant Professor of Religion Elisha Russ-Fishbane explained the history of both the lecture and the topic it would tackle this year.
“The Jeremy Zwelling Lecture was established three years ago in honor of Prof. Jeremy Zwelling, beloved professor in the Religion Department for 43 years and founder of the Jewish and Israel Studies Program at Wesleyan,” Russ-Fishbane wrote in an email to The Argus. “[…] This year’s lecture, co-sponsored by [Jewish and Israel Studies], the Religion Dept. and Government Dept., focuses on a topic of major public interest that has returned to the diplomatic front with the latest efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.”
The topic has been the subject of considerable controversy over the last half-century. The “two-state solution” calls for an independent State of Palestine and an independent State of Israel in the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine. Avishai’s lecture sought to address the recent cooling of enthusiasm for the two-state solution on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
During his hour-long lecture, Avishai elucidated the necessity of pursuing the two-state solution.
“Every argument you make against the two-state solution succeeding makes the one-state solution absurd,” Avishai said. “…If the two sides cannot come to an agreement under these conditions, what we’re really saying is that there’s going to be war…. The situation is not sustainable, and we could have that violence tomorrow.”
Instead of perpetuating the political deadlock that could precipitate this violence, Avishai argued, it is critical to encourage integration of Israel and Palestine, for both ideological and practical reasons. In particular, Avishai emphasized the tremendous mutual economic benefits of the two-state solution.
“The Palestinian economy…is going to grow from the flood of intellectual capital coming in from Israel,” Avishai said.
Avishai stated that such a policy would be tremendously beneficial to both sides in the long term, even though he admitted that issues in the short term would likely arise.
“There’s no way Palestine can grow without impinging on—and working in coordination with—Israel,” he said. “Will there be [economic] dependencies [on Israel] initially? Absolutely. What’s in it for the Israelis? The Gulf. The Emirates…, partners at hand in Palestine, who can help them build businesses and networks in the Arab world…. Moreover, the part of Israel that [hasn’t] benefited from globalization has a lot to gain from this. It’s a huge opportunity for them.”
Avishai also stressed the need for bilateral security cooperation between Israel and Palestine.
“Israel and Palestine each knows that the only way to preserve the deal is not to trust the other side to police itself,” he said. “When there’s an act of terror, there has to be a cooperation agreement. We need intense security cooperation, so that each side knows…that when the situation gets fragile, it’s a common failure.”
Furthermore, Avishai said, a two-state solution may be more within reach than is commonly believed.
“We still live with the hangover of 1948…[but] young people in Israel have less ideological baggage,” he said. “They’re born with nothing in their heads. There are these memes that travel inter-generationally…but young people in Israel are not inevitably going to be hostile to Palestinians on a cultural level.”
The lecture was positively received by students in attendance.
“I thought it was interesting, especially as someone who isn’t well-versed on the Israel-Palestine issue,” said Josh Atchley ’15. “I thought that Dr. Avishai’s plan for cooperation, coordination, and mutual respect was well-argued and feasible. It may be idealistic, but I think that it would be possible.”
Em Trambert ’14 likewise expressed support for the plan Avishai laid out.
“I do think the two-state solution would be harder to implement than he made it seem, but his emphasis and focus on the common goals does make it seem attainable and even logical,” she said.