Will the two-state solution go the way of the defunct peace process?

Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposals are likely to be nothing more than a rehash of approaches that have f

In the last week, press reports have suggested that the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is preparing to give a key speech on the peace process in the next few months, and many have flagged up as the hook his planned visit to the US in May. Claims of an imminent bold proposal have met with a good deal of scepticism from Palestinians and Netanyahu's domestic political opponents alike. Analysts have described the talk of a new plan as a "trial balloon" and a "public relations exercise aimed first and foremost at Washington".

Netanyahu's new plan, should it materialise, is rumoured to be based on "the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders" as part of an "interim peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority". Other reports have been even vaguer, claiming that Netanyahu is proposing "a phased approach to peacemaking", but leaving open whether this includes temporary borders.

Such an approach is similar to proposals previously put forward by the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz, both of whom emphasised the need for a long-term interim agreement. Lieberman's plan is said to entail Israel holding on to at least 50 per cent of the West Bank, while Mofaz would have Israel keep 40 per cent of the territory.

Last week, the senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath claimed that five months ago Netanyahu told the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, that Israel would demand control of 40 per cent of the West Bank for "an extended period".

These percentages correspond to the major settlements built by Israel in the West Bank since 1967, and the wider infrastructure of colonisation and de facto annexation. As the human rights group B'Tselem has described, 42 per cent of the land area of the West Bank is controlled by settlements. Human Rights Watch's report Separate and Unequal detailed how the 60 per cent of the West Bank known as "Area C", where Israel has "full control of security, planning and building", contains "substantial amounts of water resources, grazing and agricultural land", as well as the "land reserves" required by Palestinian towns for development and growth. UN officials have estimated (PDF) that 44 per cent of the West Bank has been "largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military".

If Netanyahu is indeed preparing a proposal along these lines, then it is nothing more than a rehash of approaches that have repeatedly failed. This "new" way forward by the Netanyahu/Lieberman coalition brings together the essence of Oslo ("phased transition") with Israeli intransigence (unilateral definition of "borders" and imposition of conditions). Remember that it was the former PM Yitzhak Rabin who in 1995 stressed that "the country's final borders" would include "a united Jerusalem" and key settlement blocs.

There are other recent indications of Netanyahu's intentions, such as his visit to the Jordan Valley, where he reiterated Israel's aim of maintaining a presence along the West Bank's eastern flank. The PM has appointed a radical right-winger to lead the National Security Council, while talking with the far-right National Union party about joining the coalition. Even as he promises to demolish unauthorised settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land, Netanyahu is legalising "settlements and homes built without permission on state land".

Perhaps one of the more revealing comments this month came from an interview with Israel's strategic affairs minister and deputy PM, Moshe Ya'alon. Responding to a question about a Palestinian state, Ya'alon said that the "intention is to leave the situation as it is: autonomous management of civil affairs, and if they want to call it a state, let them call it that". The government, he said, will "keep what exists now" and let the Palestinians "call it whatever they want".

In other words, the Israeli government has nothing to offer except the same tired messaging while apartheid is consolidated. It is a short-term strategy that is taking the entire "two-state solution" the same way of the defunct peace process.

Ben White is a freelance journalist specialising in Israel/Palestine.

Ben White is an activist and writer. His latest book is "Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy"

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear