Yesterday the Israeli Knesset voted 65-33 to approve the so-called referendum law, which requires a national referendum on any subsequent withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. According to Israeli journalist Dimi Reider, the new law:
Conditions any Israeli withdrawal from any of its territory -- into which Israel, alone in the world, includes the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem -- on passing a nation-wide referendum. To overrule the law, the Knesset would need a privileged majority of 80 out of 120 parliamentarians."
In other words, you can kiss the two-state solution good-bye. (For a similar appraisal of the new law, see Mitchell Plitnick here.) Given the current (and likely future) state of politics within Israel, this law in effect gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction. Even in the unlikely event that Netanyahu agreed to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and a capital in East Jerusalem, the deal would probably be killed by the referendum or just die in the Knesset. Needless to say, the bill was fully supported by Netanyahu and his Likud Party.
Wake up and smell the coffee, folks. "Two states for two peoples" is dead. I say that with genuine regret, because I've long thought it was the best solution to a long and tragic conflict. If Obama's Middle East team had any backbone -- and it's been clear for some time that they don't -- they would pull their demeaning offer to give Israel extra $3 billion in weapons and a bunch of diplomatic concessions in exchange for a partial 90-day settlement freeze off the table immediately, and keep it off until the Israeli government voted to rescind this law.
But don't hold your breath. Instead, those courageous folks in the State Department offered up the following comment at yesterday's press briefing (HT Jim Lobe):
Question: Is the U.S. concerned about legislation passed by the Israeli parliament requiring a two-thirds vote by the Knesset or a referendum to withdraw from annexed east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights?
Answer: This is an internal Israeli issue and the Israeli government is in the best position to address inquiries related to its process."
The U.S. spokesman couldn't even bring himself to say this latest action was "regrettable." Isn't it great to be the world's only superpower? Don't you just swell with national pride at moments like this?
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.