2013: Now or never for the two-state-solution

2013 will be a decisive year. If the international community doesn't stop Israel from killing the last chance for the two-state solution, this option will disappear forever to be replaced by a long painful bloody struggle which will end in a bi-national state, an option that Israel will never accept voluntarily.

As 2012 ends, we should look back at how the events of the past year may have suggested routes for renegotiating the Palestinian: Israeli conflict.

Firstly, we should examine the role of Egypt. The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was achieved through Egypt's mediation, and its willingness to be the guarantor, which included an unwritten commitment to tighten control over its borders with the Gaza Strip, and preventing the smuggling of weapons through Sinai to Gaza.

This suggests the possibility that Egypt can have a major influence on Hamas, by controlling the flow of military supplies to Hamas' arsenal and by influencing its future tactics. The exercise of Egyptian influence in the Gaza Strip may well put an end to the possibility that Sinai will become the new Tora Bora of the Middle East, and this influence serves the interests of both Israel and Egypt as well as the wider stability of the region. Egypt’s new leadership, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, has an interest in advancing its integration into the international community, by behavior adhering to international norms that will gain it legitimacy, and by developing and normalizing its relations with the U.S. administration.

Today, the Egyptian leadership is facing a delicate internal situation as a result of continued protests against the new constitution. The door is open for many possible scenarios, starting from restoring stability to sinking into the mud of chaos. Assuming the internal crisis will be overcome, which is the most probable scenario, it might be followed by an intensive Egyptian effort to conclude the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and a regional and international effort to move the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations forward towards a resolution of the conflict. Such a development is very likely to happen right after the Israeli elections in January 2013.

There are Israelis who believe that Egypt’s role in the agreement between Hamas and Israel should be used to resolve the problem of Gaza – meaning that there should be an Egyptian takeover of the Strip, as was the situation before the 1967 war. Those who push for this option concomitantly aim to abort the chance of creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem by reviving the so-called Jordanian option.

On the other hand, the PLO leadership, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, believes that the UN recognition of the State of Palestine on the borders of June 1967 - with East Jerusalem as its capital - will represent the international terms of reference for any future negotiations with Israel by defining beforehand the future borders of the State of Palestine. The UN General Assembly recognition of the State of Palestine and its borders blocks the road in front of Israeli plans to avoid withdrawal from the West Bank, to give back Gaza to Egypt, and to revive the Jordanian option. No doubt that Abbas’ achievement in the UN contributed much to restoring his credibility, in the wake of Hamas’ claims of victory in its fight against Israel, in what has become known in the Palestinian media as the "Eight Days War".

The year 2013, with a new/old administration in the White House, possibly a new/old government in Israel, reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and the increasing pressure of the international community to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be a decisive year.

Israeli plans to build thousands of new housing units on Palestinian occupied land including the new settlement in the area known as E-1 that isolates Jerusalem from the West Bank, are being seen worldwide as a warning red light. It is now or never. Either the international community will stop Israel from killing the last chance for the two-state solution, or this option will disappear forever, and be replaced by a long painful bloody struggle which will end in a bi-national state, an option that Israel will never accept voluntarily.

Ziad AbuZayyad is the co-Editor of the Palestine Israel Journal, a former Palestinian Authority Minister and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and former negotiator.

This article originally appeared in Haaretz on December 31, 2012