I've been wanting to write something about the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but haven't managed to do so until today. Unfortunately, the news doesn't look good. The Christian Science monitor reports today that the talks are still on, but it's hard to know how long they'll last, given that Israel's freeze on building new settlements has elapsed. At the start of this month, I was moved by this list of 10 reasons to be hopeful about the peace talks; today, I'm not so sure.
When I was living in Jerusalem two summers ago, I had the opportunity to travel a little bit around Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the experience was pretty overwhelming. (Here's my first post about that: A day with ICAHD.) Israeli settlements carve the West Bank into Swiss cheese, and as the settlements grow, creating a viable Palestinian state becomes harder and harder. Americans for Peace Now, the American counterpart to שלום עכשיו, recently released a new map of the territories called Facts on the Ground, available on the web and as an iphone app; if you want to know more, it's a good place to start.
It seems to me that if Israel doesn't stop the growth of settlements, they will soon reach a point where the creation of an independent state of Palestine is no longer possible. Which will mean that Israel will have to assimilate the Palestinian population wholly -- which will mean as a simple demographic reality that Israel will no longer be a Jewish state. I blogged about this last fall when I attended the first JStreet conference; the first session I attended was on the subject of West Bank settlements and the peace process. (The notes from that session are here: West Bank Settlements: Obstacles on the Road to Peace.)
To me, it is plain as day that the settlements are damaging the prospect of a two-state solution. I fear that if there is no two-state solution, there will be no end to the violence in the Middle East. And that is so disheartening to me that when I try to write about it, I wind up staring at my computer screen in despair. (I can't begin to imagine how disheartening it is to my Israeli friends and family or to the Palestinians I've met during my travels and online.) All I can do, from my home here in the beautiful rainy Diaspora, is pray that somehow, against all odds, a solution can be found. Speedily, and in our day, because I fear that time is running out.
(And I can send letters to President Obama asking him to put pressure on the Israeli government to halt the building of settlements, and I can register for Human Rights Under Fire: A Jewish Call to Action, the upcoming Rabbis for Human Rights conference in New York. But God, it doesn't feel like enough.)