In recent years, with facts on the ground changing, many scholars and commentators have questioned the feasibility of a truly just and enduring two state solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Increased discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, continued growth in the expansion of settlements in the 1967-occupied territories, the erection of the separation wall, are just a few of the factors making the current two state solution option seem to many no longer a truly tenable offering. Scholars, commentators and citizens have begun to look at other ideas, and most to the idea of the creation of a comprehensive single state as the solution. Over the past year, support for that idea has been growing with conferences held in the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel and the West Bank. Still, this alternative is left firmly off of the official agendas. Yet in the months following the November 2007 Annapolis meetings, the Israeli Government announced tenders for the construction of thousands of new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, suggesting it has no intention of releasing its hold on the territories.
A report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in July 2007 revealed that the pace and extent of Israeli colonization activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has reached a point where the creation of a genuinely independent Palestinian state has become a geophysical impossibility. Forty percent of the West Bank, according to the OCHA report, is now taken up with Israeli infrastructure (settlements, roads, army bases, closed military areas) to which Palestinians are denied access. The remaining sixty percent is broken up into enclaves of land disconnected from each other and the outside world by Israeli controlled roads, walls, ditches or borders. The rate of population increase of the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories is expected to double within a few years if the trend of settlement continues apace. As many observers of the political behavior of Israel ’s political leaders have noted, the Israelis continue to extend the two-state solution discourse primarily to pursue sustained confiscation of Palestinian land and to pressure Palestinians to leave in order to reduce the proportion of Palestinians to Israeli Jews.
Gaza, which Israel now considers “hostile” rather than occupied territory, provides the prototype of what the Israeli Government may have in mind for Palestinian “independence.” Confronted with this scenario and with a settlement that would require Palestinians and their leaders to give up title to significant parts of the West Bank, how do Israelis and Palestinians who seek peace and justice go forward? That is the question this conference will seek to answer with an exploration of the one state solution as an emergent and increasingly important option for all.