“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”- Albert Einstein
Israel’s Foreign Minister and frontrunner as next Prime Minister - Tzipi Livni - had the courage to finally say this week what every one else in Israel’s Government knows but has been extremely reluctant to acknowledge.
Speaking to the foreign media in Israel Ms Livni effectively pronounced as dead the creation of a 23rd Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt when she said:
“When we are talking two states for two people, the idea is Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people and the Palestinian state is the homeland for the Palestinians. Without this concept, there is no agreement.”
Her forthrightness - given her position and her critical role in any ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) - must be applauded.
There are still those who refuse to acknowledge this basic and fundamental reality as they watch the “two state solution” in its death throes yet still believe it to be somehow alive and kicking and capable of being resuscitated by another of those miracles for which the Holyland is famous.
One of those true believers is US Secretary of State - Condoleezza Rice - who makes her 18th visit in two years to the region next week.
She needs to be reminded of President Bush’s own assessment that no such state can possibly be created if Israel is required to allow millions of Arabs to flood Israel and destroy its identity as the national homeland of the Jews.
She also needs to bear in mind that both contenders aspiring to be the next American President - John Mc Cain and Barak Obama - are of a similar view.
Ms Rice has a difficult - indeed impossible - task ahead of her in securing any advance in the negotiating positions of Israel and the PA following the PA’s instant rejection of Israel’s peace proposal leaked to the media last week involving the ceding of 93% of the West Bank and Gaza to the PA when it shows itself capable of assuming control there and provided the demanded right of return is dropped.
Despite 15 years of negotiations the price for peace demanded by the Arabs - the right of return - continues to remain the critical deal breaker to any “two state solution”
The thinking that a new state called Palestine could be created in the West Bank and Gaza was fathered in 1993 by two Israeli academics Yair Hirschfeld and Ron Pundik and mothered by three representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Ahmed Qurei, Maher Al-Kurd and Hassan Asfour.
The concept was both surreal and bizarre - given that such a state was never created after the West Bank and Gaza had been totally cleared of Jews during the 1948 War between Israel and six invading Arab armies - leaving those areas wholly controlled by Egypt and Jordan until 1967. Such a state was even achievable after the capture of these areas by Israel following the Six Day War in 1967 and prior to Jews beginning to return to once again live in these areas as they had done prior to being thrown out in 1948. The Arabs however refused to enter into any negotiations.
An additional Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza was not created during that lengthy period of time for one simple reason - the Arabs never wanted or desired it because it would have been seen to end their claimed right to return and live in Israel.
The idea then that such a state could even be contemplated in 1993 and that the right of return would be abandoned as the price for its creation was pie in the sky. The lengthy period of missed opportunity between 1948-1974 and the changed demographic reality that had taken place between 1967 and 1993 should have been more than sufficient to put such a proposal at the bottom of the ideas pile.
Regrettably it was pursued.
The Oslo Accords that followed attempted to turn this flawed thinking into reality but led to nowhere with the total breakdown of the Camp David negotiations in 2000.
Undeterred by the failure of these negotiations President Bush proceeded to persist with the “two state solution” when presenting his proposal - the Roadmap - in 2002. The President managed to persuade the European Union, the United Nations and Russia to join him in forming the world’s most powerful negotiating team ever assembled in history - the Quartet - to make his vision a reality. They have been totally unable to achieve a modicum of success.
Now six years down the track the negotiations contemplated under the Roadmap for this new state to be created have collapsed again for the same crucial reason that has plagued the Arab perspective - the inability to abandon their claimed right of return.
Indeed the refusal of most of the Arab States to recognise Israel as the Jewish State and the national homeland of the Jews - remains today an unbridgeable gap in much the same way as it has for the last 130 years.
If Condoleezza Rice hopes to breathe life into the corpse that was to be called Palestine during her visit next week, she will need to confront the PA and demand it issues an unequivocal and unambiguous declaration abandoning any claimed right of return by any former residents or their descendants into what is now called Israel.
If this demand is being used by the PA as a bargaining chip to secure a better deal from Israel than was offered last week, then she needs to find out what will be required to have the right of return abandoned.
The idea that the problem of dividing the West Bank and Gaza between its Arab and Jewish claimants could be solved by creating another Arab State there has had 15 years to reach a successful conclusion. It has been an abject failure and has gone nowhere.
Some new thinking is needed to replace this outmoded and totally discredited approach.
Surely Ms Rice doesn’t need to be an Einstein to work that out.