Omer Barlev speaking during the UK-Israel Strategic Challenges Conference in Westminster

by Stephen Oryszczuk

A Westminster audience were this week told about the “terribly shallow” nature of debate about the two-state solution in Israel at the moment.

Labor MK Omar Barlev, a former commander of the Israeli equivalent of the SAS, said both left- and right-wing politicians now resorted automatically to familiar refrains, without considering alternatives.

Speaking in a panel discussion asking whether rejectionists had “slammed the door” on the idea, he said: “The Centre-Left clings to the motto of ‘two-state solution,’ while the Right says ‘we have no partner’ or ‘we tried everything’.”

On the prerequisite that Israel remain both Jewish and democratic, he added: “Anyone who calls himself a Zionist has no other option but to support separation from the Palestinians… We prefer an agreement, however, if we truly have no partner, there are other ways to achieve it.”

Researcher Gabrielle Rifkind said “trust is probably at its lowest ebb, such that even if a reasonable deal was put on the table, it is unlikely that it could be delivered. Meanwhile Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser said that although Israeli government “does not want a continuation of the status quo,” blame should be laid firmly at the Palestinian door.

Analyst Jonathan Rynhold said Israelis “disagree on what they need, but agree that there’s no chance of achieving it.”

Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi added that said Israel “will only be safe” by achieving a two-state solution, but that the UK must “shield” Israel from public criticism, moving forward instead with what he called “persistent persuasion”.

Barlev alone outlined steps to be taken, including to “stop building settlements outside the blocks, compensate and move settlers living outside the blocks, and prepare infrastructure and housing within Israel to resettle them”.

He also said Israeli should enlarge the areas in the West Bank where the Palestinians have full responsibility, with infrastructure, energy, water and drainage systems, but that it would need “courageous leadership”.