Two-state solution takes more than mere words

Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, veterans of the Middle East conflict and astute writers, pen a piece in today’s New York Times that gets past the usual bleating over a two-state solution:

The two-state solution has welcomed two converts. In recent weeks, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, have indicated they now accept what they had long rejected. This nearly unanimous consensus is the surest sign to date that the two-state solution has become void of meaning, a catchphrase divorced from the contentious issues it is supposed to resolve. Everyone can say yes because saying yes no longer says much, and saying no has become too costly. Acceptance of the two-state solution signals continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle by other means.

Bowing to American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu conceded the principle of a Palestinian state, but then described it in a way that stripped it of meaningful sovereignty. In essence, and with minor modifications, his position recalled that of Israeli leaders who preceded him. A state, he pronounced, would have to be demilitarized, without control over borders or airspace. Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and no Palestinian refugees would be allowed back to Israel. His emphasis was on the caveats rather than the concession.

As Mr. Netanyahu was fond of saying, you can call that a state if you wish, but whom are you kidding?