Israel's settlement growth means we have to find a different plan.
On the surface, the most daunting task facing US envoy George Mitchell in his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories is strengthening the Gaza cease-fire, and helping Gazans rise from the rubble.
But actually, the super diplomat's biggest challenge, as he wraps up his first trip and lays plans for future journeys, lies in coming to terms with a grim and unavoidable fact: The two-state solution is on its deathbed.
Since the Six-Day War of June 1967, the two-state solution, based on the concept of "land for peace," has been the central focus of almost all diplomatic efforts to resolve this tragedy. But because of Israel's unrelenting occupation and settlement project in the West Bank, the long-fought-for two-state solution has finally, tragically, become unworkable. Consider:
•In 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat famously shook hands on the White House lawn, there were 109,000 Israelis living in settlements across the West Bank (not including Jerusalem). Today there are 275,000, in more than 230 settlements and strategically placed "outposts" designed to cement a permanent Jewish presence on Palestinian land.
•The biggest Israeli settlement outside East Jerusalem, Ariel, is now home to nearly 20,000 settlers. Their home lies one third of the way inside the West Bank, yet the Israeli "security barrier" veers well inside the occupied territory to wrap Ariel in its embrace. The settlement's leaders proclaim confidently that they are "here to stay," and embark on frequent missions to seek new waves of American Jews to move to the settlement.