An honest American reports: “The two-state solution is as dead as a doornail.”

The following is a report received from Ed Abington, a former U.S. Consul-General in Jerusalem, on current conditions in the “Holy Land.” (The report was sent on 23 March 2008 and the emphasis added is mine).

I got back Saturday morning from ten days in Jerusalem and Ramallah where I met with many Palestinians and Israelis. I came back convinced more than ever that the two-state solution is dead as a doornail. There is absolutely no willingness on the part of the IDF to change the situation on the ground from the stranglehold they now have.In fact several Israelis said that there are an increasing number of IDF officers serving in the West Bank who live in the settlements and do everything they can to frustrate any dismantlement of roadblocks or other barriers. The head of a well-respected Israeli organization told me that former Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s adviser for the West Bank said that the IDF does everything it can to frustrate positive changes on the ground per the Roadmap and Tony Blair’s mission.The Israeli said Peretz’s adviser said that the IDF had recruited Palestinian youngsters from Nablus to try to get through the Hawara checkpoint wearing a suicide belt. They were caught (since it was a set-up), the IDF trumpeted their arrest and used that to justify the continuing siege of Nablus. The boys were released within a short time after their arrest.

The Office of the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs has the absolute best — and most depressing — power point presentation of the situation on the West Bank that I have seen, layering information on a map showing Palestinian cities and villages, areas a, b and c,closed military areas, Israeli-declared nature reserves, the separation barrier, settlements, including their master plan for development, the Israeli road network for settlements, barriers and road blocks — all of which puts forty percent of the West Bank off limit to Palestinians. When one looks at the presentation and sees how fragmented and disjointed the West Bank has become, and how East Jerusalem is almost totally surrounded by Israeli settlements, it is beyond imagination that there can ever be a viable Palestinian state./b>

There is a sense of despair among almost all Palestinians I talked to. They see no willingness on the part of the Israelis to engage in meaningful final status talks. In fact, they say, the talks are frozen, yet settlement expansion is going on at a steady and growing rate. Tenders for new housing units are being approved almost everyday, not only in East Jerusalem but elsewhere in the West Bank. No Palestinian building for any purpose is allowed in area c, even if Palestinians have owned the land for generations. The IDF destroys any building done by Palestinians in area c. The West Bank is now truly fragmented by checkpoints, Israeli-only roads, closed military areas and permanent “border-crossing”-like terminals around all the major Palestinian cities. Someone shipping goods to or from Nablus,for example, must off-load/on-load their trucks at least twice on any trip.

The IDF has clamped down even tighter on the daily lives of Palestinians. Nabil Kassis, the president of Bir Zeit University,said that he has not been able to hire foreign faculty for the university for several years. The Israelis refuse to give foreign faculty work permits. In the past, foreigners would get a three month visa at the Israeli point of entry and after three months, go out to Jordan or elsewhere for a day or two and then come back in and get another three month visa. That practice has now stopped by the Israelis, making it even more difficult for anyone in the West Bank who overstays their visa.

I found no Palestinian who had anything positive to say about Tony Blair’s mission. One Palestinian involved in negotiations said Blair comes two or three days a month and spends only a couple of hours with the Palestinians. They see no positive changes on the ground as a result of his efforts. I heard that a State Department official will shortly join the Blair mission as chief of party. One wag unkindly commented that his assignment was a rare example of a rat jumping on a sinking ship.

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