The issue of the viability of a Palestinian state is of the utmost significance insofar as most peacemaking attempts are based around the notion of a two-state solution. If two states are not possible, peace may not be possible. Thus anyone interested in genuine peacemaking ought to be interested in the viability of a Palestinian state.
Viability has at least four components: political, geographic, economic and legal. In other words, any viable Palestinian state must be sovereign, geographically contiguous, economically sustainable and legally recognized.
The viability issue is resurfacing now, not because a Palestinian state is on the horizon, but because the future viability of such a state is being seriously undermined at the moment, particularly by the continued Israeli settlement expansions, which directly prejudice such viability. Enough studies have shown that a state on the borders of 1967 can be economically viable with tourism as the leading industry. But such an economy presupposes the inclusion of East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the capital of a future Palestine, and its religious sites.
These current settlement expansion plans, with their intended isolation of Jerusalem and other areas, also make territorial contiguity impossible. Without such contiguity economic viability is impossible, and without economic viability, any state will be completely dependent either on international aid, the Israeli market or some combination of the two. None of these options may be acceptable to Palestinians, nor do they provide solid bases for sustainability.
The current Israeli disengagement strategy with its different Gaza and West Bank aspects is another example of the kind of Israeli practices that undermine the viability of a Palestinian state. In Gaza, although withdrawing from the Strip, Israel insists on maintaining control over borders, sea and air space. In the West Bank, in addition to strengthening its settlements there, Israel’s separation wall directly affects territorial contiguity.
Unfortunately, the only alternative to the two state solution–an alternative that soon may need to be looked at, in case the undermining of the viability of a Palestinian state continues–is the one-state option. I say option, not solution, because–considering the current reality, part of which is that the Jewish people in historical Palestine would like to maintain their different standards of living and sets of laws, etc., from the Palestinians in the same area–it will inevitably result in some kind of apartheid system rather than a one-man one-vote system.
The main threat to the prospect of peace is the current expansion of settlements, especially in and around Jerusalem. This constitutes the major threat to the two-state solution, and the two-state solution is a pre-condition for peace. The fight against settlements and settlement expansion is thus a fight for peace. Thus, if continued, the current international tolerance for this particular Israeli violation of international law, despite its proscription under the roadmap, will be directly or indirectly responsible for rendering a peaceful solution impossible in the future.