Why the 'Two-State Solution' Hasn't Worked, and Can't
Binyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, Mahmoud Abbas (Image credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office of Israel)
Much has been written about the “two state solution” (TSS) or “two states for two peoples” (TSTP) as the path to resolving the conflict between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries and Palestinians, but at the same time there appears to be little understanding of why it consistently fails. It fails because it is focused on territory, Palestinian statehood, rather than ideology – Palestinian nationalism and Palestinianism, the belief that Jews have no right to a state and that Jewish nationalism, Zionism, is anathema and that Jewish history is a fraud. The idea of separating Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians into two separate states is logical, but practically it involves other issues which remain obstacles. Supporting Palestinian statehood, therefore, without including a resolution of or reference to other problems prevents a rational, comprehensive approach to finding a realistic solution. The principle behind the TSS/TSTP seems simple: since Arabs don’t want to live under Israeli rule and Israelis don’t want to rule over them, give them a state in all or most of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem. Jews would be expelled from the Arab Palestinian state and not permitted to live there, but Israeli Arabs would remain in Israel as citizens. A population transfer/ethnic cleansing would occur in only one state. Granting statehood, however, depends on resolving all other issues which were included in previous “peace plans” and agreements such as the Oslo accords: 1) ending the conflict, ending violence and incitement; 2) ending all claims against Israel, abandoning “the Nakba” (the catastrophe, Israel’s establishment); 3) ending the “Palestinian Right of Return” of refugees and their descendants to Israel; 4) shared status of the Temple Mount and Jewish rights in eastern Jerusalem and the Old City; 5) continued IDF presence in the Jordan Valley and other strategic areas; 6) land swaps to include areas of major settlement; 7) access to all holy sites; and 8) recognizing Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish People and its historical and religious connection to the land of Israel and the Temple Mount. These basic, minimal requirements to advance the “peace process” and statehood were rejected by Palestinian leaders time and again. Supporting the TSS without including the fundamental elements upon which it rests – and dealing with the issues of ideology – renders it irrelevant. Focusing only on territory – a state – and Palestinian national self-determination without context not only distorts the problem, but prevents efforts to resolve it. Virulent Palestinian nationalism, or more generally, Palestinianism, means only one thing: kill Jews and destroy the State of Israel. The roots of this toxic nationalism are found in the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who instigated pogroms against innocent Jews in the 1920s and ‘30s and actively supported the Nazis. His successors in the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Hamas, have not deviated from this path. Ignoring this reality has led to the death of thousands. Despite Israeli concessions, compromises and unilateral withdrawals, and efforts by the international community to end the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the TSS such as the Oslo accords, “the Road Map,” and pressure on Israel by the Obama administration, nothing worked. Rather than diminish the conflict, they made it worse and led to more terrorism, antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment throughout the world. Although Arafat signed the Oslo accords on behalf of the PLO and was obligated to remove the clauses in the Palestinian National Covenant which call for Israel’s destruction, the PLO/ PA and Hamas continue to promote violence and seek Israel’s demise. Why do they deserve a state? Rather than understand why attempts to promote Palestinian statehood failed, and consider alternatives, its supporters cling to fantasies. Coaxing and bribing Palestinians to make a deal always fails because that would mean ending the conflict and accepting Israel – a betrayal of Palestinianism as expressed in the PLO and Hamas Charters. Establishing a second Palestinian state, or third if one includes “Hamastan” in the Gaza Strip, would lead to destabilization and increase the chances for violence between competing entities, gangs and militias which could spill over into Israel. Jordan might seek to expel its “Palestinian” citizens to the new state. A power struggle would ensue over who represents the Palestinians and what constitutes the territorial basis for “Palestinian national identity.” With Islamist forces waiting to take advantage of any power vacuum, the area would plunge into Somalia-like chaos. Not only has the TSS been the basis for all “peace plans,” its supporters pressure Israel to prevent Jews from building in settlements and extending Israeli law to Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli (military) control. The TSS idea also strengthens anti-Israel movements, especially boycott campaigns and political organizations, such as J Street, which accuse Israel of illegally occupying Palestinian territory. Accepting the TSS, therefore, concedes the question of Palestinian statehood as a given, without negotiations or considering alternatives. A Palestinian state west of the Jordan River is not a realistic or viable option for the foreseeable future. The alternative is continuing to develop cooperative working relationships with Palestinians and with Jordan, Egypt and other countries based on humanitarian needs and concerns. Some have suggested a confederated Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian model – similar to one which the PLO approved in 1985 – based on local Palestinian self-government, minus statehood. This would offer Arab residents a range of possibilities rather than dooming them to the corrupt, autocratic rule of the PA and PLO. Instead of the TSS trap, the goal should be to promote opportunity and prosperity and to ensure the security and stability of the region. This shifts from form, statehood, to content and purpose, from the hopeless TSS to a hopeful multi-state solution which will inspire creativity and cooperation – the only raison d’etre of nation-states, the goal of community and civilization.
This article, reprinted with permission of the author, first appeared as "Why the 'two-state solution' hasn't worked, and can't" in The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com, May 22, 2017.