January 25, 2017 - Problems With A Two-State Solution

by Julian Zuckerbrot


A “two-state solution” to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs – based on trading land for peace -- has been much in the news lately. In his final news conference as head of state (http://thehill.com/policy/international/314883-obama-moment-may-be-passing-on-two-state-solution), President Obama explained that the opportunity for such a solution “may be passing,” hence his decision not to veto Resolution 2334 in the Security Council. The resolution gives the UN’s endorsement of Palestinian claim’s to all the territory that Jordan and Egypt occupied until 1967, implying that Israelis own no land they can trade for peace, while the Palestinians have no reason to offer peace for land that is rightfully theirs.

Obama had, earlier in his presidency, pressured Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the idea of a Palestinian state; in 2009 Netanyahu agreed, but only if certain guarantees were given to Israel, some of them (such as disarmament) possibly not enforceable. One of them – recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian one – has been repeatedly rejected by PA President-for-Life Mahmoud Abbas. (It wouldn’t be a Jewish state for long anyway, since Abbas is also demanding the transfer to Israel of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.)

Even then, the settlement might not be a final one: at the time the Palestinians were given self-rule under the Oslo Accords in 1994, Yasser Arafat announced (in Arabic) that a state in the West Bank and Gaza would be only a first step in the eventual take-over of the entirety of Israel. Nor has that position changed: In December of 2016, a senior member of Fatah (the party of Arafat and Abbas), Azzam al-Ahmad  said the same thing on PA television (http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=450&fld_id=450&doc_id=19862).

The General Assembly resolution of 1947 was not the first partition plan proposed for creating an Arab state on part of the territory that had been set aside for a Jewish state by various international treaties, but it is the best known. It was accepted by the Jews but rejected by their Arab neighbours. The new State of Israel was attacked in 1948, ironically, by the armed forces of countries that had been created by some of the same international agreements as Israel – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan (now Jordan), and Saudi Arabia – along with those of Egypt. Those nations had inherited all the Middle-Eastern territories formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire – all but the tiny share allotted to Israel.

That war, Israel’s War of Independence, ended without any permanent boundaries being agreed to. The Jordanians occupied what they called the West Bank, and the Egyptians occupied Gaza, until 1967 – the next time they tried and failed to destroy Israel. (The attitude of the international community seems to be that when an Arab army fails to conquer Israel, the two sides should go back to the starting line until such a time as the invaders want their next crack at it.)


Over the years, Israel has offered land – territory it gained in defending itself, through the sacrifice of its soldiers – in hopes of obtaining peace.  Twice Israel conquered the Sinai peninsula, in 1956 and in 1967; twice it returned the Sinai to Egypt, finally obtaining a peace treaty in 1978. It may be only a formal “cold peace,” but at least it’s not war. Israel took over southern Lebanon in 1982, when it was being attacked on a regular basis from there; its complete withdrawal in 2000 was -- and is -- seen by its enemies as a surrender. The threat to Israel from Lebanon is now more serious than ever.

A similar situation exists in Gaza, once part of the British-administered Mandate for Palestine, but occupied (after being cleared of its Jewish population) by Egypt from 1948 until 1967. Israel controlled the area from 1967 – building farms and communities – until 2005, when the government, hoping withdrawal would be a step on the road to peace (and international popularity), ordered all of its citizens out.

Some argue that Gaza today is a Palestinian state, but rather than trying to build a stable and prosperous nation there, its Hamas rulers direct all resources towards maintaining a perpetual state of conflict against Israel. That, for reasonable observers, might rule out the formation of a third state on the West Bank, but not apparently for the United Nations.

There are also those who refer to Jordan as a Palestinian state. Many Jordanians call themselves Palestinians. After all, Jordan, like Israel, was also part of the Mandate for Palestine. A recent article in The American Thinker details how that Palestinian state was carved out of the territory that, under the Mandate, had been set aside for a Jewish state. (http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/01/a_look_back_at_the_first_twostate_solution.html)

Between 1967 and 1994, when Israel alone controlled the “West Bank,” the situation was generally calm, with Israeli tourists visiting Arab towns on the other side of the “green line,” and Palestinians crossing in the opposite direction to visit or work. That all ended with the Oslo accords of 1993, under which Israel agreed to Arab self-rule over much of the West Bank, under the leadership of the PLO.

In subsequent negotiations, Israel offered the Palestinians 97 per cent of the West Bank (2000), and even a part of Jerusalem (2008). What they received in return was a refusal to negotiate….and a constant acts of violence -- including two intifadas, or terror campaigns of even more intense attacks.

Jews no longer visit those Arab towns; when they do, they have to be rescued, lest they end up hurt, or even killed – like the two reservists who, in 2000, had taken a wrong turn into Ramallah, only to be murdered, and their bodies literally torn apart by a cheering mob. In response to the years of attacks, Israel has built a barrier – described in many media accounts as a wall, but actually a fence for most of its length – as a way of protecting itself from terrorists from PA-controlled areas.

None of this has stopped the champions of the two-state solution – and there are many, some very prominent -- from insisting that it is the only solution. In the meantime other proposals have been mooted, among them: Israel should exercise sovereignty over the entire West Bank (http://carolineglick.com/a-bold-proposal-by-seth-frantzman-jerusalem-post-review-of-the-israeli-solution/); or that Israel should give up its claim to most of the West Bank, while maintaining a military presence (http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense-news/2016/05/29/israeli-ex-generals-push-security-first-plan-west-bank-gaza/85129238/); or even a that there should be a multi-mini-state solution (http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/lawrence-solomon-the-solution-to-israel-palestine-isnt-two-states-its-several-states).

Israel’s claim to ownership of Judaea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) is solid, but today many Israelis would give up some or most of those lands, if it would lead to a lasting peace. In practice, however, they can see no partner for peace, no one in the Palestinian leadership willing to make the compromises necessary to resolve the conflict. And, by teaching their children to hate Israel, and by preparing them for never-ending war, the Palestinians are ensuring that no compromise solution will be possible for many years to come.

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