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‘Has the two-state solution ever been viable!’

Sep 22,2021 - Last updated at Sep 22,2021

Writing for Al Jazeera's website, Haidar Eid, an associate professor at Al Quds university in Gaza, directed my attention to a survey on the status of the two-state solution conducted by Foreign Affairs. The selected experts, including Eid, were asked, "Is the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer viable?" In my view, the question should have been, "Has the two-state solution ever been viable."

The two-state solution was based on Security Council resolution 242 adopted in November 1967 calling for Israeli withdrawal from territory conquered during the June war. If Israel had complied then or soon thereafter, East Jerusalem and the West Bank might have reverted to Jordan which has been in charge from 1948, while Gaza might have been returned to Egypt. Israel ignored resolution 242, drove 250,000 Palestinians into Jordan, and constructed strategically located colonies around East Jerusalem and elsewhere with the aim of creating facts on the ground which would make it impossible for Israel to withdraw.

In 1968, Yasser Arafat, head of Fateh's paramilitary organisation, secured control of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and confirmed that armed struggle was the vehicle to attain Palestinian self-determination in the whole of Palestine. During his November 1974 address to the UN General Assembly presented the international community with the choice of a gun or an olive branch as the means to achieve the Palestinian goal. This led to the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This goal gained form with the adoption by the 1988 Palestine National Congress of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence which inferred recognition of Israel within the ceasefire lines of 1948-49 (i.e., minus East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza).

Although the original proposition was for a Palestinian state in all or most of the territory conquered by Israel in 1967, which remains the PLO position, the US exerted pressure for acceptance that borders must be negotiated by the parties. This gave Israel the upper hand as it has the military muscle and international support to secure its objectives.

The problem with this, of course, is that Israel has followed a duplicitous two-track policy of pledging adherence to the two-state solution while colonising the occupied Palestinian territories with the aim of extending its rule over all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.  Colonisation continued apace after the Oslo accords were signed in September 1993.

Having stated fealty to the two-state solution while stepping up colonisation, Israel's ex-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared in March 2015 during an election campaign, that if victorious he would not allow a Palestinian state to be created while he was in office.  Netanyahu was compelled by Washington to back track on that line, but it has been revived by his successor Naftali Bennett who has said that there will be no Palestinian state and "a peace agreement with the Palestinians will not happen”.

I do not know what Foreign Affairs expected to learn by probing several dozen informed and involved figures. As could have been expected the vast majority of respondents, some of who, contributed a brief comment, divided into two opposing camps with 33 Israelis and their supporters saying the two-state solution remains viable while 25 Palestinians and their backers contending it is not viable, with seven declaring neutrality.

Respondents agreeing with the Foreign Affairs proposition were frank in their comments.

Jordan's ex-foreign minister Marwan Muashar was blunt, "The Israeli government is not interested in ending the occupation and thus allowing for a viable two-state solution. The number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has mushroomed to more than 700,000, including  more than 250,000 in East Jerusalem." He accused the international community of "giving lip service to the two-state solution while not accompanying it with a credible plan [for its execution] and not holding Israel accountable for an illegal settlement expansion... ."

Associate Professor at the Doha Institution for Graduate Studies Ibrahim Fraihat agreed, "While the settlements ended the two-state solution on the ground, the term itself continued to serve the empty rhetoric of politicians who failed to either stop settlement expansions, or at least freeze them..."

Anthropology Professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, Nadia Abu El-Haj, wrote:, "I think we are heading towards a more radical ethnic cleansing of the sort we saw in 1948, and to a lesser extent in 1967, or  we are in a generational struggle."

Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, Sarah Leah Whitson, stated: "The 'two-state solution' has been a two-state illusion for decades, handily relied on by Israel and the United States to divert from any efforts to check Israel's endless military occupation, replete with ongoing land theft, settlement". 

Orit Perlov, research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, was brief: "It was never viable... ."

Among those who disagreed were Israelis. former US officials and academics with Israel leaning think-tanks. Many referred to the need for leadership on both sides to achieve this end. None mentioned the 140-year-old Zionist plan for the colonisation of Palestine and neighbouring territories which has always been the roadmap for Israel's leaders whether Labour or Likud.

Former US negotiator Aaron David Miller held that Israelis and Palestinians "remain trapped by a two-state solution impossible to implement... but too important to abandon.." Miller's colleague, Dennis Ross contended that "there is no good alternative".

Lihi Ben Shitrit, associate professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, said that "in theory both a two-state and a one-state solution are equally viable, but in practice neither is likely to happen" due to internal polarisation in Israel and Palestine and the “lack of political will in Israel to change the status quo..I think the most likely scenario is the continued status quo of de facto apartheid in the occupied territories.”

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