There is No Alternative to a Two-State Solution

July 21, 2013 7:29 am 4 comments

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with PA President Abbas in May 2013. Photo: State Department.

JNS.org - The two-state premise for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back to the very foundation of the State of Israel. The United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 divided British-ruled Mandatory Palestine into two separate entities, one Jewish, one Arab. The plan recognized that the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea must be shared, a principle at the core of current efforts to achieve, through bilateral negotiations, a permanent peace based on two states for two peoples.

Even though many Zionists had originally sought Jewish sovereignty over the entire land, David Ben-Gurion wisely acceded to the compromise, recognizing the chance to fulfill the Zionist vision of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Tragically for the Palestinian people, their leaders and the Arab world at large objected to the very idea of a Jewish state within any borders, and opted for war against the Jews to abort partition. The Arab defeat doomed the Palestinian half of the two-state plan. Two Arab states went further to snuff out that vision, as Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan annexed the West Bank.

Israel’s dramatic victory in June 1967 against Arab countries intent on destroying it left Israel in control of Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While there were those who vocally urged maintaining control over all of the land for historical, religious and security reasons, the Israeli mainstream never relished ruling over another people. Israeli governments, Labor and Likud, have sought partners to negotiate peace agreements that would entail territorial compromise.

Israel concluded such a deal with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat in 1979, restoring the Sinai to Egyptian sovereignty. Another historic peace treaty was reached with Jordan’s King Hussein in 1994, but Jordan had relinquished any claim to the West Bank and declared that the future of East Jerusalem, including the holy Muslim sites in the Old City, would be up to the Palestinians.

The 1993 Oslo Accords, a product of direct bilateral negotiations, were signed with the noble intention of eventually creating a Palestinian entity that would live in peace with Israel. But, as with the U.N. two-state plan, implementation required visionary, courageous, determined leaders on both sides. Regrettably, Palestinian leadership has consistently fallen short, but Israelis who still hold on to the pipedream of a greater Israel have also made the search for peace more difficult.

While Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by an Israeli extremist surely set up an obstacle to the peace process, Yasser Arafat’s decision to revert to terrorism, refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s link to any part of the land, and failure to nurture a culture of peace among his own people had a far more serious long-term impact.

Still, the elusive goal of two states, never completely abandoned, remains the best option for permanent peace. Four consecutive prime ministers of Israel—Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu—have openly committed themselves to it. In his historic 2009 Bar-Ilan University address, Netanyahu declared, “In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence.”

As Netanyahu says frequently, the alternative to territorial compromise, a binational state, would be the death knell of Zionism and of Israel, since incorporating so many Arabs into the Israeli polity would destroy the country’s Jewish character.

True, each of Israel’s generous offers for peace—at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, and Jerusalem in 2008—were spurned by the Palestinian leadership. The Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007 and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s resistance to resuming talks since he walked away from them four years ago are additional challenges to Israel’s efforts—and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative—to get the peace process back on track.

Yet there is no viable alternative to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the longer they are put off the more world public opinion views Israel, erroneously, as the obstacle to peace. When the Palestinians do return to the table, the Israeli government will work out the details with them: secure borders, appropriate land swaps to ensure that the main settlement blocs are in Israel, a demilitarized Palestinian state, and an end to the conflict. Given the risks Israel faces, consideration for what happens the day after any peace agreement is signed will be critical to its successful implementation.

Achieving peace is a strategic objective for Israel. American Jews should support the Israeli government’s determined efforts to reach a two-state solution. That will require genuine, committed partners, and finding them—especially now with chaos spreading in neighboring Arab countries—may be difficult. But abandoning hope would be the greatest tragedy.

Kenneth Bandler is director of media relations for the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

4 Comments

  • Marc du'Conde

    That was then, this is now. What Ben-Gurion agreed to was in effect, a Jewish homeland. Neither Great Britain nor any of the Arabs were dealing in good faith.
    The land given to the Arabs ended up being portioned by Jordon and Egypt and Syria. The land given to Ben-Gurian became Israel and all bets were off.
    Today, a largely uneducated and violent Arab population thoroughly indoctrinated for the past 60 odd years has resulted in people who do indeed believe Israel took and now occupies land belonging to people of Arab descent, now referring to themselves as ‘Palestinians.’
    I submit that given the current beliefs by these same Arabs, and the political games played by the surrounding countries, no 2 country peace is possible. Israel must be able to maintain and keep its borders, its people and its way of life intact. Those nearby Arabs who are in such a faux dispute, need to return to Jordon, Egypt, Syria etc. or face certain death.
    I believe in fairness, and I subscribe to the theory that the under dog must be given a chance. Israel is the real under dog, the Arabs both own and control all the rest of the middle east. Let’s allow these former nomadic Bedouins to find shelter with their like minded brothers, and quiet these unsupportable claims on Jerusalem, the city of David, not the city of Arafat.

  • The Palestinians have two versions of a two State Solution neither one ends up with the Jewish State of Israel existing in the end. The Hamas version (oh yeah no adequate mention of Hamas in this article as they are the strongest Palestinian faction) defeats Israel by terrorism. The Jews are killed or run away and they create an Islamic State in lieu of Israel.
    The second version Arafat (now Abbas)and his followers believe is the two stage solution. First all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza become the first stage of the Palestinian State. Then they flood millions of so called Palestinians, most whom never lived in Israel into the pre 1967 lines. Then they start more terror attacks from within pre 1967, the West Bank and Gaza and then kill off the Jews .
    The Palestinians do not agree to Jewish state in any size. So to make concessions to them as under Oslo accords is a huge mistake. Israel ended up with over 1500 dead and 10,000 wounded due to agreeing to Oslo. The “Oslo Peace Accords” is a misnomer. It should be have been named “Oslo Reign of Terror” as it brought Arafat and his Terror Boys back from Tunisia to attack Israeli’s.
    Agreement to a Palestinian State by Israel is a version of State Suicide or least a prelude to a new larger war in a much inferior position. So a new solution to Palestinian issue must be found that is not based on the Oslo Accords or two state solution.

  • I think Bandler is correct. Like it or not, the leaders in 1947 agreed to a two state solution and were glad to have it. At the time their backs were against the wall and having ‘a’ homeland was their dream. The living situation with Muslims at the time was generally cooperative so the two state partition was favorable.
    From what I understand, that ‘offer’ for cooperative ‘states’ in the same land is still on the table waiting for the refugees from Egypt, Jordan and Syria (otherwise called Palestinians) to agree to live peaceably. If their goal remains to refuse the right for Jews to exist independently in the homeland, problems will continue. That should be the focus of discussion. The offer has been made at the highest levels of the U.N. as well as from Israeli leaders. That focus forces the issue of peace being the major goal.

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    While I think Mr. Bandler is theoretically right in reality things are exactly as Avigdor Lieberman just said in the last 24 hours–there is no solution to the Arab-Israel conflict at any time in the forseeable future. At most it can be managed. Whether there will ever be a solution is dubious. We Americans by nature always seek compromise to reach solutions–that mindset simply is non-existent to Islam and Moslems. As Prof. Bernard Lewis has said, while borders can be eventually satisfactorily negotiated with much effort and innovation; there can be no negotiation over the very existence of a country. There simply is no evidence that the Arabs will ever accept Israel’s permanent and militarily secure right of existence as a Jewish state. That is why Mr. Bandler unfortunately is wrong. YOU CANNOT COOPT EXTREMISTS AND FANATICS.

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