The death of the two-state solution

Recently, numerous pundits have declared the two-state solution between Israel and a state Palestinian dead. Despite this, numerous political entities including  the United Nations and The European Union have opposed Israel annexing any of the West Bank, lest it interfere with a two-state solution. In the United States, no Democratic presidential candidate can remain Democratically pure without at least giving lip service to the two-state solution. This position ignores reality.  The two-state solution is dead and has been for some time.

The purpose of all negotiated peace agreements is to give the parties peace. No two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can possibly bring Israel peace because the Palestinian Authority has no missiles. In contrast, Iran/Hezbollah and Hamas between them have 150,000 missiles ready to be fired at Israel and threaten to wipe Israel off the face of the earth almost daily. Because all three entities’ position is based on their religious belief that Allah promised all the land between the Jordan River and the Sea to Muslims, no two-state solution can be acceptable to them. Consequently, regardless of what agreement Israel might reach with the P.A. it will need to continue to prepare for a war with Iran/Hezbollah and Hamas.

Additionally,  in the modern history of attempts at a two-state solution, the Arabs have never either made a peace proposal or countered an Israeli one. There is no reason to believe that this will change.

The history of the two-state solution makes these points clear.

The modern history of a two-state solution began in November, 1967 when the United Nations passed UNSCR 242 which envisioned peace for both Jordan and Israel. Israel was willing to negotiate on that basis, but the Arab states were not. Instead, the Arab League, which understood that 242 was premised on the continued existence of Israel, issued its “three nos”: No peace. No recognition. No negotiations.

In 1973, the Arab states again attacked Israel, intent on destroying it. Despite some initial losses, Israel drove the Jordanians, Syrians, and Iraqis back without having taken back any of the land which was under Israeli control. Egypt was able to gain control of a small portion of the Sinai, but agreed to peace after Israeli tanks crossed the Suez canal further north and were bearing down on Cairo unimpeded. Both Benjamin Netanyahu and his brother, Yoni, fought in that war.

In 1973, the United Nations passed UNSCR 338 which called for the warring parties to hold negotiations based on 242. The premise, again, was that all parties would obtain peace.

Although 338 never led to a comprehensive peace agreement, in 1980, Egypt and Israel entered into a separate peace treaty –- a treaty that has resulted in peace between Israel and Egypt for 40 years. With the surrounding Arab states neutralized, the only remaining threat to Israel was the Palestinian Liberation Organization. That was the situation when Bill Clinton tried to effect a two-state solution, a key provision of which would be  the PLO’s agreement to renounce terrorism. Israel wanted peace, something that the PLO’s Arafat was in a position to give them.

When Israel and Arafat came to Camp David in 2000, in theory to resolve the dispute, Israel made an initial peace proposal acceptable to Clinton, but Arafat, as Hillary Clinton described it, “walked away” going back to Ramallah, where he authorized the second intifada. So much for renouncing terrorism.

During the following eight years, George Bush II  continued to seek a two-state solution, but no progress was made in effecting one.

In November, 2008 Barack Obama was elected president, something about which I was overjoyed. While I think that Obama did many wonderful things domestically, when it came to the Middle East, he was clueless.

It is easy to understand why. Obama was born in 1961. He was 6 years old in 1967; 12 in 1973. For his entire adult life, Israel has been the strongest country in the Middle East — well able to defend itself. Unfortunately, Obama still had that image in his mind as President and said so publicly.

When one reads Obama’s autobiography, it is apparent that the Middle East was not on his radar when he was young. He did have a sense of Islam — as it is practiced in Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child. He almost never mentions the Middle East when he describes his youth. After his mother sent him back to the United States to get an American education, he was totally consumed by the difficulties a Black man faces growing up in White America. That view continued through his work as a community organizer and at law school, where he was the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review. At no time did he show any empathy for Israel.

As President, that lack of empathy became foreign policy. On his first trip to the Middle East, Obama went to Cairo, ignoring Israel, and promised that now that he was President, America would have better relations with Muslims. While the Arab states were skeptical — they knew that the United States gave Israel huge amounts of military aid annually and Obama was not about to stop that — the Europeans awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize based on promises, not accomplishments.

Unfortunately, Obama could nor fulfill those promises. When beginning negotiations, he insisted on telling Netanyahu how to defend Israel. Moreover, Obama made it clear that the key to peace for Israel was a two-state solution in which both Israel and Palestine were democracies, viewed settling the West Bank as inconsistent with a two-state solution, and expected Netanyahu to negotiate based on those assumptions.

It must have driven Netanyahu, who had been wounded six times as a commando and lost a brother fighting terrorism, crazy to be told how to defend Israel by a man who had never defended anything militarily in his life. It must have driven Netanyahu crazy to be told what do do by someone whose policy was based on dogma rather than the realities which Israel faced.

Netanyahu understood that the following realities made the Obama proposed two-state solution impossible

1. No two-state solution could bring Israel peace when Iran/Hezbollah and Hamas were intent on eliminating Israel, were building the capability to do so, and had absolutely no interest in any two-state solution.

2. The P.A. had never made any sort of peace proposal to Israel nor responded to an Israeli one.

3. No Arab country has any tradition of democracy. Israel is surrounded by two monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia), two theocracies (Hezbollah and Hamas), and two military dictatorships (Syria and Egypt).

4. The settlements were no impediment to peace. There were no settlements in 1967 when the surrounding Arab countries tried to destroy Israel. Settlements were not an issue when they tried to do it again in 1973.

The people who still maintain that a two-state solution will bring Israel peace are ignoring these basic realities. If they did not, they would realize that a two-state solution has long been dead.

About the Author
After spending an adulthood as a lawyer in Colorado where much of my practice involved the public interest, I made aliyah. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I came here, I understood what she meant. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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