From Donald Trump to Joe Biden, “the Two-state Solution” is parroted by everyone on the American political spectrum – seemingly the only stance both Republican and Democratic politicians share. But is there any substance to this mantra in 2023?
Almost 30 years have passed since the Oslo Accords when the “Two-State Solution” was initially proposed. Can we, in good faith, say this proposal is still relevant in today’s political climate?
During the Oslo Accords negotiations, the Palestinians were a united front under the Palestine Liberation Organization. Today, the blockade issued by Israel and Egypt has closed off Gaza’s borders, successfully isolating Gaza for nearly two decades and consequently dividing the Palestinian people. But geography is no longer the only barrier separating the Palestinians; we now face a political divide. Currently, two competing governments are at play – The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza – meaning future peace talks must include both governments. Establishing two states becomes increasingly complex if three parties are involved, especially when two parties (Israel and Hamas) refuse to recognize one another as legitimate governments.
Another ongoing obstacle is the Israeli government’s shift from prioritizing a two-state solution to actively undermining that possibility. Long-term Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement expansion scheme has quadrupled the number of settlements in the West Bank since the Oslo Accords in a deliberate attempt to annex it. These settlements run through areas earmarked as Palestinian territory if the Two-State Solution were to come to fruition. Currently, more than half a million settlers, as well as buildings and infrastructure, permeate the heart of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These make disengagement, population swapping, and land exchange a logistical nightmare. We have already seen this obstacle in action in the most recent failed proposed two-state plan presented by the Trump administration. A proposal riddled with physical and metaphorical holes, doomed from the get-go due to its disregard for existing settlements. Having just won his fifth term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu and his new far-right populist administration plans to continue bulldozing their way through the West Bank, demolishing any chance of a two-state solution.
Public opinion can leverage a peace agreement or keep one dormant. But, sadly, we are facing a sobering reality that “peace” is now a source of contention.
Harassment, assault, and death threats come with working for peace advocacy organizations in Israel. I still remember canvassing for Amnesty International in Tel Aviv and receiving daily harassment because the logo on our uniform, written in both Hebrew and Arabic, was too controversial. As an advocate, I have been spit on, berated, and branded as a traitor. Since the Second Intifada and the rise of Hamas, the Israeli Jewish public has come to disdain the peace process. At its peak, 74.3% of the Israeli Jewish public supported the Two-state Solution, but thirty years later, that figure dropped to 41% today. Nowadays, the conflict has taken a political backseat, and the public is inclined to maintain the status quo as it has little effect on their daily lives. Future negotiations are in jeopardy as a meager 32% of the younger generation supports a two-state solution.
There is a misconception that Palestinians will accept the Two-state Solution with open arms, putting an end to the conflict. In actuality, their public opinion mirrors Israel’s; only 42% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 32% in Gaza support a lasting peace based on the Two-state Solution. The majority, however, support continued conflict even if a two-state solution is reached until Palestinians regain all territory. Islamic extremists have spurred on this sentiment by praising violence in the name of freedom fighting.
Even Palestinians who support a lasting peace agreement would face adversity. Collaborating with Israel is seen as a direct betrayal in Palestinian society due to the brutal conditions and indignity they have endured under the occupation.
With the current public opinion, government leaders have more incentive to evade the conflict rather than resolve it.
We must recognize the landscape of this conflict has changed, and it is high time we adapt accordingly.
The Two-state Solution as we know it is outdated, and ignoring this fact will continue to pigeonhole the peace process. Bringing Palestinians and Israelis together can be an effective path forward, as evidenced by local nonprofits such as Ecopeace and the Abraham Initiative. These organizations have trailblazed community building through sustainability, education, and economic growth. It is imperative we face forward and focus on diffusing tension through collaboration on mutually beneficial causes. Only then can we loosen the grip of extremism and pave the way for new solutions. Shamefully, neither the Israeli, Palestinian, or American governments intend to broker peace. We cannot accept complacency and the normalization of violence; we must hold our political leaders accountable, and we must start now.