Time For Two-Staters to Get Real

Let’s put the hysteria over Trump’s peace plan aside and simply look at the facts on the ground and assess the feasibility of a two-state solution as conceived by the anti-annexationists.

Since at least the Peel partition plan of 1937, the general assumption has been that “justice” for Jews and Arabs in Palestine requires the creation of two states. Until recently, the conclusion had less to do with justice than a rational calculation that the best way to resolve a conflict between two people over one land is to divide it between them.

The rational approach ignored the fact that the conflict has never been just about land. It fails, for example, to account for religion, history, or psychology, all of which shape the parties’ attitudes. Without litigating every grievance, let’s look at two issues: Palestinian rejectionism and the demography of settlements.

The argument that the Palestinians have never been offered a chance for statehood is demonstrably false. Moreover, the Palestinians have proven since 1937 they are unprepared to accept any compromise that divides the land into a Jewish and Arab state.

Let’s review the missed opportunities:

In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.

In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of a unitary Arab state.

In 1947, the UN would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan.

During the 1977 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations Menachem Begin offered the Palestinians autonomy, which could have led to full independence.

The Oslo agreements of the 1990s laid out a path for Palestinian independence, but the process was derailed by terrorism.

In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97% percent of the West Bank.

ln 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and partition Jerusalem on a demographic basis.

Two-state advocates also ignore the fact that Israel did not control the West Bank or Gaza Strip for 19 years. During that time, the Palestinians and their supporters never demanded that Jordan and Egypt end their occupations and establish a state for them. Their brother Arabs, who now profess such concern for their “legitimate rights,” never supported the creation of a Palestinian state nor did the United Nations. You also will be hard-pressed to find a record of any campus organization protesting the Jordanian and Egyptian occupation of “Palestine.”

The rejection of the Trump plan marks the ninth time the Palestinians have proven Abba Eban’s observation that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

This raises another question that is never asked. How would the Palestinians and their supporters expect to implement their vision of a state based on the 1949 armistice lines with East Jerusalem as its capital (setting aside their goal of a state “from the river to the sea”)? Do they expect nearly 800,000 Jews to leave or be removed from their homes? What if they refused to leave the area allotted to a Palestinian state? The Palestinians have said their state should be judenrein, so would they seize and deport them?

In 2000, when the Camp David talks between Barak, President Clinton and Yasser Arafat were conducted, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria was just over 200,000. Clinton envisioned that Israel would withdraw from at least 63 settlements and 80% of the Jews would be incorporated into blocs that would be annexed to Israel. That would have still left 40,000 that had to be evacuated. Supporters of the proposal believed this was feasible and might have been implemented had Arafat accepted the offer.

Five years later, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. That involved only 9,000 Jews from 21 communities, cost more than $1.3 billion, and was one of the most traumatic events in Israel’s history.

Disregarding the violent Palestinian response and their history of rejectionism, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, the Palestinians agreed today to one of the pre-Trump formulas for a two-state solution.

Today, there are 131 settlements and, excluding Jerusalem, the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria exceeds 460,000. Only 70% of these people live in the “consensus” settlement blocs Israel was expected to annex as part of the two-state formula. That means Israel would have to remove roughly 138,000 Jews from their homes. The last time that many Jews was transferred from their homes was in the Nazi deportations.

Let’s assume, the settlers were willing to leave if they were compensated. They would probably demand more money than the Gazans received, especially after seeing the problems involved with their resettlement, and other expenses involved in moving or destroying infrastructure would be far higher. Based on the Gaza precedent, the withdrawal from the West Bank would cost at least $20 billion.

Where do the two-staters expect that money to come from? That would be roughly 17% of Israel’s entire budget. Would the United States put up the money? The Europeans? The UN? The general attitude has been that Israel created the problem by establishing the settlements, so they must solve it themselves.

Some predicted the disengagement would lead to a bloodbath in Gaza; fortunately, it did not. Still, were any of the two-staters around when Jews were dragged from their homes in Gaza by the army? Did they hear Israeli soldiers being called “Nazis”? While most West Bankers have said they would leave voluntarily, it is likely the number of resisters will be far greater than in Gaza. Are the two-staters prepared to risk a civil war among Jews?

Clinton’s peace plan assumed Jerusalem could be divided into Jewish and Arab areas, but this was when many Jewish neighborhoods had not been built or were relatively small. Today, 325,000 Jews live in neighborhoods of Jerusalem that are technically in the West Bank. What do the two-staters have in mind for them?

In 1988, I advocated unilateral withdrawal from the territories in Commentary. At that time, there were roughly 70,000 Jews in the disputed territories. The situation has changed dramatically since then.

Two states for two peoples fighting over the same land sounds good if you ignore all the other elements of the conflict and the practicality, cost and justice of removing hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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