Two states for two nations

For me “two states for two nations” is synonymous with a United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted on 29 November 1947.  For that is what the world voted on and intended to be. In Israel we celebrate the decision and the date because it resulted in the creation of the independent sovereign State of Israel as the homeland for the Jewish Nation.

On this forthcoming anniversary it is important to re-ask pertinent questions: What happened to the other proposed state? Given that the second state wasn’t created there wasn’t an Economic Union between them as also proposed.

What happened? The United Nations proposed partition of the British Mandatory rule was never implemented. Britain had conquered this territory during World War I in 1916 from Ottoman Empire rule and for the first time in history called it Palestine. On 29 November 1947 Arab leaders and governments rejected the plan of partition in the resolution. They argued that it violated the principles of self-determination in the United Nations Charter. They argued that the people should vote on their own future. Would the people have voted any different than proposed by the United Nations? Unlikely!!

The rest is history so to speak but some salient points must be remembered. The Kingdom of Jordan invaded Judea and Samaria while Egypt invaded Gaza. This would have been the “second state for the second nation”. Hence from 1947 until 1967 the notion of an independent second state in these territories was not promoted either by local residents or by Arab leaders and governments. Instead from 1947 until 1967 Arab leaders and governments called for and attempted by military force to destroy the one state that came into existence, the State of Israel.

It was only after Israel liberated Judea and Samaria from Jordanian and Gaza from Egyptian rule in 1967 that the notion was reborn for a “second state for a second nation” in these territories. A sovereign State of Palestine for a Palestinian Nation – the second state proposed by the United Nations in 1947 but rejected by Arab leaders and governments. Subsequent to 1967 all Israeli leaders and governments have accepted in principle that they cannot and will not annex Judea and Samaria and Gaza nor will they force Israeli citizenship on any indigenous inhabitants.

By 1993 as noted in the Oslo Accords the government of Israel intended to generate autonomy for parts of Judea and Samaria and Gaza. The 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza and North Samaria went to prove Israel’s intentions for “two states for two nations”.

So where does this leave us on the forthcoming anniversary this Sunday. The implementation of “two states for two nations” is the daily work of tens of thousands of people. They work to ensure that one state Israel remains a sovereign state and that the other state may come into existence. These tens of thousands of people work diligently all over the world be it in the American government, the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority or elsewhere in the public or private spheres. They do so quietly knowing that the Economic Union proposed in the 1947 resolution will be as essential as the political creation of “two states for two nations”.

Sadly, there are also a minority of radical elements engaged in political protests and street demonstrators, even in Israel, that have forgotten the 1947 Resolution and the events since. Some for call for peace now while others call for BDS and boycotts of Israel, its citizens and goods without acknowledging or celebrating the 29 November or praising the tens of thousands of people working to create “two states for two nations”.

I call on these activists to turn their protests, their demonstrations and their negative efforts and attitudes to taking positive steps; to taking gainful employment in government or non-government organisations to create rather than just call for “two states for two nations.” Similarly if Arab leaders and governments were to help Palestinians towards an Economic Union rather than arming them militarily then the date of 29 November will be remembered and celebrated for what it truly is. “Two states for two nations” is more than a political slogan; it is living history.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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