What is the significance of the two-state solution in 2017? UN Resolutions dating back to 1974 have called for the ‘Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine’ through the establishment of the two-state solution. The two-state solution proposes that in order to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict ‘two states for two groups of people’ should be created. This solution imagines an independent Palestine bordering the state of Israel, west to the Jordan River.
Although the two-state solution has been discussed for some time, there is still no clear end in sight. During the recent 28th Arab League Summit held in Jordan on March 29th, Arab League member nations again affirmed their support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, with an additional reconciliation with Israel. In contrast, during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump said, “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one both parties like… I can live with either one.” This departure from long-standing US policy support a two-state solution has destabilized expectations about the resolution of this conflict.
Will 2017 challenge the long-standing view of a two-state solution? Are there any other alternatives that could form peace between Israel and Palestine?
The 28th Arab League Summit coincided with weeks of unease over Donald Trump’s recent remarks. The Summit called for Israel to quit the Arab League and agree to a deal on Palestinian refugees, according to a statement after the event. No direct reference was made to Trump’s remarks, however, Arab leaders strongly stressed their backing for a Palestinian state and criticized the building of Jewish settlements on occupied territory. This is why a new series of peace talks based on the two-state solution and a renewed 2002 offer of ‘reconciliation’ with Israel is crucial.
In a poll released last month by the Centre for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, 44 percent of Palestinians said they supported the two-state solution, in comparison to 55 percent of Israelis. This is down from a previous figure of 51 percent of Palestinians in June supporting a two-state solution. Support for two states was lowest and backing for a one-state solution was strongest among 18 to 22-year-old Palestinians. Palestinian university students interview by The Financial Times stated that their views have been shaped by ‘bad experiences’ of friends being arrested and more land going to Jewish settlements. These individuals believe a single state would restore hope in Palestine and provide safety to a generation that has grown up behind Israeli fences and checkpoints.
In spite of this, what a ‘one-state solution’ would entail or how it would be exactly implemented remains vague. Due to the current lack of progress regarding the establishment of a two-state solution, the one-state solution is seen as the de facto situation. The one-state solution would propose a single state of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that would give equal rights and citizenship for people inhabiting all three territories. Again, young Palestinians would see this as providing freedom to Palestine and removing strict borders. The one-state solution could provide a multicultural society without regard to ethnicity or religion. However, Israelis see the one-state solution as a demographic threat, as Jews would become a minority group. Critics of the one-state solution have stated that Jews have the right to self-determination and based on a history of antisemitism, need a nation-state of their own. In terms of multiculturalism, they have also stated that most of the Arab world does not grant equality to ethnic or religious minorities.
Older Palestinians such as Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University, have dismissed talk of a one-state solution: “One state is not on offer, and it is not realistic. The choice is two states or continued Israeli practices – more of the same – and I think this is the preferable situation for Netangyahu.” The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has also endorsed a two-state solution. He told participants at the Arab League Summit that the two-state solution is the “only path to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis can realize their national aspirations and live in peace, security and dignity.”
The two-state and one-state solutions are not the only options that have been suggested. The Ariel Centre for Policy Research has suggested a ‘zero-state solution’ that would assume there is no Palestinian identity and that Palestinians should get Jordanian citizenship, whilst Egypt would own the Gaza Strip. This solution is problematic – Palestinians want to forge their own nation just like the Israelis. The definition of a ‘zero-state solution’ actually sounds similar to the ‘three-state solution’ mentioned by figures such as the Israeli MK Aryeh Eldad and Former American Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton. It would aim to replicate the 1949 Armistice Agreements, in which Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and a Palestinian Arab state did not exist. The Jordanian government has strongly opposed providing citizenship to Palestinians in the past, so this solution seems highly unlikely. During the 28th Arab League Summit, King Abdullah of Jordan also reaffirmed Jordan’s support for a two-state solution: “Israel is continuing to expand settlements and wreck chances of peace… There is no peace or stability in the region without a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause through a two-state solution.”
The majority of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the international community, have asked for a two-state solution. Despite this, dismayed by a lack of progress, people, such as young Palestinians have asked for a one-state solution. The uncertainty that Israelis and Palestinians live with each day results in growing skepticism. A statement released after the poll results by the Tel Aviv and Palestinian Universities says, “despite mutual fear, distrust and pessimism regarding the likelihood and feasibility of the two-state solution, a majority of Palestinians and Israelis may support comprehensive peace agreement that ends the conflict if offered additional symbolic or concrete incentives.” The international community needs to work with Palestine and Israel to ensure that a solution will be established soon. It must be discussed without uncertainty. Eventually, these talks will lead to peace, stability, and freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis.