The Two-State Solution: Is It Dead?

Ethnic tensions at the centre of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict began before the 1900s under the Ottoman Empire. The conflict started with the rise of two opposing national movements: Zionism and Arab nationalism. For either religious reasons or as an attempt to escape prosecution, some part of the Jewish population aspired to return to Zion and began the Zionist movement. Arab nationalism, on the other hand, opposes the claim that Zion could rightfully exist.

Originally, Palestinians were motivated to oppose Jewish immigration and land purchases due to a fear of economic competition. The Ottoman Empire gave specialized treatment to Jewish commerce. In July 1908, the Young Turks Revolutions promoted Pan-Arab ideas and used Jewish people as scapegoats for the failing economy. As anti-Zionist rhetoric began to grow increasingly more violent, tensions escalated. The first major deportation of Zionists occurred after World War I, and Arab independence was recognized in Palestine.

In the mid-20th century, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict erupted into open hostility between Palestinian Jews and Arabs. The escalation of conflict began after the Second World War with the British withdrawal from the Palestine region. In 1948, Britain officially withdrew from Palestine and immediately the Jewish National Council (JNC) declared the State of Israel. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, large numbers of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. This conflict, known as the Israel’s War of Independence, escalated because of the JNC’s claim of the State of Israel. The surrounding Arab nationals attacked the State of Israel in retaliation of the newly declared state and partition of Palestine. The violence of these conflicts became the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historical rights, security issues, and human rights.

Some Palestinians have committed atrocious violent acts against Israelis. During the 1960s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became infamous for its international terror by hijacking 82 planes. The PLO also captured and murdered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games. On the other hand, Israeli forces have launched attacks against Palestinians, assassinating dozens of Palestinians and supporters outside of Palestine. In addition, Israel bombed Palestinian targets in many nations (i.e. Syria and Lebanon) and bombed the PLO Headquarters in Tunisia.

Despite numerous attempts for a long-term peace accord, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The main issues are mutual recognition, borders, and security. The conflict lies in Zionist desire for control of Jerusalem and Israeli settlements. Palestinians desire freedom of movement within West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinian right to return to Israel. This conflict generates a wide variety of views and opinions, most notably the two-state solution versus the one-state solution. The two-state solution is able to garner a majority preference over Israelis and Palestinians. The two-state solution creates an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Contrarily, the one-state solution has two versions. The first is to have an apartheid-like political structure that discriminates against Palestinians. The second version is to have a one state formula where all citizens have equal rights. However, with the political turmoil, mistrust, and violent attacks, it would seem impossible for both nationalities to live peacefully together.

In the Al Monitor, Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, said that “Polls show that the majority of Palestinians still favour a two-state solution.” He argues that the only practical option is the two-state solution. Tibi compares the one-state solution to an apartheid structure with political discrimination against Palestinians. Tibi insists that Israelis “will not agree for a single state for all, and are unlikely to tolerate a blatant apartheid regime.”

In February 2017, President Trump said that he would “like the one that both parties like” in reference to the two-state and one-state solutions. The New York Times declared that purposefully or not, President Trump implied “that the long-proposed solution of two states did not really matter.” Analysts said that this flippant response was due to Trump’s lack of knowledge as many Palestinians and Israelis agree that a one-state formula will not bring peace. Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian political scientist and Shaul Arieli, an Israeli expert, both say that one state is impossible. However, the issue in the two-state formula is now to be fair and draw borders that both Israelis and Palestinians would accept. Mr. Arieli, a political geographer, suggested Israel could keep 80% of its West bank settlers within its border by swapping territory equal to about 4% of the West Bank. Arieli argues that the remaining 20% of settlers would agree to move back into Israel for compensation. 

Ultimately, the problem lies with the leaders on either side being unwilling to agree and compromise a border for both Israel and Palestine. A leading Israeli columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea, wrote that “the two sides, in practice, have chosen a third option: not to agree.” The necessary conflict resolution style is the conciliation conflict style. In this case, it is a compromising conflict style to mutually give-and-take interactions. However, the main problem seems to be that neither states have any trust or respect with each other. This distrust is most notably reflected in the interactions between both leaders. Arguably, the leaders need to be able to take a leap of faith and bite the bullet or their states will remain in constant conflict.

Lauren Livingston

Lauren Livingston

Correspondent Intern at The Organization for World Peace
A junior at Claremont McKenna College dual-majoring in Government and Psychology. She is strongly passionate about public policy and affairs.
Lauren Livingston

About Lauren Livingston

A junior at Claremont McKenna College dual-majoring in Government and Psychology. She is strongly passionate about public policy and affairs. LinkedIn: