The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict centres around the establishment of an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, in the region west of the Jordan River.

A peace movement poster: Israeli and Palestinian flags and the words peace in Arabic and Hebrew. Similar images have been used by several groups supporting a two-state solution to the conflict.
Map of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 2011. Agreeing on acceptable borders is a major difficulty with the two-state solution.
Area C of the West Bank, controlled by Israel, in blue and red, December 2011

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which was not implemented.[1] The Palestinian leadership has accepted the concept since the 1982 Arab Summit in Fez,[2] although it has consistently turned down repeated proposals since 1937.[3][4] In 2017's revised Hamas charter, they claimed to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but without recognising the statehood of Israel, referring to it as "the Zionist entity", which would not constitute a two-state solution.[5]

Israel views moves by Palestinian leaders to obtain international recognition of a State of Palestine as being unilateral action by the Palestinians and inconsistent with a negotiated two-state solution. It was reported in 2009 that although polls had consistently shown Israeli and Palestinian majorities in favor of a negotiated two-state settlement, there was "growing disillusionment" with a two-state solution.[6]

Recent diplomatic efforts have centred around realizing a two-state solution, starting from the failed 2000 Camp David Summit and the Clinton Parameters, followed by the Taba negotiations in early 2001. The failure of Camp David formed the backdrop to the commencement of the Second Intifada, in which waves of Palestinian suicide bombings and mass shootings killed approx. 1,000 Israeli civilians.

A two-state solution also formed the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, the 2006-2008 peace offer, and the 2013–14 peace talks. Despite the failure of these efforts, international consensus has for decades supported a two-state solution to the conflict. A 2021 survey of experts found that 52 percent believed that the two-state solution was no longer achievable. 77 percent believed that if not achieved, the result would be a "one-state reality akin to apartheid".[7]

The major points of contention include the specific boundaries of the two states (though most proposals are based on the 1967 lines), the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli settlements and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

History

The first proposal for the creation of Jewish and Arab states in the British Mandate of Palestine was made in the Peel Commission report of 1937, with the Mandate continuing to cover only a small area containing Jerusalem. The plan allotted the poorest lands of Palestine, including the Negev Desert, and areas that are known today as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the Arabs; while most of the coastline and some of Palestine's most fertile agricultural land in the Galilee were allotted to the Jews.[8] Consequently, the recommended partition proposal was rejected by the Arab community of Palestine, and was accepted by most of the Jewish leadership.[9][10][11]

Partition was again proposed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan for the division of Palestine. It proposed a three-way division, again with Jerusalem held separately, under international control. The partition plan was accepted by Jewish Agency for Palestine and most Zionist factions who viewed it as a stepping stone to territorial expansion at an opportune time.[12][13] The Arab Higher Committee, the Arab League and other Arab leaders and governments rejected it on the basis that Arabs formed a two-thirds majority and owned a majority of the lands.[1][14] They also indicated an unwillingness to accept any form of territorial division,[15] arguing that it violated the principles of national self-determination in the UN Charter.[16][17] They announced their intention to take all necessary measures to prevent the implementation of the resolution.[18][19][20][21] Subsequently a civil war broke out in Palestine[22] and the plan was not implemented.[23]

The 1948 Arab–Israeli War for control of the disputed land broke out on the end of the British Mandate, which came to an end with the 1949 Armistice Agreements. The war resulted in the fleeing or expulsion of 711,000 Palestinians, which the Palestinians call Nakba, from the territories which became the state of Israel.[24] Rather than establishing a Palestinian state on land that Israel did not control, the Arab nations chose instead to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Palestinian refugees remained stateless.[25]

UN resolution 242 and the recognition of Palestinian rights

After the 1967 Arab–Israeli war, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied during the war, in exchange for "termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and "acknowledgement of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area". The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been formed in 1964, strongly criticized the resolution, saying that it reduced the question of Palestine to a refugee problem.[26]: 18 

In September 1974, 56 member states proposed that "the question of Palestine" be included as an item in the General Assembly's agenda. In a resolution adopted on 22 November 1974, the General Assembly affirmed Palestinian rights, which included the "right to self-determination without external interference", "the right to national independence and sovereignty", and the "right to return to their homes and property". These rights have been affirmed every year since.[27]: 24 

PLO acceptance of a two-state solution

The first indication that the PLO would be willing to accept a two-state solution, on at least an interim basis, was articulated by Said Hammami in the mid-1970s.[28][29]

Security Council resolutions dating back to June 1976 supporting the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines were vetoed by the United States,[30] which supports a two-state solution but argued that the borders must be negotiated directly by the parties.

The Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 15 November 1988, which referenced the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and "UN resolutions since 1947" in general, was interpreted as an indirect recognition of the State of Israel, and support for a two-state solution. The Partition Plan was invoked to provide legitimacy to Palestinian statehood. Subsequent clarifications were taken to amount to the first explicit Palestinian recognition of Israel.[31][32]

The 2017 Hamas charter presented the Palestinian state being based on the 1967 borders. The text says "Hamas considers the establishment of a Palestinian state, sovereign and complete, on the basis of the June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital and the provision for all the refugees to return to their homeland." This is in contrast to Hamas' 1988 charter, which previously called for a Palestinian state on all of Mandatory Palestine. Nevertheless, even in the 2017 charter, Hamas did not recognize Israel.[5]

Diplomatic efforts

In 1975, the General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. In 1976, the Committee presented two sets of recommendations, one concerned with the Palestinians' right of return to their homes and property, and the other with their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty. The Security Council discussed the recommendations but failed to reach a decision due to the negative vote of the United States.[26]: 25 

After the First Intifada began in 1987, considerable diplomatic work went into negotiations between the parties, beginning with the Madrid Conference in 1991. The most significant of these negotiations was the Oslo Accords, which officially divided Palestinian land into three administrative divisions and created the framework for how much of Israel's political borders with the Palestinian territories function today. The Accords culminated in the Camp David 2000 Summit, and follow-up negotiations at Taba in January 2001, which built explicitly on a two-state framework, but no final agreement was ever reached. The violent outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 had demonstrated the Palestinian public's disillusionment with the Oslo Accords and convinced many Israelis that the negotiations were in vain.

 
  Recognition of Israel only
  Recognition of both Israel and Palestinian State
  Recognition of Palestinian State only

In 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (who would go on to be King from 2005 to 2015) proposed the Arab Peace Initiative, which garnered the unanimous support of the Arab League while Israeli leaders continually refuse to discuss the initiative. President Bush announced his support for a Palestinian state, opening the way for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1397, supporting a two-state solution.[33][page needed][34]

At the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, three major parties—The PLO, Israel, and the US—agreed on a two-state solution as the outline for negotiations. However, the summit failed to achieve an agreement.

Following the conflict that erupted between the two main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, splintering the Palestinian Authority into two polities, each claiming to be the true representatives of the Palestinian people. Fatah controlled the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and Hamas Governed in Gaza.

The latest initiatives were the 2013–14 Israeli–Palestinian peace talks under the guidance of John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State. These talks also failed to reach an agreement.

Viability

By 2010, when direct talks were scheduled to be restarted, continued growth of settlements on the West Bank and continued strong support of settlements by the Israeli government had greatly reduced the land and resources that would be available to a Palestinian state creating doubt among Palestinians and left-wing Israelis that a two-state solution continued to be viable.[35]

In January 2012 the European Union Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem found that Israel's continuing settlement activities and the fragile situation of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, as well in area C, was making a two-state solution less likely.[36] The Israeli Foreign Ministry rejected this EU report, claiming it was "based on a partial, biased and one sided depiction of realities on the ground."[37] In May 2012, the EU council stressed its "deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible'.[38]

On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly voted by 138 to 9, with 46 abstentions to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state". On the following day, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu announced the building of 3,000 new homes on land to the east of East Jerusalem, in an area referred to as "E-1".[39] The move was immediately criticized by several countries, including the United States, with Israeli ambassadors being personally called for meetings with government representatives in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, among others. Israel's decision to build the homes was described by the Obama administration as "counterproductive", while Australia said that the building plans "threaten the viability of a two-state solution". This is because they claim the proposed E-1 settlement would physically split the lands under the control of the Palestinian National Authority in two, as the extent of the PNA's authority does not extend all the way to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea.[40][41][42] Israel's Labor party has voiced support for the two-state solution, with Isaac Herzog stating it would be "in Israel's interests".[43]

in March 2015, Netanyahu declared that a Palestinian state would not be established during his administration,[44] while he also stated that he disapproved the one-state solution for the ongoing conflict between two people.[45]

After the Trump administration's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017, Palestinian officials said the policy change "destroys the peace process" and the decision indirectly meant the United States was "abdicating its role as a peace mediator"[46] that could no longer act as a mediator in the peace process because the United States had become a party to the dispute instead of neutral intercessor for negotiations.[47]

A 2021 survey of experts found that 52 percent of respondents believed the two-state solution is no longer possible. If a two-state solution is not achieved, 77 percent predict "a one-state reality akin to apartheid" and 17 percent "one-state reality with increasing inequality, but not akin to apartheid"; one percent think a binational state with equal rights for all inhabitants is likely.[7]

Settlements in the West Bank

UN resolutions affirm the illegality of settlements in West Bank, including East Jerusalem, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 passed in December 2016.[48] As of November 2023, there are at least 700,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem across 150 settlements and 128 outposts.[49][50] More than three-quarters of the existing settlements have been constructed since the Oslo Accords.[51]

The establishment and expansion of the illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank constitute a major challenge to the possibility of a two-state solution by "violating Palestinian sovereignty, threatening civil peace and security, jeopardizing water resources, and blocking agricultural development."[52] This has progressively reduced Area A and B of the West Bank territory to a "shrinking archipelago of enclaves".[51][53]

Proposals have been offered for over 50 post-evacuation compensation of settlers for abandoned property, as occurred following Israel's withdrawal of settlements from Gaza in 2005 and from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.[54] Some settlers in those previous withdrawals were forcibly removed by the IDF.[55][56]

Public opinion in Israel and Palestine

 
Israeli demonstration against annexation of the West Bank, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv-Yafo, June 6, 2020

Many Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the Arab League,[57] have stated that they would accept a two-state solution based on 1949 Armistice Agreements, more commonly referred to as the "1967 borders". In a 2002 poll conducted by PIPA, 72% of both Palestinians and Israelis supported at that time a peace settlement based on the 1967 borders so long as each group could be reassured that the other side would be cooperative in making the necessary concessions for such a settlement.[58] A 2013 Gallup poll found 70% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 48% of Palestinians in Gaza Strip, together with 52% of Israelis supporting "an independent Palestinian state together with the state of Israel".[59]

Support for a two-state solution varies according to the way the question is phrased. Some Israeli journalists suggest that the Palestinians are unprepared to accept a Jewish State on any terms.[60][61] According to one poll, "fewer than 2 in 10 Arabs, both Palestinian and all others, believe in Israel's right to exist as a nation with a Jewish majority."[62] Another poll, however, cited by the US State Department, suggests that "78 percent of Palestinians and 74 percent of Israelis believe a peace agreement that leads to both states living side by side as good neighbors" is "essential or desirable".[63][64]

As of 2021, most Palestinians are against the two-state solution. In 2021, a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research revealed that 39% of Palestinians accept a two-state solution, while 59% said they rejected it.[65] Support is even lower among younger Palestinians; in 2008, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted: "Increasingly, the Palestinians who talk about a two-state solution are my age."[66] A survey taken before the outbreak of fighting in 2014 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) found that 60 percent of Palestinians say the goal of their national movement should be "to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea" compared to just 27 percent who endorse the idea that they should work "to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and achieve a two-state solution." WINEP says that "this is a new finding compared to similar (but not identical) questions asked in the past, when support for a two-state solution typically ranged between 40–55 percent".[67][68] By 2020, 40% in Gaza and 26% in the West Bank believe that a negotiated two-state solution should solve the conflict.[69] Another report, published also in 2021 by the RAND Corporation, found that also 60% of Israelis across the political spectrum were opposed to a two-state solution.[70]

The two-state solution enjoyed majority support in Israeli polls although there has been some erosion to its prospects over time.[71] A 2014 Haaretz poll asking "Consider that in the framework of an agreement, most settlers are annexed to Israel, Jerusalem will be divided, refugees won't return to Israel and there will be a strict security arrangement, would you support this agreement?", only 35% of Israelis said yes.[67]

According to a 2021 PCPSR poll, support for a two-state solution among Palestinians and Israeli Jews, as of 2021, had declined to 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively.[69][72] According to Middle East experts David Pollock and Catherine Cleveland, as of 2021, the majority of Palestinians said they wanted to reclaim all of historic Palestine, including pre-1967 Israel. A one-state solution with equal rights for Arabs and Jews was ranked second.[69]

Some researchers argue that the two-state solution has already been implemented because Jordan, which makes up 78% of the former Mandatory Palestine, was originally created as a state for the Arabs.[73][74][75]

In December 2022, support for a two-state solution was 33% among Palestinians, 34% among Israeli Jews, and 60% among Israeli Arabs. 82% of Israeli Jews and 75% of Palestinians believed that the other side would never accept the existence of their independent state.[76]

At the end of October 2023, the two-state solution had the support of 71.9% of Israeli Arabs and 28.6% of Israeli Jews.[77] In that same month, according to Gallup, just 24% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution, a drop from 59% in 2012.[78]

Renewed focus on two-state solution

Following the 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel and the subsequent Israel–Hamas war, multiple governments renewed the long-dormant idea of a two-state solution. This received serious pushback from Israel's government, especially from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Intergovernmental bodies supporting a two-state solution

G7

In the statement issued after their virtual meeting of 6 December 2023, the Leaders of the G7 wrote that they are "committed to a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution that enables both Israelis and Palestinians to live in a just, lasting, and secure peace."[79]

European Union

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, wrote on 15 November 2023: "We need to work with our regional partners towards [...] the two-state solution [...] it remains the only viable way to bring peace to the region."[80]

In her address to the G20 leaders on 22 November 2023, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: "We have to [...] work for a two-state solution. This is the only way to ensure lasting peace for Israeli and Palestinian people as neighbours."[81]

Governments supporting a two-state solution

Countries are ordered below by size of GDP.

United States

President Joe Biden has made numerous statements in favour of the two-state solution,[82] as have Secretary of State Antony Blinken[82] and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.[83]

China

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated that "China calls for [...] the formulation of a specific timetable and road map for the implementation of the 'two-state solution'".[84]

Germany

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a two-state solution,[85][86] as has Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock.[87]

United Kingdom

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary David Cameron, have strongly advocated a two-state solution.[88] David Cameron and German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock published a joint statement, supporting a two-state solution.[87] Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has stated that his party is "strongly in favour of a two-state solution".[89]

France

President Emmanuel Macron has advocated a two-state solution.[90]

Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand's Prime Minister Christopher Luxon have issued a joint statement, saying "We recommit ourselves to [...] a just and enduring peace in the form of a two-state solution".[91]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan has said that Saudi Arabia would be interested in a normalisation deal with Israel that is linked to a two-state solution.[92]

Governments opposing a two-state solution

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly and emphatically rejected a two-state solution.[93][94]

Non-governmental supporters of a two-state solution

Israel

Ehud Barak, Israel's Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001 and Minister of Defense from 2007 to 2013, told TIME on 6 November 2023 that "The right way is to look to the two-state solution".[95]

Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister from 2006 to 2009, told Politico on 16 October 2023 that the two-state solution "is the only real political solution for this lifelong conflict".[96] On 6 November 2023, he told CBC that "a two-state solution should still be the goal of the Israeli government".[97]

Ami Ayalon, the head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security service from 1995 to 2000, said on 14 January 2024 in an interview with The Guardian that "Israel will not have security until Palestinians have their own state".[98]

Interviewed by Ezra Klein on 8 December 2023, Nimrod Novik, a member of the executive committee of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), reiterated the CIS's view that the two-state solution is "the only solution that [...] serves Israel’s security and well-being long-term."[99]

North America

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has strongly supported President Biden's calls for a two-state solution and criticised Prime Minister Netanyahu's opposition.[100]

Twenty-seven former Jewish leaders of organizations including AIPAC, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote a letter to President Biden on 14 December 2023, calling for a "steadfast US commitment to the pursuit of two states for two peoples".[101][102]

Other solutions

 
Trump's peace plan for the creation of the State of Palestine.

The main alternative is the binational solution, which could either be a twin regime federalist arrangement or a unitary state.[103] Other alternatives are the three-state solution and the Allon Plan, also known as the "no-state solution".

Three-state solution

The three-state solution has been proposed as another alternative. The New York Times in 2009[104] reported that Egypt and Jordan were concerned about having to retake responsibility for Gaza and the West Bank. In effect, the result would be Gaza returning to Egyptian rule, and the West Bank to Jordan.[105]

Dual citizenship

A number of proposals for the granting of Palestinian citizenship or residential permits to Jewish settlers in return for the removal of Israeli military installations from the West Bank have been fielded by such individuals[106] as Arafat,[107] Ibrahim Sarsur[108] and Ahmed Qurei.

Israeli Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in April 2010 that "just as Arabs live in Israel, so, too, should Jews be able to live in Palestine." ... "If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews?"[109]

The idea has been expressed by both advocates of the two-state solution[110] and supporters of the settlers and conservative or fundamentalist currents in Israeli Judaism[111] that, while objecting to any withdrawal, claim stronger links to the land than to the state of Israel.

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World (Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1970).

External links