The slogan “Two States for Two Peoples” is supposed to express the position of ‘moderate’ Israelis and Palestinians that peace can be achieved by establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Supporters of this ‘two state solution’ often say things like “we already know the general lines that an agreement will take, it’s just a question of working out the details”.
I’ve often pointed out that the ‘details’ — Jerusalem, refugees, etc. — are not as simple as they seem. But there is really a much greater problem.
The ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership — the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad — do indicate by this slogan that they want there to be two states (at least for a while), but they make it quite clear that they expect both states to be for the Palestinian people.
This is why they categorically refuse to agree to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and why they insist that the 5 million descendents of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 have the right to ‘return’ to Israel.
Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel also insist that the Jewish character of the state be ended, and that Israel be defined as “a state of its citizens” (although with special rights for the Arab minority). This is the ‘Israel’ part of the “two states”. Here is what Muhammad Barakei, chairman of the Israeli Arab Hadash party said recently:
The movement will fight against any population swap plan. We were the first to come out with the slogan of ‘Two states for two nations’ and just because [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni are distorting this slogan, it doesn’t mean we have to give it up.
The population swap idea was supposed to solve some of the ‘mere details’ mentioned above by allowing Israel to keep some areas in the West Bank that are heavily populated by Jews, ceding Arab-populated land within the Green Line in return. Israeli Arabs are violently opposed to this for various reasons (they see what it’s like in the West Bank and Gaza), but from an ideological point of view, they believe that they are the rightful owners of what is called ‘Israel’, not some to-be-created Palestinian state.
Nothing can be clearer than the consequences of accepting the Arab demands. There is a fundamental difference in the way the two sides understand “two states” which is a much greater obstacle than the way the final border will be delineated.
There is no more important part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians or with any of Israel’s neighbors than recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
And in opposition to the demand of the racist Saudis, this recognition must come first, before any territorial concessions.