The two-state slogan

Just about everyone — the administration and some liberal Jewish groups in the US, the Pope, Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, and others — are pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu to ‘commit to a two-state solution’. But what does this mean? And does it make sense?

One way this has been understood is as a commitment to the goal of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. It implies that Israel will negotiate a peace agreement which transfers some of the territories to Palestinian sovereignty (in particular, that of the Palestinian Authority [PA]). This has been the position of the Israeli government since the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. Neither PM Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Lieberman — despite accusations to the contrary — has rejected this.

Then there is the interpretation of Abbas’ PA: Israel will withdraw to pre-1967 lines, including all of East Jerusalem (and especially the Temple Mount area), grant a right of return to ‘refugees’, etc. Nothing less is on the table. Obviously, Netanyahu will not ‘commit’ in advance — or ever — to anything like that.

The Israeli position, which will be clearer when Netanyahu meets Obama next week, seems to be that Israel will talk to the PA but will demand some concrete concessions from them, as well as US action against Iranian proxy aggression (i.e., Hamas and Hezbollah) before making an agreement to cede land.

The US administration seems to be somewhere in between,  demanding a prior commitment to a Palestinian state, although allowing land swaps so that Israel can retain some settlements and rejecting the settlement of ‘refugees’ in Israel. The US also rejects the idea that the Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah problem needs to be solved first.

I think it’s not unreasonable to refuse to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. For example, can Netanyahu agree today that the negotiations will produce a Palestinian state if  Abbas is not prepared to compromise on ‘right of return’ or anything else?

It’s also a little disingenuous for the ‘two-staters’ to pretend that there is no Hamas and that Israel’s jeopardy from Syria and Hezbollah’s rockets and Iran’s soon-to-be nukes may be ignored.

Can Israel be expected to transfer the West Bank to the PA when there is no reason to think that it won’t come under Hamas control — either by bullets, ballots or subversion? Hamas is more popular and stronger than the PA, and today only the presence of the IDF in the West Bank prevents a replay of the Gaza takeover. Shouldn’t there be some guarantee that the hostile Iranian proxy presence to the north and south will not be replicated in the east?

To a great extent, the ‘two-state solution’ is a slogan which in itself means little. The goal of PM Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama should be concrete proposals which do not simply demand a Palestinian state while eliding the real security problems caused by the Iranian war-by-proxy.

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2 Responses to “The two-state slogan”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I agree that a two- state solution outside the parameters and red-lines set down by Netanyahu would – be disastrous for Israel. But that said I would not dismiss the two- state solution idea so lightly. It is after all something the Americans and the world are serious about. More importantly many Israelis feel that there is no better alternative. Should the negotiations ever come about I believe one principle Avigdor Leiberman has championed should be a major guiding point. i.e. Having a Jewish state with as large a Jewish majority as possible. We have already seen that even a dissatisfied minority of fifteen or twenty percent only can be a source of considerable trouble for the state. A two- state solution if ever negotiated should be taken as opportunity for Israel to greatly reduce a minority which does not really feel it belongs to the Jewish state.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Shalom, as you know the Israeli Arabs have always been vehemently opposed to any proposal of land swaps that will result in them becoming part of a Palestinian state. They view this as another form of ‘transfer’ even though they would not physically move.
    Although it’s been suggested that this is because they appreciate the freedom and economic benefits that accrue to them as Israelis, there’s more to it.
    They simply think that ‘Israel’ belongs to them, they would like to increase the size of their minority, and they would like to change the character of the state from a Jewish state to — first — a binational state or ‘state of its citizens’, and then ultimately to yet another Arab state.
    The liberal Zionist ideal of a Jewish state with a happy Arab minority has no future, unfortunately. This is almost impossible for many to accept, who will immediately start screaming “Kahanism!” But facts are facts and the increasing radicalization of the Israeli Arabs is a fact.
    A solution won’t be easy, especially since there are some Israeli Arabs who are prepared to live as a loyal minority in a Jewish state, especially given the alternatives available to them in the Middle East.