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.