Any attempt to move the peace process forward must account for this reality. But for all intents and purposes, it is dead and buried. And perhaps the most important reason is that the goal of two states no longer corresponds to facts on the ground. But for the second key Palestinian player, Hamas, the goal of statehood is secondary to ensuring the predominance of Islam throughout the region.
Its absolute unwillingness to sanction the existence of a Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine rules out any convincing commitment to the two-state solution. Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.
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A Three-State Solution for Israel and Palestine?
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The Case for the One-State Solution
While there are voices on both sides—Israeli and Palestinian—that continue to argue for a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, under either Israeli or Palestinian control, their claims are unrealistic. They cannot account for what would happen to the population of the other side.
Reality has given rise to the idea of a single state for both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples. According to opinion polls, there is a minority on both sides that supports this idea. Most are young people who hope to see a solution in some foreseeable future and avoid the years of conflict their parents and grandparents lived through. History of an Idea For seven decades, the equations of the Arab—Israeli conflict have revolved around two variables: the creation of realities on the ground and political, diplomatic, and military prowess.
The result was the establishment of the state of Israel, its expansion beyond the borders set by the UN partition resolution, and its subsequent expansion after the war to an empire extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean and from Quneitra in Syria to Qantara east of the Suez Canal in Egypt.
The Arabs only began to tip the scales in their favor after the October War, with the Israelis ultimately withdrawing from the Sinai Peninsula and parts of Jordan and the Syrian Golan. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have remained unable to realize their dream of an independent state. Also, while Israel has succeeded in enticing back a considerable portion of the Jewish diaspora, evolving into a technologically and militarily advanced country with worldwide influence, and retaining the ability to expand its settlements in the Occupied Territories, the conflict has not only hampered Arab progress and development, but has also generated extremist trends that are incompatible with both the Palestinian national movement and the world abroad.
What are the proposed solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Hamas rule is a far cry from what the founders of the Palestinian independence movement had in mind. Still, after seventy years, six million Palestinians hold their ground on the land of Palestine. The notion of a single state is not new. It was espoused by the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO in its original charter in , which called for the establishment of a single, democratic, and secular state for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.
From a practical standpoint, a single state—Israel— already exists, enjoying security, and strategic and economic control in short, sovereignty over the land from the river to the sea, albeit with some codified concession of sovereignty to the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza and in Areas A and B in the West Bank. Meanwhile, there are 1. With thirteen ministers of parliament, the Palestinians make up the third-largest bloc in the Knesset and take part in crafting Israeli policies from their position in the opposition. The Israeli Arabs, as they are called, refuse to become part of any independent Palestinian state and prefer to fight for equal rights with the Jews in the Israeli state in which they compose 21 percent of the population, yet are treated as second-class citizens.
In this context, a new initiative based on an old idea has emerged, aiming to give a full and complete voice to the one-state solution. On March 1, , the One State Foundation was launched, a Palestinian—Israeli initiative with an agenda to broaden debate and ultimately gain support for a one-state solution. It holds, first, that the current situation in Palestine and Israel is untenable; second, that the negotiating process that emanated from the Madrid Peace Conference and Oslo Accords on the basis of a two-state solution has reached a dead end as the final status issues degraded to become effectively non-negotiable; third, that this obstructs the realization of the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples; fourth, that the time has come to rethink the question in its entirety; and, fifth, that any new thinking has to reflect realities on the ground and, above all, the reality that more than fifty years after the Israeli occupation of the whole of Palestine, a form of unity over political, economic, and security matters already exists.
Considerable literature has also been published, by both Israelis and Palestinians, calling for a one-state proposition.
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Saeb Erekat, the former chief Palestinian negotiator, has suggested that the one-state option might be a workable alternative if the two-state solution fails. First, the Palestinian national movement borne on the shoulders of Yasser Arafat, Fatah, and the PLO has faded and there is no one to take their place. Today, the final status issues of the two-state solution—borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and natural resources—have been determined on the ground by Israel alone or with the help of the United States.
These were the main subjects left for final stage negotiations by the Oslo Accords, and expected to determine the implementation of the grand Israeli—Palestinian peace. Almost twenty-five years later, these issues are not yet resolved; on the contrary, they have killed the possibility of a two-state solution and paved the road instead for the one-state solution.
Although the American decision did not foreclose the possibility of further negotiations on the subject, the reality on the ground, even in East Jerusalem, does not allow two capitals for two states. Furthermore, Israeli encroachments on the Palestinian territories in the West Bank have not only made the resolution of borders and settlements impossible but also cemented linkages between Palestinian and Israeli territories.
In practical terms, Israel has also put all natural resources, particularly water, under its own control. Importantly, Israeli technological advancements in the area of water desalination will likely provide the solution to water scarcity for both Palestinians and Israelis. Growing Interdependence The long years of occupation have created a range of interactions between Palestinians and Israelis that has generated an intensive interdependency.
In addition to close security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, a market for labor and other economic activities has resulted from the encroachment of , Jewish settlers into the Palestinian territories as well as the ongoing Judaification of Jerusalem.
A Realistic Solution To The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
In short, there are twelve million people, half of whom are Palestinians and the other half Jews, who have been interacting for the past seven decades on this small stretch of land, in war and peace, in dispute and collaboration. In spite of the animosity, there is a kind of mutual dependency that cannot be ignored. In that space, the shekel is the primary currency of trade and commerce. The territories share a common taxation and customs system, and some , Palestinians commute to work in Israel every day. With time these new linkages have become incontrovertible. The emergence of a joint Palestinian—Israeli list for October municipal elections in Jerusalem, though it did not succeed, points the way to a new strategy for ending the conflict.
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It was to be made up of equal numbers of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs and equal numbers of men and women, headed by Abu Sarah. The members of this diverse group of people share the belief that Jerusalem is a city of diversity and that it is essential to respect the rights and needs of all its inhabitants. The Durable Opposition Palestinians who oppose the idea of a one-state solution argue that a state based on full and equal citizenship between Arabs and Jews could never really exist and that a single state for both would merely be an extension of the current one in which, after seven decades, Israeli Arabs remain second-class citizens.
The Palestinians have long resisted the Israeli concept of the single state, which in the current de facto version translates into occupation with apartheid. Israeli opponents, who are more numerous, hold that the Zionist project was and remains the establishment of a state with a Jewish majority—something that could not be sustained given current Palestinian population growth rates, which would reduce Jewish Israelis in the future to a minority status.
There are other objections. Some believe that the two-state solution is still possible if new ideas and compromises are applied. It gives Israel the opportunity to create new realities on the ground that will guarantee its permanent superiority, especially given the collapse of major Arab powers such as Iraq and Syria, the chronic Palestinian rift, and developments in the international order that have generated closer relations between Israel and Russia, China, and India while Israeli relations with the United States have soared to unprecedented heights of collaboration.