US and World Politics

Palestine and the Impossible Two State Solution

By Steven Katsineris  

Despite talking over a long period of time about peace talks with Palestinians, Israel has not shown any real intention towards serious negotiations. Instead Israel has sought to delay any meaningful discussions and make vague statements about a Palestinian state. During this time Israel has been active though, pushing ahead with policies that reinforce Israeli colonial rule in the West Bank, taking more land, building more Jewish settlements, surrounding and squeezing more Palestinian villages, destroying orchards and imposing measures that humiliate, suppress and displace more Palestinians.  

In a speech in Washington in May 2011, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said of a Palestinian state that, among other things, no to sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians, no to the return of Palestinian refugees, no to a return of the 1967 border lines, no to conceding major Israeli settlements, no to a Palestinian state without Israel controlling the border along the Jordan Valley and no to negotiations with the Palestinian unity government. Basically it would be a Palestinian state in name only with Israel dictating and dominating all facets of Palestinian life. This in essence amounts to no change in the existing situation between the subjugated Palestinians and Israel. 

Further, Netanyahu stated “Israel would be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state,” yet he also said, “Israel will never return to the boundaries that existed before the 1967 war.” The Palestinians have already lost over 78 percent of historical Palestine to Israel. The remaining 22 percent of the Palestinian territories consists of the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip and fragmented segments of the Israeli occupied West Bank, with Israeli settlements, forts, walls, fences, roads and other infrastructure everywhere surrounding them and under the control of the Israeli army, settlers and police. 

With this situation, what is left for the Palestinians to build a feasible state on, some ten percent of Palestinian land with Israel maintaining effective domination over the “Palestinian state.” It seems the only issue to discuss in “peace” talks is what small morsels of land Israel will allow the Palestinians to have for their illusory state.  With such severe Israeli conditions on the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israeli inflexibility what is there left to discuss in peace talks?

By 1997, after a year of Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, there were about 150,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Two decades later the settlers’ number is almost 400,000, with another 375,000 in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line. So more than 775,000 Israelis now live in Jewish settlements beyond Israel’s 1967 borders, on Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem that was captured during the war.1 Israel intends to continue to expand its illegal West Bank settlements and keep building in the major settlement blocs. And Israel is adamant that it intends to keep them and Jerusalem in any future peace agreement. Israel’s settlement policy violates international humanitarian law and UN resolutions. And these Israeli policies and continued settlement construction are precisely the main obstacles to peace and a lasting solution to the Palestinian problem. 

What sort of future Palestinian state is possible considering the “facts on the ground” that Israel has created in the occupied territory? On the West Bank, Israeli rule is pervasive, Jewish settlements are all over the place, with bits and pieces of Palestinian territory encircled by Israeli settlements, walls and military bases. The West Bank has been described appropriately as a portion of Swiss cheese, the Palestinian areas being the small holes, surrounded by the larger Israeli part. Israeli military forts and positions sit on the hilltops; Israel controls the road network and checkpoints, aquifers and other resources. Daily life, movement, the economy, everything is dependent of the whim of Israel’s military rule, its laws, regulations and curfews. 

The Israeli government also wants any future Palestinian state to have only limited independence, have no military forces, with Israel retaining control of the state’s borders, airspace and the fertile Jordan Valley. Israel also wants its military forces to have free reign to operate in the Palestinian areas.  

Given this situation, a viable Palestinian state cannot be built on such a minuscule area, in reality a micro, mini-state lacking any actual political, social, military and economic independence and any real resources. Yet this is exactly the kind of state that the government of Israel sometimes says it supports and proposes to set up. This is not an independent, genuine Palestinian state, nor is it a just, legitimate solution to the Palestinian Problem. 

The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy on the prospects of a Palestinian state is intentionally evasive, saying different things at different times. When the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is talking to an international audience he says he supports a Palestinian state, but that it must have severe restrictions imposed on it and be under Israeli control. But on other occasions (speaking to Israelis), Netanyahu has stated that, “A Palestinian state would not be established on his watch.” Times of Israel, March 16, 2015.

Ambiguity and pretense

 This deliberate ambiguity is intended to confuse and deceive people and hide the truth. Israeli actions have shown that it plans to entrench its control of the occupied Palestinian territory, but also wants to pretend to the international community that it supports the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Israeli government continues this twofold policy to say one thing—talk about peace and do another—continue to expand settlements in order to bide more time in order to cement its colonial rule over additional Palestinian territory.   

The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, issued a media release on May 15, 2018, about the recent Palestinian protests in Gaza and the violent Israeli reaction that killed and injured thousands of Palestinians. In part of that statement she said, “The violence underlines the importance of a return to negotiations towards a two-state solution so an enduring peace can be found.” Media Release, May 15, 2018. 

Considering the reality of the situation it is inconceivable that she sincerely believes that the two-state solution is still a realistic option. Rather Australia (and the USA) continues to defend Israel and thus goes along with Israel’s sham policy that the two-state option is feasible in an effort to keep this Israeli diversion going for as long as possible. 

It was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who began the process of the massive expansion of the Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. His objective was to prevent the chance of a future Palestinian state coming into being. And it is precisely the intransigent stance and actions of successive Israeli governments that has destroyed the prospect of the two-state solution. The sweeping changes that Israel has made in the West Bank prevent any real possibility for genuine Palestinian self-determination and the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state. Israelis will only have peace when the Palestinians have justice. The key to resolving the issue is to restore the Palestinian people’s national rights and give them their homeland back. This is only possible in one state for all the people to live in equality, whatever their religion or beliefs. Any other solution for the region is now utterly futile, unworkable and unrealistic. 

1 The International community considers the Jewish settlements in occupied territory to be illegal and the United Nations has repeatedly upheld this view that Israel’s construction of these settlements constitutes a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. According to the Israeli investigative journalist Uri Blau, the Jewish settlements received funding by private tax-exempt U.S. NGOs of $220 million for 20092013, thus showing that it is the U.S.A that is indirectly subsidizing their construction, expansion and maintenance.