One of the major geopolitical issues continues to account for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though its intensity does appear to fluctuate spatially. In its turn, this contributes rather substantially towards undermining the political stability in the Middle East. Therefore, there is nothing surprising about the fact that there have been a number of attempts, on the part of the UN, to end the continuation of violent clashes between the Israeli and Palestinians in the area, commonly perceived as one of the world’s most volatile. In this respect, the organisation’s promotion of the so-called ‘two-state’ solution to the issue stands out particularly notably – even despite the fact that the solution’s practical implementation proved utterly ineffective. In this paper, I will explain what predetermined such a development, while outlining the main obstacles in the way of turning the UN two-state peace plan into a practical asset and coming up with the suggestion as to how this problem could be addressed (if ever).
The two-state strategy for bringing peace to the area is concerned with the idea of dividing the land of Palestine between the Jews and Arabs, which in turn is supposed to enable both peoples to enjoy the statehood of their own. As Tagliabue (2014) noted, “The two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem refers to the plan of partition of the land that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Jordan, creating Palestinian and Israeli states. In this way, the two groups would coexist in the same land, but in two separate entities” (p. 540). The plan is inspired by the UN Resolution 181 (enacted in 1947), according to which the Arabs and Jews have equal rights to reside in Palestine and to exercise political authority in the territories under their control. Therefore, along with the Jewish state, there should be the Arabic one in Palestine as well.
There are many different views on what should be the solution’s provisions, with regard to the drawing a borderline between the State of Israel, on one hand, and the State of Palestine (or simply Palestine), on the other. Nevertheless, a two-state solution is usually mentioned in conjunction with the so-called ‘1967 borders’, which after having been drawn in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War lasted until the outbreak of the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967. In the aftermath of the latter development, the Israeli ended up occupying a few areas in the West Bank, as well as the Eastern part of Jerusalem with the predominantly Muslim population. As of today, Israel continues to control these areas, which the Muslim world perceives as a striking violation of the peace agreement’s most crucial term. Another qualitative aspect of a two-state solution is that it presupposes the eventual repatriation of close to 5 million Palestinian refugees and the establishment of Palestine’s capital in East Jerusalem.
Even though formally speaking, a two-way solution never ceased representing one of a few possible options for putting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, throughout its entirety; it was not up until1993 that both conflicting parties decided to take practical advantage of it. This year marked the signing of the so-called ‘Oslo Accords’ between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the State of Israel – the development that resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the right to exercise limited governing in the mentioned areas. While adhering to the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 238 (which confirm the full legitimacy of the Palestinian people’s plight for self-determination), the Oslo Accords establish a discursive precondition for the PA to be eventually transformed into the government of a fully independent country.
Nevertheless, as time goes on, a two-state solution to the conflict in question appears increasingly less workable as the instrument for stabilising the political situation in the Middle East, in general, and Israel/Palestine, in particular. This simply could not be otherwise. Ever since 1993, the historical, ethnocultural, and religious antagonisms between the Israelis and Palestinians continued to intensify. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated regarding the combined death toll of the Second Intifada (2000-2005) and Jerusalem Unrest of 2014 – the developments that resulted in the killing of at least 6000 people on both sides. Throughout the period, a few attempts have been made by the international community to revive faith in the workability of a two-state solution by bringing the Israeli and Palestinians together to negotiate peace.
Among the most notable of them can be named the 2000 Camp David (US) Summit and the 2001 Taba Talks (Egypt), during which the representatives of both conflicting sides strived to prevent the epidemic of ethno-religious violence in the area from continuing to gain momentum. However, neither of the applied peace-inducing efforts, on the part of the UN, proved even slightly helpful in addressing the situation. As a result, it now represents a commonplace assumption in the West that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can no longer be deemed discursively valid. After all, as it was shown in practice, there are just too many obstacles in the way of implementing even the basic provisions of the Oslo Accords. Moreover, whereas some of these obstacles appear overcomeable (at least technically), the others imply that the two-state approach to ending violence between the Jews and Palestinians is innately fallacious and that it is only a matter of time before the UN acknowledges it.
Among the most pressing ‘technical’ impediments to peace in the ‘holy land’ can be listed the following:
Israel’s continual support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, established
through the years 1995-2015. According to the Palestinian side, such a state of affairs constitutes a major violation of the Road Map for Peace, as an integral part of the Oslo Accords. Palestinians also claim that the removal of these settlements from the West Bank represents the foremost precondition for the PA official representatives to be willing to cooperate with Israel, within the context of how the two-state solution is being implemented. According to Zanotti (2011), “PLO Chairman and PA President Mahmoud Abbas… insisted that the PLO would only resume negotiations with Israel in the event of a complete settlement freeze” (p. 50). The Israeli officials, however, maintain that these settlements are the citizens’ private initiative and that the Israeli government has nothing to do with them. At the same time, however, they say that Israel is obliged to apply much effort into ensuring the safety of these citizens – hence, the presence of the Israeli troops in the West Bank. Moreover, according to the Israeli, the Oslo Accords contain no provisions against the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The declining de facto legitimacy of the PA, as the Palestinian interim
government. This process was initiated by the victory of Hamas in the 2006 legislative elections in the Gaza Strip. In Israel, Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation and it does live up to the title – most of the suicide-bombing attacks against the Israeli that had taken place through the years 2006-2015 were either sponsored of directly organised by Hamas. In 2007, the Authority’s Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (representing Fatah political party) declared that his government refuses to recognise the legitimacy of Hamas’ rule in Gaza. This Chairman’s move, however, had a very little effect – Hamas continues to exercise quasi-governmental authority in the Gaza Strip, with its spokespersons calling for the complete destruction of Israel. This, in turn, causes the Israeli to claim that the PA simply does not have what it takes to be able to stick to the terms of the Oslo Accords. It is understood, of course, that this undermines even further the validity of the very idea that the Israeli and Palestinians will be able to benefit much from the implementation of a two-state solution.
Demographics-related considerations, on the Israeli government’s part
As it was mentioned earlier, the continuation of the Oslo-backed peace process in the region presupposes the eventual return of Palestinian refugees back to the West Bank and Gaza – the development that many Israeli politicians believe will pose a threat to Israel as a nation-state. The reason for this is that the arrival of these people will increase the risk for the area’s Jewish population to end up finding itself grossly outnumbered by Palestinian Arabs. As Tzoreff (2010) pointed out, “The much higher rate of population growth of the Palestinian communities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority… is expected to lead to the creation of a Palestinian majority
within the next few decades” (p. 51). Given the deep-seated antagonisms between the Israelis and Palestinians and the area’s history of sectarian violence, the scenario’s actualisation will most likely result in triggering yet another round of bloody confrontation between both peoples. Therefore, the Israeli government continues to oppose the mentioned provision of a two-state solution while arguing that its implementation will have a strongly destabilising effect on the geopolitical balance of powers in the Middle East.
Even though the earlier described obstacles do appear nearly unovercomeable, they are not quite as grave as the ones that will be discussed in this part of the paper. The reason for this is apparent – what can be referred to as the ‘fundamental’ deterrents to a two-state solution, expose the intrinsic fallaciousness of the assumption that both conflicting parties are equally entitled to the right to enjoy statehood. The main of the concerned obstacles are as follows:
- Corruption and incompetence have been the foremost qualitative features of the PA functioning since the time of its creation in 1994. As a result, more and more Palestinians grow utterly disrespectful of the PA, in general, and Mahmoud Abbas, in particular. This simply could not be otherwise – ever since they have found themselves in the position to control the inbounded monetary flows (in the form of financial aid from the UN, Arab League, UNESCO, etc.), the PA functionaries became completely preoccupied with the thoughts of personal enrichment. This is the reason why the PA had failed miserably at just about every of its undertakings, including the ones that were supposed to serve the cause of Palestinian self-determination (Giacaman, Rabaia & Nguyen-Gillham 2010). In this regard, Albasoos (2016) came up the valuable observation, “The Palestinian leaders are incapable and misunderstood Palestinians’ needs and necessities… The PA is not a viable partner to help alleviate the issues for the Palestinians… (the PA) produced nothing but political, social, and economic regression for the Palestinian people” (p. 131). Therefore, contrary to what they proclaim in their public statements, the PA leaders are interested in maintaining the status quo with respect to the Palestinian territories under their control. The rationale behind this suggestion is easy to grasp. For as long as the Israeli army units continue to be stationed in the West Bank, the PA officials are able to accuse Israel of violating the Oslo Accords. In its turn, this helps them to divert the international community’s attention from the dire instances of mismanagement and corruption that take place in the West Bank on a continual basis, and to keep asking for the monetary donations from the UN. It is estimated that the PA receives around $1.5 – $2 billion in donations/aid every year. However, if the State of Palestine becomes de facto independent, this will result in making Palestinian leaders solely responsible for running the country. The flow of ‘easy money’ to the PA will also end – a scenario that these individuals may hardly find beneficial for their personal well-being.
- Underdeveloped (rudimentary) sense of nationhood in Palestinian Arabs. Thementioned earlier UN Resolutions, concerning the partition of the land between the Israeli and Palestinians, are reflective of the constructivist assumption that both peoples are equally capable of building a nation-state of their own. This assumption, however, did not take into consideration the sheer strength of tribal/sectarian mindedness in Palestinian Arabs, which prevents them from truly believing that they are the part of the ‘Palestinian nation’ (Jabr 2007). In fact, most Palestinians refer to the idea of ‘Palestinian nationhood’ as yet another neo-colonial construct, meant to undermine the unity of the Arab/Muslim world from within. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, regarding what used to account for many of the PLO’s officially proclaimed objectives since the time when this organisation was founded in 1964. As Karsh (2014) pointed out, “The PLO’s hallowed founding document, the Palestinian Charter, defines the Palestinians as ‘an integral part of the Arab nation’ rather than a distinct nationality and vows allegiance to the ideal of pan-Arab unity – that is to Palestine’s eventual assimilation into ‘the greater Arab homeland’” (p. 4). While strongly opposed to the continuation of the Israeli presence in their lands, most Palestinians do not find the perspective of being able to enjoy complete independence from Israel utterly appealing either. This actually explains the corruptive practices of the PA. Apparently, the Authority’s officials try to steal as much as possible, before the world realises the sheer erroneousness of the idea of ‘Palestinian nationhood’ and they cease to be considered this ‘nation’s’ rightful representatives.
Up to date, there have been a number of different suggestions, as to what needs to be done to increase the appeal of a two-state solution to both conflicting parties. However, while based on one’s wishful thinking, most of them do not represent any practical value. For example, according to Kelman (2011), while implementing this solution, the Israeli and Palestinians must focus on, “Mutual recognition… the logic of a historic compromise… and positive vision of a common future for the two peoples” (p. 31). Yet, before adopting a ‘positive vision of a common future’, the Jews and Palestinian Arabs would have to learn how not to hate each other with too much passion. Such a devotement, however, is highly unlikely due to the socio-psychological incompatibility between these peoples. Therefore, it is thoroughly explainable why as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear to everybody that a two-way solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not viable as an option (Nisan 2009; Talhami 2016). Whereas, it may indeed be possible (in theory) to overcome the initially outlined obstacles in the way of the solution’s practical implementation, the ones mentioned in the previous sub-chapter cannot be eliminated by definition.
Therefore, if the UN is to persist with trying to impose this particular solution on the Israeli and Palestinians, it should allow some third party (such as the British, for example) to exercise control over the functioning of the West Bank’s administrative/civil infrastructure. In its turn, this will help Palestinians to rationalise the benefits of living in the secular society, ruled by an impartial law – hence establishing the objective prerequisites for these people to grasp the meaning of the notion ‘nationhood’. Once the concerned development takes place, the Palestinians will be much more likely to succeed in building their own nation-state – only then may a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be deemed feasible again. I believe that this conclusion is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
Albasoos, H 2016, ‘Crisis of legitimacy in Palestine’, International Journal of Research in Business and Social Science, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 121-136.
Giacaman, R, Rabaia, Y & Nguyen-Gillham, V 2010, ‘Domestic and political violence: the Palestinian predicament’, The Lancet, vol. 375, no. 9711, pp. 259-60.
Jabr, S 2007, ‘The struggle to develop identity while living under occupation’, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 19-20.
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