In Depth

Israel: what are the pros and cons of a two-state solution?

Jared Kushner hints US may pull back from support for proposal with upcoming Middle East peace plan

The Donald Trump administration is set to shift its stance on possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presidential advisor Jared Kushner has suggested.

The president's son-in-law is expected to present the US government’s peace plan for the Middle East next month, and has hinted that the road map will not propose two states for Israelis and Palestinians - “for decades the US-backed goal in marathon peace talks”, says Al Jazeera.

“If you say ‘two-state’, it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians,”Kushner said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Let's just not say it... Let's just say, let's work on the details of what this means,” he added.

Regardless of what the US plan proposes, it is likely to be ignored by a Palestinian leadership that has already said it does not accept mediation by Trump, The Guardian reports.

The newspaper adds that Kushner is “also widely distrusted by the Palestinians for his family ties to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu”.

Pulling back from calls for a two-state solution would be the latest in a series of controversial foreign policy decisions by the Trump administration that have brought the US president closer to Israel and Netanyahu's right-wing government.

So what are the pros and cons of a two-state solution?

What is the two-state solution?

Those who back the plan for “two nations for two peoples” envisage an independent state of Palestine existing alongside a separate nation of Israel. The country would be divided along the 1967 border and Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their holy capital, would be split in two.

The two-state solution has the backing of the majority of the international community, including the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia the UK and – theoretically – the US.

In 2009, Netanyahu accepted the hypothetical idea of an independent Palestine on condition it was demilitarised and recognised Israel.

But according to Haaretz, this vision of such an agreement for Palestine may not be as clear-cut as it seems. “Netanyahu does not object to using the term ‘state’, if by ‘state’ you mean an entity that agrees to a foreign army invading its territory, patrolling its streets and detaining its citizens whenever it sees fit,” the news site says.

What is the one-state solution?

In theory, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been willing to consider the idea of a united Israel where Palestinians and Israelis would be citizens on equal footing.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said in 2017 that he saw a non-sectarian Israel as the “only alternative” to an independent Palestine.

However, in reality, the two sides have vastly different ideas of what a one-state solution would look like. Polling has consistently shown that both Israelis and Palestinians favour a two-state solution, says Al Jazeera

Is there an alternative?

Netanyahu has stated his support for a solution known as “state-minus”, which falls somewhere between one-state and two-state.

Under this proposal, Palestinians would get a limited degree of self-rule and even, Netanyahu has hinted, symbols of statehood such as a flag and anthem.

But Jewish settlements in the occupied territories would remain in place and be protected by the Israel Defence Forces.

On paper, Netanyahu’s solution “is the status quo in a permanent form”, says Al Jazeera’s James Bays, with “Palestinians having some autonomy in their various villages and areas under Israeli control”.

But any claims that the PM would be able to consolidate the needs of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens has been undermined by his decision to force through a controversial law in July that redefines the country as the “nation state” of the Jewish people and strips Arabic of its status as an official language alongside Hebrew.

This concept of an “in name only” Palestine is unacceptable to the current Palestinian leaders. In 2014, PLO secretary-general Erekat accused the Israeli government of trying to “bury” the idea of a Palestinian statehood in favour of a two-tier “apartheid” system, The Times of Israel reports.

Some Israeli politicians have expressed scepticism about the viability of the state-minus, too. Deputy speaker Hilik Bar told the The Washington Post it represented “simply managing the conflict”.

He added: “At the end of the road there will either be a two-state solution or a one-state solution.”

Pros and cons of the two-state solution

Pros:
  • The international community is overwhelmingly in favour of Palestinian statehood. More than 70% of the UN’s 193 member states recognise Palestine as an independent entity, Al Jazeera reports.
  • For many Israelis, a two-state solution is the only way to protect the county’s Jewish identity. Bar wrote in The Jerusalem Post that “one state would be the end of the Zionist dream”, as well as the Palestinians’ own dream for an independent homeland.
  •  Integrating Palestinians into a united Israel would also radically alter the country’s socioeconomic demographics. If the West Bank and Gaza Strip became integrated into Israel, the result would be a “bi-national state where almost half the population is under the poverty line”, says Haaretz.
Cons:
  • Little progress has been made towards the two-state solution, despite it being the favoured proposal since the 1960s. In fact, no-compromise Zionism has become increasingly popular, to the point that enthusiasm for an independent Palestine is now limited to “small, elitist circles”, Haaretz’s Nir Baram wrote in 2015, adding: “The no-solution, determined-stand coalition has won.”
  • The ever-growing number of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories presents a major obstacle to establishing a Palestinian state. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has warned that the “continuation of settlements” will “destroy” the chances of a two-state solution and “lead to more extremism and instability”.
  • Some regional analysts believe establishing two separate nations along religious and ethnic lines, rather than pushing for a fully integrated Israel, will only prolong the sectarian violence in the region. In 2010, then UN special rapporteur Richard Falk backed a one-state solution, saying: “So long as there are these two separate states, or two distinct entities, or a single Israeli apartheid state, there will be hostility and enmity throughout the region.”

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