Give Up on the Two-State Solution? Other Ideas
by Daniel Pipes
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I have devoted an entry, "The West Bank to Jordan, Gaza to Egypt," to those voices (including mine) who have given up on the two-state solution and instead advocate for or against the idea that the Jordanian and Egyptian governments take over, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza.
But this leaves out the growing debate over the two-state solution that does not mention the Jordan-Egypt option; their ideas will be recorded here, as a complement to the original weblog entry.
I shall also include a few prominent voices that continue to place their hopes in a Palestinian state – starting with the newly-inaugurated Barack Obama, who said today, "I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state—I'm not going to put a time frame on it—that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life." (January 26, 2009)
Feb. 1, 2009 update: Nathan J. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes in "Palestine and Israel: Time for Plan B" that "the international effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has come to a dead end." His Plan B offers makes no mention of Jordan-Egypt but involves three steps that center on recognizing Hamas:
Comment: One has to wonder what planet Brown lives on, making plans on the basis that Hamas can be tamed and made to accept the existence of a sovereign Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Feb. 17, 2009 update: Giora Eiland, a leading Israeli strategist, has issued a study, "The Future of the Two-State Solution," in which he calls the two-state solution "a big illusion." In its stead, he offers a baroque plan whereby Cairo grants Gaza 600 sq. km. of its territory, Jerusalem annexes 600 sq. km. of territory on the West Bank and it grants a final 600 sq. km. of territory in the Negev desert to Egypt. Eiland does not explicitly say this last tranche would cut Israel in two, but that is implied when he writes that "Egypt could get a land corridor to enable movement from Egypt to the rest of the Middle East without the need to cross Israel." Comment: This has to be concurrently the least likely and least good idea anyone has come up with lately. Mar. 4, 2009 update: In a much less baroque analysis, "No chance for 2 states." Eiland dismisses this idea as "a bad solution" that "will likely never be achieved," then gives his reasons for this negative appraisal.
Feb. 28, 2009 update: Binyamin Netanyahu punts when asked in an interview if he endorses the 2-state solution, saying neither yes or no:
(The other two demands were changes to the electoral system and reforms in the Interior Ministry.)
Comment: (1) Coalition talks are where the real platform gets hammered out. (2) But the evolution of Likud's Ariel Sharon in 2003 shows how the real platform can change dramatically. Here is my account of what happened then:
So, coalition talks are a good but not entirely reliable guide to future policy.
Mar. 1, 2009 update bis: Aluf Benn of Ha'aretz points to "obvious political reasons" to explain Netanyahu's reticence on this issue: "It would cost him his potential coalition with the right-wing National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, and force him into a rotation arrangement with Livni." Plus, writes Benn, his opposition to a Palestinian state "is also a matter of principle, one he has held for many years." Finally,
Mar. 5, 2009 update: Aaron Lerner credits Binyamin Netanyahu for not giving in on the 2-state solution during recent negotiations with Kadima.
Mar. 28, 2009 update: The European Union could not be coming down harder in favor of a two-state solution, announcing publicly that its relations with Israel will suffer if the Netanyahu government has the temerity to abandon this formula:
Apr. 1, 2009 update: In a telephone survey conducted on March 30-31, 2009 by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, both at Tel Aviv University, found that in contrast "to Netanyahu's refusal to commit himself to the formula of two states for two peoples, a majority of both sectors (56% of the Jews and 78% of the Arabs) currently favors working toward this solution." Confusingly, the survey goes on to report that
Confusing because it's not clear if Jewish Israeli support for the two-state solution is 56 percent or 51 percent. In any case, it makes up a majority.
Apr. 10, 2009 update: Writing for the far-leftist Inter Press Service, Helena Cobban gives up on the two-state solution and instead advocates "a single bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, in which both Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis and Arabic-speaking Palestinians would have equal rights as citizens, and find themselves equally at home."
Apr. 17, 2009 update: George Mitchell announced today in Israel: "U.S. policy favors, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel."
Apr. 22, 2009 update: Another poll, this one sponsored by One Voice, found that the two-state solution "continues to be the most widely accepted option for both Israelis and Palestinians and all other options presently being considered are less likely to gain as much support in both societies as a basis for a peace agreement." Here are the specific polling results on alternate final status arrangements:
May 14, 2009 update: Abbas Zaki, the PLO "ambassador" to Lebanon spoke about the two-state solution on ANB TV on May 7 and MEMRI made it known today:
July 2, 2009 update: According to Zogby International – whose slogan should be "interesting if true" – polls of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans shows wide support for the two-state solution.
Aug. 18, 2009 update: Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and candidate for president, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. "The question is should the Palestinians have a place to call their own? Yes, I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That's what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic."
May 31, 2011 update: Binyamin Netanyahu accepted "two states for two peoples" in 2009 but his minister without portfolio, Benny Begin, does not. Gavriel Queenann reports that Begin, speaking on Arutz Sheva radio,
Begin did not offer an alternative solution.
July 15, 2011 update: The Israel Project commissioned American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion to probe Palestinian sentiments on the two-state solution and found that only 34 percent of them accepts this resolution. Completed this week, the survey was intensive and face-to-face, in Arabic, and included 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Jan. 3, 2013 update: A poll by Geocartography of a representative sample of adult Israelis (including Arabs) asks the question "Do you support or oppose the concept that the establishment of two states is the solution to the conflict with the Palestinians?" In reply, 40 percent support the concept, 45 percent oppose, and 14 percent do not reply.
Apr. 17, 2013 update: Cheery news: Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today: "I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting ... I think we have some period of time - a year, a year-and-a-half, two years - or it's over." Let's hope that Klueless Kerry gives up this quixotic quest by late 2015.
Sep. 17, 2013 update: Proving that it's becoming ever more eccentric, the New York Times published an opinion piece today, "Two-State Illusion" by the loopy Ian S. Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania.
Starting from the false premised that "All sides have been wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli," he goes on to argue that Israel may well be a temporary phenomenon by noting "how quickly the Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Baathist Iraqi and Yugoslavian states unraveled," as though Israel had anything in common with those tyrannies.
Lustick goes on to inform us that "The issue is no longer where to draw political boundaries between Jews and Arabs on a map but how equality of political rights is to be achieved," his coy way of saying goodbye to the Jewish state: "Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders." Now in full form, he goes on to give his vision of what will follow Israel:
Comment: How embarrassing to recall that I was a steady contributor to the New York Times between 1980 and 1996.
Nov. 5, 2013 update: William Booth and Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post survey alternative ideas on the Israeli Right to the two-state solution at "A Greater Israel? Faction says no to two-state solution, yes to annexing Palestinian areas." These matter because high-ranking figures in the Israeli government such as Uri Ariel, Naftali Bennett, Danny Danon, Ze'ev Elkin, and Tzipi Hotovely,
These opponents, they report, are no longer simply negative about the two-state idea but "are preparing details of their own vision for how Israel should proceed unilaterally." The article then specifies the views of each of the politicians named above.
Dec. 12, 2014 update: According to a Times of Israel report by Haviv Rettig Gur, Yair Lapid of Israel's Yesh Atid party sees a similar solution to the Palestinian issue: "Egypt can help secure Gaza and Sinai, and Jordan wields some influence over the West Bank and East Jerusalem."
Mar. 30, 2015 update: A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that American support for a Palestinian state is at a low - only 39 percent. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post writes that this "is the lowest that number has been in WaPo-ABC and Gallup polling since 1998."
June 23, 2015 update: A new poll shows that support for the two-state solution has decreased among both Palestinians and Israelis to 51 on each side. (The poll was jointly conducted by the Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.)
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