• Zara Shaen Albright

#Palestinelandday and the case for the Two State Solution

This Monday (30 March) marked Palestine Land Day, a day when people in and outside of Palestine advocate for the return of the land in Israel to the Palestinians. Palestine Land Day was marked after the strikes and marches in 1976 protesting “the confiscation of thousands of dunams of their land by the government” resulting in the deaths of “six unarmed Arab citizens” and “some 100 injured”. This day has become a landmark date in the Palestinian Political Calendar not just for Palestinians, but for well-meaning ‘Free Palestine’ activists who aren’t aware of the fact that they enable the Palestinian Authorities to do great harm against their citizens on a daily basis. What cannot be ignored is the unresolved yearning of the Palestinians for self-identification, and whilst it can be persuasively argued that the Jewish people need their own homeland after centuries of persecution, it also makes sense that the Palestinians want somewhere to call home too. The situation in Israel and Palestine in the fight for land continues to worsen. Anyone with the ‘Red Alert Israel’ app, which displays notifications of rocket strikes and counter strikes, can tell you that the tensions between the two sides aren’t diffusing. As such we need to look towards a solution that appeases both sides, so that the spilling of blood and tears can finally end and prevailing peace be achieved. It is important to understand where many of the frustrations lie. Firstly, Jerusalem is of significance to both sides, with the city holding Temple Mount and the Western Wall for the Jews in Israel, and Al Aqsa mosque being a place of deep religious significance for Arab Muslims. Secondly, both sides have been fighting using construction as their weapon, building settlements without permission. Finally, Palestinians feel stateless, as they have been unable to return to Israel due to the absence of a peace agreement since the 1948 war of independence. The extremes of the two sides offer two very different, but equally unviable, solutions. Palestinian Authorities, through their media and literature make it very clear that the only solution acceptable to them is to completely regain the land of Israel as Palestine. However, this solution is not possible. Not only would it be unwise to eradicate the Middle East’s only democracy, but it is also simply unpragmatic.

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, groups such as Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) call for the annexation of the West Bank, and thereby ‘complete’ Israeli rule of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea, whilst fervently being against any form of a viable Palestinian state. They also advocate for the cancellation of the Oslo Accords, and for imposed sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and “the expulsion of Arab citizens not loyal to Israel”. This, again, is an impossible solution. Not only would expelling “disloyal Arabs” be counter to Israel’s modus operandi of being the shining example of democracy in the Middle East, but completely annexing the current land occupied by Palestinians would anger the Arab world, and potentially lead to another all-out war. There is however, a third solution, one that could appease both sides, by allowing both the Israelis and the Palestinians a chance to self-identify, and giving both a place to call home. This is the ‘Two-State Solution’. The Two-State Solution would involve both Israelis and Palestinians having their own state. This would be accomplished by creating a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, west of the River Jordan, with both states dividing Jerusalem between them as their respective capitals. In short, “The principle of the two-state solution is that a Palestinian state will be created within the territory of Gaza and the West Bank, and will exist alongside and at peace with Israel”. This solution has “the backing of the international community: including the United Nations, the Arab League, the EU, Russia, the UK and, theoretically- the US”, with President Donald Trump being the latest statesman to advocate a “realistic two-state solution, and with more than 70% of the UN’s 193 member states recognising Palestine as an independent entity. Although support for the two-state solution has been on the decline in Israeli public popularity, it is the only conceivable way forward. This is despite the fact that even moderate Israeli campaign groups such as Likkud-Herut UK advocate for what could be referred to as ‘no-compromise Zionism’, with their webpage stating the following:

We believe in the inalienable right of all Jews to live and settle in all parts of the Land of Israel and [we are] in the support of all government and community efforts and programmes directed to assist the maximum level of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael”

And whilst it is true that the Palestinian Authorities have refused previous attempts at the Two-State Solution, it has garnered new interest following President Trump’s decision to revive plans for negotiations for the two-state plan. The plans announced in 2019 called for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, with the addition of a US embassy opening in the new state’s capital, and a four-year halt in New Israeli settlement construction, which would combat the issue of the ever-growing settlements that the Palestinian Authority have used to refuse a Two-State solution in the past. Although an integrated so-called ‘one-state solution’ has been proposed, this would be all but impossible in practice, given that both Jewish Israelis and Arab-Palestinians want to have their own religious and cultural identities, and have a place that they can call and feel at home with these respective identities. Whilst the accusations of Israel being an apartheid state are a fabrication (when Arab citizens who have chosen to live in Israel have full democratic rights), a Two-state solution would mean that the Palestinians would have an independent homeland. It would also mean the preservation of Zionism in that Jews would still have their own independent homeland under majority-Jewish democratic control. Integrating Palestinians into a bi-national Israel would also have the effect of bringing many of them out of poverty. Although the positive impact for both states is not immediately obvious, poverty plays a large part not only in Palestine’s culture of martyrdom through the ‘pay for slay’ programme, but it also allows for Israel and its Jewish citizens to become scapegoats to be blamed for Palestinians’ economic situation (despite Israel setting up factories and other employment opportunities in the West Bank to provide jobs for its citizens, such as SodaStream’s factory until pressures and boycotts forced them to close). By bringing Palestinians out of poverty, it gives them not only financial security, but also a future to strive towards, thereby offering an alternative to the culture of martyrdom that is repeatedly peddled in Palestine. Although some would argue that a two-state solution would only prolong the violence and hostility, such as when the then UN special rapporteur Richard Falk stated, “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”, it could be argued that the improved financial situation for Palestinians would lead to the easing of tensions in the long run. In addition to this, as stated above, the latest negotiations, although rejected, proposed the four-year halt of constructions of Israeli settlements (something that has been a sore point for Palestinians when many of their own settlements, admittedly constructed without permission, are often demolished).

There could also be conditions that the Palestinian Authorities would have to meet in order to gain statehood, such as “the “rejection of terrorism,” which President Trump said involves stopping “the malign activities of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other enemies of peace” and “an end to corruption, a halt to the incitement of hatred against Israel and a permanent end to financial compensation to the families of militants”. This would have the effect of removing any and all financial incentives for terror attacks. Overall, a Two-State solution would offer both Israeli Jews and Arab Palestinians land that they could call their own, where both sides could preserve their culture and traditions, whilst bringing Palestinians out of the poverty in which a culture of antisemitic martyrdom has been allowed to fester. However, it cannot be denied that a heavy degree of compromise will be required from both sides. This would involve “giving up control of territory in the West Bank”, for Israel, which is of historic, religious and cultural significance for its Jewish citizens, and Palestinians “accepting that the solution for the Palestinian refugee problem lies not in refugees returning to Israel but in returning to a new Palestinian state”.

Once this has been accepted, along with conditions for the state of Palestine to reject terrorism, a Two-State solution could be a real answer to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although the latest plans from Trump were rejected, and need further work, it has brought renewed attention to the need for a Two-State solution and provides a decent outline for future plans for the Two-State solution to work. In light of Palestine Land Day this week, let us use it to focus on and work towards a realistic solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict: one that offers viable compromise and the right to self-identification to both sides, so that the culture of anger and hatred can be eradicated, and prosperity, ambition, and peace, can blossom in its place.

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