November 15, 2023
ISLAMABAD – From the corridors of power in Washington to the UN headquarters in New York, all talks about finding a permanent solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories focus on the proposed two-state solution.
“Even in this moment of grave and immediate danger, we cannot lose sight of the only realistic foundation for true peace and stability: a two-state solution,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said at a recent briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed. “The United States continues to believe that the best viable path — indeed, the only path — is through a two-state solution,” he told reporters in New York.
The Gaza crisis, especially the death of more than 11,000 Palestinians, has once again highlighted the need for a lasting solution to the issue.
When the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, briefed Arab and other Muslim leaders in Riyadh this weekend, he, too reminded them that this was the only viable solution.
“A genuine prospect of Palestinian statehood is critical,” Mr Lazzarini said. “We must step back from the brink before it’s too late.”
He urged members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to “act now to change the trajectory of this crisis”.
The ‘two-state solution’ would create an independent Israel and an independent Palestine by separating the two groups unwilling to live with each other. There is also a “one-state solution,” favoured by the right-wing Israelis, including the current rulers. It would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big country.
This, too, has two versions. One, favoured by some left-wing Israelis and Palestinians, would create a single democratic country.
The other version, favoured by the Israeli right, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and either forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote.
Virtually the entire world, including most Israelis, rejects this option as an unacceptable human rights violation.
Belief in the possibility of a two-state solution dropped significantly in recent years. A survey, published in January 2023, showed that only 34 per cent of Israeli Jews and 33pc of Palestinians supported a two-state solution.
This support declined further after the Hamas Oct 7 raid. “The war between Israel and Hamas makes the two-state solution less viable than ever before,” observed Carnegie Europe, which is affiliated with a US think-tank.
“When this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next,” said US President Joe Biden recently. “And in our view, it has to be a two-state solution.”
A recent report in The Guardian newspaper quoted two surveys by Pew Research Centre and Gallup, conducted in January 2023, to show that before the current crisis, the majority in both Israel and Palestine had rejected the two-state solution. But that has changed since then.
“There are no other viable alternatives,” Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank, told The Guardian. “The two-state solution is the least bad option to enable both Israelis and Palestinians to fulfil their political, civil, and human rights.”
Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, told the newspaper: “It is the only solution — there is no realistic competition.”
In a similar report, the New York Times also explored the viability of the two-state solution, using a recent statement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain to support the argument. “In our view, it has to be a two-state solution,” Mr Sunak said. “It’s the surest path to peace.”
The newspaper noted that French President Emmanuel Macron also endorsed this suggestion, calling it “the only possible way out of the crisis”.