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What are the one-state and two-state solutions for the Israel-Gaza war?

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12 January 2024, ABC News, by Ben Knight

For decades, world leaders from popes to presidents have agreed on one thing: the only possible way to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians is through a two-state solution.

So why hasn’t it happened in all that time? And why aren’t other solutions viable?

The two-state solution is exactly what it sounds like — a Jewish state, and an Arab state, in the land shared by Israelis and Palestinians.

Currently, only the Jewish state – Israel — exists. There is no Palestinian state. Some Palestinians live in Israel as citizens. Others live in the West Bank – occupied by Israel – or in Gaza. Others live in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

Yet the idea of two states has been around for nearly a century. In 1993, it looked like it might even happen.

But it didn’t. And plans for such a solution have pretty much gone backwards since then.

Why is it so difficult? And why not a one-state solution, for example?

First, let’s do some two-state 101.

To make two states, you would need to create a new state of Palestine. And to do that, you would need to agree where its borders would be.

The outside borders are already fixed – with Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel; and Syria and Lebanon, which very much do not.

All the land inside these borders was once called Palestine, when it was run by the British after World War I.

Britain had already declared its support for the idea of a Jewish homeland in 1917, which did not impress the Arab residents of Palestine.

For years afterward, there were Arab strikes, riots, and massacres of Jews, who began arming themselves and retaliating.

By 1937, with violence out of control, Britain was looking for a way out.

It produced the first plan to split Palestine into two states – a Jewish state in the north, an Arab state in the south, and an international zone for the holy sites in Jerusalem.

But Britain soon realised that it wasn’t possible without massive forced transfers of people — especially Arabs, who rejected the plan anyway — and land.

The next attempt came after World War II, in the shadow of the Holocaust, in the newly formed United Nations (UN).

The UN Partition Plan also divided Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem once again carved out.

Jewish leaders said yes. Once again, Arabs said no.

But it made no difference. The plan passed the UN General Assembly with 33 nations voting in favour, 20 against, and 13 abstentions.

One of those abstaining was Britain – standing apart from the rest of Europe, South America, and the Anglosphere (including Australia), which mostly voted yes.

The Arab and Muslim world voted no. So did India, Greece, and Cuba.

Israel declared its Independence on May 14, 1948 — and was almost immediately invaded by armies from Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, in what Israel calls its War of Independence.

When it was over, Israel had not only survived, but had captured another 5,000 square kilometres of territory.

Egypt controlled Gaza, while Jordan controlled the West Bank and half of Jerusalem.

The new post-war borders became the so-called Green Line map. And it’s really important.

That is because every single attempt to create a two-state solution since then has used the Green Line map as the starting point of negotiations.

In 1967, the map changed massively, after what was known as the Six Day War.

With tensions rising, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike – and wiped out the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in less than a week.

When it was over, Israel had taken Gaza from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and most the Golan Heights from Syria — effectively tripling the size of territory under Israel’s control.

Winding that back would not be easy.

It took until 1991 for everyone to get in the same room in Madrid, and try to get it done.

The Madrid Peace Conference talks didn’t go anywhere. But there were other, secret talks going on between the Israelis and Palestinians in Norway.

And they did get somewhere. Two years later, the first Oslo Accord was signed by the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat – the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

What are the Oslo Accords?

The Oslo accords didn’t create a state of Palestine, but they were an agreement to have a serious crack at it.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to go back to the pre-1967 borders.

Yasser Arafat agreed that the PLO would renounce terrorism and recognise Israel’s right to exist in peace.

They also started the process of setting up Palestinian self-rule, with its own government and police force under the Palestinian Authority.

There was a still an enormous amount to agree on.

What would happen to the Israeli settlements that had been built on Palestinian land?

What were the rights of Palestinians who lost their land and homes when Israel was created in 1948?

Would Palestine have a military? And what guarantees were there that Israel would be safe.

And perhaps the trickiest issue of all: would Palestinians get East Jerusalem, including the Holy Sites of Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount, as their capital city?

Even with all that ahead, the handshake on the White House lawn between Arafat and Rabin was a huge moment.

Rabin, Arafat and Israel’s President Shimon Peres were jointly awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

What went wrong?

In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli religious extremist opposed to the Oslo agreement.

Then the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas – in defiance of Yasser Arafat and his renunciation of terror — launched a series of terrorist attacks on Israel.

Five years later, with six months left in his presidency, Bill Clinton tried once again to get it done by bringing Arafat and the new Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Camp David.

But they couldn’t reach agreement on those difficult details — borders, security, the fate of displaced Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem.

The breakdown of the talks was followed by one of the worst waves of terrorist attacks in Israel’s history – the Second Intifada.

Were there other attempts after Oslo?

In 2002, Arab countries put forward their own plan – The Arab Peace Initiative — offering full recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state, with its capital in East Jerusalem, based on the Green Line borders.

It’s still on the table.

In 2005, Israel unexpectedly began pulling its citizens out of Gaza. Hamas almost immediately – and violently – took over, and has been in control of Gaza ever since.

In 2008, Barack Obama took his turn at attempting to broker peace in the Middle East. The Israeli prime minister at the time was the same man currently leading the nation – Benjamin Netanyahu.

At a meeting with Mr Obama in the Oval Office, the Israeli prime minister tried to set out a red line – no return to the Green Line.

“I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. ”

Two days later, Mr Obama fired back in a speech to the Israel lobby in Washington.

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Mr Obama said.

The relationship between the two leaders was never good, and only deteriorated.

Mr Netanyahu got along much better with Donald Trump – who recognised all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and provocatively moved the US embassy there.

Most nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

After Mr Trump recognised the Golan Heights as part of Israel, Mr Netanyahu named a settlement there after him.

“Trump is great friend of our state,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“A leader who has done things that were not previously done … and should have been done by the power of justice and truth.”

So where are we now?

As the years have passed, the prospect of a two-state solution has become even more remote – especially six months ago, when Benjamin Netanyahu returned as pime minister with a coalition that’s been described as the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history.

Mr Netanyahu named settler activist Itamar Ben-Gvir — a convicted criminal, with a rap sheet that includes inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation — as minister for national security.

For years, he had on his wall a photo of Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinians and injured more than 100 in 1994.

Interestingly, he appears to have been sidelined since October 7, and is not part of the Israel’s war cabinet.

Another settler leader, Bezalel Smotrich, controls planning in the west bank. He caused an uproar in March when he quoted French-Israeli Zionist Jacques Kupfe: “There is no such thing as Palestinians, because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.

Under Mr Smotrich’s watch, approvals for 13,000 new housing units in the West Bank were either approved or advanced, according to Israeli watchdog Peace Now.

Last week, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely said Israel could not agree to the creation a Palestinian state.

“Absolutely no,” she told Sky News UK

“Israel knows, today, and the world should know now, the reason the Oslo accords failed is because Palestinians never wanted to have a state next to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian politics is deeply split.

The West Bank is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), created under the Oslo accords, and dominated by Fatah – the party of Yasser Arafat.

The PA is not particularly popular among Palestinians. It has a well-documented reputation for corruption, nepotism, and incompetence – let alone its seeming inability to make any progress on their situation.

In 2006, Fatah shocked its western backers – and Israel – by losing a parliamentary election, and control of the PA, to Hamas.

Western powers responded by temporarily shutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority. Israel arrested dozens of Hamas officials, including some who’d just been elected.

In 2007, Fatah and Hamas went to war with each other in Gaza. When it was over, Hamas controlled Gaza – while the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority holds the West Bank.

What do the people think?

Support for a two-state solution on both sides has tanked.

A Gallup poll of Palestinians taken a week before the October 7 attacks showed support at just 25 per cent – down from nearly 60 per cent a decade ago.

Support has also dropped among Jewish Israelis.

In 2019, Rand Corporation conducted 33 focus groups in the region, testing attitudes towards five alternatives:

  • the status quo
  • a two-state solution
  • a confederation
  • Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory
  • A one-state solution

None were acceptable to a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Jewish Israelis preferred the status quo, but Palestinians hated it.

Rand Corporation found the two-state solution was the most politically viable alternative, but even then it attracted heavy scepticism.

Palestinians in Gaza were the only group to rate a one-state solution over the two-state solution – and not by much.

Why not a one-state solution?

A one-state solution would mean absorbing everyone in Israel and the Palestinian territories into a new nation.

Israelis are well aware that if that happened, they would very likely be a minority.

But at the same time, Israeli settlers have been encroaching ever further onto Palestinian land, building new cities and effectively expanding Israel’s borders.

Here’s what then-vice-president Joe Biden said about that back in 2016.

“The steady and systematic expansion of settlements [is] moving Israel in the wrong direction. Their movement is toward a one-state reality. And that reality is dangerous.

“That reality is riddled with profound questions about future political and demographic character of Israel, how it can remain a Jewish state if the majority of its population is Palestinian.”

So where to from here?

The two-state solution is still widely regarded by world leaders as the only way to end the conflict.

And Mr Netanyahu and his government are under more international pressure than ever to end the status quo and make it happen.

The United Arab Emirates says its support for the reconstruction of Gaza after the war will depend how a US-backed initiative toward a two-state solution progresses.

The US has been taking a tougher line with Israel on both settlements, and civilian deaths.

But a change to another Trump presidency would probably take that pressure back off.

And there may be other political change ahead closer to home.

Mr Netanyahu is deeply unpopular with Israelis – not just for the massive security failure on October 7, but also after his failed attempt to nobble the country’s supreme court.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is 88 years old.

Israel is a very different country to the secular state that was created in 1948 – with far more religious citizens who believe God gave them the land, and who have massive political power.

The Palestinians will need to bridge the deep divide between Hamas and Fatah. Because as much as the world might condemn Hamas for the atrocities of October 7 – and much that came before – it’s still there.

And that’s before dealing with the same difficult details that have tripped up previous attempts – borders, refugees, security, and the sharing of Jerusalem.

But there doesn’t seem to be better suggestion than to keep trying.

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Article source: ABC News/ Ben Knight 12.1 2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000