What kind of ‘2–state solution’ is Israel’s Lapid speaking about?

BY NAJLA M. SHAHWAN

 NOV 01, 2022 – DAILY SABAH

Illustration shows Palestine and Israel flags on barbed wire. (Getty Images)

Illustration shows Palestine and Israel flags on barbed wire. (Getty Images)

Addressing the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly last month, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called for a two-state solution to the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children,” Lapid said.

“Despite all the obstacles, still today, a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two-state solution. I am one of them,” he said, adding that any agreement would be based on a peaceful Palestinian state that would not threaten Israel.

Just one day after Lapid made his U.N. General Assembly speech, a new poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) found that the majority of Jewish Israelis are opposed to advancing a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, at least in the near term.

The poll said that only 31% of Jewish Israelis think that a government formed after the Nov. 1 elections should try to advance a two-state solution. This figure was down from 44% in February 2021. According to the poll, 58% of Jewish Israelis opposed such a move, with another 11% undecided. Among Arab Israelis, the support for a potential two-state solution was far higher, with 60% agreeing the next government should push for such a diplomatic outcome.

The IDI survey included 753 respondents (605 Jews and others, and 149 Arabs). It had a margin of error of 3.59%.

Condemnations

Lapid’s call for a two-state solution in his speech drew condemnation from the right flank of his governing coalition, as well as from former premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently the opposition leader and his chief rival in upcoming elections.

On his part while speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel was “destroying” the two-state solution and lambasted the U.N. for failing to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. “Israel has and still is, through its current policies which are premeditated and deliberate, destroying the two-state solution,” Abbas told the General Assembly. “Israel does not believe in peace. It believes in imposing a status quo by force and by aggression.”

Terming Lapid’s comments “positive,” Abbas added, “… the real test of the seriousness and credibility of (his) position is the Israeli government sitting at the negotiating table immediately, to implement the two-state solution.”

Since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the underlying assumption of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts has been the necessity of separating Israelis and Palestinians into two independent states.

On the other hand, the international consensus on the two-state solution calls for establishing a sovereign, democratic, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state based on the 1949 armistice lines that prevailed until the 1967 Arab–Israeli war. This would have Palestinians living next to an Israeli state in peace and security— with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In recent years, obstacles to achieving the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict deepened and proliferated. Those declaring its death have multiplied, viewing the “two states for two peoples” paradigm as an outdated notion.

Today, both those who remain supportive of the two-state solution and those who see it as impossible have ample evidence to support their case.

Realities on the ground

For decades, the discourse surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was centered on the theory of separation as the principal means of achieving sustainable peace. Israel has been creating new realities and obstacles on the ground, leading to the deep fragmentation of the Palestinian territory.

First and foremost, Israel’s accelerating settlement construction policy has established a vast network of settlements and supportive infrastructure deemed illegal under international law. The number of settlers in the West Bank has now surpassed 650,000, scattered across over 140 different settlements. These “facts on the ground” ensure that a future Palestinian state would constitute a fragmented, shattered entity with little true sovereignty.

Besides, settlement expansion, crippling annexations, house demolitions, evictions, and revoked residencies – have proven unnecessary for Israel’s security. Rather, they aim at territorial expansion with the underlying goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

All these facts have led to a growing sense among analysts and experts that the two-state solution is no longer possible and the most commonly proposed replacement is a “one-state solution,” which would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into a single democratic country with equal rights for Arabs and Jews.

But under this scenario, Arab Muslims would outnumber Jews, thus ending Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, while Palestinians would not have a state purely to call their own. Instead, they will accommodate a large Jewish minority.

One state is even less likely to happen than a two-state solution and will involve the most powerful player in the conflict, Israel, choosing to abandon its raison d’être.

It’s far more likely to abandon West Bank settlements than to give up on Zionism as a whole.

This speaks to the deeper reason that the two-state solution remains better than the leading alternative: It is the only realistic way of dealing with the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one between two distinct nations.

The two-state solution maintains the position adopted by the international community, EU and Arab States and continues to be held by the key actors while among the public, it still maintains a plurality of support that no other approach enjoys.

Although reviving the goal of a “two-state solution” is vital, Prime Minister Lapid brought the term back to the international agenda without any serious plan and as Israel is heading for elections in November.

Thus, experts hold the view that Lapid’s speech was meant to portray himself – both to voters and global leaders – as a statesman and moderate alternative to his main rival, hardline ex-PM Netanyahu who referred to the potential end goal as “state-minus,” similar to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach which envisioned a Palestinian “state” with almost no real attributes of a state. However, the predominant perspective floated for years by Israeli political leaders never included full or effective sovereignty for Palestinians and instead presented a vision closer to enhanced autonomy.

At the same time, there are continued efforts to hollow out the concept of the two-state solution as Israeli leaders have used terms such as “autonomy-plus” besides “state-minus,” but few are willing to entertain a truly sovereign state for the Palestinians as defined by international law.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Palestinian author, researcher and freelance journalist; recipient of two prizes from the Palestinian Union of Writers

source https://www.dailysabah.com/opinion/op-ed/what-kind-of-2state-solution-is-israels-lapid-speaking-about

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