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Two State Solution - Background

Nearly 50,000 Palestinians officially work in Israel, while around 30,000 cross the border illegally every day from the West Bank to work. Israel does not make it easy for either group.

Citing biblical connections to the land, Israel has for decades built Jewish settlements on territories seized from its Arab neighbors in the Six-Day War of 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most countries view those settlements as well as those abandoned by Israel in Gaza a decade ago as illegal and a principal obstacle to regional peace.

David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, accepted the two state solution that the UN established in 1947. The 1967 6-Day War resulted in complete Israeli control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and over a large Arab–Palestinian population.

For decades, the settlement project has kept the Israeli population in a perpetual state of forced insecurity, pushing them to focus on the Palestinian enemy, without and within rather than other lines of division, such as rifts and conflicts within the dominant Jewish caste. The occupation and the settlement project has meant constant land-mass added to the Israeli colonial acquisition. Land is expensive, and thus settlement is a direct form of colonial theft, which can then be redistributed to poorer settlers. The decolonization of Palestine is not and has been on anyone’s agenda — except, of course, the people who are suffering in the region.

In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the recommendations of the committee it had established regarding the partition of the Land of Israel west of the Jordan into two states. However, this plan was never carried out and accordingly did not secure a foothold in international law after the Arab states rejected it and launched a war to prevent both its implementation and the establishment of a Jewish state. The results of that war determined the political reality that followed: The Jewish state was established within the territory that was acquired in the war. On the other hand, the Arab state was not formed, and Egypt and Jordan controlled the territories they captured (Gaza, Judea and Samaria). In 1988, Jordan declared that it no longer considered itself as having any status over Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinian territories, occupied since 1967, have been colonised by Israeli settlements built on illegally confiscated land. Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian lands are illegal under International Law. The proliferation of settler outposts are illegal under Israel’s own laws, often located on private Palestinian land. The area has been disaggregated and rendered ungovernable by road networks for Israeli use only. Houses are demolished as collective punishments, and there is regular shooting and shelling. Farmers are separated from their land, and the supply of water sharply discriminates between the needs of Palestinians and those of Israeli settlers.

The Palestinian leadership and much of the international community view Israel's status as that of a "military occupier". Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 prohibits the transfer of parts of the occupying power's own civilian population into the territory it occupies. Article 49 was drafted by the Allies after World War II to prevent the forcible transfer of an occupied population, as was carried out by Nazi Germany, which forcibly transferred people from Germany to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia with the aim of changing the demographic and cultural makeup of the population.

Other are of the view that Israel is not an "Occupying Power" as determined by international law inter alia because the territories of Judea and Samaria were never a legitimate part of any Arab state, including the kingdom of Jordan. Consequently, those conventions dealing with the administration of occupied territory and an occupied population are not applicable to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria.

The accepted term "occupier" with its attending obligations, is intended to apply to brief periods of the occupation of the territory of a sovereign state pending termination of the conflict between the parties and the return of the territory or any other agreed upon arrangement. However, Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria is fundamentally different: Its control of the territory spans decades and no one can foresee when or if it will end; the territory was captured from a state (the kingdom of Jordan), whose sovereignty over the territory had never been legally and definitively affirmed, and has since renounced its claim of sovereignty; so it is claimed that the State of Israel had a claim to sovereign right over the territory.

In 1993 when the Oslo accords were signed there were approximately 110,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and 146,000 living in East Jerusalem. In 2013 there were approximately 350,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and as many as 300,000 living in East Jerusalem. All settlements are also located in Area C. As Israeli citizens, settlers are provided with all of the rights afforded by Israeli civil and criminal laws. However, their Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military law. A separate system of roads that are closed to Palestinians or that bypass Palestinian communities has been set up for Settlers to ensure their unrestricted movement in the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel.

The PLO accepted the two-state solution in 1988, even before the Oslo peace process. On 15 November 1988, at the 19th PNC meetings at Algiers the PLO unilaterally proclaimed the establishment of an independent state called the state of Palestine. The chief drafter of the document was Mahmoud Darwish. In this historic document the PLO reversed its position on UNGA resolution 181, and accepted the two-state solution. The PLO formally recognized Israel within its internationally recognized borders and agreed to a two-state solution in 1993.

Labor slogans from the 1990s included Prime Minister Ehud Barak usingthe electoral slogan, 'Us here, them over there'. Ehud Olmert won the 2006 election for Kadima on a platform on which looked set to follow up the withdrawal from Gaza with a wider, unilateral removal of isolated settlers in the West Bank, and a consolidation of settlements included within the separation wall.

After 36 years of Israeli occupation, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first announced the Disengagement Plan on December 18, 2003. The camp of the religious right undertook acts of rigorous resistance. Despite massive controversy, the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Act (‘the Disengagement Act’) was approved by Parliament on February 16, 2005. To reduce friction with the Palestinian population, it called for evacuation of the Gaza Strip and an area in the Northern West Bank including all existing Israeli towns and villages.

Residents of the evacuated settlements were of a rather diverse nature; ideological-religious and secular families seeking a better quality of life had jointly settled in the Gaza Strip. They shared concerns about security (e.g., terrorist attacks and rockets) and about the imminent evacuation. However, their attitudes, feelings, and perceptions regarding the evacuation varied. For the religious people, concerns about security and family future were augmented by religious ones, due to their belief that Prime Minster Ariel Sharon had betrayed the biblical commandment of settlement. These concerns were less relevant for the secular settlers. This difference translated into different behavioral responses to the Disengagement: while most secular residents willingly evacuated their homes without confrontation, many religious ones were forcibly dragged out by the security forces.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first accepted the two-state solution in 1997. By June 2009 Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution, but placed conditions on it that the Palestinians regarded as entirely unacceptable. The Palestinian state Netanyahu envisaged would have no armed forces, no means of importing weapons and no control of its airspace. Netanyahu insisted that for a two-state solution to be viable, there has to be a "public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people". This goes beyond Israel's traditional demand that neighboring states recognise its right to exist, and is anathema to many Palestinians who see it as discriminatign against the 20 percent of Israelis who are not Jewish. Netanyahu also ruled out the idea of Palestinian refugees resettling in Israel or of Jerusalem becoming a joint capital.

Benjamin Netanyahu said he will not ask any settlers to leave the West Bank. In November 2009, he suggested he was not for a two-state solution. "I think that rather than build peace exclusively from the top down with political agreements, we have to add to the political process building peace from the bottom up by making the lives of our Palestinian neighbors a lot better so they have a stake in peace."

During the 2009 election campaign, and after he was elected in April that year, Netanyahu said that he supported “economic peace,” but did not express support for creating a Palestinian state. Following significant pressure from the United States, however, two months after the election, in June 2009, Netanyahu changed his long-held position and expressed support for creating a demilitarized Palestinian state, on the condition that it would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on 08 March 2015 that the “Bar Ilan speech,” from June 2009, in which he expressed support for creating a “demilitarized Palestinian state that would recognize the Jewish state,” is no longer relevant, in light of the current reality in the Middle East. The Likud election campaign published a statement: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that [in light of] the situation that has arisen in the Middle East, any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions or withdrawals; they are simply irrelevant.” Netanyahu's office denied reports on Sunday he has backed away from a 2009 commitment to seek a two-state peaceful solution with the Palestinians.

Ahead of the Knesset election on 17 March 2015, Netanyahu reversed his earlier stance on Palestinian statehood, saying 16 March 2015 that he will never support a Palestinian state if he remains in office. "I think that whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel: This is the genuine reality that was created here in the past few years. Those who do not understand that bury their heads in the sand," the Israeli leader said.

His comments marked a reversal of long-standing promises to the US and were seen as a last-ditch effort to appeal to hard-line voters. Critics cite Netanyahu's reversal on Palestinian statehood as evidence that he was never fully committed to the long-stalled Middle East peace process. Supporters largely attribute his revised stance to rising tensions with Hamas and its widely perceived Iranian backers.

Hours after the election, Netanyahu declared that he was actually in favor of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian dilemma, but only under very stringent conditions. In a sit down with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the Israeli prime minister said he still supported a two state solution, despite contradictory remarks just days earlier. “I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu said. “I never retracted my speech at Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

“What has changed is the reality,” he continued on MSNBC today. “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post news website published 21 March 2015, Obama indicated that he was not convinced by the later statement. "We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership, and so that's why we've got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don't see a chaotic situation in the region," the president said.

US President Barack Obama said 24 March 2015 it is hard to envision a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-election comments ruling it out. Obama said he and Israeli voters took Netanyahu at his word that the Palestinians will not have their own state under his watch. The Israeli leader has since tried to backtrack on those comments, saying he has not changed his long-held policy. Obama said Netanyahu had put so many conditions on a two-state solution that it would be impossible to have one anytime soon.

"This can't be reduced to a matter of somehow let's all, you know, hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya.' This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region," Obama said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned 05 December 2015 that a collapse of the Palestinian Authority could have consequences for the security of Israel. He said one potential fallout would be the loss of Palestinian security forces and the need for Israel to deploy thousands of troops to the West Bank to fill the void.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 06 December 2015 rejected Kerry's warning. "Israel will not be a binational state, but in order to have peace, the other side needs to decide that it wants peace as well, and unfortunately this is not what we are witnessing," Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting. He added that the Palestinian Authority is continuing incitement against Israel.

The Gaza precedent overshadows any suggestions of new unilateral withdrawals. By 2016 the settler population outside the separation wall stands at more than 80,000 and is rising. If the Ariel settlement bloc, which lies deep inside the occupied West Bank, is included, the figure reaches 100,000. Relocation would be a colossal undertaking, and tens of thousands of people would probably have to be forcibly removed.

For close to a year, Zionist Union party leader Yitzhak Herzog worked on a major regional peacemaking effort, enlisting the international Quartet’s (US, EU, UN and Russia) special Middle East envoy Tony Blair. According to Herzog, a new generation of young Arab leaders was ready for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and to commit to full normalization with Israel. In mid-May 2016, to help create a new framework for peace talks, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made an extraordinary appeal to the Israeli people urging unity and emphasizing the new possibilities for a wide-ranging Middle Eastern peace. But then seemingly without warning Netanyahu turned his back on Herzog. Liberman’s appointment as defense minister in May 2015 sent shock waves across the region. All the would-be peacemakers were unhappy; al-Sisi was said to be livid, the Americans and the French aghast, and the Palestinians threatened to renew their efforts to internationalize the conflict by appealing to institutions like the UN Security Council. Netanyahu, at bottom, is opposed to the two-state solution.

France on 03 June 2016 hosted top diplomats from the West and the Arab world to organize a peace conference by year’s end that would launch long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - despite slim chances of success. France has said it felt compelled to act because the opportunities for setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel are slipping away, while the situation in the region is deteriorating. Participants in the meetings were to work out the details of the conference and set up teams that would spell out economic and security incentives for Israelis and Palestinians for reaching a deal.

The chances of reviving negotiations appear remote because of lack of common ground. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there was no point going back to talks without ground rules and a timeline for a deal. Abbas aides said they want other world powers to get involved, because the existing model of Israeli-Palestinian talks brokered by the US failed because of the power gap between an occupying power and those it occupies. Unlike his predecessors, Netanyahu refused to recognize the pre-1967 lines as a starting point for border talks, with agreed upon land swaps - the internationally backed formula for a peace deal. Dore Gold, the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, predicted that the Paris conference will “completely fail” and that the “only way to make peace” is through direct talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, along with top European and Arab diplomats, reaffirmed his support for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” they said in a joint communique issues after their meeting in Paris. Participants underscored that the status quo is not sustainable, and stressed the importance of both sides demonstrating, with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. The communique said that “actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution.”

A poll released 22 August 2016 found that just over half of Palestinians and Israelis - 51 percent and 59 percent respectively - still supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestiinian conflict.

A poll released 02 October 2016 conducted by the Project HaMidgam institute for the Walla news website revelaed that two-thirds of Israelis believe a peace agreement between the two states is impossible. The poll found that as many as two-thirds of the 646 Jewish and non-Jewish respondents said that they do not think a peace accord between the two states will ever be reached. Around 24 percent thought an accord was possible, but that it would take longer than five years to achieve. Only four percent believe that a peace agreement could be reached within five years. The remaining eight percent were undecided.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2017 12:35:33 ZULU