Two State Solution
Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory constitutes a war crime. The International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute classifies an occupying power’s direct or indirect transfer “of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a war crime.
United States President Joe Biden’s Middle East policy “will be to support a mutually agreed, two-state solution, in which Israel lives in peace and security, alongside a viable Palestinian state”, acting US Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills told the UN Security Council 26 January 2021. “The President’s view continues to be that a two-state solution is the only path forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki added. Mills said the Biden administration intends to restore Palestinian aid and take steps to reopen diplomatic missions closed by the Trump administration and will continue to urge other countries to normalise ties with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will resume coordination with Israel that it suspended in May in response to an Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, a senior Palestinian official said 17 November 2020. Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA’s civil affairs minister and close aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, said that “the relationship with Israel will return to how it was” following “official written and oral letters we received” confirming Israel’s commitment to past agreements.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic peace deal on 13 August 2020 that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump helped broker. While the deal halted Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalise relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached. By dropping the annexation plan Netanyahu may be hedging his bets ahead of a possible change in the White House. The UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah al Nahyan has condemned the planned annexation, calling it “illegal” and contradictory to attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Former defense minister Naftali Bennett decried the abrupt decision as “tragic” and blamed the Prime Minister, “It is unfortunate that Netanyahu missed a once-in-a-century opportunity to apply Israeli sovereignty,” he said. Settler leaders claimed to have been “betrayed” by the suspension of annexation announced as part of the Abraham Accords with the UAE. Texas Megapastor Robert Jeffres, who is a leading voice on Trump’s faith advisory council, told the New York Times already on June 22nd, that most Evangelicals were “indifferent” to annexation.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, made clear that he would oppose any moves by Israel to unilaterally redraw the Mideast map and annex lands sought by the Palestinians. Abandoning its annexation plan changes little on the ground. Israel already holds overall control of the West Bank and continues to expand its settlements there, while granting the Palestinians autonomy in a series of disconnected enclaves. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in the rapidly expanding West Bank settlements.
With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing by his side, Donald Trump on 28 January 2020 unveiled his long-delayed Middle East plan, claiming that it would lay the foundations for a "realistic two-state solution" in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian leaders had rejected the plan even before its release and were absent during its unveiling. Following the announcement at the White House, Palestinians denounced the proposal as utterly biased in favour of Israel and insisted that "Jerusalem is not for sale". Trump called his plan an "historic opportunity" for Palestinians to achieve an independent state of their own by doubling the territory currently under their control. But under the proposal, the United States said Jerusalem would remain the "undivided capital" of Israel and it would recognise Israeli sovereignty over parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians want both occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be part of a future state.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's (MBS) effort to secure the Saudi throne led him to back US President Donald Trump's Middle East plan and liquidate the Palestinian cause altogether.
Before announcing the much-touted plan, the Trump administration had broken from international consensus by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The administration had also halted aid to the Palestinians, and said it no longer considered the settlements a breach of international law. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and the plan's principal architect, shrugged off the Palestinian rejection. "We're not going to chase the Palestinians ... the Palestinian leadership, you can't really treat them like they're a serious government, or capable or competent dealmakers," he told reporters. "They'll do what they've always done, which is screw everything up."
According to the plan, Israel would annex "the vast majority" of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank which would be connected to the rest of Israel with their own access roads and a transportation system. Ninety-seven percent of Israelis living in the West Bank would be incorporated into Israeli territory. The Jordan Valley would also be under Israeli sovereignty, giving Israel a permanent eastern border along the Jordan River. The Gaza Strip would be connected to the West Bank with a high-speed transportation link, crossing over or under Israel.
The so-called "Triangle Communities" consisting of 10 Palestinian towns in Israel: Kafr Qara, Ar'ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia could possibly be transferred to the State of Palestine. As many as 257,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel could find themselves outside the borders of Israel.
Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel and "Al Quds (or another name selected by the State of Palestine)" should be internationally recognised for the State of Palestine, according to Trump's plan. The separation barrier would serve as a border between the two capitals. The Palestinian state would not include any part of Jerusalem inside the current separation barrier which includes the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque located in the Old City and areas where most East Jerusalemites live. The capital of Palestine will be in East Jerusalem, located in areas which Israel previously cut off with its separation barrier including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis.
The plan calls for the demilitarisation of all of Palestine and the disarmament of Palestinian factions in Gaza such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Israel would control security at all international crossings into Palestine. It would also continue to carry out surveillance of Palestinians within their own territory. Israel would rely on blimps, drones and similar aerial equipment "to reduce the Israeli security footprint" within the State of Palestine.
There would be no right of return of any Palestinian refugees or their descendants into Israel. According to the plan: "Their Arab brothers have the moral responsibility to integrate them into their countries as the Jews were integrated into the State of Israel." Upon the signing of an agreement as proposed under Trump's Middle East plan, Palestinian refugee status would cease to exist and the United Nations's agency for Palestinian refugees would be terminated.
As of 2019, there were some 600,000 to 750,000 illegal settlers living in about 150 settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Nearly 400,000 Jewish settlers were living in the West Bank along with 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, an area claimed by Palestinians. The government of Israel stopped building any official new settlements in 1992, according to Israeli monitoring group Peace Now. That, however, did not stop the construction of unauthorized settlements in the West Bank. According to UN Human Rights Office, more than 100 unauthorized Jewish outposts with thousands of housing units have been erected in existing settlements in the last 25 years without the formal approval of the Israeli authorities.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 05 April 2019 that he would annex illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in office. "You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage - the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements."
UN Ambassador Danny Danon said 20 November 2019 “Judea and Samaria are inseparable parts of the Jewish people’s homeland. This is not a recent development or claim, but a historical truth that will never again be denied... The Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement of April 1949 explicitly states that the demarcation line was established for military purposes only, and I quote from the agreement: ‘without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundaries,’” he said. “That was signed in 1949 between us and the Jordanians. Adding such a precondition is an attempt to decide the outcome of the negotiations before they have started.”
Donald Trump said 15 February 2017 that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine can be a one-state or two-state solution as long as both sides agree on it. "The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal," Trump said during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington Trump also said that Washington was working to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "I would like to see that happen. We are looking at it very very strongly. We are looking at it with great care. Let’s see what happens."
Since the 1990 Madrid conference, the peace process had been built on the principle of "land for peace", where Israel withdraws from Arab land it occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace and the normalisation of relations with the Palestinians and Arabs. This was also the core of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia. Regardless of its shortcomings, the 1993 Oslo Accords provided a political vision for Peres's plan - a two-state solution - which was followed by the 1994 Paris Protocol which established rules regulating economic relations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Jared Kushner's 'deal of the century' replaced this principle with his idea of "peace to prosperity", which effectively reduces the conflict to an economic problem that can be resolved by improving the living standard of the Palestinians. The absence of a proposed solution for major political issues, particularly Palestinian statehood, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of return, rendered his proposal nothing more than an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into giving up self-determination.
The Palestinian Authority has no control over borders, infrastructure, ports and airports, land, water and other resources. It does not even have full control over its own budget. As of 2019 public servants were not getting paid in full because the occupying power, Israel, had decided to take a portion of the funds allocated for salaries. The development and prosperity that Kushner is promising can only happen if the Israeli occupation is lifted.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on 16 February 2017 the United States still supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “First of all, the two-state solution is what we support. Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support the two-state solution - that would be an error,” Haley told reporters at the United Nations. “We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well: which is what does it take to bring these two sides to the table; what do we need to have them agree on.”
A senior White House official said 15 February 2017 that peace between Israel and the Palestinians does not have to be through a two-state solution, and that it is up to the two parties to decide. The official said the United States will not "dictate what the terms of peace will be.... A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said. "Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want or something else if that's what the parties want. We're going to help them." The U.S. official spoke to reporters on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington. Trump has given his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the task of negotiating a peace deal.
Netanyahu had spoken of a "state minus," suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty. The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with the capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that there was "no alternative" to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, after a White House official said peace did not necessarily have to entail Palestinian statehood. "There is no alternative solution for the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis, other than the solution of establishing two states and we should do all that can be done to maintain this," Guterres said during a visit to Cairo.
The head of a German parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Norbert Röttgen, was quoted by "Die Welt" newspaper as saying "the two-state solution is the only way Israel can remain a democratic and a Jewish state at the same time." Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, told the Bayerischer Rundfunk public broadcaster that abandoning the two-state solution was "unrealistic" and "a lot of blood would be shed" before both sides finally end up returning to the two-state solution.
"If the Trump Administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said in response to the US official's remarks. "Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy," she said in a statement.
President-elect Trump signaled the last gasp of the two-state solution through his choice of ambassador to Israel. Donald Trump announced 16 December 2016 he would nominate David Friedman, his long-time friend, bankruptcy lawyer (used often) and campaign adviser on Jewish world issues, as US ambassador to Israel. Friedman is noted for his affinity with extremist Israeli settlers. J Street - the dovish lobbying organization that has been critical of some Israeli policies, charged that : "the nomination shows breathtaking disdain for the vast majority of American Jews who support the two-state solution, progress toward peace with the Palestinians and common decency in public discourse."
Friedman contributed several opeds to The Jerusalem Post, on 20 October 2016 writing: " ... president Trump will trust Israel to seek peace as best it can, and will not attempt to impose a “two state solution,” or any other “solution,” against the wishes of the democratically elected Israeli government."
Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway emphasized that moving the embassy to Jerusalem had been a "big priority" for Trump. In the event of a two-state solution, Palestinian authorities have made clear that they want East Jerusalem to serve as the capital of their own separate state. Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem is therefore almost certain to provoke objections from the Arab world and Muslims further afield.
On 06 February 2017, the Israeli Knesset also passed a law that retroactively legalises the seizure of private Palestinian land on which settlements have already been established. The law prevents Palestinian landowners from laying claim to their land if Israeli settlers are living on it, despite the fact that the settlers' presence in occupied territory is illegal under international law. It has been estimated that the law will retroactively legalise 53 settlements and outposts - allowing for the expropriation of about 8,000 dunams (80 hectares) of private Palestinian land [roughly equivalent to Manhattan below Central Park].
On 14 February 2017 Israeli President Reuven Rivlin supported the application of Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, and granting Israeli citizenship for Palestinians living near the settlement blocs. Rivlin is known as a staunch supporter of Jewish colonies. The Israeli president has never concealed his opposition to an independent Palestinian state. Although he is known as a hardline politician, Rivlin’s political stand is different from that of Likud led by Netanyahu, the party known for its rightist extremist agenda. Rivlin has said that “Israel is defined as a Jewish state, but we should not forget that it is defined at the same time as a democracy. I call on the Jews and my Arab brothers also to avoid incitement”.
Rivlin spoke more than once of his support to a confederation of two states, Israeli and Palestinian, with open borders, united Jerusalem with a joint administration of its holy sites and two sovereign democratic powers. He said it was an initiative for “two states-one homeland” that proposes a confederation. By supporting colonies to remain where they are, the initiative provides an answer to the practical and ethical difficulty of evacuating the colonists. Sovereignty would be declared over all the territory under Israeli civilian and military control in the West Bank, known as Area C.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely [MK, Likud] encouraged more settlers to head to the West Bank during an event supporting West Bank settlements in Washington 28 March 2017. “We need to go to a million settlers in Judea and Samaria – with a US embassy in Jerusalem. We need to think of new ways of thinking that will include Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty forever," she said. She went on to say that the notion of Israel occupying the West Bank is a "myth." “I always say that the occupation is a myth, because we never occupied other people’s land. This is Jewish land [Judea and Samaria]. This should forever be a Jewish land under Israeli law," she said, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
“I think that now, 50 years after the Six Day War, it’s about time for us to say in a very clear way: Half a million Jews live in a Jewish land. We’re not occupiers in our own land. And this is why we have the natural right to build in Judea and Samaria. The most important thing is for the American administration to understand the needs of those communities, where after eight years of having no ability to plan new buildings, I think it’s about time for us to say: We need this like air to breathe,” continued Hotovely.
Since January 2017 the Israeli government, emboldened by Donald Trump's inauguration, has authorised the construction of more than 6,219 illegal settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, including 719 in East Jerusalem.
On 30 March 2017 Israel's government approved the building of the first new settlement in 20 years in the occupied West Bank - a move swiftly condemned as an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution. The move - illegal under international law - was adopted less than a week after the United Nations criticised Israel for not taking any steps to halt settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory, as demanded by Security Council in Resolution 2334 passed in December 2016, adopted with 14 votes after the United States abstained in the vote. The unanimous vote in favor of construction of the new settlement in an area called Emek Shilo was announced in an Israeli government statement.
On 03 May 2019, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner indicated that the US would be pulling back from its long-standing support of the two-state solution. "If you say 'two-state', it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians," he told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "We said, you know, let's just not say it. Let's just say, let's work on the details of what this means".
Kushner voiced his opinion that Palestinians deserve "self-determination" but are not yet capable of governing themselves. Asked whether he believed the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves without Israeli interference, on 03 June 2019 Kushner said: "That's one that we'll have to see. The hope is that they, over time, will become capable of governing". The Palestinians, he said, "need to have a fair judicial system ... freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions" before the Palestinian areas can become "investable".
Trump officials have hinted that their approach will not mention the creation of an independent Palestinian state, a goal of US diplomacy for decades. When the economic part of the United States's Middle East peace plan was released 22 June 2019, many noticed that the 40-page plan was void of any political context with the words "occupation", "freedom", "equality", "blockade" missing.
Kushner avoided saying explicitly whether the plan would include a two-state solution, the bedrock of US policy for decades. "I do think they should have self-determination. I'm going to leave the details until we come out with the actual plan," Kushner said.
A United Nations report in 2016 found that the economy of the occupied Palestinian territories might reach twice its size if the illegal Israeli military occupation was lifted. "Occupation imposes a heavy cost," the report read, citing Israeli "restrictions on the movement of people and goods; systematic erosion and destruction of the productive base; losses of land, water and other natural resources", as some of the impediments disrupting the territories' growth.
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