Outside View: The two-state litmus test

By ASAF ROMIROWSKY, UPI Outside View Commentator
Israeli security forces respond to a bus bombing in central Tel Aviv, November 21, 2012. Ten people were injured in the blast that complicated diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. UPI/Mati Milstein
Israeli security forces respond to a bus bombing in central Tel Aviv, November 21, 2012. Ten people were injured in the blast that complicated diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. UPI/Mati Milstein | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Sixth-five years ago on Nov. 29, 1947, the Arab world rejected partition of Palestine in favor of Zionist annihilation. That rejection has become the backbone of the Palestinian culture and decision-making throughout all the years of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Carl von Clausewitz's famously described war as a "continuation of politics (Politik) by other means" and indeed for Palestinians all negotiations with Israel have served as a springboard to propagate their on-going war against Israel.


Now Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is yet again attempting to go to the United Nations in an attempt to establish a Palestinian state. In essence, Abbas is really no different that Hamas; they have similar goals but Abbas uses so-called diplomacy to disguise it. For him, it is simply a case of war by other means.


The problem is that the West still would like to believe that the two-state model works. This is illustrated by countless statements made by the White House and the U.S. State Department.

Speaking at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism in 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama stated, "I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace -- two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel."

It is clear now that Obama has been re-elected to a second and final term he will try to achieve what many before him have failed to do, create a sustainable two-state solution.

But beyond slogans the question remains, is it actually possible?

Most observers of the Arab-Israeli conflict have always clung to the notion that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the two-state solution model.

Two states living side by side is of course the ideal. Historically, all the commissions who have investigated Palestine in the pre-state era, both British and U.S., have come to the conclusion that Jews and Arabs need separate states as the gaps between them are too big to fill. These observations led to the vote on Partition of Palestine in 1947.


But an in-depth look at the notion of the two-state solution reveals that it is actually camouflage. It allows Arab-Palestinians to be perceived as compromising but in reality it couldn't be further from the truth.

Arab-Palestinians love to cite Resolution 242 as it has evolved from a call for disengagement drafted after the Six Day War into the "land-for-peace" formula. Yet, the Palestine Liberation Organization begrudgingly only accepted it in 1988. A superficial reading seemingly places Arab-Palestinian brokers of peace in a position of strength. For Arabs, this "legal" prerequisite emphasizes the give and take: If Israel valued peace, it would return land. If Arabs wanted land, they would give peace.

Consequently, it is the only model advocated by most of the international community spearheaded by Washington and the de facto Palestinian Weltanschauung. As a result, its attainment is the official policy of both the government of Israel and the Palestine National Authority under Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (for now). But this qualifier doesn't exist under Hamas, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority.

When the Oslo Peace Process emerged in 1993 the push for the agreement was done on every possible level socially, politically and militarily, and reached a point where being "anti-Oslo" connoted being anti-Israel. There was a lack of understanding that no matter what Arafat voiced in English, there was really no room or desire in him to compromise.


The game-changer for the left took place in 2000 during Camp David II when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat flatly rejected the two-state proposal put on the table by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Arafat's rejection devastated the liberal-left wing community as they couldn't understand how Arafat could reject the prospect of a real state. In turn, this led many on the left to reconsider their views on Palestinians especially since the result of leaving the negotiating table was the launch of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that in essence is still taking place today 12 years later.

Still, Israel continued to pursue the two-state model. David Brog recently quoted a meeting between the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Barak asking why chase a failed formula to which he responded: "We all know what the ultimate two-state solution will look like. So we have two choices. We either sit down and negotiate this deal now, or we fail. If we fail, there will be a war. And after that war we will bury our dead and return to the very same table to discuss the very same deal."


But today it has become clear that most Palestinians have deviated from the two-state model in favor of a one-state solution -- a Palestinian state that would replace Israel.

The "democratic" argument being made is that if Israel was a true democracy (which it is) then majority rules and based on the birth rate of Palestinians and the so-called Right of Return Palestinians would take over Israel. Yet, this demand that Zionism should incorporate Palestinian aspirations, which, of course, contradicts the whole concept of Zionism to begin with, negates itself.

A careful look reveals hidden goals and tactics. Since Israel will never alter the basic tenants of Zionism, which are the foundation of the Jewish state, then when Palestinians advocate for this model, Israel can still be perceived as "non-comprising" and "the" obstacle for peace in the region.

As such, the two-state paradigm has been widely embraced by virtually everyone except the Arabs who instead decided to go to war rather than accept the existence of any Jewish State in their midst. Moreover, Arabs believe that the notion of an Egyptian State for Egyptians and a Jewish State for Jews is simply unrealistic due to "Zionist aggression."

The myopic view of the two-state formula is both a positive and a negative as it allows each party to view what it wants to see. Hence, it has become the litmus test for both the right and the left. Geographically, there needs to be an clear understanding that if a two state is to be implemented Gaza under Hamas isn't part of the equation and there is no contiguous Palestinian state between the West Bank and Gaza however, there could be one between the West Bank and Israel as long as Fayyad is around but even that is questionable.


All and all, pragmatically with "calm" post Operation Cloud Pillar it was clear that Israel's goal was hunting down Fajr-5s but above all that Arab-Islamist rejectionism still trumps Palestinian state building.


(Asaf Romirowsky an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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