The two state solution: the need for strategic direction

Irwin Prince

By Irwin Prince

From 1937 Peel Commission Report:
Arab nationalism is as intense a force as Jewish. The Arab leaders’ demand for national self-government and the shutting down of the Jewish National Home has remained unchanged since 1929.

UN Partition Resolution 181, April 1948:
The 1948 UN Partition Plan sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims of two competing movements, Palestinian nationalism and Jewish nationalism by calling for partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Partition Plan contained a rough delineation of boundaries between the two States. The Plan also called for economic union between the proposed states, and for the protection of religious and minority rights.

From 1949 until 1967 the state of Israel existed within a demarcated territory of former Palestine known as the “Green Line”. The Green Line resulted from the armistice agreement between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, ending the war on Feb. 24, 1949. Jordan and Egypt occupied the remaining territory of Palestine from the date of the Armistice until 1967 when Israel gained possession of that territory.

From 1948 through May, 1967, neither Israel and the surrounding states, nor Arabs of former Palestine acted to establish a Palestinian state in the Arab occupied territories of former Palestine. The unspoken reason was to avoid the necessity of creating a realistic map of the Arab state which would recognize the partition of Palestine and the existence of the State of Israel. Had actual maps been created which might have been acceptable to both states, the so-called Arab-Israel conflict would have ended in the early 1950s. Instead, and tragically so, the Arabs of former Palestine who did not flee into refugee status or stay on as citizens of Israel, formed the PLO in 1964. The sole purpose of the PLO was the eradication of Israel through armed conflict.

Had the PLO acted to establish a state alongside Israel, the Arab-Israel conflict would have been seen by the world as minor disputes between two neighboring states over mundane problems. It was not to be then, but does that necessarily mean it cannot be now? Most informed, objective observers today, reject the idea of Jews and Arabs co-existing within a single state. The consensus of the informed public seems to be that the “two state solution”, i.e. the actual implementation of Resolution 181 is logical. It is the only way to permanently end the conflict over Palestine. Thus, in the eyes of two state advocates, if a border settlement/agreement is the answer, then a way must be found to get the maps drawn and agreed to, and the sooner the better. The question is how to achieve that result.

There are those who argue that two states can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Jews and Arabs, by the “peace process”. This writer respectfully disagrees. It is in fact, the peace process that has kept the existential issues brewing for nearly 70 years. It is that never-ending “peace process”, by studiously avoiding the key issue of final borders that has perpetuated and exacerbated the conflict. By dealing only with subordinate “confidence building” issues, the peace process has served only as a political tool to be used by the leadership on both sides. It has camouflaged the underlying existential issues, causing them to boil up into violent confrontations, which probably would never have occurred between two maturing and developing states. Thus, it is high time to say “dayenu” to that “peace process”.

The key question today is whether or not a road to the two state solution is still open. Some observers say that it isn’t, pointing to the influx of Jewish settlers into what would have to be included in any Palestinian state. I again disagree. The two-state solution can be reached with a new and radical strategic approach to the problem. I see the strategic road map as follows:

A small multinational settlement conference should be convened along the following specific guidelines:

1. The single stated purpose of the conference would be to map out the State of Arab Palestine and thus establish its border with Israel. By accepting the invitation to attend the conference, both Israel and the Palestine Authority must agree in advance that:

  • a) maps of the two states must be agreed upon and publicly issued before the conference can be adjourned;
  • b) a mutual recognition and peace treaty, along with an end of claims agreement will also be agreed upon and publicly issued before the conference can be adjourned.
  • c) there will be absolutely no preconditions required by either party for their attendance.
  • d) no external event may be given as a reason for leaving the conference.

2. The convening nations might logically be: USA, GB, France, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia – call them the “Convening Nations”.
3. The conference will not have any power to compel the parties with regard to the settlement. A general agreement must be that as in a deliberation by a jury in a locked room, nobody leaves until the end result is accomplished, i.e. two states.
4. Representatives of the convening nations will have the function of assisting in the deliberations between the parties, as good faith arbiters and mediators using their good offices with both parties to produce concessions by both parties which are necessary to any final agreements.

I believe that such a conference has an excellent chance for success for the following reasons:

1. There is ample evidence that important players in the Arab world are moving in the direction of accepting Israel as a viable part of the Middle Eastern family of nations. Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis should play a part in any territorial agreements. Such will alleviate the immense negative pressure upon Palestinian leadership that was felt by Yasser Arafat in 2001.
2. The convening nations will be able to make significant offers to both the Palestinians and Israelis. The offers will be financial and political in nature. They will be so substantial that the populations of both countries are likely to dismiss any government that refuses them.
3. The newly created state of Arab Palestine will receive enormous economic assistance from the rest of the world. New wealth derived from trade will ensure its future prosperity and ease the “pain” of ending the conflict with Israel with something less than victory.
4. As for Israel, it is important to understand that essentially the two state solution, with maps drawn up and signed, ends the conflict over the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. What is that worth to Israel and the Jewish people? Only everything.
5. Other issues including Jerusalem, refugees, water rights, air rights, economic cooperation, and defense between the two states would be sent to lower bureaucratic levels to work out and facilitate the pragmatic operations of the two states. At such levels, problems that were viewed as insoluble at the head of state level will start falling into place rapidly. Jews and Arabs are not natural enemies.
6. This will by no means solve all of the problems between Arabs and Jews in the near-term and at best it will be a significant first step toward establishing permanent peace in the long term.

There will still be numerous problems between the two states, after the settlement. Terrorism and radical Islam will not disappear overnight. However, those problems will be resolved by two sovereign states without resorting to war.   Whatever disagreement between the states that may follow, will not contain an issue of the existence of either state.

Many knowledgeable observers will say that this can never happen in view of the personalities and the myriad of religious and political conflicts in the Middle East. They are right because that is the status quo. The two state solution is currently a pipe dream, much the same as a Jewish state in Palestine was for many American Jews until April, 1948, and for some until June 1967. For Zionists such as myself, the status quo, i.e. a single Jewish state with control over, and responsibility for Arab territories is unsustainable for Israel in the long run.

It is time for those with a positive vision of a future Middle East to take the first steps to implement a two state solution. The time may well prove to be right for a “deal maker” President Elect Donald Trump to negotiate “the deal” of several centuries. If successful, Trump might ensure his (positive) recognition by history.

Irwin J. Prince is an Indianapolis attorney from a long time Zionist family. He has been an active advocate and speaker to community groups on the Israel/Arab conflict (through JCRC) since the late 1960s. (Ed. Note: He also wrote the teen column for the JP&O as a high school student in the mid-1950s.)

Updates on the current situation in Israel