The headlines in the Press have been asking the question: has President Donald Trump damaged the chance for a Two-State Solution? President Trump stated,” I’m looking at Two-State and One-State, and I like the one that both parties like.” It is interesting that the Press is posing this question, when it does not pertain to the U.S. President, nor to Israel. The Palestinians, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), France, and Britain, would all like you to believe that it has been Israel and now the USA, that could damage the chance for a Two-State Solution. But, whatever way you look at it, the fact remains that it is the Arab nations, the Palestinians Arabs, currently led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and promoted by the media, that have rejected all attempts for a lasting peace.
Looking at the history of the Two-State Solution it is necessary to recognise that it is integrally linked to the concept of Land for Peace.
Map #1 We can go back 80 years to 1937 to see that there is nothing new here. The Peel Commission was a British government’s Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the causes of unrest in Mandatory Palestine between the local Arabs, predominantly Muslim population, and the Jews, living under British rule in the Mandate for Palestine created at the end of World War 1. The Peel Commission proposed the original “Two-State Solution”, one for the Jewish people, and the other for the Arab population; but, the Arabs rejected the compromise, (please refer to map #1). The partition proposal in general was accepted by the leader of the Jewish community, David Ben-Gurion. The Arab leadership opposed any Jewish presence in Palestine. The report finally concluded that the Arab and Jewish communities could not coexist. So, we see the beginning of what has become one of the most complex, misunderstood political, and historical situations of the Middle East.
We might ask ourselves why David Ben-Gurion was willing to accept the Peel Commission recommendation for this proposed partitioning of Palestine in 1937, (please refer to map #1). We may find the answer when he traveled to New York City for the Biltmore Conference in 1942. David Ben-Gurion was determined to seek a resolution in which Jewish immigration to Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state would proceed despite British opposition. The “Biltmore Program” adopted at the conference and approved by the Zionist General Council in November 1942, called for unlimited Jewish immigration to Palestine and control of immigration by the Jewish commonwealth, the word commonwealth, replacing homeland. The timing of this conference was in the middle of World War Two, right at the time that the Holocaust was being fully implemented across the Nazi empire.
Map #2 Moving on to 1947, the UN General Assembly called for the partition of British- ruled Palestine. This proposal provided a separate Jewish and Arab state, with Jerusalem under international control. Yet again the proposal was accepted by the Jews in Palestine, but was rejected by the Arabs in Palestine and the Arab states in the region. As we can see, by the map (please refer to map #2), that although Jews would have accepted this partition plan it would have been impossible to defend its borders.
On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, as head of the Jewish Agency, formally declared, “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.” It was at this time that the state of “Palestine” and the name “Palestinian” people (former name of the Jews living under the mandate) faded from history. The Land once again became “Israel” and its people
Map #3 “Israeli”. The next day, 15 May 1948 Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab nations. Egypt, Transjordan (known today as Jordan), Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon all sent their armies to attack Israel. This war lasted until 1949 when, with UN assistance, an armistice was agreed with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordon. Although Saudi Arabia and Iraqi forces took part in the war they never signed agreements with Israel. All parties agreed that the armistice was temporary- to be replaced by a permanent peace treaty at a future date.
The map (please refer to map #3) shows what is commonly known as the West Bank (but also known as Judea and Samaria), as well as the Gaza Strip. These were occupied, at this time, by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The 1949 Armistice lines between Israel and its Arab neighbors became known as the “Green Line.”
The Arabs never established a Palestinian state when the UN in 1947 recommended to partition Palestine, and to establish “an Arab and a Jewish state.” Nor did the Arabs recognize or establish a Palestinian state during the two decades prior to the Six-Day War in June 1967, when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control. Nor did the Palestinian Arabs clamor for autonomy or independence during those years under Jordanian and Egyptian rule.
Map #4 In 1967, in the conflict with Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, known today as “The 6 Day War,” Israel drove Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula, while defending itself at the same time from attacks from Syria and Jordan. Israel’s counterattacks resulted in the recapture of illegally occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank (i.e. Judea and Samaria) from the Jordanians. Israel also captured, the Golan Heights from Syria. On June 11,1967, a ceasefire was signed, (please refer to map #4). The name “Palestinian” came back into being after this war in 1967, when the Muslim Arab population, led by Yasser Arafat (an Egyptian by birth), claimed the name, much to the chagrin of those Arabs who considered it an insult because they knew it referred to the Jews.
In 1982 Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in a “Land for Peace” agreement. The 1993 Oslo Accords created a Palestinian interim self-government, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The Palestinian Authority (PA) would administer the territory, (please refer to map #5). The Accords also called for the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The 1995 the Oslo 2 Accords divided the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) into three administrative divisions: areas A, B & C. Area A is exclusively administered by the PA, Area B is administered by both the PA and Israel, and Area C is exclusively administered by Israel. Ultimately the agreements were for Land for Peace, and the Two-State Solution.
Palestinian expectations were that the Oslo Accords would bring a halt to the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel would give the Palestinian Authority control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israeli expectations were simple: the hope for security. Many Israelis doubted that giving up the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would give them the security or the peace they desired, and as we now know from recent history, the Israelis were right. The failure of the Oslo Accords resulted in continuous attacks from the Gaza Strip, and areas of the West Bank where Palestinian Arabs were allowed to build settlements.
Since 2001, Palestinian militants have launched thousands of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip as part of the continuing Arab-Israel conflict.
In 2005, Israel gave up control of the Gaza Strip; 8,000 Jewish settlers were forcibly relocated. This land for peace agreement, gave control to the Palestinian Authority. But, there was no lasting peace with Israel, and the Arab leadership now named the Palestinian Authority, along with the Hamas terrorist organization, began their attacks from the Gaza Strip. To date there are estimates of hundreds of tunnels being constructed from the Gaza Strip into Israel for the purpose of attacks on Israeli citizens.
Map #6 After the 6 Day War in 1967, it became apparent that the Arab intentions for peace agreements were directed at recovery of land lost during the 1947-1949 War of Independence. In 1988, the Palestinian leadership for the first-time officially accepted the two-state solution. In doing so they formally recognized Israel. From that time, every attempt to negotiate a peace agreement has been rejected by the Palestinians. Further, when there has been a discussion internationally regarding a peace agreement, the PA President Mahmoud Abbas has placed preconditions before sitting down to negotiate with Israel, which results in walking away from the negotiations and blaming Israel for the failure.
Map # 6, it shows the land for peace agreements Israel has made between 1967 and 2011. Israel has given up control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Southern Lebanon and much of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Israel has given up so much to receive so little in return. Promises were made first by the Arab states and then Palestinian Arabs for peace, they rejected every peace deal. The Arabs have repeatedly rejected attempts for peace all the while blaming Israel for not giving in to all of their demands for the most part, without even sitting at the negotiating table. Israel wants to live in peace, but unfortunately the surrounding Arab states do not want peace with Israel.
In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas again refused a peace offer by Israel, part of which would have been Israeli withdrawal from 94% of the West Bank. In 2009, President Abbas yet again refused to negotiate with Prime Minister Netanyahu, without preconditions. In 2010, President Abbas refused to even sit in the same room and the Israelis, under the auspices of the Obama Administration. In 2011, President Abbas vowed to never negotiate with Israel. In 2016, President Abbas’ Chief Negotiator, Saab Erekat, said that the Palestinians would not negotiate with Israel without preconditions.
The fact remains that as President Abbas continues to go to the UN and Western nations with his rhetoric that the Palestinian Arabs are oppressed, and that Israel is an Apartheid State. Rather than sitting down with Israel to negotiate, he has gone to the UN, USA, and other Western nations and the media to make his claims, all the while refusing to negotiate with Israel. On numerous occasions, we have heard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, state that he is willing to sit down and negotiate with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “anytime, anywhere without preconditions,” that he would “clear his calendar,” but with that declaration has been met with repeated refusals.
So now, as we hear that there will be yet another attempt to work out a peace agreement and that the PA President Mahmoud Abbas is committed to a two-state solution, we can only hope that this is not another opportunity for the PA President to declare with his words yet contradict himself by his actions.
This brief history has encompassed the two main issues that Israel has attempted to negotiate over to achieve peace. The Two-State Solution and Land for Peace, has failed so often that it is no wonder Israel is skeptical, yet hopeful once again. In order to have a peace deal between Israel and a Palestinian State two basic things need to be established. The PA and the Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, and both the PA Military Wing, Fatah, and Hamas must stop attacking Jews and glorifying murderers. Of course, there are many more issues to consider but at the core the Israeli people want security and peace with their neighbors. So, to say that President Trump has jeopardized the two-state solution is absurd. Also, to hear that President Mahmoud Abbas is committed to the two-state solution, without one time agreeing to seriously sit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a negotiating table without preconditions, is equally absurd.
Len Watts, Journalist living in Israel, IPA News 03/17/2017
Contributing to this article:
Myths and Facts Eli E. Hertz Jewish Virtual Library Wikipedia
Encyclopedia Britannica Times of Israel Jerusalem Post ICE J News Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Robin Benson
“What matters is not what the goyim (gentiles) say, but what the Jews do.” David Ben-Gurion