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Debate: Two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Is a two-state solution justified? Compared to a one-state solution?

Background and context

For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has revolved around one particularly pointed question and debate: should the Palestinian people be given their own state, or is a two-state solution to the conflict the best idea among the various alternatives? Barack Obama explicitly supports a two-state solution, saying that "a two-state solution is the only solution". While many in Israel and elsewhere oppose the idea, the two-state solution is considered the consensus solution under discussion by the key parties to the conflict, most recently at the Annapolis Conference in November 2007. While alternatives exist (such as a one-state solution or forms of autonomy under the status quo) Palestinian, Israeli, and global leaders are primarily engaged in the debate surrounding a two-state solution.

See Wikipedia: Two-state solution for more background.

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Peace: Can a two-state solution bring peace?

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Pro

  • Palestinians/Israelis cannot live in peace in one state While it is nice to believe that Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and harmony in one state, with tolerance for each other and in keeping with democratic principals of inclusion, while nice, is simply naive. This idea has been made impossible by nearly a century of direct conflict between these people. While this might change in coming centuries, it is unacceptable to adopt a one-state policy now based on these naive ideas.
Shimon Peres. "One Region, Two States". Washington Post. February 10, 2009: "Establishing a single multinational country is a tenuous path that does not bode well for peace but, rather, enforces the conflict's perpetuation. Lebanon, ravaged by bloodshed and instability, represents only one of many examples of an undesirable quagmire of this nature."
  • General statements in support of a two-state solution US special envoy George Mitchell: "In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we believe that the two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace, is the best and the only way to resolve this conflict."


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Con

  • General statements in favor of a one-state solution Edward Said, a famous Palestinian writer and activist, advocated for a one-state solution, arguing: "Two people in one land. Or, equality for all. Or, one person one vote. Or, a common humanity asserted in a bi-national state."[1]
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Democratic principles: Is a two-state solution consistent with democratic principles?

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Pro

  • Two-state plan respects democratic will for separate states Shimon Peres. "One Region, Two States". Washington Post. February 10, 2009: "The Jewish people want and deserve to live in peace in their rightful, historical homeland. The Palestinian people want and deserve their own land, their own political institutions and their right to self-determination. It is vital that this cause be based on the prospect of coexistence between Jews and Arabs, which translates into cooperation in fields such as the economy, tourism, the environment and defense. Achieving all this will be possible only by granting each people its own state and borders, to enable their citizens to pray according to their faiths, cultivate their cultures, speak their own languages and safeguard their heritages."
Leon T. Hadar. "Only one solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict". CATO. March 23, 2004: "a bi-national state would only produce an explosive situation in which Jews would dominate the economy and most other aspects of the new state, creating a reality of exploitation. At that point in time, a bi-national state would be a new form of occupation that would only set the conflict on a more violent track."


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Con

  • Two-state solution gives Palestinians unequal rights "The One State Declaration". Issued by participants in the July 2007 Madrid meeting. November 29, 2007: "A two-state solution is] predicated on the unjust premise that peace can be achieved by granting limited national rights to Palestinians living in the areas occupied in 1967, while denying the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and in the Diaspora. Thus, the two-state solution condemns Palestinian citizens of Israel to permanent second-class status within their homeland, in a racist state that denies their rights by enacting laws that privilege Jews constitutionally, legally, politically, socially and culturally. Moreover, the two-state solution denies Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right of return."
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Jewish state: Does a two-state solution uphold the idea of a Jewish state?

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Pro

  • One-state solution would end Israel as a Jewish state Shimon Peres. "One Region, Two States". Washington Post. February 10, 2009: "A minority of Middle East pundits have recently emerged as advocates for a one-state solution, which would undermine Israel's legitimacy and internationally recognized right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state in the land of my forefathers. [...] From Israel's perspective, it is not possible for the Jewish people to accept an arrangement that signifies the end of the existence of a Jewish state." [The reason for this is that it could not be considered a Jewish state if it housed a very large Palestinian population].


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Con

  • Two-state solution would alienate Palestinians in Israel. A two-state solution, particularly one that enables a Jewish state, will alienate Palestinians living in Israeli territory. At best, they would be second class citizens. At worst, they would be pushed out, directly or indirectly.
  • Two-state solution would prevent return of Palestinian refugees. A two-state solution, and the establishment of a Jewish state, would kill the idea of the return of Palestinian refugees that were expelled from Israel during various wars and conflicts.


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Israeli security: Does a two-state solution offer sufficient security for Israel?

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Pro

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Con

  • Palestinian state would be base for terrorism "Gaza and the two-state solution". The Recliner Commentaries. May 16, 2009: "Gaza was the perfect test case for Palestinians to prove they were ready for "the two state solution" which everyone seems to think is the best solution to peace in the mid-east--everyone but Muslim hardliners who want nothing less than Israel's destruction, that is. [...] And yet the Gaza experiment has failed miserably. The people elected a terrorist government which has spent so much of its money, not on the welfare of the Palestinian people, but on attacking Israel! [...] How can Israel be expected to support a two-state solution when Gaza has only turned out to be a base for attacking Israel?"
  • A two-state solution makes Israel too narrow, vulnerable. A two-state solution would make Israel only 6 miles wide at a number of points where the West Bank juts into Israeli territory. This creates a number of vulnerabilities, particularly the risk that Israel become divided during a war (a not unlikely prospect).
  • Israel will simply not accept a two-state solution There are many indications that, despite the rhetoric, Israel will not accept a two-state solution. The most important factor is the growth of settlements, which would have to be removed under a two-state solution, which many believe would be met by violent resistance by Jewish settlers. Territorial vulnerabilities from a two-state solution, and the inability to control the borders of the Palestinian state are also problems that make Israel unlikely to accept a two-state solution.
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Palestinians: Do Palestinians want their own state? Can they govern themselves?

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Pro

  • Palestinians want two-state solution, assuming settlements stop. Jerusalem - PLO Executive Committee Secretary Yasir Abd-Rabbuh replying to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's statements that he is ready to negotiate immediately with the Palestinians by affirming that no negotiations will take place before the suspension of the settlement activities. "Abd-Rabbuh said in statements to Al-Ayyam: There can be no negotiations unless the Israelis stop the settlement activities and we no longer wish to meet with the Israelis on the same table to exchange views and ideas while they change the facts on the ground in Jerusalem and all the West Bank. This is a policy that represents the highest forms of deception."


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Con

  • Palestinians are too divided to constitute a state. MJ Rosenberg. "Loving The Two-State Solution to Death". Huffington Post. December 22, 2008: "we are further from implementing the two-state solution today than we were in 2001. In fact, it can't be implemented because the Palestinians themselves constitute two states. Without Palestinian unity -- unity that ended with the Hamas election and then full seizure of power in Gaza--the two-state solution is simply not achievable."
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Palestinian territory: Does two-state solution offer sufficient space for Palestinians?

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Con

  • Two-state solution does not offer Palestinians enough space. A two-state solution offers the Palestinians a very small amount of territory in the West Bank and Gaza strip. This small amount of space is not going to work for such a large and rapidly growing population of Palestinians.
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Iran: Would a two-state solution help resolve conflict with Iran?

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Pro

  • Iranian support for a two-state solution is diplomatically valuable Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has stated that Iran would support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The success of a two-state solution, therefore, would, at a minimum, gain the support and possibly cooperation of the Iranians. This would be valuable diplomatically, particularly in resolving the larger conflict between Iran and the West.


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Con

  • A two-state solution will not assuage Iran. "Two States? Many Problems". Los Angeles Times, Letter to the Editor. May 7, 2009: "Iran's disbanding its nuclear weapons program is surely not dependent on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Iran wants to be the dominant power in the Middle East, and it wants nuclear weapons so that it can threaten not only Israel but other states in the region. [...] If Iran's motivation to develop WMD was to effect resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Saudi Arabia and Egypt wouldn't have grave concerns."


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Regional security: Would a two state solution help regional stability?

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Pro

  • Two-state solution and peace is critical to regional stability. For years, the middle east has been up in arms regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a source of tension between the Muslim world and the west, and a source of tension between populations and their governments. And, as a source of tension between Muslims and the West, it has been considered a source of terrorism. Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical to relieving these various tensions. In so far as a two-state solution helps end the conflict and establish peace, it helps relieve tensions and restore stability in the broader middle east and in the global fight against terrorism.
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Con

  • A Palestinian state would threaten its neighbors. "Two States? Many Problems". Los Angeles Times, Letter to the Editor. May 7, 2009: "King Abdullah II is not being straight on this issue either. He doesn't want a Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel because of the threat to Jordan that a Palestinian state would pose to him."
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Settlements: Is a two-state solution possible in the context of settlements?

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Pro

  • Israeli settlements ought not justify denying Palestinians a state. The intent of the Israeli settlers - and of any government policy, official and unofficial, that has supported the settlers - has often been to squeeze the Palestinians out of the "Israeli homeland" (including both the West Bank and Gaza). This objective is unjust, as it denies the right of the Palestinians to exist in what has been their historic homeland. It is wrong, therefore, to use the settlements as a justification for denying the Palestinians their own state (even if it is only argued as a matter of practicality). This is precisely what nefarious settlers have intended to do from the beginning: create facts on the ground that become too impractical for Israel and the world to deal with, and which are subsequently used to deny Palestinians their own homeland. Policies should not cave to these nefarious intentions, even if it is more practical. It is wrong to reward the immoral settlements in this way, by using them as an argument against an independent Palestinian state (within a two-state solution).


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Con

  • Israeli settlements make a two-state solution impossible Sandy Tolan. "George Mitchell and the end of the two-state solution". Christian Science Monitor. February 4, 2009: "The two-state solution is on its deathbed. [...] Since the Six-Day War of June 1967, the two-state solution, based on the concept of 'land for peace,' has been the central focus of almost all diplomatic efforts to resolve this tragedy. But because of Israel's unrelenting occupation and settlement project in the West Bank, the long-fought-for two-state solution has finally, tragically, become unworkable. Consider: In 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat famously shook hands on the White House lawn, there were 109,000 Israelis living in settlements across the West Bank (not including Jerusalem). Today there are 275,000, in more than 230 settlements and strategically placed 'outposts' designed to cement a permanent Jewish presence on Palestinian land." [Forcibly removing these settlers would be too difficult, could foment a kind of Jewish civil war, and would create a level of resentment among fundamentalist Jews that would likely inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Public opinion: Does public opinion support a two-state solution?

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Pro


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Con

  • Palestinian support for two-state solution declined around 2008. The Reut Institute described in a May 1, 2008 report, "a trend towards the erosion of the principle of the Two-State Solution among the 'moderate' Palestinian camp, as well as among additional Arab elements."[3]
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Pro/con sources

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See also

External links

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