The current solution for Israel and Palestine suggests that Palestinians ought to have their state, separate from Israel. In this way, a ‘Two-State’ solution might be reached. The method by which such a solution could be implemented involves a technical division of land with walls, earth mounds, roadblocks and fences. This article discusses the so-called ‘practical limitations’ of a ‘Two-State’ solution. Notably, it questions whether a Palestinian State is a viable option.
Israel and Palestine combined are no bigger than South Africa’s Western Cape Province. Yet, for such a small amount of land, the ‘Two-State’ solution seeks the establishment of a Palestinian state, separate from the current Israeli state. Palestine itself is not one-land mass. It is currently divided into two territories – named the ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza’ respectively. Gaza has a western coastline on the Mediterranean Sea and shares borders with Israel and Egypt. Gaza is a relatively small territory, merely 45 kilometres in length. The West Bank is landlocked, sharing borders with Israel and Jordan. Although the West Bank is marginally larger than Gaza, it is not easy to freely access the territory as it is surrounded by a “723km” concrete wall, 6-9 meters high in most places. The wall has been built by Israel to separate Israel from the Palestinian West Bank. But the wall does not follow the internationally recognised border between Israel and the West Bank. Instead, it cuts into the West Bank annexing “13%” of the territory for Israel. The wall is characteristic of Israel’s selfishness in claiming Palestinian land. Despite the low percentage of land annexed by the wall, this portion of land is, nonetheless, highly fertile and densely populated – mostly by Palestinian farmers. The livelihood of these farmers depends on the productivity of their land. Palestinians whose land has been annexed by Israel live in a so-called ‘seam zone’ between the internationally recognised Israeli-West Bank border and the wall. These Palestinians who live in the seam zone are known as “Internally Displaced Persons” (IDPs). By definition, they are “people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict, violence, violations of human rights or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border”. Palestinians whose land falls in the seam zone are only permitted access to their farmlands during designated hours with a required permit.
If a viable Palestinian state is to be created, the status of these IDPs has to be resolved, either by Israel offering financial compensation for appropriating Palestinian land, or by moving the wall and thereby allowing Palestinian landowners to return. Both of these solutions are technical in nature and are indicative of the so-called rational approach taken by Israeli policymakers. The vexing nature of how to divide Israel and Palestine comes without even discussing Jerusalem, a city which is contested by Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem is home to an estimated 250,000 Palestinians and 200,000 Jews. While Israel claims Jerusalem to be its official capital, the international community treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory held by Israel under military occupation. Also, the international community does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies. Palestinians seek to secure a portion of the city as the political capital of a Palestinian State. Israel is, however, unwilling to relinquish any part of Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital. So, the obstacles faced by policymakers favouring a ‘Two-State’ solution are obstacles of control: which areas are to be controlled by
Palestinians and which ones are to be controlled by Israelis. In other words, the question for those concerned with the Two-State solution is how to delineate land which can be controlled by the state. State control over territory is a central feature of the ‘Two-State’ solution and. This kind of control is termed ‘sovereignty’. Policymakers seek to divide Israel and Palestine into two separate states so that each may exercise supreme authority over its territory, without interference from the other. The means by which mutual non-interference is achieved between states is through a principle of so-called ‘recognition’. The term itself requires further explanation, in its relevance to the teaching and practice of International Relations (hereafter IR). For IR theorists, recognition is commonly used to describe how states acknowledge one another. The most fundamental aspect of inter-state recognition is respect for each state’s sovereignty. The ‘Two-State’ solution hinges on Israelis and Palestinians recognising each other as sovereign entities and thereby not interfering with one another’s domestic affairs. To Problematise the notion of interstate recognition, Hegel’s views can be usefully be considered. Discussing the relationship between two individuals, a Lord and a Bondsman, Hegel says: “Each sees the other, and therefore also does what it does only in so far as the other does the same. Action by one side only would be useless because what is to happen can only be brought about by both They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another.” There is a perception that Jewish sovereignty is under threat due to the low ratio of Jews to Arabs in the Middle-East. So, to protect the identity of this small Jewish population, Jews are insulated within their own sovereign state – Israel. Non-Jews living within Israel are often viewed as a threat. The protection of Jewish sovereignty would explain why there are limited employment opportunities for Arab workers in Israel and why Arabs receive different education compared to Jews. Despite the fact that they share territory, it is evident that Israelis and Palestinians believe themselves to be separate nations that deserve separate sovereign states. So the ‘Two-State’ solution is perceived as the so-called ‘rational’ end for Israelis and Palestinians. Today, the Two-State solution is widely accepted among Israelis and Palestinians and around the world.
Even part of the Israeli right-wing is now resigned to the establishment of a Palestinian state, although its conception of such state’s nature is not acceptable to Palestinians. On the Palestinian side, even elements of the Hamas leadership have hinted that they would go along with a two-state solution if negotiated by Fatah leaders and endorsed by the public, as long as they did not renounce their ideological principles. However, a strong view is that neither side would be able to agree to a division that yielded the Temple Mount to the other side. As an attempt to break the stalemate, U.S. President Bill Clinton proposed dividing sovereignty of the site vertically – the ground and area below coming under Israeli sovereignty, while that above the ground (i.e. the Haram al-Sharif containing the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque) would be under Palestinian sovereignty. A similar idea was suggested for tunnels and elevated roads connecting communities. In the end neither side accepted the concept. The main point on which the two-state solution formula differs from those for an independent Palestinian state is that it calls for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. To achieve a two-state solution, the negotiations must address and resolve a number of core issues, including the borders of the Palestinian state, the citizenship of the new Palestinian state, the status of Palestinian refugees outside the final borders, and the status of Arab citizens of present-day Israel, besides the future of East Jerusalem.