A ‘no solution’ proposal for Palestinians?
For more than two decades, international diplomacy had focused on what is termed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but now the United States appears to be signalling, albeit reluctantly, a change.
Last month, US President Donald Trump, while hosting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said that both a two-state and a single-state solutions should be considered to reach a Middle East peace deal.
“I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but, honestly, if… Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best,” Trump said.
The question is what does the one-state solution look like? For Israel, it appears to be continuing with the status quo, a no-state solution for Palestinians. For Palestinians, no state means no solution.
In fact, even the status quo is no longer a status quo as Israel’s continuous building of illegal settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes mean reality on the ground is forever changing.
Many advocates of the one-state solution envision a binational state — a secular democracy — for Jews and Arabs alike. All equal under the law. Such a proposal, however, would never be accepted by Israeli governments that have the upper hand on the ground. It would mean Israeli Jews would be a minority.
It is because of this Israeli rejection that most of the international diplomacy focus has been on the two-state solution, in line with numerous UN resolutions.
Following Trump’s remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that establishing a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel was the only viable way for peace.
Britain and France — both UN Security Council members — reiterated that the best route to peace in the Middle East was the two-state solution. Even US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington still supported the two-state solution.
“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well, which is: What does it take to bring these two sides to the table. What do we need to have them agree on,” Haley said.
What can they agree on? Netanyahu reportedly turned down a regional peace initiative last year involving Egypt and Jordan and brokered by the United States.
Former US officials said, then-secretary of State John Kerry proposed more Arab concessions to Israel in exchange for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The initiative included recognising Israel as a “Jewish state”, having Jerusalem as a shared capital for both Israelis and Palestinians and adopting a softer stance on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes in what is now Israel.
Although reportedly accepted by Jordan and Egypt, Netanyahu rejected the offer as it would not sit well with hard-line coalition government.
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said the agreement “would have changed the face of the Middle East and the one who ran away at the end was Netanyahu”.
Of course there is no telling how this initiative would have eventually played out but it does show that no amount of Arab or Palestinian concessions would be enough for those in government in Israel.
The only regional cooperation Netanyahu appears to want is one that it is directed at the Iranian government, which is viewed by a number of Arab states as a threat and a destabilising force in the Middle East.
Israel hopes that Arab states will drop the Palestinian cause because they perceive a greater threat from Tehran than from Tel Aviv.
Ironically, such an outlook serves first and foremost the interests of the so-called axis of resistance: Iran, the Syrian regime and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It would allow that axis to continue to use and abuse the Palestinian cause for its own expansionist and sectarian agendas in the region. More innocent blood would be shed in the region but with no gain whatsoever for the Palestinians.
We hear of one-state, two-state, no-state, status quo or a so-called resistance but no political actor is seriously suggesting a viable solution for the Palestinians, which is the prerequisite for a long-lasting peace.
Mamoon Alabbasi is an Arab Weekly contributing editor based in London. You can follow him on Twitter @MamoonAlabbasi.