What Are the Main Obstacles to a ‘Two-State Solution’ to the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

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What are the main obstacles to a ‘two-state solution’ to the Israel-Palestine conflict? On December 1st 2003, a group of Palestinian and Israeli experts presented a plan which could serve as a blueprint for a ‘two-state solution’ to the Israel-Palestine conflict. (Golan, 2008) It was presented in Geneva and is therefore often referred to as the ‘Geneva accord’. It states that the conflict and all claims would have to end and that Israel and Palestine have to mutually recognize their right to two separate states as well as agreeing on a final border.

Furthermore, there will be a comprehensive solution to the refugee problem and the large settlement blocks as well as most of the settlers will be annexed to Israel, as part of a 1:1 land swap. The Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem will be recognized as the Israeli capital and the Arab ones as the Palestinian capital. The new Palestinian state will be demilitarized as well as committed to fighting terrorism and incitement. An international verification group shall oversee the implementation of all the measures. The Geneva Initiative, 2008) From an outsider’s point of view, the details of the two-state solution seem feasible, fair and logical. However, there are several major obstacles on the path towards peace in Israel. For a start, there seems to be a lack of political will from significant parts of both sides. On the Palestinian side, a majority does support direct negotiations and the peace process despite the current difficulties.

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The two-state solution is supported by 60 percent of the population, but only half of the people that support it see it as a final arrangement. Most merely see it as a stage in the process for one Palestinian state. (The Israel Project, 2010) There are two political parties in Palestine, nominally Fatah and Hamas. The latter, which is in control of the Gaza Strip and is currently the stronger of the two major political parties inside Palestine, does not recognize Israel and does not accept prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Like Fatah, Hamas proclaims the liberation of Palestine to be its primary political goal. Unlike it, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel or support a two-state solution (Gelvin, 2007) MJ Rosenberg (2008) argues that “we are further from implementing the two-state solution today than we were in 2001”. His argument is that the Palestinians themselves constitute two states and that Palestinian unity is needed for the two-state solution to be achievable – a unity that ended with the Hamas election and their Gaza putsch.

In Israel, a majority of the population is supportive of the two-state solution. (Hareetz, 2009) They do however fear the security risks linked to an independent state. Critics argue that arms and threats of attacks would be even less controllable. They saw Gaza as a test case and now say that this experiment has “failed miserably” (The Recliner Commentaries, 2009), arguing that the people elected a “terrorist government” which spent money on attacking Israel rather than on welfare.

The current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently referred to the unilateral Israeli withdrawals from Gaza in 2005 and south Lebanon in 2000, saying that both areas were turned into Iranian backed terrorist bases. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010) It is therefore clear that the Israeli government would not agree to a Palestinian state until there are clear guarantees that this state is fully demilitarized. Linked to this is the argument that some parties in Israel are more determined to find a solution to the conflict than others.

The Labor Party has supported a two-state solution. In contrast with the Likud Party, of which the current Prime Minister Netanyahu is a member, Labor went as far as proposing terms of withdrawal from occupied territories, arguing that these territories being incorporated into Israel was more of a threat to the Jewish state than an exchange of land for peace. (Tucker, 2008) The question of Jewish settlements and settlers is important and controversial. Israel has unrelentingly occupied areas in the West Bank to use them as ground for settlement projects.

In 1993, the year of the Oslo Accords, 111,000 Israelis lived in settlements across the West Bank – today, 299,000 settlers live in settlements and ‘outposts’ designed to cement a permanent Jewish presence on Palestinian land. (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2010) The settlements are illegal according to international law because they are in occupied territory under a military administration. If Israel attempted to forcibly remove these settlers, this could result in both a kind of Jewish civil war and a high level of resentment among fundamentalist Jews that could lead to further inflaming of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Sussman, 2006) However, because of the size of many settlements and the fact that they are located in a very fragmented and dispersed way, some argue that they pose a significant roadblock to a two-state solution. (Tucker, 2008)

The return of Palestinian refugees is a crucial factor. According to international humanitarian law, each refugee has the right of return to his habitual place of residence. There are about 4,6 million Palestinian refugees that live in exile from their homeland. United Nations Relief and Works Agency, 2005) If they were given a right of return today, to a single state, the argument is that their numbers would endanger the future of Israel, with the Jewish population suddenly not being the majority anymore. Yet, the two-state solution is not ideal either. The refugees are simply too numerous, there is currently not enough land, space and work for them. (Knudsen & Hanafi, 2010) Finally, the question of Jerusalem is of great importance.

East Jerusalem is envisioned by many Palestinians as the capital of a future Palestinian state – as it is drawn out in the Geneva accords. Even so, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have been allowed and encouraged to move to the occupied east of the city. Israel’s continued pursuit of its policies concerning East Jerusalem such as this one or the building of the West Bank barrier and the discrimination overshadowing the Arab inhabitants’ lives are a major obstacle to finding a compromise on the status of the holy city. (Lustick, 2008) The international community needs to act.

They must increase their pressure on the Israeli government to act and work towards a solution, and help the Palestinian people in order to weaken the grip of Hamas and other radical groups on Palestine. The pro-peace activists, on both sides, that advocate the two-state solution have no chance without the support of powerful outside actors, especially ones with strong ties to Israel such as the United States or Russia.


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Retrieved November 28, 2010, from Hareetz Online: http://www. haaretz. com/print-edition/news/haaretz-poll-64-percent-of-israelis-back-two-state-solution-1. 278220 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2010, January 18). Press Conference with PM Netanyahu and German Chancellor Merkel. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from Israel MFA Web site: http://www. mfa. gov. il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+leaders/2010/Press_conference_PM_Netanyahu_German_Chancellor_18-Jan-2010. htm Knudsen, A. , & Hanafi, S. (2010). Palestinian Refugees – Identity, Space and Place in the Levant. Oxford: Routledge. Lustick, I. S. (2008). The problem of Jerusalem after Camp David II and the Aqsa Intifada. In T. Mayer, & S. A. Mourad, Jerusalem: idea and reality (pp. 283-302). London: Taylor & Francis. Rosenberg, M. (2008, December 22).

Loving The Two-State Solution to Death. Retrieved November 28, 2010, from Huffington Post Online: http://www. huffingtonpost. com/mj-rosenberg/loving-the-two-state-solu_b_152471. html Sussman, G. (2006). The Challenge to the Two-State Solution. In J. Beinin, & R. L. Stein, The struggle for sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005 (pp. 303-314). Stanford: Stanford University press. The Geneva Initiative. (2008). The Accord: Summary. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from Geneva Accord. org: http://www. geneva-accord. org/mainmenu/summary The Israel Project. (2010, November). The Palestinian Survey.

Retrieved November 29, 2010, from The Israel Project. org: http://www. theisraelproject. org/atf/cf/%7B84dc5887-741e-4056-8d91-a389164bc94e%7D/NOV2010_PALESTINIANPOLLPOWERPOINTNEW. PDF The Recliner Commentaries. (2009, May 16). Gaza and the two-state solution. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from The Recliner Commentaries blog: http://www. reclinercommentaries. com/2009/05/gaza-and-two-state-solution. html Tucker, S. C. (2008). The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Oxford: ABC Clio. United Nations Relief and Works Agency. (2005, March). Total Registered Refugees per Country and Area. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

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What Are the Main Obstacles to a ‘Two-State Solution’ to the Israel-Palestine Conflict?. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from


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