The two-state solution is not off the table. US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can smile and agree to anything, but two states for two peoples will remain the only solution capable of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This statement is true as long as both the people of Israel and Palestine are prepared to fight, die and kill for a territorial expression of their identity.
If Israelis and Palestinians are willing to toss their desire for a national identity within a state framework, the conflict, as we know it, can end and we can struggle to create the United States of Israel-Palestine, which would not be a nation-state for the Jewish people or the Palestinian people. I don’t see the logic in dropping the two-state framework because it has been difficult to reach and instead adopting the one-state option, unless of course you are Education Minister Naftali Bennett or Netanyahu and you have no intention to grant full and equal rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank and east Jerusalem or to ever allow the Palestinians to have a real state of their own.
We have almost 50 years of experience of how Israel has treated the Palestinians of east Jerusalem, who were annexed to Israel in 1967 and suffer from significant discrimination is all aspects of their lives – even the few thousands of them who have become Israeli citizens.
Jerusalem’s false unity and real discrimination is no model for a state which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East.
Netanyahu has stated one reason we have not succeeded in making peace and one reason there will never be a Palestinian partner for the kind of peace he is willing to offer. The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is Netanyahu’s powerful explanation for why no compromise with the Palestinians is possible. Yes, it is true that this is the stated position of the Palestinians and yes, it is unfortunate that they are not willing to recognize the Jewishness of Israel or, as Netanyahu says, the right of the Jewish people to a state in their historic homeland.
Palestinians really don’t understand the nationhood part of being Jewish and really do view the Jews as a religion and not as a people. They also believe that by recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people they would be clearing the path to the expulsion of one-and-a-half million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Moreover, the Palestinians have a deep sense that the recognition of the Jewishness of Israel denies their own historical narrative and link to Palestine. They also know that it is a means to force them to declare before negotiations take place that the issue of Palestinian refugees is off the table.
They will not adopt Netanyahu’s positions and will not become supporters of the Zionist narrative. They have a right (by agreement of Israel) to bring the refugee issue to the table and they already recognized Israel’s right to exist in secure and recognized borders.
They have asked Israel to tell them what those borders are, because they don’t know (neither do I nor do any of the readers of this article). Furthermore, Israel has never recognized the right of the Palestinian people to a state in any borders. I don’t need the Palestinians’ recognition of the Jewishness of Israel or of the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state. I need their recognition of Israel and their willingness to make peace with Israel.
Netanyahu has a valid point when stating that Israel faces real security threats and that Israel needs to confront them. The Palestinians will never agree to have the external borders of their state controlled by Israel – that would essentially mean that the occupation would continue with their own agreement.
That will not happen. Security is no doubt one of the fundamentals of any peace agreement. There are no short cuts to security and there is no security for Israel if the Palestinians and Israel’s other neighbors are not secure.
THE CURRENT security cooperation and coordination that exists between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, between Israel and Jordan, between Israel and Egypt, between Israel and Saudi Arabia, even between Israel and the United States serves the common interests of all of the parties involved. This is how any genuine peace process with the Palestinians must be viewed. Palestinians have to have a stake in the security of their own state, and in this region of turmoil and Islamic terrorism security must be based on cooperation.
The ideas that Palestinians have brought to the table with assistance from previous US administrations of a US military or NATO military role in Israeli- Palestinian peace is misguided and not productive.
Security must be the direct responsibility of the parties to a peace agreement. There can be international observers and monitors, as there are in Sinai, but Israeli-Egyptian peace is based on Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation and coordination. It is also based on clear limits and demilitarization. The Palestinians have consistently agreed to a non-militarized state with no air force, artillery or offensive fighting forces. The security threats facing Israel from the eastern border of the Palestinian state will have to be confronted jointly with Jordan and the Palestinians, and other states in the region.
There are possibilities for long-term Israeli military presence along the Jordan River but only within cooperative bilateral and multi-lateral mechanisms.
Many Israeli commanders and military experts see Netanyahu’s demand for permanent Israeli control of the Jordan River and in the Jordan Valley as a pretext for preventing the Palestinians from achieving sovereignty and not because of genuine security needs. As long as Israel is not willing to allow the Palestinians to have credible sovereignty there will be no solution for the conflict and no peace for Israel as well.
The author is the founder and co-chairman of IPCRI – Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives.