The “Two-State” Solution: Reality or Fantasy?

Efforts for establishing an independent state for Palestinians alongside that of Israel, that of a “two-state solution,” have always failed. Why?

During a trip to the Middle East recently, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reiterated the idea of a “two-state solution” as “the only path toward peace” even as the war in Gaza continues. Yet an independent Palestinian state established alongside the existing one of Israel, west of the Jordan River—giving both peoples their own territory—is presently contested by the Israelis. It is also contested by most Arabic states since they officially do not recognize Israel as an independent and sovereign state—only five Arabic countries do: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates; Bahrain and Jordan have recently frozen ties with Tel Aviv because of its bombing and collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.

Their opposition is officially due to the Israeli refusal to recognize the Palestinian Territories—the two regions of the former British Mandate for Palestine that have been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, namely the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip—as a nation. Naturally, this has been exploited with the war in Gaza. 

Efforts, however, for establishing an independent state for Palestinians alongside that of Israel, that of a “two-state solution,” have always failed. The last time there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for this was in 1995, until Yigal Amir, a Jewish right-wing nationalist who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords, which would have provided the Palestinians the “right to self-determination,” assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin. Why have such efforts failed since then?

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Most Palestinians likewise reject Israel as a state. They base this not on a denial of Jewish historical and religious ties to the Holy Land but, as they hold, secularized Jews that came from Europe as occupiers. They are viewed as an “alien implant” who “abjure religious life, manners, and practices,” but use “the Bible to support a political project of a Jewish state in an already populated and settled land.” 

The lack of recognition of Israel by the rest of the Arab world, as well as Iranian Shi’ites—after the deposition of the shah in 1979—is based on jihadist ideology, which is likened more to a millenarian cult. Convinced that the end-times are coming, and that it is the vanguard in an ultimate religious war Allah has determined it will win, fundamentalists    are legally compelled to wage holy war against dar al-harb (place of chaos or war) until it perishes.

The aim of holy war or “jihad is not the conquest of other countries, but the defense of the inherent rights of nations that are deprived of power by the infidels, non-monotheists, and rebels from the worship of Allah, monotheism, and justice,” in our present case, the safeguarding and promotion of the Palestinian cause.

Since Islam is the only religion worthy to be practiced, for Muslims, it has as its perspective complete and total world dominion, to eliminate what it considers false and misplaced worship. Jihad, which begins with an irreversible process of Islamization, would logically mean that any reversibility, such as the recovery of its national territory by a subdued people, amounts to sacrilege. This is why a nation like Israel has no legitimacy in the Islamist worldview, since many Muslims hold that it has been unjustly stripped from the dar al-Islam (place of peace) by the military power of polytheists and infidels.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely, in like manner, when asked if a “two-state” solution is still feasible, replied: “The answer is absolutely no.” 

The present Israeli opposition to a “two-state” solution stems from the embryonic stages of the creation of the State of Israel with the Hungarian-born iconic Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, who apparently never intended to recognize the Palestinians as a people with a right to their native homeland. As he stated in his Complete Diaries:

We must expropriate gently the private poetry on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.

This was elaborated in detail by the Balfour Declaration (1917), which, while it called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” did not mention the Palestinians by name. Instead, it referred to them as “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

In fact, the Declaration’s content seems obscure, if not perplexing. Indeed, the prominent  Hungarian-born Jewish intellectual Arthur Koestler characterized it “one the most improbable political documents of all time.” And, as per the American diplomat Sol Myron Linowitz, by itself the Declaration was “legally impotent [since] Great Britain had no sovereign rights over Palestine; it had no proprietary interest; it had no authority to dispose of the land.” 

It was only in the League of Nations, more so with the United Nations, that the Declaration took on legality by the international community. In the end, Israelis, with the support of American self-proclaimed Christian Zionists, insist that they have an exclusive biblical right to the entire Palestinian terrain—a reason why they expelled nearly 750,000 Palestinians (75 percent of the Arab population), both Muslims and Christians, in 1948. The paradox is that the present-day Jewish inhabitants in Israel are altogether different from the Israelites of old.

The latter are a people united by familiar ethnic or religious beliefs, who descend from the Hebrew Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The former are descendants of the latter, who after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 adopted the Talmud, which has no priesthood, and consequently ceased to practice the sacrificial rituals they were accustomed to from the inception of receiving God’s Revelation. In other words, it is not so much the acceptance of the Old Testament, in as much as a people whose religious observances contrast those of their forefathers. 

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, during his visit to France in March, stated (in what was reminiscent of what the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once said): “[t]here is no such thing as a Palestinian nation” for the Netanyahu government. Influential U.S. politicians, such as the former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had denied the existence of the Palestinians as a people, holding that “[t]here’s really no such thing as the Palestinians.” 

Israel’s present administration is vehemently opposed to the very notion of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has constantly blocked this for years, especially with the illegal occupation in 1967 of the West Bank, which Israelis refer to by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria. While few expect him to stay in office once the war is over, there is no obvious “two-state” solution in the waiting. Israel’s present administration is vehemently opposed to the very notion of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.Tweet This

On the other side, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been largely absent from the stage since the attack of October 7, has been both incompetent and ineffective in the peace process, damaging his credibility among his fellow Palestinians. At age eighty-seven, Abbas’ four-year term has lasted nearly two decades with nothing substantial to show for it. His only plausible successor, Marwan Barghouti, a senior leader of the Fatah political faction and a hero to many Palestinians, is in an Israeli prison serving 21 years of five life sentences for murder.

If the Israelis revert back to the pre-1967 territories, then perhaps there may be a chance for a “two-state” solution, though the war in Gaza makes that a near impossibility because of the individual claims of the Temple Mount where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated. 

For Jews, the Temple must be rebuilt there in order for the Messiah to come—the Temple is, in fact, Jesus Christ Himself (John 2:19) and does not have to be physically rebuilt. The status quo cannot permit the Israelis to do so because Muslims hold the Al-Aqsa complex as their third holiest site in the world, after Mecca and Medina—hence, an impasse that only fuels the obstinacy of both parties. 

Unlike the Native Americans who had their lands confiscated by the U.S. government, Palestinians are not going to integrate themselves to the norms and customs of the Israelis, especially those under their occupation. An alright new body politic, for both Israelis and Palestinians, is needed—a secular one, as opposed to the far-right nationalists who are presently in control—though that will not necessarily guarantee a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinian Muslims.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]


  • Fr. Mario Alexis Portella

    Fr. Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He was born in New York and holds a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace?—The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up (Westbow Press, 2018).

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