Any “two-state solution” is a bad idea. It is inconsistent with Israel’s security – Judea and Samaria will quickly resemble Gaza – and it generally (but not always) implies that the Jewish people do not have full legal title to the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
It’s also impossible to implement, because Jews and Arabs have entirely different ideas of what it means. This ambiguity has doomed all negotiations between Israel and the PLO from Oslo to the present.
For an Israeli Jew, the idea is usually stated as “two states for two peoples,” living peacefully side by side. It’s understood that a partition of the land would bring about an end to the conflict.
For the PLO and most other Arab circles, this is not the case. I am indebted to Azmi Bishara, a former Arab member of the Knesset (who fled the country to avoid prosecution for allegedly passing information to Hizballah during the Second Lebanon War) for explaining this:
The “two states for two peoples” slogan turns an historical settlement of a conflict into an acceptance of Zionism as an idea, whereas the two-state solution comprises an acceptance of an existing situation – on condition that any agreement between Israel and Palestinian leaders includes the establishment of a Palestinian state and the refugees’ right of return.
Initially, this was a political deal that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) accepted. However, the PLO did not intend to make a concession regarding its understanding of history, nor must it abandon the contradiction between itself and Zionism as a concept; otherwise, it will give up the right of return and the rights of the Palestinians within Israel.
Bishara’s rejection of “Zionism as an idea” is based on the ‘Palestinian narrative’ that I discussed here. According to it, there is no Jewish people, only a religion. And the Jews have no moral or legal right to the land of Israel. Any ‘recognition’ of Israel, like that made by the PLO at Oslo, is only the acknowledgement of an (unjust) state of affairs, not an acceptance of it.
The Jewish state, he says,
… doesn’t consider itself to be the state of more than a million people who are its citizens and the indigenous people of the land – the Arabs who remained within the 1948 boundaries of Palestine remain the original inhabitants of the country. The occupation turned them from an actual majority into a minority.
They are not immigrants who must give up their identity and integrate with another people as though they had chosen to immigrate. Hence, in addition to their individual rights as citizens, they also have collective rights as indigenous inhabitants. First and foremost of these rights is the preservation and development of their identity and their relationship with the land and with other Arabs.
As I have argued, the Jewish people are the indigenous, aboriginal people of the land of Israel. They are the “original inhabitants,” not the ‘Palestinians’, who are relatively new to the region and didn’t even see themselves as a ‘people’ until the 1960s. This is the basis, recognized in the League of Nations Mandate, that the moral and legal rights of the Jewish people rest upon.
Bishara’s idea of a two-state solution is one that includes both the so-called ‘right of return’ of descendants of Arab refugees to Israel (not to ‘Palestine’) and a change in the status of the Arabs living in Israel to a people with national rights as well as civil rights. ‘Palestine’ would be an Arab state, and ‘Israel’ would be a bi-national state.
The PLO’s “understanding of history” is the Palestinian narrative, in which European colonialist Jews occupied Arab Palestine and dispossessed its “true owners.” This precludes a permanent end of conflict and a recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, even if it withdraws to the 1949 armistice lines. This is why Mahmoud Abbas would never agree to these things, and why he always insisted that no Jewish prime minister ever accepted “the two-state solution.” According to the Arab definition, none did.
I expect that President Obama will shortly resume pressure on Israel to surrender to PLO demands and withdraw from Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.
I would hope that Israel will not only present the argument from security, but also make the starting point the historical, moral and legal rights of the Jewish people to all of the land of Israel, on the grounds that the Jewish people are its original, indigenous inhabitants.