Is the Two-State Solution Still Viable?
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A two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians has been a goal since the Oslo Accords were signed 30 years ago. This alternative is up for discussion again. If we aren’t willing to do what it takes to implement a two-state solution, we should take this option off the table.

If a two-state solution is unworkable, a one-state solution may be less attractive to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. A one-state solution would result in Jews eventually becoming a minority and Israel would no longer be a Jewish state. The Palestinians would not get a state of their own. Trying to maintain the present situations in Gaza and the West Bank may be the worst alternative.

Before we can discuss possible solutions, we need to recognize some facts.

There probably isn’t enough land. Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank are only about 11,000 square miles, a little larger than Maryland or Vermont. In addition, much of this land is arid, with limited water supplies, and not suitable for agriculture or even residential use.

The Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. Israel’s population is about 9.8 million including 7.2 million Jews and 1.7 million Muslims, most considered to be Palestinians. The West Bank population including East Jerusalem is about 2.9 million, 2.7 million Palestinians, and about 670,000 Israel settlers. Gaza’s population is about 2.1 million almost all of whom are Palestinians. About 1.6 million Palestinians still live in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, and neighboring countries.

Any permanent resolution requires an international effort to relieve some of the population pressure by providing homes for refugees and others who would voluntarily resettle in other countries that would accept them.

A Palestinian state in the West Bank has to be politically and economically sustainable. It cannot be made up of small areas connected by roads and surrounded by territory controlled by Israel. It would need its own airport and access to a seaport on Israel’s coast. If West Bank land occupied by Israeli settlers has to be part of Israel, a separate Palestinian state would not be viable.

It may be impractical to incorporate Gaza into a Palestinian state because it is separated geographically by Israel. A land corridor connecting Gaza with the West Bank is probably not practical.

Any solution would require strong international security guarantees for Israel and the Palestinian state. This could require the right to come to the defense of either country if attacked by terrorists or other countries, similar to guarantees given to NATO members.

What would it take? Perhaps others could propose a better solution.

There would have to be an international agreement by major Middle East countries, the U.S., Europe, and some other countries to resettle a large number of Palestinians, especially from Gaza, which is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. A goal would be to empty refugee camps and give everyone a path to citizenship somewhere.

Create a Palestinian state in the West Bank. To be viable, this would have to include most or all of the West Bank with some practical border adjustments. Israeli settlers living in the West Bank could continue to live there with dual Israeli and Palestinian citizenship. They could always return to Israel if they ever chose to do so.

Gaza would become part of Israel. Gaza’s citizens could relocate to the West Bank to live in a Palestinian state, emigrate to another country, or become Israeli residents with a long-term path to Israeli citizenship assuming they meet some clearly stated conditions.

Jerusalem is a holy site for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. There would need to be an agreement on the management of Jerusalem’s holy sites that is acceptable to all these religions. Perhaps some form of international oversight would be required.

International aid to the new Palestinian state would be conditioned upon the state remaining a viable democracy with regular free elections and no dictatorships. International aid to Israel would be conditional on their support of the two-state solution.

Those resettling in Israel or other countries would have permanent residency as long as they met clearly stated conditions. They would have a path to eventual citizenship, perhaps after 10 years.

All Palestinians accepting the terms of this settlement would have to denounce terrorism and actions to overthrow Israel.

The cost of resettling refugees and those who want to change their residency would be very large and would have to be funded by commitments from countries participating in this program, including Israel.

There would be a popular vote or official poll of the Palestinians to determine if they are in favor of the settlement and how many would relocate.

There have to be big and bold changes to break the cycle of violence that fuels terrorism and leaves millions stagnating in refugee camps or living in Gaza and the West Bank without true self-government or hope for a better future.

This proposed solution or some variation of it would be extremely difficult to fund and implement. However, maintaining the status quo even if Israel is able to defeat Hamas is not viable longer-term and will not lead to a permanent peace.

William Fletcher, now retired, was an engineer and former senior vice president at Rockwell International. He served as an officer and engineer in the Navy working on the design and operation of nuclear-powered ships, and as an engineer involved with the design and construction of commercial nuclear power plants. Later, he focused on industrial development and automation. For much of his career, he was involved in international operations with assignments in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. With coauthor Craig Smith PhD his book THE GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS: What To Do About It will be published by Elsevier in early 2024.