As the war in Gaza rages on, as the civilian death toll soars, and as the Israeli military cuts off food, water, and electricity from the besieged enclave; world leaders, like clockwork, have resorted to calling for the old “two-state solution” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Biden has been firm in reiterating that his administration will only support a two-state solution, according to PBS, and this has been the default position of most world leaders. In the days immediately after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Arab League convened an emergency summit reiterating much the same, according to The Guardian.
While it is comforting to leaders to drudge on about a “two-state solution” and an innocuous peace plan, it ignores the reality of Israeli settlement expansion and entrenchment of Israeli control over all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, according to Foreign Affairs. Like a zombie the “two-state solution” is killed and brought back to life between every spate of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, while no progress is ever made and leaders on both sides remain unwilling and unable to break the status quo.
The horrific events of October 7, however, show that the status quo of an incessant blockade, occupation, and apartheid are unsustainable for both Israel’s security and Palestinian self-determination. The truth is the “two-state solution” died with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after he was assassinated by a radical Israeli nationalist and the far-right. Now led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics soon took a hard shift to the right following Rabin’s assassination. Although woefully inadequate, the Oslo Accords of 1993, agreed to by Rabin and the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Arafat, was the last chance for a viable “two-state solution” between leaders who were willing to negotiate in good faith.
Groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad began to conduct more violent attacks against Israelis as settlement expansion in the West Bank increased by 58 percent after the Accords, according to The Economist. Much of the Palestinian population lost faith in the PLO and the subsequent Palestinian Authority, rife with corruption and incompetence, leading to the rise of alternative militant factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Netanyahu exploited these divisions within the Palestinian leadership to prop up Hamas, thinking that Israel’s superior military could withstand any attacks from the militants and prevent any permanent solution to Palestinian Statehood, according to The Times of Israel.
As the brutality of the current war is on full display with more than 11,070 Palestinians killed in Gaza according to Al Jazeera, including 4,500 children, what comes next? Netanyahu has said that Israel will maintain control over Gaza’s security after the war, reports the Associated Press. Another Israeli occupation of Gaza would be horrific both for the Palestinians who would be subjected to the same military rule imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank and for Israel who would now be responsible for the 2.2 million people who live in the Gaza Strip. But that would depend on whether Israel can accomplish its task of defeating Hamas, which is itself an impossible goal. Hamas is a political movement that extends beyond its militant faction and the brutality with which Israel is conducting its war will only strengthen the resolve of Palestinians who will continue to see Israel as an enemy.
According to a recent Pew Poll, 35 percent of Israelis still support a “two-state solution,” while a Gallup Poll shows that only 24 percent of Palestinians support it. The reality on the ground is a splintered West Bank, 60 percent of which is controlled by Israel through its illegal settlements with over 700,000 settlers, according to Al Jazeera. The densely populated Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, which opposes the Palestinian Authority. Israel has also illegally annexed East Jerusalem, home of the holy sites including the Al Aqsa Mosque, which Palestinians have long hoped to make their capital. All these realities make a contiguous Palestinian state nearly impossible to achieve.
Although it may be looked upon with skepticism, a one-state solution has been gaining traction among younger Jews and Palestinians, according to The Guardian. To the Israeli far-right, a one-state solution means full Israeli sovereignty between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, as written in the original Likud Party charter. For Hamas, it would mean the destruction of Israel and the return of Palestinians to the lands from which they were displaced. For many young moderates on both sides, the idea means a secular democratic state in the land of Israel and Palestine with equal rights for all. Whether the solution is two-state, one-state, or no-state, the reality remains that neither Israelis nor Palestinians will leave their land, and leaders on both sides must eventually accept that.