The two-state solution has been put forward since 1937 and confirmed in November 1947 by the UN resolution No. 181, whereby the “State of Israel” was established, but the international plotting and the Arab attitude prevented the establishment of the “State of Palestine”. In spite of Bush adoption of this vision, the Palestinian state has never come into existence. When Obama administration called for “a Palestinian State”, it has not undertaken to implement the requirements for such declaration. It otherwise announced its intention not to exercise pressure on Israel to accept this solution, while Israel has been accelerating its measures to create facts on the ground, through: the separation wall and the settlements. Israel also insists that the “comprehensive peace”, including normalization, disarming of Hezbollah and Hamas, and eliminating the Iranian threat; are all set prior to the establishment of the Palestinian state.
Therefore, the future of the “Palestinian state” is expected to be determined within one of the following three scenarios:
I. The establishment of an independent and sovereign State, which is unlikely considering the current situation and conditions.
II. The establishment of a provisional Palestinian state, against the background of giving more time for continuing negotiations before reaching “a comprehensive peace”.
III. The continuation of the “Palestinian self-rule authority” as it is, as a result of stalled negotiations, and the gap between the maximum Israeli limits and the minimum Palestinian demands.
Renewing the Palestinian Hope
Israeli Acceptance and Palestinian Refusal
US … Promises without Guarantees
Israel … Conditions and Obstacles
The Palestinian Scene … Division and Separation
The Palestinian Entity … Between the Authority and the State
On November 10, 2001, the U.S. President George W. Bush Jr. called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, within the framework of the “two-state solution,” which revived the hope of the PA presidency in achieving the Palestinian dream. On the other hand, the PA Presidency agreed to the road map plan in principle, and began to implement its security obligations in accordance with this road map. Despite Bush’s repeated promises of approaching the date of a Palestinian state, it did not turn into reality until Bush’s second term ended.
However, the Palestinians hope was revived again, when Barack Obama took the reins of power in the White House; and renewed, since the beginning of his mandate, the adoption of the “two-state solution” and “continuing efforts” in order to establish a Palestinian state! This attitude contributed in opening a new horizon for the Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli peace process, to the extent that the possibility of launching a “comprehensive peace process” was linked to the “two-state solution” and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israeli Acceptance and Palestinian refusal:
After Britain terminated its mandate over Palestine, it referred the matter to the General Assembly of the UN, which approved, in support by the US, the principle of two-state solution on November 29th, 1947, calling for the establishment of an Arab state and a Jewish state on the land of Palestine.
The Zionist movement took advantage of this resolution, and proclaimed the establishment of the “State of Israel.” Then the UN accepted this Declaration, and agreed on joining Israel to the General Assembly as “a permanent member”. On the other hand, the Palestinians did not accept the new reality, and refused to deal with the requirements of “the partition resolution.” Then the All-Palestine Government declared that Palestine within the Mandate borders is an “independent state”. However, the UN did not recognize the Palestinian government, or its declaration. Then, the West Bank was annexed to Jordan, while the Gaza Strip was put under the civil administration of Egypt.
In a move that is considered as a Palestinian response to the principle of a two-state solution, the PLO announced on November 15, 1988, the “independence of Palestine” on the basis of resolution no.181. About 120 countries recognized this declaration; which led the PLO to have, theoretically, the status of the State. However, the Palestinians were not able to exercise their independence on their own land.
On November 10, 2001, Bush Jr. re-launched the principle of “two-state solution”, declaring his vision supporting the establishment of “a Palestinian State”. Although he had identified, about three times, the date for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he failed to fulfill the promise he made to the Palestinians; as a result of restricting his promise to the terms of the road map (April 30, 2003), which demanded the Palestinian side to choose a new leadership committed to fight against the Palestinian resistance, destroying its infrastructure, and to engage effectively in security coordination with the Israeli occupation forces.
On the other hand, Bush announced support for Israel as a “Jewish state” and promised to take into account the 14 reservations, which Sharon’s government made as prerequisites to approving the road map; which include: no returning to the borders of June 1967, the settlement blocs will remain under Israeli control, the character of the provisional Palestinian state will be determined through direct negotiations between Israel and the PA, inclusively; provided that it will be, temporary with non-permanent borders, with limited sovereign and demilitarized.
Obama renewed the promise of his predecessor, Bush, of the “two-state solution” and supported establishing a Palestinian state beside “Israel.” He determined the end of 2012, the end date of his first term, as the date for establishing a Palestinian state. Then, he re-reviewed this date bringing it forward to the end of 2011.
With different tone and style, Obama walked according to his predecessor’s policy, in terms of double standards, when his administration promised the Palestinians only to “continue effort” and not intending to “put pressure” on any of the parties; referring to Israel. His administration also did not show any commitment to upgrade the Palestinian institutions to be elevated to the required level for a state that is supposed to be declared in the near future!
As for the Israelis, Obama renewed his administration’s commitment to the assurances given to them by the US, during the term of his predecessor, Bush; including dealing with the Iranian threat, and launching the “comprehensive peace” process.
Moreover, Obama’s administration turned back from putting pressure on Israel regarding the cessation of settlement, while clearly taking into account the priorities of the Israeli Government; by focusing on the process of “normalization” with the Arab and Islamic countries, through “freezing” settlement activity, and trying to stir up the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
The Israeli attitude towards the Palestinian state is based on religious, historical, strategic, economic, security and political considerations. The various political trends in Israel believe that Palestine is a part of the land of “Israel”. Against this background, the consensus in Israel calls for: not returning to the borders of June 1967, considering Jerusalem as the united capital of the “state of Israel”, keeping the West Bank settlement blocs under the Israeli control, and not to allow the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
Therefore, achieving “comprehensive peace” with Arab countries was the goal of Israel since it accepted George W Bush’s invitation to participate in the Madrid Conference. Therefore, in the Oslo agreement, the Rabin government only agreed on Palestinian self-rule authority. Against this background, the Sharon Government refused, at the outset, the two-state solution and it did not approve the first and second drafts of the road map. In May 25, 2003, it only agreed on the third draft of the road map, after ensuring Bush’s consideration of the 14 Israeli reservations.
However, Sharon Government began working in three parallel tracks which, upon completion, are supposed to determine the future of the Palestinian “state”; these tracks are: launching the process of building the separation wall, accelerating the pace of settlement under the banner of “expanding the existing settlements”, and declaring its intention to unilaterally implement the plan of “disengagement”.
The Olmert Government followed the policy of its predecessor by continuing the process of building the wall, and accelerating the pace of settlement and that of Jerusalem Judaization. On the Palestinian level, it insisted that the PA must be committed to the road map conditions, aiming to topple the Hamas government. This has led to the political divide and therefore the geographic separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During the Annapolis Conference, on fall 2007, Olmert insisted on the need of recognizing the “Jewishness of Israel” by the Palestinian side, to engage in negotiations for a lasting solution. The PA did not recognize the “Jewishness of Israel” and thus the agreement on permanent status issues was delayed; including the identification of the character of a Palestinian state and its future.
After a lot of debate, Netanyahu declared his government’s approval the establishment of “a Palestinian state”. He said that he had announced his approval, because he was sure that the Palestinians will not accept his conditions, namely: recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, with Jerusalem undivided as the capital, and waiving the right of refugees to return, in addition to the condition of launching the Syrian and Lebanese settlement tracks and beginning the process of normalization. Meanwhile, his government continued to build the wall which is estimated to deduct about 9% of the total area of the West Bank upon its completion; 75% of the construction process was completed. Netanyahu’s government also accelerated the pace of settlement; building 160 settlements, as well as covering the establishment of some 200 other outposts; the number of settlers rose to about 500 thousands, i.e. about 20% of the number of Palestinians in the West Bank. The Israeli government announced that getting rid of the Iranian threat is ranked first on its agenda, before all other goals and priorities; including the establishment of a Palestinian state!
The Palestinian Scene … Division and Separation
The quest for a Palestinian state justifies the involvement of Fatah and the PLO factions in the process of peaceful settlement, and perhaps this is the motivation beyond signing the Oslo and Taba agreements with the Israeli side. Under these agreements, the PLO achieved, the formation of transitional “self-ruling authority”, that gradually covered, by mid-2000, most of the Gaza Strip and about 42% of the West Bank, knowing that its tasks has been limited to administrating the affairs of the Palestinian population, without sovereignty over the land, water, crossings, or foreign relations. Finally, it agreed on the road map with all its security obligations.
On the other hand, Hamas and the resistance factions act from the conviction that the land of Palestine is for the Palestinians, and that it is their right to establish an independent state on their land. However, in an effort to reach a national consensus program, these factions approved, the National Accord Document (June 26, 2006); which called for an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 1967 and with Jerusalem as its capital. On this basis, they still adhere to the resistance choice, refusing to recognize Israel, and demanding the dismantling of settlements and the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the 1949 Armistice Line.
With the commitment of Mahmoud Abbas, as the head of the PA, to the Quartet conditions and the requirements of the road map; where the call was made to overthrow the Hamas-led government, and thus the unity government that was led by Hamas; the Palestinian arena has experienced two major problems. First: the political divide, which cost the Palestinian state its national consensus, according to the Palestinian National Accord. Second, the geographic separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is a natural deterrent to realizing the dream of establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of UN resolution no. 242.
Against this background, the Palestinian scene is divided into two positions:
1. The position of the PA and the Fatah movement that is insisting on the establishment of a Palestinian state with the borders of June 4, 1967 and with Jerusalem as its capital. At the same time, announcing commitment to the roadmap peace plan, which calls in the second stage to the establishment of a “Palestinian state with” provisional borders, postponing a decision on the future of Jerusalem to the third phase, where it is supposed to reach an agreement on permanent status issues in the context of the “comprehensive peace” and normalization!
2. The position of Hamas and some resistance factions, agreeing on establishing a Palestinian state with borders of the Fourth of June 1967, and still insisting on refusing to recognize Israel.
Based on the foregoing, the future of the Palestinian “state” is expected to take shape; on the basis of two-state solution, during the coming period, according to one of the following scenarios:
1. A state:
This scenario is based on what is sought by the Palestinian side, led by the PLO and the PA, through its participation in the process of peaceful settlement, the call from Obama administration to establish a “Palestinian State”, and the approval of the Israeli side on the state in principle. The PA in Ramallah worked on strictly adhering to the conditions of the road map, including the security commitments in order to allow for the success of the path towards the promised state. On August 25, 2009, Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister in Ramallah announced a two-year plan for the establishment of state institutions. There was declared and semi-declared American and European support for Fayyad. These lines lacked the sufficient strength to ensure the possibility of achievement on the ground, especially after the US announced its intention not to “exert pressure” on any of the parties. The Israeli side also rejects the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, refuses to return to the borders of June 1967, and insists on denying the right of return, and on keeping the settlement blocs.
This solution loses chances, because of the Netanyahu Government’s insistence on: refusing to freeze the settlement activity; not to mention suspending or removing; as the number of settlers continues to increase steadily in the West Bank, the construction of the separation wall reaching its final stages, and the annexation and judaization of Jerusalem continues considering it as excluded from negotiation. In addition, Israel linked the possibility of a Palestinian state to the “comprehensive peace”, the disarmament of the Palestinian resistance, and “eliminating” the Iranian threat!!!. Note that, there is no possible matching what so ever between the maximum Israeli ceiling of concessions with the minimum Palestinian demands. Add to this the growing strength of the resistance and the declining popularity of the settlement team among the Palestinians, and that the facts established by Israel on the ground effectively preclude the emergence of any real Palestinian state.
2. A temporary state:
The basis of this scenario is that the road map, in its second phase, called for the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, and that the Israeli reservations on the map confirms the necessity that this state should be “temporary.” If we take into account the consideration of the Israeli reservations on behalf of the U.S. administration, the most likely scenario in this case would be the establishment of a “provisional temporary Palestinian state, with non-permanent borders”.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Administration wants to witness eliminating the threat of (Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas), in addition to activating the Syrian and Lebanese settlement tracks; and initiating the process of normalization with Israel.
In light of this vision, Israel hopes that the approval would help in hitting several birds with one stone; launching of the normalization process, weakening the position of Hezbollah and Hamas, building a united Arab stance concerning the Iranian nuclear program, and moving the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.
The Palestinian side’s rejection of this solution is an obstacle to its implementation. The solution of the “Palestinian state with provisional borders” was repeatedly rejected. Meanwhile, the experience suggests that the Palestinian side respond at the last minute to the Israeli pressure and deals positively with the American demand. The Washington meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu with Obama is not far, when Abbas waived the condition of freezing the settlement activity before even meeting the Israeli Prime Minister.
However, the Israeli conditions remain the real obstacle that delay reaching any of the first and second scenarios (state and temporary state). The Israeli conditions imply regaining control over Gaza by Abbas, excluding Hamas from the umbrella of the Palestinian legitimacy, and making the Palestinian decision exclusively in Abbas’ hands.
3. The continuing of the self-rule authority:
This scenario represents a continuation of the status quo; it does not seem subject to change in the foreseeable future, especially as the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are stalled at a dead end since the Netanyahu government came to power in Israel.
This scenario depends on the persistence of the Palestinian official team, backed by the Arab official attitude, to continue in the settlement process without real pressure tools on the Israeli side, while the Israelis prefer this option as long as they can continue the Judaization of the land and population, with a “friendly” Palestinian authority administrating the Palestinians and suppressing the resistance movements.
In this assessment, we did not discuss the possibility of a fourth scenario that has to do with the breakdown of the settlement project in its current form, the fall of self-rule authority, and the return of armed and civil resistance to their earlier style. This may be discussed in another assessment.
1. Restoring the status of the Palestinian “national consensus” on the Palestinian National Accord, which stresses the establishment of a Palestinian state with 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital.
2. Upholding the right of return, and abandoning the policy of “exchanging the right of return for the establishment of the state”, especially that the U.S. and Israel do not want to give the Palestinians more than self-administration; regardless of nomenclatures.
3. Alerting that the solution of “a provisional Palestinian state” will contribute to normalizing the existence of Israel on the Arab and Islamic worlds, and wither the Palestinian people’s right in Jerusalem and to return.
4. Going back to the resistance option, adopting it as a strategic choice, and preparing the real active infrastructure for a new strong re-launch of resistance, especially with the absence of any real decent settlement in sight.
5. Preventing Israel from taking advantage of settlement project to pass schemes of Judaizing Jerusalem and the West Bank, and de-voiding any possible “Palestinian state” from its content.
The Arabic version of this Assessment was published on November 2009