The two-state solution will always stand as the only possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regardless of the obstacles in its way. This solution is the key to achieving stability in the region and would end a long history of conflict that lasted for more than seven decades.
Other solutions that are being put forward -including the one-state solution- remain a grand illusion, or say, these solutions would be a major historical mistake that would erase the Palestinian identity and make Palestinians only a minority living in the shadow of a Jewish state
Seasoned Israeli politicians who stand away from the commitments and one-upmanship of the extremist religious parties, realize that the Palestinian state will be ultimately established, no matter how long this takes. Yet, they are trying by every means to postpone this for electoral reasons or to have the time to lay the foundations that restrict the capabilities of the Palestinian state, particularly in the security and the military field so that it poses no threat to Israeli security. Moreover, Israeli politicians are aware that the Palestinian people will not accept to remain under the yoke of occupation indefinitely, that their resistance will continue by all legitimate and illegitimate means, and that the spiral of violence will not end. Also, it is no secret to them that there is a consensus among the entire international community, including the current US administration, on supporting the two-state solution.
Here, we must take a closer look at the Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s address to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 22 September. In his speech, Lapid declared his support for the two-state solution, stressing that Israel is powerful enough to seek peace with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, being “the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children”, provided that the future Palestinian state will be peaceful and will not become another terror base that threatens the well-being and the very existence of Israel.
In my view, Lapid’s position represents an important variable at the present time and may change the course of the Palestinian cause if it is well taken advantage of, especially since it is certain that Lapid announced his position out of conviction that the continuation of the conflict would not be in Israel’s interest. He also realizes that the normalization agreements, no matter how diversified they are, will not ensure Israel’s security and regional integration, particularly with the escalation of tension in the West Bank, which could rise to a third uprising that could blow up in the face of Israel.
Taking up this position, Lapid is aware that he is risking his political future in the face of Netanyahu, who opinion polls suggest has a greater chance to form the next government. As far as I judge, Lapid’s position will give rise to changes in the Israeli internal arena before the Elections for the 25th Knesset scheduled a few weeks later, which will create considerable momentum among parties and alliances. I believe Lapid wagered that most of the Israeli people would support his views.
In order not to be too far away from reality and its complexities, we must admit that the two-state solution is shrouded in many difficulties, whether related to the scope and location of the settlements or the Israeli security requirements. Here, I would like to point out that significant progress has been made in addressing security issues during the negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinians before 2014, with the United States’ participation. As such, when resuming negotiations, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, negotiators should build on all the previous documented proposals.
Certainly, the Palestinian side is ready to reassure all its neighbors, not only Israel, that the prospective Palestinian state will not pose any threat to any state. There is a preliminary consensus on the security measures that reassure all countries, provided that these do not affect the sovereignty of the new state. The Palestinian people who waited for the realization of the state’s dream for years will be keener on ensuring its stability.
It is necessary to take Lapid’s address very seriously and not to perceive it as being a maneuver, even if it was. We should capitalize on this position as a starting point to change the current Palestinian reality, particularly with Biden taking steps to support this position.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on 23 September, Palestinian President Abu Mazen has welcomed Lapid’s position, calling on translating it into negotiations between the two sides based on international resolutions. If we are going to move forward with the two-state solution, there is a two-pronged responsibility on the Palestinian side: 1) the preparation for the negotiations in case of its resumption, in coordination with Egypt and Jordan, and 2) the immediate move towards achieving reconciliation, which is still missed and without it, the two-state solution remains pending until further notice.
In view of the above, I put forward the following four suggestions:
- Demonstrating considerable support for Lapid’s position, given its consistency with the visions put forward for solving the Palestinian cause.
- Articulating an Arab comprehensive and realistic vision to set the required and acceptable mechanisms for implementing the two-state solution, while continuing to back President Abu Mazen’s position.
- Launching negotiations directly after Lapid forms the government without deferring this step until the beginning of 2023.
- In the event of Netanyahu’s success, the momentum gained should be built on to force Netanyahu to enter into negotiations, a battle that we must fight towards imposing the peace we hope for.
This op-ed was originally published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 28 September 2022.