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Commitment to the two-state solution is a formality

Image of Israeli security forces arresting a Palestinian protester [Shadi Hatem/Apaimages]
Image of Israeli security forces arresting a Palestinian [Shadi Hatem/Apaimages]

News of Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to “back down” from his public position support on the two-state solution at the request of the (far-right) Jewish Home Party’s ministers in order to send a clear message during the meeting with US President Donald Trump that the establishment of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders will not happen, does not change the fact that the majority of the parties in Israel either do not believe in the idea of the “two-state solution” or believe it is impossible to implement. In addition to this, Netanyahu’s conditions for this solution already eliminate the possibility of it becoming a reality, especially the condition of recognising Israel as a “Jewish national state” and the condition of Israel maintaining permanent security control over the territories between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.

Despite this, the Jewish Home Party’s ministers were misled and believed that their request was a form of internal pressure on Netanyahu from his allies. It even led an Israeli newspaper with a “peaceful” approach, like Haaretz, to blatantly simplify the matter and say that in the event that Netanyahu surrenders to the demands of the Jewish Home Party he would be granting support to continue the annexation policy adopted by the settlers. By saying so, the newspaper restricted the policy to this group of Israelis less than a week after the Knesset approved the law to seize Palestinian territories for annexation.

It is clear that Netanyahu’s “commitment” to the two-state solution is a formality and means nothing. It is also postponed and restricted by a number of conditions, perhaps the most extreme and dangerous of which is its name, i.e. “two states for two groups of people”. This means that there will be two national states, a Jewish one and a Palestinian one; one for all of the Jews and another for all the Palestinians.

The Israeli Defence Minister and head of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, gave the best literal or practical translation of this “solution” when he reminded us this week that he supports the idea of land and citizen exchanges as a solution with the Palestinians, and said “I want a Jewish state. Just as the Palestinians want a homogeneous Palestinian state, without a single Jew in it, I want to separate from all the Palestinians who live here inside pre-1967 [Israel],”

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Professor Gideon Biger, a lecturer in the Department of Geography and the Human Environment at Tel Aviv University, who was an advisor to the Israeli negotiations team with Syria in the past, supports Lieberman’s idea. Biger also reiterates that although the slogan “two states for two groups of people” sounds like a good idea in theory, it is not an accurate description of the situation. In the event that the two sides agree to implement this solution, there will be talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state without any Jewish settlers, while Israel will have “two peoples”, 80 per cent Jews and 20 per cent Arab Palestinians. In his opinion, this equation would not have “national equality” and therefore there has been, in the past, discussions of proposals to determine the borderline between the Palestinian state and Israel in a way that puts settlements located behind the Green Line within Israel’s territory.

He believes that drawing the borders does not necessarily create completely homogenous states and that in some instances, due to a number of issues; borders have been drawn in a manner that does not guarantee that every individual from a certain nation is on one side of the border. Instead, some national minorities have remained on the other side of the border. This situation has led to tensions and desires to annex these areas and others to the mother state. Some of these tensions were resolved by means of citizen exchanges between the two states, as was the case with Turkey and Greece, India and Pakistan, Turkey and Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic and Germany. In other instances, the issue was resolved by means of land swaps that sometimes occur after asking the people’s opinion and other time occur after the two countries agree with each other, without taking into consideration the people’s opinion.

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He concluded that in the context of a “complete agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians, there will be inevitable similar agreement that includes the transfer of areas inhabited by Jewish settlers to Israel, and similarly, areas inhabited by Palestinian Arabs will be relocated from Israel to Palestinian sovereignty.

To simplify this, it will be “just a population swap” beyond recent facts and history, and not a repeated transfer. The ink still hasn’t dried from approaches that considered the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 as “just the exchange of the population with Jews from other Arab countries”, while claiming that the number of the latter exceeds the number of Palestinian refugees.

Translated from Arab48.com, 15 February 2017

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