Politicians are, generally, good at lying. Some of them, like former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, simply can’t help themselves and are widely regarded as serial offenders, while others are guilty of nothing more than ignorance. Either way, it is deemed to be rude or against the rules of parliamentary etiquette for fellow politicians and journalists alike to call them out when they spout nonsense. However, misleading people deliberately is equally offensive.
This was not lost on the philosopher Aristotle who, probably fed up with fake news, opined: “Nemo censetur ignorare legem,” which essentially means that ignorance of the law is no excuse. And when it comes to talking about Palestine, Europe’s parliaments are stuffed with well-meaning, but grossly ignorant politicians who would do well to acquaint themselves with another Latin phrase — “ignorantia iuris nocet” — which more or less means that “not knowing the law is harmful”.
The biggest lie in circulation at the moment is that the so-called two-state solution is still a viable option in Israel-Palestine. One look at the familiar maps shown above tells us all we need to know: how can anyone still mention the two-state solution and expect to be taken seriously?
Israel’s determination to wipe Palestine off the map is there for all to see. It gorges itself ruthlessly in an unbridled pursuit to grab more Palestinian land on a level that is neither legal nor just.
Nevertheless, last month I listened with incredulity as a thinly-attended House of Commons in London debated Israel and the Occupied Territories. The debate was launched by Andrew Mitchell, the minister of state at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
According to Hansard, the official parliamentary record, the two-state solution was mentioned no fewer than fourteen times by an array of politicians across all parties who, quite frankly, can’t have looked with any degree of seriousness at maps like those above before opening their mouths. So, let’s make it clear: the two-state solution is dead and buried, and has been for years. Any claim that it is still viable is pure fantasy.
Those who keep trying to revive this “solution” are blindly optimistic. Israel’s aggressive expansion of its illegal settlements has, more than anything else, destroyed any hope of “two states” living in peace alongside each other. The occupation state has put a giant Zionist wrecking ball through any ambitious roadmaps for peace in the Middle East. In truth, though, Israel has never been serious about peace. Talks have been held solely to provide it with more time to take as much Palestinian land as possible, with as few Palestinians living on it as possible. That’s the reality that very few politicians in the West seem able or willing to grasp.
Hundreds of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem (all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law), have created an insurmountable Israeli obstacle to the Palestinian dream of an independent sovereign state based on the 1949 Armistice (“Green”) Line normally described as the “1967 border”.
In 2022, the occupied West Bank had at least 199 Israeli settlements and 220 outposts (small settlements illegal even under Israeli law), covering 3.6 per cent of the total area of the occupied Palestinian territory. According to Israel, 542 square kilometres, or 9.6 per cent of the occupied Palestinian land, is part of Israel’s sovereign territory and is labelled “settlement areas of influence”.
The settlements and the illegal settlers pose direct threats to peace and security in the region; they not only have a near monopoly on water resources, but also block any kind of Palestinian development. Settler attacks on Palestinians and their land, farms, towns and villages, are frequent occurrences, usually under the watchful eye and protection of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Along with the Apartheid Wall built by Israel, the settlements and the roads that service them — for use by Jews only — ensure that there is no real contiguity between the land left that is supposed to be for the still non-existent, aside from symbolic UN recognition, State of Palestine.
Is anyone still surprised that the Palestinian population, crammed into three main areas in the occupied West Bank, feel totally abandoned and constantly under threat living under Israel’s brutal military occupation? In the north of the occupied territory, which includes the cities of Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem, the Palestinians are unable to move without encountering military checkpoints; the centre ground of Ramallah and Al-Bireh is similarly under constant threat, as are Hebron and Bethlehem in the south. These three blocks of land are, in turn, divided into six cantons made up of some 68 ghettos, all of which fall under the control of the Israeli army.
It is impossible for Palestinians to visit each other or go about their daily affairs without being delayed and/or obstructed at the checkpoints. These divisions imposed on the Palestinians violate their sovereignty and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Daily life is miserable; this “norm” would be totally unacceptable anywhere else.
Settler attacks and overt racism against Arabs are part of the daily experience if you are a Palestinian. And yet politicians still continue to talk about a two-state solution as though it is viable and within reach. And why do some of Westminster MPs, for example, still talk as though Israel and Palestine are equal entities, rather than the occupier and the occupied respectively? This is an asymmetric challenge no matter which way you look at it.
Someone who knows the situation on the ground is Reham Owda. “Israel controls most of the Palestinian surface water, such as the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, leaving Palestinians with no alternative but to rely on groundwater,” explained the political analyst based in Gaza. “However, with about 70 per cent of the illegal Israeli settlements located on the eastern reservoir basin in the West Bank, and 45 per cent of all settlements located on areas sensitive to the recharge of the aquifer basin in the West Bank, Israeli settlements have seized most Palestinian groundwater.” This, of course, is very deliberate.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now number upwards of 750,000 people, added Owda. “In the West Bank alone, there are at least 500,000 settlers who consume about 32 per cent of groundwater, while the 3.7 million Palestinians who share the resources can access only 18 per cent. As long as Israeli settlements control groundwater resources in the West Bank, it will be impossible to establish a Palestinian state with sufficient influence and means to meet the drinking and irrigation needs of its people.”
The two-state solution was proposed by the Oslo Accords to fulfil the Palestinian demand for independence and sovereignty. The latter were supported by UN Resolution 242, which called for the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every state in the region and demanded that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 border.
Two state diplomacy proposes an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel as the most effective and peaceful answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the Middle East peace dilemma. However, we all know that if — and it is a big if — the two-state solution somehow went ahead, there is no way that Israel will remove by force the 750,000 illegal settlers. It has form in this, remember: three-quarters of a million Palestinians were driven by force from their homes and land by Zionist militias in the original Nakba in 1948. But is that ever going to happen to Israeli settlers, even though many are far-right religious extremists living among secular Israelis attracted to settlements by financial incentives and who appear to have adopted an “out of sight, out of mind” position on their growing presence?
The exact number of settlers is hard to pin down. Official statistics from the occupation government claim that the number of settlers in the West Bank is above half a million, but according to the Palestinian Applied Research Institute, that number has already reached one million. Peace Now, meanwhile, reports that the number of settlers in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem is around 700,000.
Whatever the number, no proponent of the mythical two-state solution has yet explained how more than half a million religious extremists will be removed from land that they believe is God-given and theirs by right. The violent scenes when illegal settlers were removed by Ariel Sharon from the Gaza Strip in 2005 had a massive psychological impact on them.
Until politicians adopt a realistic approach to Palestine’s sovereignty, they aren’t only lying to you and me — and to the Palestinians — but also to themselves. And we already know that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
“You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time,” observed former US President Abraham Lincoln, “but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” It’s time for politicians to stop talking about a two-state solution and, instead, deal with the reality that apartheid Israel has no intention of sharing Palestine with the Palestinians. Indeed, it is expanding and wants more than just historic Palestine. That’s the truth of the matter, and the sooner the West accepts that, the better for all concerned.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.