Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.
The Con Position
Like the Pro Position posted previously, there are perhaps, some subtleties to this position. First of all, it seems to imply the U.S. is currently pressuring Israel to drive toward the two-state solution. However, there seems to be little to no overt pressure being applied now or in the past. The same is not true outside of the U.S. The U.N. as well as many E.U. nations, while not sanctioning Israel, has condemned its responses to the two-state solution. Moreover, the Palestinians have had some successes pressuring Israel with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. A January 2016 article in the New York Times explained :
Formally, the B.D.S. movement began with a 2005 Palestinian campaign—endorsed by more than a hundred and seventy Palestinian civil-society organizations—to encourage public condemnation in the West of the occupation, the settlements, and, arguably, their ideological roots. Leaders of the B.D.S. movement have also called for “full equality” for Palestinian citizens in Israel proper and endorsed the demand for a Palestinian right of return. Omar Barghouti, a founder of the movement, insists that B.D.S. does not threaten Israel’s survival but rather its “unjust order.”
In 2014, the Obama administration released a report considering sanctions against Israel and outlined several measures it could take to pressure Israel with regard to settlements in East Jerusalem. One of the measures included refusing to veto U.N. resolutions which condemned Israel which is exactly what happened in December of 2016 when the U.S abstained on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. This abstention was the most visible sign of overt pressure arising from an apparent general shift by the Obama administration away from unconditional support for Israel. Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu was obviously disturbed by the U.S. abstention but it is unclear at this time what kind of pressure if any, was experienced in Israel. I am not aware of any laws or action taken in Israel since that time to curb the building of settlements which can be directly attributed to a reaction from the U.S. abstention in the U.N. Trump, on the other hand, did tell Netanyahu to "hold off on settlements for a bit". Is that a signal, the U.S. will continue to "pressure" Israel while declaring absolute friendship? It is far too early to tell.
A Two-State Solution Solves
The current situation is often called the Arab-Israeli conflict and that aptly defines the harms in the status quo. Terrorism, retaliation, bigotry and generations of people learning to hate others has created a situation where hopes dim with every passing year. The ground work for a two-state solution was laid in the 1940s and agreed-to in the 1990s and the two-state solution remains the best possible option for solving the conflict. A key issue for both sides is security and especially for Israel in light of the fact some nations in the area have called for Israel's eradication. Founding a legitimate Palestinian state could improve Israel's security.
A two-state solution would also improve Israel’s security vis-à-vis Iran, according to Walt. “By removing Iran’s main source of leverage,” he writes, “and by facilitating rapprochement between Israel and countries such as Saudi Arabia (that have their own concerns about Iran), a two- state solution may in fact be the best way to minimize the threat that Iran now presents.”
In addition, a negotiation with Palestine would improve Israel’s reputation in the Middle East and help Israel reach its goal of “enduring legitimacy” in the region. Given its nuclear arsenal and conventional military strength, occupying the West Bank no longer serves an essential security purpose for Israel. Israeli forces should relinquish the occupied territories and allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state, a step that would help re-legitimize Israel in the eyes of the international community. Many countries in the Middle East refuse to acknowledge Israel’s existence, but most have pledged to do so if a two-state solution is reached.
A workable two-state solution would also require a secure Palestine. A Palestinian state would need to have security forces that could ensure internal order and patrol its own borders, but without posing an existential threat to Israel. Accordingly, reaching an understanding on specific security arrangements and capabilities is bound to be central to any “final status” negotiation.
“The most likely arrangements for a future Palestinian state,” writes Walt, “seek to maximize Israel’s security by ensuring that the future Palestinian state is never in a position to threaten Israel directly. . . . Although this would be a dramatic improvement from the Palestinians’ present condition, these constraints are still bound to be deeply worrying, especially given the potential for future disputes over access to water resources and religious sites.” Because extremists on both sides are likely to use violence to try to derail a future agreement, an international peacekeeping force might be needed while Palestinian security institutions were being strengthened.
Despite inevitable disputes and obstacles, in the end Israel stands to benefit from an independent and secure Palestine derived from a two-state solution.
“Today, Israel’s security would in fact be enhanced by a competent and legitimate Palestinian state that could provide for its own people and keep order in the area under its control,” Walt writes. “Paradoxically, a weak or divided Palestinian community is precisely the sort of environment in which anti-Israeli terrorism can flourish.”
And some scholars who are experts in Middle East Policy insist the Two-State Solution is the "only" solution to bring about peace.
The two-state solution is not one of many options; it is the only option. This right of the Israelis and Palestinians has garnered tremendous currency in the last 60 years, at many conferences, many meetings. The Clinton parameters, the Roadmap, the Arab Peace Initiative, the current negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians — all speak about the simple requirement of a two-state solution. Yes, it will take bold action. The Israelis will have to come to the conclusion that a two-state solution cannot be just a name. It has to have facts — proper borders, proper places for the Palestinians. This means to me relinquishing 99 percent — I say 99 for a reason — of the West Bank and certainly the entire Gaza Strip in order to establish an economically viable Palestinian state, independent, living side by side with the state of Israel. Consistently, Palestinians as well as Israelis — between 69 and 70 to 73 percent — all support without any question the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace beside the state of Israel. This is what it has to be. I agree 100 percent with Bill on the issue of leadership. Leadership has been in short supply in Israel as well as among the Palestinians.
And not only must the United States take the lead and continue to push toward a two-state solution, but other Western nations must help as well.
This conflict is emphatically not between equals, but between the occupier and the occupied. Israel is creating new facts on the ground “leading towards one state and perpetual occupation” as Kerry warned. Before asking what Britain can do now to promote a just peace, it is worth saying what won’t work. Quiet diplomacy, for one. We’ve tried that. Quiet diplomats get ignored. Second, US-led shuttle diplomacy, such as Kerry conducted for nine months. The US is necessary but not sufficient to resolve this conflict. And while no one can be sure what hand President Trump will play, the omens are bad.
And we can’t leave it to the two conflicting parties to sort it out. The Middle East peace process became just that – a process. Direct unconditional negotiations between the strong and the weak only leave the weak, weaker. That’s not how to end the occupation. It will need an initiative by the international community, shaping the outcome, providing security guarantees, upholding the law, ensuring a better tomorrow for both peoples. The Paris conference should develop a wider consensus based on security council resolution 2334 and re-commit all Arab states to recognising Israel in return for a sovereign Palestine.
And, the new U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, also plans to continue leading an international effort to drive toward the two-state solution.
Guterres strongly believes in multilateralism when it comes to peacemaking, with an important role for the UN headquarters and UN specialized agencies. While he respects the leading role of the United States, he believes in greater equality of influence between all the permanent status stakeholders and parties. He intends to consult with the five Security Council permanent members (United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China) on a regular basis on all international peace efforts. In this context, the latest Quartet report (from the United States, Russia, EU, UN) on the Israeli-Palestinian issue would serve him as a basis for a future two-state solution process.
Two-State Solution Is Popular
While public opinion polls are usually not good sources of information, I think it is important to drive home the fact the two-state solution does have support, even in Israel, despite what seems to be loud voices to the contrary. The Ben-Meir card, above, claims majority support for the solution and this is reaffirmed in a 2017 survey.
Apparently, the the two state solution isn’t dead just yet.
That’s according to a poll conducted by the dovish pro Israel lobby J Street, which found that 68% of Israelis favor an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, reported by Haaretz.
Pundits have been sounding the death knell for the two state solution for years. That assessment has gained mainstream traction since Donald Trump’s appointment of an Israel envoy, bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, who has backed Israeli annexation of the land Palestinians claim for a state.
Surprisingly, the J Street poll found that support for two states has actually grown since a 2014 poll that said that 62% of Israelis prefer two states.
No parameters for such a solution or possible borders for the two states were suggested to respondents, making it impossible to know what form Israelis believe a Palestinian state might take.
The recent J Street poll was conducted after United States Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech detailing his vision for a solution to the conflict. Five hundred Israeli Jews and Arabs were polled.
Predictably, religious, nationalist and right wing party voters were less likely to support a two state solution than center and left party voters. But a surprisingly high percentage of right wing voters supported the two state solution, too. As Haaretz noted, two out of five Israelis who vote for the pro-settler Jewish Home party said they supported the creation of a Palestinian state.
The poll seemed to contradict another survey by the Israel Democracy Institute which found that only 35% of Israelis agreed with Kerry’s assessment that Israel could not remain both Jewish and democratic without a two state solution. Fifty-four percent did not agree.
The Role of Pressure
Looking at the previous section on solvency, Fein 2017 explains the situation is not a conflict between equals. Israel is in a decidedly more advantageous position enjoying the benefits of U.S. intelligence and military support. International pressure provides an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to enhance their negotiating position which serves to level the playing field.
Continued failure by Israelis and Palestinians to make progress toward a negotiated solution could have a number of regional and global implications. Palestinian leaders support initiatives to advance their statehood claims and appear to be encouraging or taking advantage of international legal and economic pressure on Israel in an effort to improve the Palestinian position vis-à-vis Israel. Israeli construction (including of Jewish settlements or neighborhoods) and security measures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could also have implications for final-status issues. Such matters attract significant interest within the United States and among a number of other international actors.
Current U.S. and international efforts to preserve the viability of a negotiated “two-state solution” attract skepticism because of regional turmoil and domestic reluctance among key Israeli and Palestinian leaders and constituencies to contemplate political or territorial concessions. As a result, Western leaders are left wondering if and how they can improve diplomatic prospects. Meanwhile, Israelis debate whether their leaders should participate in international initiatives, advance their own diplomatic proposals, act unilaterally, or manage the “status quo.” [1-2]
For those who claim pressure on Israel does not work, one only needs to look at the seemingly wavering positions of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has supported the two-state solution often throughout his political career but his doubts about the feasibility of achieving such a solution leads to mixed signals and uncertainty about his positions. Only when Obama applied pressure did Netanyahu appear to reaffirm his commitment to the two-state solution. It seems Netanyahu supports the two-state solution in principle but U.S. pressure helps keep the issue focused and the signals clear.
Netanyahu has no intention of renouncing the two-state solution, which he first publicly supported in June 2009 in his famous Bar Ilan speech after being pressured by President Barack Obama a few months before the start of his second term as prime minister. Then, like now, Netanyahu announced his support for the idea but added certain qualifications, which made it impossible for the Palestinians to adopt his two-state principle as the basis for negotiations. His demands ranged from the Palestinians recognizing Israel as the “state of the Jewish people” as a prerequisite for any negotiations to insisting that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized. As far as Netanyahu was concerned, he had found the perfect formula to prove his goodwill to the world while also presenting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the one blocking all attempts to reach a peace agreement.
Even now, with an allegedly pro-settler president occupying the Oval Office, Netanyahu has no intention of abandoning the idea of a two-state solution. He realizes that it would be diplomatic malpractice on his part otherwise, so he continues to declare his commitment to the idea. Hence, in his interview with the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” Dec. 11, Netanyahu said he still believes in two states living side by side in peace and that he wants Trump to help him achieve that.
Trump Supports the Two-State Solution
The major problem this topic addresses is the nearly 70 year conflict that has been fought in the southwestern Levant region since Israeli refugees began flooding into the region under the banner of Zionism, a movement to establish a secure and recognized Jewish nation. The movement was met with armed opposition from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq and continued throughout the decades in a series of intense conflicts. The newly formed government of Israel enjoyed strong support from the U.S. which claimed solidarity with the tiny democratic nation surrounded by "enemies" but no doubt a very strong pro-Jewish lobby exerting tremendous influence upon the U.S. government has also helped shape U.S. policy. Despite what on-face looked like soft support for Israel, by Obama, cooperation and support for Israel remained strong, behind the scenes. Trump, on the other hand, is much more overt about his support. With regard to the two-state solution, Trump has been publicly ambiguous, claiming to not care what kind of solution is reached, but his focus is geared more toward addressing the issues which impede a two-state solution.
A major contention is centered on the issue of settlements. As Israel continues to annex new territories and occupy more and more zones on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the situation becomes increasingly difficult. Some are claiming a better strategy for the time being is to "build up, not out". It seems unlikely the pre-1967 borders can be honored, but by ceasing to spread out, the situation may be able to be stabilized. Trump, a real-estate tycoon, understands this fact.
President Trump seems to accept that logic, having told the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom: “There is limited remaining territory.… Every time you take land for a settlement, less territory remains. I’m not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace.”
Here again, one can see the logic of the Bush-Sharon letter, which offers a basis for limits on settlements but also formally acknowledges that the final border between the two states is not going to be the 1949 armistice lines or the lines before the 1967 war.
There is a wide consensus within the Israeli body politic that the June 4, 1967, lines are not defensible and cannot become the border in any peace agreement. Moreover, going back to 2000, we developed with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators the concept of settlement blocs and territorial swaps to accommodate a significant number of Israeli settlers and compensate the Palestinians for modifying the border. With 75 percent of the Israeli settlers living on about 5 percent of the West Bank territory, this concept was designed to appeal to the mainstream of the settlement movement.
In fact, Trump's strategy, rather than remove pressure from Israel and abandon a two-state solution, may be to spread the pressure upon the Palestinian leadership as well. Perhaps one can learn an important lesson from the failure of Obama's one-sided approach.
But just because Trump isn’t demanding a two-state solution doesn’t mean he is opposing it or even that his stance makes it less likely. For eight years, President Obama insisted that the Israelis give up the West Bank and part of Jerusalem in order to allow a Palestinian state. Putting all the pressure on the Israelis was a bigger mistake than anything Trump has said. Obama didn’t take into account that Palestinian politics and the Hamas–Fatah rivalry made it impossible for their so-called moderates to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be located. Obama’s approach had the effect of rewarding Palestinian intransigence, which doomed his efforts. In saying he didn’t care what the terms of peace were so long as both sides accepted them, Trump sent the opposite message to the Palestinians. The Palestinians believe that pressure from the international community will isolate the Jewish state and make it vulnerable. Trump’s refusal to sanctify the two-state mantra is a warning that if Palestinians want a state, they will not get it by jettisoning negotiations and asking the United Nations to impose terms on Israel — which is how they rewarded Obama for his efforts on their behalf.
The World View
Finally I would like to conclude this point of view with a look at how the rest of the world look at the two-state solution. And surprisingly, what Trumps own ambassador to the United Nations had to say.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday the United States still supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a day after President Donald Trump suggested he is open to new ways to achieve peace.
"First of all, the two-state solution is what we support. Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support the two-state solution - that would be an error," Haley told reporters at the United Nations.
"We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well: which is what does it take to bring these two sides to the table; what do we need to have them agree on."
And Parker looks to our European partners and the Secretary-General:
French and British diplomats also repeated their longstanding support of the policy, in a show of how Trump's remarks on Wednesday had caused confusion.
"The UK continues to believe that the best solution for peace in the Middle East is the two-state solution," said British ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned during a visit to Cairo that was no viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than the establishment of a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel.
And of course, the Palestinians have a voice we must listen to as well.
After a senior level White House official said that the Trump administration will not insist on a two-state solution, the Palestinians warned America against abandoning its longstanding approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If the Trump administration rejects this policy, it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member, in a statement today (Wednesday).
“Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy,” she continued.
For all these reasons and more, we urge a Con ballot.
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