Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.
The Pro Position
The Pro side of this debate claims the U.S. should, basically, no longer insist upon a two-state solution. It is not "the" two-state solution in this resolution. It is "a" two-state solution. Let's say any solution which allows Israel and Palestine to each govern independent states within the same region behind secure borders. We could tend to think of "the" two-state solution as the one negotiated at the Oslo Accords requiring Israel to to draw-back to its pre-1967 borders. So, is the Pro advocating a total abandonment of any solution which can be deemed a two-state solution? In the strictest interpretation of the resolution, there is nothing which says the U.S. should abandon prospects for a two-state solution, rather merely stop pressuring Israel to accept it. I don't know how significant these subtleties are with respect to this debate. It could be argued, Netanyahu as leader of Israel, has already accepted "a" two-state solution with conditions not least of which includes the recognition of Israel's right to exist. If Israel already accepts the two-state solution then why continue to pressure them to accept it? Well, again, it is not a question of getting them to accept a solution but rather an issue of actively working toward a finalized solution. So, there are many ways to take this resolution if the intent is to split hairs and quibble over subtle details. I think it is very possible and desirable to debate this resolution on much broader terms. More simply Pro can claim a two-state solution is not possible and while there may be alternatives, Pro need not defend any of them. After all, it is very clear in Public Forum debate (although this seems to be an impediment to good debate sometimes) debaters ought not present a "plan" or "counter-plan". I discuss this further under the section presenting alternatives.
This topic is potentially controversial. In fact I would it say it is potentially more controversial than the "Islamic Cultural Center at Ground-Zero" topic proposed in 2010 which was replaced by the NSDA. On the Pro side, much of the controversy I foresee arises from "blame-fixing" which could arouse negative responses from judges, debaters and observers. Nevertheless, if we are to debate this topic we must examine the arguments on both sides in an open manner. Forensics is, after all, an exercise in discovering the truth or at least moving us closer to some mutual agreement about the current situation which Public Forum debate does not require us to solve. In 2010, schools in our area chose to debate the cultural center and ground-zero topic rather than the alternative topic proposed by the NSDA. The debates were well done, with out any controversy, protest or lack of balance. I am confident this debate will be conducted in the same manner. We will rely on our sources and take it from there.
Two-State Solution Is Obsolete
The two-state solution, while viable in 1993 is no longer a good, workable idea. The situation in Palestine has hardly been unchanging. The rise of rival political groups in Palestine such as Fatah, Hamas, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) presents challenges as to identifying which group or groups are the true voice of the Palestinian people. To make matters worse, groups like Hamas and the PLO have been classified as terrorist groups by the U.S. and Israel. Additionally, further complications have been added by Israel's ongoing expansion of settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are claiming lands which were inside the pre-1967 borders established for Palestine and would require withdrawal and destruction of the settlement areas before handing the areas back to Palestine. Many on the Israeli right-wing are vehemently opposed to such moves and exert enough sway on Israeli conservatives they can collapse the Israeli coalition government and derail negotiations.
Scheindlin & Waxman (2016):
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a resounding reelection in March 2015 after promising voters that he would oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. Although he has since walked back this statement, he has also reiterated that even if he supports the notion of Palestinian statehood, the current situation and the recent wave of violence require Israel to continue controlling the West Bank and maintaining the status quo in the Gaza Strip. Prominent members of Israel’s government such as Naftali Bennett, Education Minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, are even less equivocal: “The era of a Palestinian state is coming to a close.”
These are just the latest blows to the prospects of a two-state solution. Add to this the failure of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to broker either a comprehensive or more limited framework for a peace agreement based on two states; the PLO stepping up its strategy of ‘internationalizing’ the conflict in recent years and seeking to pressure Israel through the United Nations and other international bodies (most notably, the International Criminal Court); the declining Palestinian domestic support for, and legitimacy of, Mahmoud Abbas, the octogenarian decade-long president of the Palestinian Authority who has been the main proponent of the negotiated two-state solution in Palestinian society; Hamas’ continued rule over the Gaza Strip and its staunch rejection of Israel’s existence; the relentless growth and geographic spread of Israel’s West Bank settlements and the number of Israeli settlers (their number has more than doubled in the West Bank since the year 2000, in addition to East Jerusalem settlers) and it is easy to understand why so many observers of the conflict have come to regard the possibility of a two-state solution as fanciful at best. Even former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a determined optimist, believes that “there is zero chance of the two-state solution” at the moment.[83-84]
Even Palestinians who, in the beginning supported the concept of the two-state solution as originally agreed in Oslo, have become disillusioned and skeptical. The unpopularity of the solution is spreading on both sides of the conflict eroding any hope of reaching a lasting agreement.
Asseburg & Busse (2016):
A two-state settlement is becoming increasingly unlikely. The financial and political costs of implementing it rise with every settlement unit needing to be demolished and with every settler needing to be evacuated and compensated. At the same time, the occupation and the construction of settlements are increasingly fragmenting the Palestinian territories – and thus the territory that would be available for a Palestinian state. Other factors contribute to the problem: the construction of settlement infrastructure and the separation barrier; the isolation of East Jerusalem and the blockade of the Gaza Strip; and a complex system of checkpoints, separated streets and permits. In addition, the split between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has led to the creation of two government and security apparatuses and two legal systems, is endangering the creation of one single Palestinian state.
As a result, populations in Israel and the Palestinian areas have increasingly abandoned the two-state approach. While this formula enjoyed majority support among both the Israeli and Palestinian populations in polls from the mid-2000s onwards, support has noticeably waned in both societies since then. According to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), in December 2014 a two-state settlement was rejected by a majority (51 percent) of the Palestinians surveyed for the first time. By December 2015, the rejection rate had reached 54 percent. In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed no longer thought the approach viable because of settlement construction. The same trend has been shown among the Israeli population. According to a poll by the Harry S. Truman Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, support in Israel for a two state settlement stood at 51 percent in June 2015. A year earlier, it had been at 62 percent. Clearly, many Israelis share the assessment that a two-state settlement is no longer realistic. They also do not expect it to bring about peace.
One of the major obstacles thrown into the road to peace comes from Israeli settlements. According to a report by Daoud Kuttab, the Israelis have turned a blind eye to expanding settlements while telling the rest of the world they were supporting a two-state solution.
As new settlements were coming up throughout the occupied West Bank, Israeli officials kept assuring the world that they were supporting the two-state solution. To demonstrate their committment [sic] to they two-state they claimed new settlements were not illegal while doing nothing to stop them.
The fact that many of the new settlements built outside the major blocks that were close to the Green line meant that, with small land swaps, a Palestinian state was possible, though difficult.
The fact that the Israeli government was not legally approving these particular “outposts” allowed Israel to get away with its lie that it supports an eventual negotiated agreement.
But even John Kerry, the US secretary of state, was not convinced of it, telling the US Congress that when new Israeli settlements were announced in April 2014, the direct Palestinian-Israeli talks “went poof”.
Under Barack Obama, the cunning Israelis were consistently saying that the new “outposts” had not been approved by the Israeli government, which was true. But they were allowed to exist, get water, electricity, Internet connection as well as military protection.
In Obama’s absence, the Israeli legislature, with thin majority of 60 votes, was able to pass a law that retroactively legalised all the outposts that the Netanyahu government had repeatedly said were not legal and were not approved by the Israeli government.
The decision of the Israeli Knesset should finally convince anyone who was buying the Israeli claims that it was serious about peace and about the two-state solution.
Netanyahu, who was away in London when the vote was taken, might claim that he did not vote for it, although his entire coalition, without exception, cast their vote in favour.
Ironically, while in London, Netanyahu three times refused to answer questions by the press if he was still supportive of the two-state solution.
Clearly the charade is over and therefore there is no longer reason to defend what has been a lie all along.
While the settlements and their supporting infrastructure have proven to be a huge impediment to implementing a two-state solution, the institutional obstacles are equally severe on the Palestinian side. The physical distance between Gaza and the West Bank seems to have contributed to a fractured government structure with both ruling groups on either side of the fracture lacking resolve or power enough to represent the population of Palestine.
The network of Israeli settlements, the encirclement of some Palestinian cities, the construction of new road systems, and the construction of a wall inside the West Bank are physical obstacles to the construction of a Palestinian state that would live side by side with Israel. Critics have been warning for over a generation that the “land for peace” formula—a phrase used when Palestinian statehood was considered unspeakable—was rapidly becoming impossible. After more than 30 years, it is time to acknowledge that it will take a herculean effort to prevent these critics from being vindicated.
Institutional obstacles are no less severe than the physical ones. For a decade there was a Palestinian leadership publicly committed to a two-state solution. Some of those leaders still hold office, but they retain little authority. Fatah, the strongest political party favoring a two-state solution, lies discredited and divided. On an official level, Palestine now has two governments, one based in Ramallah and one in Gaza. Those in Ramallah preside over a bureaucratic apparatus in a state of advanced decay and are so totally dependent on international financial and diplomatic support that Palestinians perceive them more as international trustees than as domestic leaders. Those in Gaza, while not so dependent on the international sponsors of the peace process, reject both the diplomatic processes constructed over the past two decades and the vision underlying them. There can be no negotiated solution of any kind in such a setting. [2-3]
U.S. Pressure is Useless
The resolution specifically claims the U.S. should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution. The U.S. can pressure Israel in a variety ways. It can levy certain kinds of sanctions, withhold funding and shift its diplomatic support in ways which impedes Israel's autonomy or initiatives. But Israel has become less responsive to U.S. pressure.
A widespread argument in the peace process debate is that the international community does not pressure Israel enough. It has often been suggested that Washington should leverage its annual military assistance (currently approximately $3 billion), but is is doubtful that the United States could ever consider withdrawing such a package (which enormously benefits the U.S. defense industry) and risk endangering precious security benefits from its cooperation, notably in the field of counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation.
In addition, U.S. support for Israel remains very popular for a variety of strategic, political, cultural and religious reasons, and pressuring Israel can be counterproductive, as witnessed by the country’s reaction to the 2012 vote on Palestinian UN membership or to the 2013 EU decision on eligibility of Israeli entities to EU assistance and bilateral cooperation.
A strategy based on pressuring Israel would also disincentivize the Palestinian leadership to make concessions. More to the point, Israel would not back off under pressure if it felt that its most essential interests are at stake. Despite its current economic difficulties, the country is no longer the cash-strapped state that it was until the 1990s: it would almost certainly judge that losing U.S. assistance is a price worth paying. Proponents of this solution point out to a 1991 precedent, in which Washington successfully pressured Israel to freeze the settlements by withholding $10 billion in loan guarantees that the country needed to absorb immigrants. However, the times then were different and the stakes much more limited. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, such an approach overestimates the role of outside parties. Indeed, the role of the United States is useful, if not even necessary, but looking back to history, one should bear in mind that the three major peace achievements of the past 35 years (Camp David-1, Oslo-1, the Jordan-Israel peace treaty) came from the parties themselves. This means that outsiders can nudge the parties and occasionally condition part of their assistance to such or such positioning in the negotiating process, but cannot force them to peace. [2-3]
Obama's strategy with regards to expansion of settlements and driving toward a two-state solution was built upon an approach which tended to be less conciliatory to Israel. Basically Obama's strategy was to apply greater pressure on Israel than many of his predecessors in the hope Israel would yield toward a reconciliation with the Palestinians. However this one-sided approach was a dismal failure.
An enduring feature of American diplomacy in the Middle East is the background chorus calling on the president to put more pressure on Israel. Books, newspapers, magazines, and lecture halls are filled with experts reciting the catechism that Israel is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, and that only a determined president ready to defy the fearsome Israel lobby can bring Israel to heel. Europeans, Arab governments, State Department Arabists, and even some Jewish propressure organizations reinforce this message.
Some presidents, like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, instinctively resist these entreaties (though even they succumbed to the pressure at times). Other presidents, like Barack Obama, are receptive to the pressure argument from the beginning. And of all the issues on the menu of Middle East diplomacy, the one on which the pressure theory is most seductive is the issue of settlements. The pressure theory had its first full-scale test in the first two years of Obama. And Obama got a result opposite to the one that he was promised, because, contrary to what was promised, we are now further from real peace negotiations than at any time since 1991. A scientist looking at such dismal results in a test tube would conclude that the theory was wrong. But political science being what it is, most of the Middle East pressurists cling to the opposite conclusion. They continue to believe that settlements are the main obstacle to peace negotiations, and that a president who wants to accelerate peacemaking should start with confronting Israel about them. It is an approach that has been proven to be counterproductive, but the pressurists cling to it with every fiber of their being.
It is useful to know about the alternative proposals to the two-state solution since, no doubt, they will be discussed and judges and observers will need to know there are alternatives and Pro is not merely rejecting a two-state solution and leaving no options. This is where is can get tricky for some. Public Forum Debate (as the anti-Policy Debate genre) is forbidden from presenting plans or counter-plans in traditional circuits. Discussion of alternate proposals is not technically a plan or counter-plan even though in this case they are competing proposals. While we may be able to claim, the U.S. should stop pressuring Israel to work toward a two-state solution based on the fact it is unpopular or difficult to implement, the argument is much more compelling when it can be shown there are other ideas which avoid the disadvantages while possibly solving the harms equally as well or better than the tow-state solution. Is this more or less the definition of a counter-plan? Not really, because counter-plans are generally non-resolutional so I see no problem with looking at alternative proposals in this debate because they support the resolution rather than avoid it.
One of the most discussed ideas is the One-State plan which also includes a variant known as the bi-national plan and requires the establishment of a single nation where all residents are given full-rights as citizens. Under current ideas the solution proposes that Israel governs and provides security for the newly constituted nation.
The concept is still in its infancy, but it has a number of high-profile supporters—many of them from the far right of the political spectrum. “It would mean creating an entirely new system of government— something we’ve never seen before,” Dani Dayan, formerly a leading member of the Yesha Council, the umbrella movement for Israeli settlers, told me during the last election, when he made a short-lived bid for a Knesset seat. “But it’s more realistic than the two-state solution.” (Dayan is now Israel’s consul general in New York, and has said he will support whatever happens to be government’s policy; he discussed the confederation idea before his appointment.)
It would be implemented slowly, supporters say, to build trust on both sides. But it would end with equal rights for all. Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, has long supported such an outcome: He is a lifelong Likudnik who opposes Palestinian statehood, but also a classical liberal, one of the few right-wing politicians in Israel who still speaks passionately about equality and against racism. At a conference in Jerusalem this week, the day before Netanyahu and Trump met in Washington, he repeated his call for this kind of one-state outcome. “Applying sovereignty to an area gives citizenship to all those who live there,” he said. “There is not [a different] law for Israelis and non-Israelis.”
The Regional Solution
This solution is interesting because it involves Egypt and Jordan. Under this proposal, Egypt would transfer some land to Gaza and Jordan to the West Bank to serve as the Palestinian homeland.
The Palestinians will receive an area the equivalent of 105 percent of the original “1967 borders territory.” Specifically, this land will include the modified pre-1967 areas, the territory transferred by Egypt (equivalent to the West Bank areas the Palestinians will cede to Israel), and the territory transferred by Jordan (equivalent to about 5 percent of the West Bank). The additional territory will make a substantive economic difference for the Palestinians, facilitating the resolution of the refugee problem by offering many a bright future in the “greater Gaza.
The predecessor of the Regional Solution was the Jordanian plan which required Israel to give up the West Bank entirely.
In 1988, a clandestine meeting in London between King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres served as the climax of bilateral discussions on the issue. These discussions centered on a third option: designating most of the West Bank as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. According to this concept, Israel would have given up almost the entire territory, and the Palestinians would have been free of Israeli occupation and able to enjoy limited independence. Meanwhile, Jordan would have been the only country permitted to deploy armed forces in the area. Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir rejected the idea, however. Not long thereafter, King Hussein announced that Jordan would cease representing West Bank Palestinians. In the years since, Jordan has contended that the PLO is the Palestinians’ sole legitimate representative. The notion of a Palestinian state thus became the only acceptable solution.
This proposal is vague but basically grants a satisfactory level of autonomy to Palestinians while passing the security role to Israel.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed the idea of administrative autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza shortly after coming to power in 1977.
Self-rule for the Palestinians meant that Israel would be responsible for security and foreign policy while ideologically retaining a claim to Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
While limited autonomy was granted under the Oslo peace accords, it was probably viewed by both sides as an interim solution. The demise of the peace process has frozen any further progress.
The eventual shape of a final settlement has therefore yet to be determined.
For more on the idea of Palestinian autonomy, begin with this 1993 proposal published by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.
For All These Reasons...
The U.S. should stop pressuring Israel to work toward a two-state solution. After many decades of negotiations by many of the world's finest diplomats the two-state solution emerges as no solution. The current situation in the West Bank, the ever expanding push of Israeli settlements and annexations as well the uncertainty of Palestinian rule all contribute to the futility of such a solution. On the U.S. side even Jimmy Carter, John Kerry and Donald Trump seem to be looking toward alternatives. The two-state solution is dead and it's time to move on. For all these reasons and more, we urge a Pro ballot.
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