Two-state solution: What is the answer to the Israel-Palestine conflict Donald Trump allegedly favours?

President promises plan to resolve 70-year dispute within four months

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 28 September 2018 17:56 BST
Trump backs two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Donald Trump has vowed to deliver a “fair” Middle East peace plan within four months.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York City, the US president said he hoped to be able to bring an end to the 70-year Israel-Palestine conflict and publicly endorsed a two-state solution for the first time.

“I really believe something will happen. It is a dream of mine to be able to get that done prior to the end of my first term [in 2021],” he added.

But how realistic is Mr Trump’s goal, how has his declaration been received and what exactly are the options available?

What has been the reaction to Donald Trump’s announcement?

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has met frequently with Mr Trump of late, thanked him for his “extraordinary support”.

“It is important to set what is inadmissible to us: Israel will not relinquish security control west of Jordan. This will not happen so long as I am prime minister and I think the Americans understand that,” he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Mr Netanyahu's acceptance of the Palestinians' right to their own state is not shared by Naftali Bennett, his own education minister, who responded: “The president of the US is a true friend of Israel. However, it must be emphasised that… there will not be a Palestinian state. That would be a disaster for Israel.”

The US has had no contact with the Palestinian leadership since Washington relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv in December 2017, therein recognising the holy city claimed by both sides as Israel’s capital.

Mr Trump made matters worse by slashing $500 million in aid to the Palestinians via the US contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency, seen by some as an attempt to weaken Palestinian unity and promoting warnings from observers about the possibility of further violence erupting.

Their president, Mahmoud Abbas, told the UN: “This administration has reneged on all previous US commitments and has undermined the two-state solution.”

Palestinian foreign affairs minister Riyad al-Maliki said Mr Trump's words at the General Assembly had been too vague to amount to meaningful progress in bringing “real peace in our region”.

Perhaps the most scathing reaction to his announcement came from Yossi Beilin, architect of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords: “What does he know? What did he do in life?”, Mr Beilin asked NBC.

“It is tragic comedy. When I saw the leader of the free world say, ‘If my son-in-law cannot solve the Israel-Palestinian problem, nobody can do that,’ I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh,” he added, alluding to Jared Kushner, given the unenviable task of bringing peace to the Middle East.

What would a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict consist of?

A two-state solution to the disputed territory almost came into being in 1947, when the UN proposed carving a new state from Palestine west of the River Jordan: one housing Jews, the other Palestinian Arabs.

The latter party rejected the idea and the Israeli state was founded on 14 May 1948, prompting the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli War, which forced 700,000 Palestinians to flee the fighting, seeking refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often without citizenship being granted.

Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt held Gaza until the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel forces conquered those territories.

Palestinian nationalists under Yasser Arafat and right-wing Israelis led by Menahem Begin called for a Greater Palestine and a Greater Israel respectively, until Arafat began to move towards a two-state solution in 1974 and established a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza in 1993 following the breakthrough in Oslo.

Mr Arafat also encouraged Palestinians, 5.3 million of whom live as refugees outside of Israel, to observe Nakba Day every year in response to Jews marking Israeli Independence Day, mourning the “catastrophe” of the loss of territory they consider to be their homeland in an act of ethnic cleansing and the still-deserted villages to which they long to return.

Israel, however, refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return because doing so, they say, would compromise the Jewish nature of the state.

While Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Mr Netanyahu have all advocated a Palestinian state, agreement on what form independent, self-governing states should take is hard to come by. Any division of the land would be highly contentious for myriad religious and political reasons.

Mr Netanyahu has long insisted that any newly-formed Palestine would need to be demilitarised and recognise Israel as the home of the Jewish faith.

What other solutions have been proposed?

A one-state solution would merge Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into one country.

The incorporation of Arab Muslims would though bring an end to Israel as an ethnically Jewish state, which Israel has strongly opposed in the past.

One alternative suggested would see Israel annexe the West Bank and remain as a single state. This would require the eviction of Palestinians currently present there or the denial of their right to vote to maintain Israel’s Jewish integrity, which most observers would regard as an unacceptable violation of their basic human rights.

A three-state solution has also been discussed in the past – an economic union between Israel, Jordan and a Palestine formed from the West Bank and Gaza likened to that between the Benelux countries in Europe.

Quite what form Mr Trump's eventual plan will take remains unknown but American relations with the Palestinian camp will need to improve drastically before he has any realistic hope of achieving his stated aim and succeeding where so many before him have failed.

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