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Albert Tours Blog-  A Licensed Tour Guide - Israel

Two-states solution(s)?

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas brings back to the fore the perceived need in the West for a "Two-States solution." Such an initiative is not new however because, in fact, the Arabs have been offered such solution on multiple occasions. Here are the details.

The British Mandate

After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, Britain took control of most of the Middle East, including the area that constitutes modern Israel. The British Mandate, decided at the San Remo Conference in 1920 by the League of Nations (which was the precursor to the UN), encompassed what is today Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The goal of the mandate was already to create TWO states: one Arab and one Jewish.

British Mandate for Palestine (1920)

But, in 1921, Great Britain decided to subtract 2/3 of the territory from its mandate to create the Emirate of Transjordan and placed a Hashemite (Saudi) leader to lead it. This was done to thank the approximately 2,000 Arabian Bedouins who had joined the British-sponsored anti-Ottoman revolt led by Hussein, Sharif of Mecca, and his son Faisal. The Hashemite family did well, thanks to the British, with the creation of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921, with Faisal on the throne. But it is worth noting that the Arabs of Palestine, for their part, favoured Turkish rule, therefore were against the British. They also consider themselves (historically) as "Southern Syria" without any national claim of their own. However, against all Arab hope, Syria fell within the French mandate, and it was no longer possible for the Arabs of Palestine to claim Syrian belonging: it was in mid-1921 that the 4th Arab National Congress, meeting in Haifa, abandoned this dream of union with Syria. But, in Palestine at the same time, the British appointed in 1921 a virulent nationalist, Amin al-Husseini, as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Over time, this unwelcome choice strengthened the nationalist sentiment of the Palestinian Arabs, which was reinforced by the Mufti's exhortations to develop anti-Semitic sentiment against the Jews.

The creation of Transjordan was contrary to both the spirit of the Treaty of Versailles (which demanded that each ethnic group be able to have its own country, and be governed by its own people), and to the spirit of the mandate (because it was a historical error to deviate from the mandate by creating an Arab state alone, without at the same time providing a state for the Jews as well). From the point of view of the Jews in Palestine, this creation of Transjordan on two-thirds of the mandated territory was to be understood as a preamble to the creation of the Jewish state, desired by the League of Nations, on the remaining one-third (i.e. on the territory which corresponds to the current regions of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). Let's also note that the British and French mandates over the entire Middle East were due to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire which was on the losing side of the First World War (like, in Europe, the Empire German, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire): all current countries such as Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. were created by this breakup, and no one disputes their right to exist today, except regarding Israel !

But the British mandate continued without the creation of any Jewish state and, 17 years later, in 1936, the Arabs rebelled against the mandatory authority and against the Jews. Surprised by this revolt and having few forces on the ground to counter it, the British formed a working group, the Peel Commission, to study the causes of Arab anger and remedy them. The Commission concluded in 1937 that the reason for the violence was that two peoples, the Jews and the Arabs, wanted to govern the same territory and that the League's mandate was therefore not feasible. The solution, according to the Peel Commission, was to create two independent states, one for the Jews and one for the Arabs. In other words, a Two-State solution over the remaining one-third of the League's mandated territories began to emerge. The suggested partition of the land was in favour of the Arabs because the British offered them 78% of the territory, and the Jews were offered 22%. There was also (see map below) an international zone around the holy sites (Jerusalem and Bethlehem) and as far as Tel Aviv. Despite the tiny size of the proposed state, the Jews accepted the offer. But the Arabs rejected it and resumed their violent rebellion which only ended with the start of the Second World War in 1939. In the meantime, to satisfy the Arabs, the British closed the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration (this was the infamous policy of the White Paper) but continued to authorize Arab immigration for labour in numerous public works, roads, port of Haifa, etc.) throughout the period of their mandate. The year 1937 thus saw the first Arab rejection of a Two-State solution !

Partition Plan proposed by Peel Commission (1937)

World War II

During the Second World War, the fight against Nazism in Europe became the priority for the Jews of Palestine. A military corps was formed within the British army itself: the Jewish Brigade. It had some 30,000 Jews from Palestine and its men notably participated in the liberation of Italy against Nazi rule.

Joseph Wald from the Jewish Brigade with a mortar written "gift for Hitler"

For their part, the Arabs of Palestine rallied to the Nazi Reich and their representative, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, lived in exile in Berlin (at the expense of the Nazis) where he met with Hitler and with all the Nazi dignitaries. He also formed an Arab Waffen-SS corps in Bosnia to support the German war effort.

The Arab world often defends itself from having been on the side of the Nazi camp by explaining that the Mufti was not the representative of the Arab position. But this defence does not hold up because, for example, Egypt had hoped for a victory of Rommel in Africa and had not sent any soldiers to the British ranks throughout the war, citing a lack of "military resources". However, shortly afterwards in 1948, Egypt did find such military means to invade Israel with its army, tanks and bombs !!

Meeting between Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem

The historic UN vote

After the war, when the Holocaust became publicly known, pressure mounted on Britain to accept 200,000 Jews from the death camps, who were still held at the very sites of their persecution. But the doors remain closed to them despite attempts at illegal immigration that were mostly doomed to failure: this was notably the episode of the Exodus ship. Then, in 1947, the British finally gave up on their mandate and asked the United Nations to find a solution. Like the Peel Commission, the UN formed a new international commission which also concluded that the way to solve the problem was to share the territory. In November 1947, the UN therefore voted for the creation of two states according to a partition plan proposed by the commission. Once again, the Jews accept this Two-State solution and, once again, the Arabs reject it. This was their second rejection !

It is also good to remember that the Arabs of Palestine had chosen the side of Nazi Germany, which ended up as the losing side, against the British with whom the Jews of Palestine had allied themselves. But the logic of war, about the loser losing something to the winner, did not apply in the case, of the Jews were treated as if the war had not taken place and as if they didn't contribute to the winning side !

The Arab-Israeli wars

The Arabs rejected this partition solution by launching all-out war against the nascent State of Israel. This was Israel's War of Independence, known in the Arab world as the "Nakba" (= the catastrophe) forgetting that this "catastrophe" was caused by the Arab rejection of a more peaceful two-state solution !

Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria (which, let's remember, only had their own right to exist thanks to the recent fall of the Ottoman Empire) united with the Arabs of Palestine against Israel in this conflict of 1948-1949, but they failed to destroy the Jewish state. Israel won the war and soon after began building their new nation at the price of blood (1% of the Israeli population at the time died in this conflict). Most of the lands reserved by the UN for an Arab state (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) became territories occupied, not by Israel, but by Jordan which had crossed their acknowledged border (the former Transjordan) and invaded Mandatory Palestine. It is worth noting that Jordanian success was largely because this newly formed army (called the Arab Legion) was created, armed, trained and led by British officers ! In fact, the commander-in-chief of the Arab Legion was John Bagot Glubb, nicknamed "Glubb Pasha", who remained in post until 1956. At the start of this war, the Jews denounced Great Britain for being de facto in war against Israel due to their direct involvement in supporting and arming the Arab Legion.

Article in The Times, dated May 18th, 1948

Some 19 years later, in June 1967, the Arabs waged another war against Israel, this time led by Egypt under the belligerent exhortations of its President Nasser to "throw the Jews into the sea." The 1967 conflict, known as the Six-Day War, ended in a resounding victory for Israel. Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip, as well as the Sinai Peninsula, fell under Israeli control. The Israeli government was then divided on the question of what to do with these seized territories. Half wanted to return the West Bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt in exchange for lasting peace. The other half instead wanted to cede these territories to local Arabs who had begun to call themselves "Palestinians", since the creation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) in 1964, in the hope that they would eventually build their own state in these territories and conclude a lasting peace with neighbouring Israel. Neither choice went far because, on September 1, 1967, the Arab League, meeting in Khartoum (Sudan), launched its famous three “Nos”:

1. No to peace with Israel

2. No to recognition of Israel

3. No to negotiation with Israel

Once again, the Arabs rejected the Two-State solution: rejection number 3.

This refusal from Khartoum also made Israeli leaders (Labor party at that time) think about the long term: this Arab refusal meant a situation of future tensions, even repeated military conflicts. So, the decision was taken to create Israeli settlements on the seized territories, particularly on lands that had already been purchased before 1948, for example Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem (the Jews of these lands had been massacred or expelled). These settlements are not strictly contrary to international law because either they were lands acquired by Jews before 1948 (or even before 1914 in some cases), or they were located on uninhabited and uncultivated land in which no Arab village existed. Under international law, a government that manages territories can use uninhabited land to create roads, housing, infrastructure, etc. And, in fact, there are also many constructions for the Palestinians on new lands, for example to expand their own towns and villages. The other reason for these settlements is that those who want to live on these lands do so because they see these lands as ancestral Jewish lands: historically, the Jews until Roman times (and well before the creation of Islam) did not live in Tel Aviv but in Judea and Samaria ! The Jewish inhabitants of the territories were moreover ready to be considered citizens of a State of Palestine rather than of the State of Israel because they are only interested in living in the ancestral lands, regardless of their citizenship and passport. In absolute terms, there are 21% of Arabs who have Israeli citizenship, so why wouldn't there be as many Jews who would one day have Palestinian nationality? If peace is real, there is no obstacle to it. Many European nationals also live in different countries of Europe. Why would it be different in a peaceful relationship between two states, Israel and Palestine? Therefore, since September 1967, Israel has initiated a policy of allowing Jews who wish to do so to settle in the ancestral lands of Judea and Samaria, if these lands had been purchased by Jews or were ceded by the government for the development of the region (housing, agriculture, economy, etc.)

Negotiations towards peace

There were then glimmers of hope for a resolution of this conflict following the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Egypt made a historic peace with Israel in 1978, but its President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. However, the momentum for peace that he created continues. In the 1990s, there were the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. But here again, the architect of these agreements on the Israeli side, Prime Minister Itzak Rabin, was assassinated in 1995. Before his death, however, he had the satisfaction of signing the historic peace agreement with Jordan in 1994. His assassination did not, however, stop the peace process which really seemed achievable (so Israel thought).

In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat at Camp David to conclude a new Two-State plan. Barack proposed to Arafat a Palestinian state in 100% of the Gaza Strip and in 92% of the West Bank (with 8% of land also being exchanged from Israeli lands), with East Jerusalem as its capital (which meant dividing the holy city in two, like post-war Berlin). But, against all expectations, after the apparent goodwill shown since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian leader rejected this offer by demanding more draconian, even unacceptable, conditions for Israel. According to the American president himself, Bill Clinton, Arafat stayed 14 days at Camp David and said “no” to everything. Worse, instead of signing a "peace of the brave" to turn the page on an almost century-old conflict, Arafat returned home and urged the Palestinians to embark on a wave of suicide attacks that has killed more than 1,000 Israelis and mutilated thousands of others in buses, wedding halls, nightclubs, pizzerias. Once again, the Arabs thus rejected the Two-State solution: rejection number 4.

Barak, Clinton and Arafat at Camp David, 2000

Gaza and Hamas

Still, following the road map of the Oslo Accords, Israel decided in 2005 to withdraw unilaterally without further negotiation from the Gaza Strip, leaving the Palestinians with total control of this region. The hope was that, while the PLO was unwilling to make peace for several reasons, giving the Palestinians complete autonomy over a territory in which they could decide their own future would in practice lead to peace on the ground. But the Israelis would quickly become disillusioned. Elections took place in Gaza in 2006 and, without any real surprise, it was not Fatah (Arafat's political party, perceived as corrupt) which won but Hamas, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt. They massacred their Fatah political opponents and cancelled the democratic process through which they got elected. They established an authoritarian religious dictatorship, rejected the Oslo Accords (including recognition of the existence of Israel), and transformed Gaza into a terrorist base from which they would be able to fire thousands of rockets at Israel in the years that followed. And, surprisingly, despite their declared extremist position, even towards the civilian population of the Gaza Strip which they use as a human shield, Hamas continues to receive financial aid from the entire world (UN, European Union, individual European countries, Arab countries). These funds are also used in large part to build underground tunnels (estimated to be about 500 miles, so as big as the London Tube and the NYC Subway systems combined) and an ad-hoc military arsenal with a view to wage a war of attrition against Israel.

Rockets shot by Hamas towards Israeli cities (source: AFP, Getty)

But despite this unstable security situation with Gaza, Israel tried again for peace in 2008... Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went even further than the offer made by Ehud Barak, by including additional land to better suit the Palestinian position. But, like his predecessor, the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (who had written a negationist thesis doubting the existence of the Holocaust) refused this new Two-State solution: rejection number 5.

Since then, the peace process is frozen. Five attempts to resolve the historical dispute through offers of a Two-State solution, all rejected by the Arabs. Worse, these refusals have always been followed by violent phases against Israel and Jews, to eclipse their refusal and place the blame on Israel in a vested cynical propaganda.

Why did the Arabs reject these offers of partition and peace? Because, as the current slogans openly say: “Free Palestine”! This means that their real wish is to "liberate" all of Palestine, "from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean)", with no room for a neighbouring Jewish state. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 63% of Palestinians reject the two-state solution. Another more recent 2021 Palestinian poll places this percentage at 59%. Palestinian opponents of this solution are therefore in the majority with around 60%. Therefore, there is obviously no possibility of a Two-State solution with such a position. But the world pretends to still believe in it and blames Israel for the failure of a Two-State solution that has been accepted or already proposed in many past occasions. Moreover, this position of "all of Palestine" also makes Hamas and the Palestinians speak of Israel as an "occupier" (on this question of so-called "occupation", read my other blog on Israel's borders) and this description is unfortunately repeated by many media outlets around the world without understanding what “occupation” of territory is in question.

Is there a solution?

The current freeze in the peace process begun with the Oslo Accords was mostly caused by the split between Fatah (which declares itself to be in favour of Oslo) and Hamas (which rejects Oslo). There is also understandable reluctance on the Israeli side to pursue a road map towards peace when the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has caused so much trouble for Israel today. Furthermore, apart from Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad also rejects any peace with Israel because, as its name suggests, they want Jihad, which is the holy war prescribed by the Quran, against Israel and against all "infidels" (the Christian Western civilisation). All these groups are part of the same ideology as Daesh (ISIS), which aims to establish an Islamic State across the world. Israel obviously cannot make peace unless the Palestinians would all first agree between themselves.

The solution, if it exists, may involve negotiations with Fatah alone and must therefore begin with the elimination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the equation, because these two groups reject the Oslo Accords and declare that they want the destruction of 'Israel. Hamas also declares that armed struggle is the only option and that international peace conferences (including Oslo) are "only a waste of time and vain efforts" (article 13 of the Hamas Charter). So as long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad exist, peace will not be possible because they are its current obstacle.

Many Western observers have also noted that Hamas' surprise attack on 7 October 2023 was undoubtedly intended to torpedo initiatives towards peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But behind Hamas, there is Iran which controls it. And in support of Iran, there are Russia, China and North Korea... The near future will tell us how far this crisis that Hamas, Iran's proxies, have started and if it would lead to further conflict within the Middle East and the world.

And what about Fatah in the peace process? Of course, the Oslo Accords are still on the table with the so-called Two-State solution, but serious obstacles are already erected on its road. Especially since the Palestinian public, if we believe the polls, seems to reject such a solution. Also, Mahmoud Abbas had previously declared that this solution must necessarily have the following aspects which are impossible for Israel to accept:

1- Acceptance of the existence of a democratic State of Israel as a neighbour but deprived from its character as a "Jewish State": for its part, the State of Palestine would be Muslim and, anyone could guess, not necessarily democratic !

2- the State of Palestine would not have any Jewish citizens: the Palestinians want to expel all the Jews who live in the lands of the future Palestinian state today (that is around 500,000 people): it is therefore a question of carrying out ethnic cleansing in the future State of Palestine. Israel is also accused of Apartheid by the pro-Arab world and its supporters, when it is exactly the opposite: it is the Palestinian State which will be an apartheid ! But it is well known that by repeating a lie, the world ends up believing it!

3- Israel would have to accept the return of all Arab refugees from 1948 to their lands: see below

4- Jerusalem would be capital of the State of Palestine and its Old City must return to Palestinian sovereignty: in 2016, the Palestinians even managed to get a resolution passed by UNESCO to declare that the Western Wall is Muslim !

In summary, the State of Palestine must be free of Jews but the State of Israel (which already has a 21% Muslim population, or approximately 2 million) must still welcome nearly 2 million other Palestinian "refugees". This would bring the Muslim population of the State of Israel to around 4 million for a total population of 12 million. Because these Palestinians have been considered “refugees” since 1948 !! The reality is that most of these refugees left their villages and towns during the 1948 war, not because of Israel which offered citizenship, civil and religious rights to all communities, but because of Arab countries who were the aggressors by waging a war against Israel and asked the Palestinians to leave the war zones only to return later after the Jews would be thrown into the sea ! So, in particular the Gaza Strip, under Egyptian control in 1948, welcomed the Palestinians who fled at the request of the Arab army. The world also forgets that, at the same time as there were approximately 800,000 Arabs who found themselves "refugees" in 1948, there were also approximately 800,000 Jews who were expelled from their homes by Arab countries: these Jews " refugees", also victims of the 1948 conflict, were not recognized as such by the UN and did not receive any financial aid even though such aid was allocated to Palestinian "refugees" by the UN until today.

One should note as well that, according to international laws, the status of "refugees" should be removed from the people of Gaza: on 7 October 2023, they participated to the barbaric attacks on Jews and destructions of their communities, they were joyful when hostages were brought back to the Gaza Strip, and they also kept captive these hostages (as per many testimonials) before the IDF operations. These are serious crimes as per the Convention for refugees which specifically mentions in Section 1F that:

The provisions of this Convention shall not apply to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that:

(a) he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes (source: UNHCR)

It is also worth remembering that, in 1948, other Arabs remained in Israel without fleeing and today they form this 2-million population of Israeli Arabs of about 21% of the total population of the State of Israel. Arabs who gave in to pressure from Arab nations against Israel and left their homes became "refugees" of their own will but, after the war, neighbouring Arab nations did not welcome them into their midst. Many people are still living in 2023 in “camps” in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and are kept in these camps by the Palestinian leadership ! Why is it so, when the Palestinians have autonomy in these territories? The reason is that they prefer to maintain refugee status with the UN and live at the expense of taxpayers around the world. Because, in a unique and exceptional way, the UN agreed to pass this Palestinian "refugee" status from father to son, which results in financial support managed by UN refugee agencies (including UNWRA in the Gaza Strip) still today after 75 years...

The world really isn't going right. And the Palestinian side uses international authorities to pass on lies, each more grotesque than the last. So as of today, this Two-State Solution seems very utopian and unrealizable. But the Western world continues to put pressure on Israel to accept such a solution based on conditions that can only lead to further tensions and further destructive wars. Because History has already proven that the Arab side raises its arms as soon as it is forced to say "no" to a proposed partition solution. And those who chant Free Palestine, from the river to the sea are clearly in the war path and want destruction of Israel like Hamas and other fanatical Islamists, with whom no solution peaceful is not even negotiable.

Albert Benhamou

Certified Tour Guide in Israel

November 2023


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