The two-state solution is dead. Long live Israel.
This peace proposal might seem unlikely or even virtually impossible, revolutionary or counterculture, and certainly imperfect — yet one that could very well deliver us what so many of us want to see.
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Palestinians and their partners refer to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence as “the Nakba” — an Arabic word which means “catastrophe.”
This catastrophe alludes to the fact that five Arab countries attacked and lost to the new State of Israel just hours after the Jews declared our independence.
People will tell you that 700,000 Palestinians, a majority of the prewar population, fled their homes as a result of the war, and this is true. But they won’t always tell you that one of the main reasons so many Palestinians fled is because they were instructed to do so by Arab leaders and Arab media, promising the Palestinians a victory in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the subsequent return to their homes — yet they failed to deliver on this promise.
People will also tell you that Israel’s declaration of independence was a fraud because it was based on what they consider a biased or unfair 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, a proposal that recommended a division of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate into the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States, as well as a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.
While it’s true that Jewish organizations collaborated with the United Nations during the deliberations for this plan, the Palestinian Arab leadership boycotted it. Arab leaders and governments rejected the plan in the UN resolution and indicated that they would reject any other plan of partition.
The way I interpret this: The Jews worked their political magic, the Arabs stupidly decided not to be involved at all (bad optics in my opinion), and the Arabs refused to negotiate whatsoever with the Jews.
Ultimately, the Arabs decided they’d rather wage a war against the Jews and settle it militarily, a completely fair and even reasonable choice, in my opinion. The Arabs not only lost this war in 1948, they also never came to terms with it, so they kept attacking Israel — and kept losing — in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (even as Israel kept the option of a two-state solution on the table).
And, ultimately, these wars and their unfruitful outcomes for the Arabs kept further hurting their proverbial ego and increasingly deranging them.
Eventually, Egypt and Jordan (which share borders with Israel) made peace with the Jewish state, realizing this was a better option than losing war after after against the Jews, but Syria and Lebanon remained hostile neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, since the 1960s, the Palestinians have continuously elected, opted into, or enabled governments which are inherently terrorist organizations designed to inflict as much harm as possible on Israel. Admittedly, I’m not sure how Israel can realistically achieve peace with a people who so easily indulge in terrorism against it.
Even to this day, the two Palestinian governing factions — Fatah in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank) and Hamas in Gaza — literally incentivize terrorism against Israelis. That’s right, if you commit terrorism against Israelis and are jailed for it in Israel, you’ll receive a monthly salary from one of the two Palestinian governments (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority), and your family will also receive monthly stipends. If the terrorist is killed during or after their attack, their family will also receive financial compensation.
There are also geopolitical factors here, such as other countries (Iran and Qatar, for example) which are known state sponsors of terrorism, and have used the Palestinians as pawns to advance their own interests. You could make the claim that you can’t fault the Palestinians for this reality that’s spanned decades. And in the same vein, you can’t blame us Israelis for being perturbed by this existential threat continuing to exist on two of our borders.
The Western world has tried to convince us for decades that a “two-state solution” is the only viable option, but we have a significant sample size of history to suggest that this solution, while nice in theory, is simply unrealistic. It’s been tried 10 times before and has never succeeded. What’s that saying? Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results? What’s that called? Insanity?
To be clear, I am in favor a “two-state solution” — because I have no problem sharing the land with the Palestinians, them in their state and us Jews in ours, so long as they (and their “partners” like Iran) do not pose an existential threat to Israel. But after the entirety of Jewish and Israeli history, us Jews will not accept anyone else telling us what does or doesn’t pose an existential threat to us. As they say: Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.
But what I and so many other Israelis think doesn’t matter. The Israelis have historically been willing to engage in a two-state solution and relinquish land to the Palestinians. Contrary to Palestinian propaganda, settlements have never truly been a defining issue throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What matters is that the majority of Palestinians are not willing to live side-by-side in peace with Jews, an clear-cut fact that predates the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. That’s why people must see this conflict for what it is: a Jewish-antisemitic battle, not an Israeli-Palestinian one.
All Palestinian governing factions, past and present, have institutionalized antisemitism across their schools, summer camps, mosques, media, and culture. To think that Palestinians can just erase their antisemitic feelings, beliefs, and education is like asking Nazis to do the same.
And we’re not just talking about relatively trivial antisemitism like “Jews have big noses” and “Jews are greedy.”
In Gaza, Muslim preachers regularly spew nauseating antisemitism, such as one who said: “Our doctrine in fighting the Jews is that we will totally exterminate them. We will not leave a single one of them alive, because they are alien usurpers of the land and eternal mercenaries.”
In the Palestinian territories, such propaganda is indoctrinated in children from very young ages, as they are taught the supreme value and various methods of killing Jews. In United Nations schools, mosques, and other government-sanctioned venues, they learn to glorify hatred and nurture violence. In “summer camps,” they teach kids how to fire automatic weapons and kidnap Israelis.
To be sure, many Israelis have hateful feelings about the Palestinians, but the government of Israel has never historically institutionalized or culturally encouraged belligerent hate, killing, and terrorism against the Palestinians. And among those Israelis who harbor these hateful feelings, the vast majority will never act on them in a violent or lethal way.
To understand why some Israelis have hateful feelings toward the Palestinians, you have to understand a few facts of Jewish life:
Over a million Jews from Arab and Muslim countries across North Africa and the Middle East were expelled from their homes leading up to and after the founding of the State of Israel, many of whom immigrated to the Jewish state. It’s hard to “love” Arabs and Muslims when they kicked you out of their countries and didn’t let you take any of your assets with you.
Israelis that live in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip have only a handful of seconds to run to bomb shelters when Palestinians indiscriminately fire rockets from Gaza into Israel. Whereas Palestinians deliberately target civilians and try to kill as many as possible, Israel targets combatants and military infrastructure. (Hospitals and schools purposely used to house combatants and military infrastructure are legitimate targets, according to international law.)
Palestinians have consistently been committing acts of brutal and completely inexplicable terrorism against Jews in this region since the 1850s, nearly a century before the State of Israel was founded. We’re talking about mutilations, suicide bombings, hijacking commercial airplanes, ambushing everyday people, shooting up restaurants and bars, and kidnapping children, among many other despicable acts.
As a matter of fact, Arab and Muslim mistreatment of Jews goes way back to the beginnings of Islam. Around the sixth century, in the expanding Arab world, Jews had to pay fees in exchange for safeguarding their life and property, as well as for the right to worship unmolested according to their conscience. Jews were also to conduct themselves with the demeanor and behaviors befitting a subject population.
They were never to strike a Muslim. They were not to carry arms, ride horses, or use normal riding saddles on their mounts. They were neither able to build new places of worship, nor repair old ones. They were not to hold public religious processions (including funeral processions) nor pray too loudly.
Most definitely, they were not to proselytize. They had to wear clothing that distinguished them from the Arabs. This insistence on social inferiority may be traced, at least in part, to the Jew’s rejection of Mohammed as Prophet, and to fears that Jewish ideas — Jewish “resistance” — would contaminate his loyal followers.
So, yes, while it would be fantastic if hating and hatred didn’t exist in our world, it is utterly ignorant and naive for people to expect some Jews and Israelis to just love Palestinians, Muslims, and Arabs with all their heart and all their soul. That is, unless you also expect women to love their rapists.
Hence why, after many years of thinking about this issue (including a decade of living in Israel), I can now confidently say that there is no plausible two-state solution. Again, I would rejoice in there being one, but continuing to pursue this path would only be ingenuous, air-headed, and a sickening denial of reality and history.
At the same time, maintaining what many people in Israel call “the status quo” is no longer a plausible solution, and those who advocate for it would be equally naive and ignorant.
So, what could be the solution to this decades-long madness?
The short answer is for Jordan to absorb the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank), and for Egypt to do the same with the Palestinians in Gaza. Nonetheless, it’s essential to note that the kind of absorption I’m proposing is not a displacement of Palestinians from their homes in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
Instead, I believe that giving the lands of these areas to Jordan and Egypt would be in the best interest of all four parties (the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Palestinians, and the Israelis), so that the Palestinians can stay put where they live.
The applicability of my proposal requires us to better understand Jordan and Egypt. Today, in Jordan, a significant number of Jordanians are historically Palestinians who fled or moved to this country. And Israel has had peace with Jordan since 1994, so we know that Jordanian Palestinians can largely live in peace with Israel (even if they aren’t overly enthusiastic about it).
Plus, the Jordan is the exclusive supervising authority of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque. From the Arab and Muslim points of view, this is an obvious non-negotiable parameter for any peace arrangements.
However, accepting the three million Palestinians from Judea and Samaria would not be an easy task, since this number is nearly a third of Jordan’s current population size. It would also be challenging to integrate so many unskilled or under-skilled Palestinians into Jordan’s already poor economy. More on these pain-points soon.
The Egyptian piece of the puzzle is, in many ways, less complicated than that of the Jordanians. Egypt’s population of 110 million makes the two million Palestinians in Gaza mere percentage points. But the fact that so many of these Palestinians either actively engage in or sympathize with fundamentalist Islam makes them a security threat to Egypt, which fended off the Muslim Brotherhood from overtaking the country not long ago.
This is why I not bidding for the displacement of Palestinians from their existing homes in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Rather, allow them to stay where they are and put the onus on both Jordan and Egypt to figure out how they want to allow (or not allow) certain Palestinians to move freely throughout their countries.
I’m sure the Israelis, Americans, Europeans, and even the Saudis would be willing to prominently feature in helping Egypt and Jordan figure out how to do this in ways that don’t threaten their national security.
Of course, the thought of my proposal would instigate sociopolitical eruptions on the “Arab street” in both Egypt and Jordan, and they could very well spill over to other North African and Middle Eastern countries.
To quell these eruptions, all partners — the Israelis, the Americans, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Europeans, and even the Emiratis and Saudis — must be prepared to directly support the Egyptian and Jordanian governments in managing any sociopolitical outbreaks that could threaten to topple them.
Now, the question becomes, how do you convince the Egyptians and Jordanians to walk this path with you? Two words: Leverage and opportunity.
Both Jordan and Egypt know that Israel is a great partner because its intelligence establishments help these country’s maintain their national security. If they still want to enjoy this luxury, the Israelis ought to make it known that there’s a new asking price for it.
And, to sweeten the deal, Israel could offer to extend the benefits these countries receive from us, while the Americans, Europeans, and Saudis have the means to complement with financial and economic incentives.
Increased tourism and more tourist attractions could also be a blessing in disguise for both Jordan and Egypt. For years, people have been talking about turning Gaza into the Middle East’s version of Singapore, and Judea and Samaria have plenty of opportunities for both historical and religious tourism that Jordan could capitalize on. Israel could also offer Jordan certain tourism opportunities, such as tours that start in their country and come into Jerusalem for the day.
We should also bear in mind that all of these plans must be conditioned such that, in exchange for security, economic, and financial opportunities, all violence emanating out of the new borders of Jordan and Egypt are the responsibility of these countries, and Israel will surely hold them accountable (just as they would and should hold Israel accountable for any Israeli violence directed at them).
The last topic we haven’t addressed is the “Palestinian street” both in the current Palestinian territories and in other countries, particularly in the West. This could very well be the most complicated part of it all, since any missteps or miscalculations could lead to proverbial suicide for certain political parties. And there’s no way any faction will be inclined — nor should we expect them — to sacrifice their political status for the sake of Israel, the Palestinians, and so-called “peace in the Middle East.”
As it pertains to the Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, all major bodies must be willing to commit troops and other security arrangements, for a significant period of time, to ensure that sociopolitical unrest doesn’t unfold. I’m talking about the Israelis, the Americans, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Europeans, and even the Emiratis and Saudis.
As it relates to the “Palestinian street” in other countries, particularly in the West, effective messaging will be critical. I would make it only about the Palestinians, and not at all about Israel, since we know that most people across the world are not truly pro-Palestinian; they’re more anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, disguised as “pro-Palestinian.”
In short, I would create simple language and relentlessly repeat it time and again, something like: “This will ensure the immediate and long-term liberation, dignity, and freedom of Palestinians, both now and in the long-term future.”
Some people will argue that my proposal will put an end to the call for a Palestinian state. To this, I’ll borrow from one senior advisor to a U.S. president, who said something to the effect of: “State” is a loaded word. Even in the best of cases, it’s very unlikely that the Palestinians would receive their own state outright, not because of Israel, but because of their own repeated failures in leadership over the decades.
Others would argue that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria pose a serious roadblock to my proposal. This could be true, but again, it’s also true that settlements have never truly been a defining issue in the saga that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
The other thing that many people don’t realize about Israeli settlements is that not all of them are created equal, so grouping them together is unsound. Instead, Israel and Jordan will need to address each settlement individually to determine those that pose a threat to my proposal, and those that can remain intact.
Still, others would argue that splitting the Palestinians into two groups which get absorbed into two different countries isn’t right. To this, I would say that the Palestinians, dating back over 100 years, have never been united as a group of people.
In 1919, the idea of a unique Palestinian state distinct from its Arab neighbors was at first rejected by Palestinian representatives. The First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations that year, which met for the purpose of selecting a Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference, adopted the following resolution:
“We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.”
More recently, in Gaza, in 2006 and 2007, Hamas fought off Fatah and effectively excommunicated them from the strip, which included throwing some of their members of buildings in a show of “don’t even think about trying us” to other potential political dissidents. There have also been rumors that Hamas has repeatedly tried to assassinate Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority.
That’s why it is foolish for people to expect the Palestinians from all their territories to suddenly come together as one people, in one state, united under whatever it is people think they can unite under, without becoming an even greater hostile terrorist machine.
Others would argue that my proposal will put an end to the Palestinian cause. To this, I say that the Palestinian cause, while theoretically compelling, was never really a Palestinian cause in and of itself. In reality, it was an Arab and Muslim cause to rid the Middle East of a Jewish state in our indigenous homeland, even after six million of our Jewish family and friends were systematically annihilated in the Holocaust.
How do I know this? Just look at their two governing factions right now. Hamas wants to eradicate every Jew from Israel and establish a Muslim Caliphate, while Fatah (the Palestinian Authority) has literally done nothing during the last 15 years for the so-called Palestinian cause, so much so that Fatah has been losing literal ground to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank).
As they say: With great power comes great responsibility, and Palestinian leadership spanning nearly a century has never really taken responsibility for anything that could produce a viable two-state solution.
Yet it is the very idea of a fabled two-state solution that continues to trigger the same absurd results: more senseless wars and more unnecessary deaths. On the Israeli side, we’ve always said, we can forgive the Arabs and Muslims for killing so many of our people, but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill so many of theirs.
Israelis do not rejoice in war, even though we’ve won all of them since 1948. The Israelis that I know, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, from Rosh HaNikra to Eilat, rejoice when spring flowers bloom in the south, when a new initiative is launched to help kids in third-world countries receive life-saving heart surgery in Israel (Save A Child’s Heart), when another startup gets acquired, when researchers find new cures to diseases, when a new exhibit opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and when first-responders fly to the site of a natural disaster to assist with search and rescue efforts.
But make no mistake: Israelis are not suckers. They do not stand pat as our enemies threaten to and actually attack us. They do not wallow in despair. And they sure as hell do not tolerate anything existential. As former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin said to a young senator named Joe Biden in 1982:
“I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country.”
“We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
It’s true that many Israelis (including me) are hardliners on matters of security and peace. It’s also true that our hearts have been hardened by the tremendous, decades-long amount of violence and death at the hands of Palestinians and their partners.
It would be one thing if there was a Palestinian state with a Palestinian people governing themselves when the Jews started to arrive to this region in the 1800s, most of them fleeing unbearable antisemitism in Europe and legally buying land in what is today Israel. It would be a second thing if, after we arrived, we threw out the Palestinians and took their country away from them.
But that is not the accurate narrative, and anyone who tries to distort or rewrite our history should be ashamed of themselves. For this is just one of the many classic ploys from antisemitism’s encyclopedia. We know it, we see it, and we will not bear it. Nice try, though.
Still, the Israelis have sincerely engaged in 10 different two-state solution proposals with the Palestinians since the 1930s, such as:
In 1936 (the Peel Commission)
In 1947 (the UN Partition Plan)
In 1949 (UN Resolution 194)
In 1967 (UN Resolution 242)
In 1978 (Begin/Sadat peace proposal)
In 2000 (Camp David peace proposal)
In 2001 (Taba peace proposal)
In 2008 (Olmert peace proposal)
In 2014 (Kerry’s “Conditions for Peace”)
In 2019 (Trump’s “Deal of the Century”)
The Palestinian response has consistently been refusal to compromise in a way that would reasonably ensure Israel’s security, followed by grotesque violence and terrorism against Israelis (mostly Israeli citizens).
Does this not sound like an abusive relationship?
There is no question that Israelis have made mistakes, missteps, and miscalculations over the years — some incidental, others deliberate — and there is no one more critical and more demanding of Israel than Israelis themselves.
After all, we Jews — and by extension, Israelis — are an imperfect tribe of people who have somehow found a way to exist for some 4,000 years. Yes, we’ve had some crazy ideas like the 613 commandments, almost all of which were revolutionary or counterculture at their time of introduction.
The 2,000-year old dream to return to our indigenous homeland and establish a Jewish state was nothing short of nutty as well, especially after so many of us were obliterated in the Holocaust, and especially after knowing that we’d be attacked by neighboring countries just a few hours after we declared our independence.
This is why I challenge you to think about my proposal in this essay as another one of these crazy ideas, one that on the surface might seem unlikely or even virtually impossible, one that might appear to be revolutionary or counterculture, and one that is certainly imperfect.
But also one that, with the Jewish spirit and Israeli “chutzpah,” could very well deliver what I think so many of us want to see: a true and lasting peace in the Middle East.
As Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl used to say: “If you will it, it is no dream.”