Ending Washington’s Two-State Policy

The decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the most heated issues in international relations. Scholars and theorists throughout the world offer no shortage of opinions on the matter. Everyone believes their solution is the right solution, and with fervent emotion most argue that they have a genius plan to solve one of the world’s oldest conflicts. Unfortunately, every single one of these plans has failed. For more than 20 years the world has been fixated on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a “two-state solution.” While this only became the official policy of the United States under President George W. Bush, the groundwork for such a solution was built off the back of the Madrid Peace Conference, which essentially led to the signing of the Oslo Accords. No similar framework has been signed since.

For all its pomp and circumstance, the Oslo Accords have been at best a bookmark holding the status quo in place since 1993, and at worst an abject failure. Its intended purpose was to bring Palestinians and Israelis together to form a final status agreement that would include decisions on the four main issues entangling the conflict: borders, security, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem. Despite an initial air of hope surrounding an agreement these four main issues remain largely the way they did in 1993.  The “five-year plan” set out in the Accords to finalize these issues has long passed. After more than 20 years Israel has been left with one intifada, countless terrorist attacks, a second Lebanon war, and three major military offensives in the Hamas run Gaza Strip.

These issues, and others, paired with countless mistakes of Israeli, American, European, and Palestinian leaders, alike, are what drive Caroline Glick in The Israeli Solution to call for a radical redirection of policy. Her vision foregoes the typical “two-state” solution plan in favor of a “one state” solution, comprised of a single Jewish-Democracy in present day Israel and Judea and Samaria. While potentially startling for those who believe that embracing the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria would mean an end to the country’s Jewish majority, Glick paints a different scenario. Relying heavily on research conducted by Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael Wise, Glick explains that Palestinian census data is wrong, Arab birth rates are in decline and, by and large, Israel would not face an immediate threat to its Jewish majority. Intriguing, yes. But basing such a dramatic shift in policy off of one study done almost 10 years ago will not be enough to garner the support of the United States, Europe, or even Israeli leaders. More problematic in Glick’s solution is that she ignores the situation of Gaza entirely, leaving it out of any possible “one-state” solution. In reality, it is impossible to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without a solution for Hamas-run Gaza. While Glick does her best to demonize Palestinian Authority leadership, she speaks sparingly about the genocidal intentions of the Islamist government in the Gaza Strip.

Changing the paradigm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will take more than a theoretical book based seemingly on Glick’s “hunches.” I tend to agree with Glick that Israel will need to absorb its Palestinian population, but somehow Glick manages to take the contentious issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and negate almost every Palestinian grievance or concern. Essentially Glick tells Palestinians to just “deal with it,” because she knows best and in the long run they will be better off. Glick’s favorite word throughout her plan for the future of Israel is “probably.” She uses it often to predict international reaction to her one state plan, but essentially comes to the unilateral decision that Europe and the Arab states hate Israel anyway so any more hatred would not be worse than what the country currently experiences.  Unfortunately, predicting reactions to such a drastic shift in policy needs more than mere probability. It needs concrete pros and cons, and since a Jewish State annexing Judea and Samaria has no historical precedent in the Middle East it needs unfettered support from the United States government. When discussing how Israel’s border states and Europe will “probably” react to Israel annexing the Judea and Samaria, Glick leaves out entirely how the U.S. is likely to respond, simply stating that backing such a plan “is a low-risk strategy.” This wouldn’t be as peculiar if Glick didn’t spend dozens of pages throughout her book chastising American foreign policy in Israel. Glick is careful to mention that Israel is America’s greatest ally in the Middle East but she places a disproportionate amount of blame on the United States for Israeli failures and neglects to mention how the U.S. inversely is also Israel’s single greatest ally in the world.

Glick’s plan for an “Israeli solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is daring and definitely bucks the trend. However, at points her book sounds more like a reasoned plan for why Israel should disassociate itself from the rest of the world than a practical solution to a conflict that increasingly isolates Israel on the global stage. Hundreds of pages are spent on discussing Palestinian ties to Nazism, Islamic radicalism, and the Soviet Union. A blind read of Glick’s book would make it look like the U.S. and Israel are not only currently engaged in a Cold Waresque standoff but have been for quite some time. Nothing makes this clearer than Glick’s loathing of American funding and training of Palestinian security forces, which she claims sooner or later, will violently attack Israel as a sophisticated Palestinian army. As far as she is concerned, the United States has possessed an “anti-Israel narrative” since President Carter. As for Europe, Glick dismisses the entire continent as entrenched in historical anti-Semitism.

Glick’s call for a single Jewish state is not without historical precedent, however. Palestinians as a people have a relatively short history. Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel no Palestinian national identity existed, residents of what was then the British Mandate of Palestine were merely subjects of various kingdoms and empires. Palestine originated in the second century after Roman invaders exiled the remaining Jews in Judea. The name “Palestina” originally coined by the Romans was an attempt to humiliate the remaining Jews in the area, particularly as a sign of being conquered. The difference in the ethnic origin of Arabs and Jews is that while Arabs are indigenous to the greater Arabian Peninsula, Jews are indigenous particularly to modern-day Israel. The word “Jew” comes from the indigenous ties the Jewish people have to the land of Judah, more commonly known as Judea, which ironically sits in a vast portion of the territory seen as a potential sovereign for a Palestinian state. Having said that, establishing a Palestinian State inside Greater Israel is not a viable solution to ending violence. Separation rarely creates peace and would more likely foment unease and distrust between Jews and Arabs. Jews should be able to live freely in their indigenous homeland, and Arabs who are residents of Judea and Samaria should be able to live freely in Israel with the same rights and legal structure as all other Israelis.

The idea of a one-state solution establishing a democratic Israel throughout Judea and Samaria while maintaining the country’s Jewish nature has its merits. In fact, it may be the greatest opportunity for peace in the region. However, such an effort needs, at the very least, Western support and unadulterated equal rights for Palestinians on all levels. Glick’s pessimistic view of history, her need to demonize Europe, the Palestinians, and the United States in no way lays the groundwork for such a plan to work. Her failure to value virtuous American, European and Palestinian policy dissipates any merit her book tries to offer. In order for the establishment of one state throughout Israel and Judea and Samaria, rights need to be guaranteed and past grievances set aside. Finding a solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is not about inflating egos of academics or policy wonks, but assuring a better, safer, and more prosperous life for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Aaron Marcus is a student at George Mason University School of Law. He holds a Master’s degree in Counterterrorism and Homeland Security from the International Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, Israel and is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.