Is there an alternative to a two-state solution?

Published On: November 20, 2023 09:00 AM NPT By: Narayan Manandhar

The military structure of Hamas may be crushed or eliminated but the intractable political problems remain intact. 

Definitely, the present state is the culmination of the past, it is also the projection of the future. Things that happen today shape or determine future outcomes.

Ferocity and animosity of Israel-Hamas war can be explained by a single incident that took place in Chicago, USA in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack. A 71-year-old woman, a landlord, stabbed and killed a six year old Palestine child and fatally injured his mother.

There are reports from the Gaza strip that women and children are shopping in groups. If someone has to buy bread or fetch water they all move together to buy bread or fetch water. This is to ensure that if they die of Israeli bombing, they all die together. There are also reports that mothers are marking their children so that they can identify dead bodies. The atrocities of war have come to an extreme limit. Sounds like we have lost sanity and humanity.  

With more than one month now, the war has overshadowed the Russia-Ukraine war. It has overshadowed not just the number of innocent people killed and injured but also in terms of intensity of aerial bombing and destruction of infrastructures. The bombing is equivalent to dropping two atomic bombs on Japan during WWII. Given the limited area and location of the war, the intensity of the war must be much more ferocious than the Russia-Ukraine war.

Now concerns are growing that the war may easily spread into a regional conflict with global consequences. If the president of Turkey has predicted the outcomes of the conflict to be either war or peace, nothing in-between; the North Korean president has his own prediction to make – If Donald Trump fails to win elections in 2024, we will end up with WWIII.  

The Palestine-Israel conflict is getting more and more intractable. Is this a war about land, religion, geopolitical economic fallouts? Does this have to do with the security of Israel and/or historical injustice to the Palestinian people? Are there no solutions to the problem?

US President Joe Biden is stuck to the formula of a two-state solution. There are no viable options to a two-state solution. Some say this is the least bad option.

Writing for The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood says, “The two-state solution is dividing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean to carve out two independent, sovereign Israeli and Palestinian states existing side by side – has repeatedly been endorsed by world leaders.” However, after 2014, the concept is in a state of moribund. With Hamas invasion, it is near impossible to revive a two-state solution. The public opinion and the governments in Israel and Gaza are clearly tilted towards a one-state solution. This means elimination of either of the two. That means we are back to square one.

Because of the demographic changes and spatial distribution of the population, it is not possible to have both Israel and Palestine people living side by side together inside a single state confederation of Israel and Palestine. It will be like mixing oil with water when you mix fragmented Israelis with near homogenous Palestines, relatively rich Israelis with poverty of Palestines and correcting the years and years of divide and rule policy and state-sponsored land-grabbing policy. Water does mix with oil but the resultant will be far more slippery.   

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The Palestinian people have been echoing this phrase while the aspirations of the Israeli people have been “land without people and people without land”. Sounds like there are no solutions to this problem.

There are also suggestions for a three-state solution. This implies Gaza and West Bank comprising two states and Israel as the third state. Still there are others implying three-states to mean reverting to pre-1967 maps where Jordan occupied West Bank and Egypt, the Gaza strip.

There are also calls for relocating Palestine refugees to some other countries. If Palestine people have to remain as refugees within Israel, it is better to be refugees somewhere else. If some large countries can absorb Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees, why cannot they absorb a couple of million Palestine people? The idea may look feasible but it is ludicrous.    

Even before that war is coming to an end, the plans are already underway for “the day after” – assuming defeat of Hamas. Here is a summary of the EU plan: (1) No place for Hamas, (2) No forced displacement of Gazans, (3) No long-term security presence of Israel in Gaza, (4) One Palestinian authority for the West Bank and Gaza, and (5) An active role for Europe. Definitely, the war will come to an end, it must come to an end, if not today, after a year or so.

The military structure of Hamas may be crushed or eliminated but the intractable political problems remain intact. Even if Israel agrees to be abided by the US suggestion that it will not remain in Gaza, who is to govern Gaza still remains a million dollar question. The Palestine Authority is in no way going to govern Gaza riding on the back of Israel tanks. It has already refused to do so.  

One cannot go back into history and make negotiation. All negotiations are made for the future. Definitely, the present state is the culmination of the past, it is also the projection of the future. Things that happen today shape or determine future outcomes.

War and peace are not mutually exclusive concepts. It is wars that give birth to peace. Peace germinates and takes root in the battleground. We need not be pessimistic with the current war and its aftermath. What is lacking is the leaders and their political will to build durable, sustainable peace in the Middle-East.      


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