In the Israel-Hamas war, the two-state solution is only possible on paper

For decades, the terms that have prevailed in peace discussions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have revolved around the “two-state solution”. But for two experts from the region, it is no longer possible and both camps bear a responsibility, even if it is different. The current war is the failure of politics; 70 years without understanding and unprecedented violence again.

In its simplest definition, this solution is the creation of two separate states in the territorial entity west of the Jordan River, one for the Palestinians and the other for the Israelis, or one Arab and the other Jew.

This is what the Member States of the United Nations have voted in favor of on several occasions. Even the United States, Israel’s unwavering ally, has most of the time had governments in agreement with this principle of living side by side in mutual respect, guaranteeing the security of both peoples.

“But it was forgetting that there are extremists on both sides,” immediately notes Najib Lairini, political scientist and lecturer at the University of Montreal. Today it is Hamas in Gaza and the far right in power in Israel, but these extremes “have always sabotaged the settlement plans to establish the two states”, he says.

He gives the example of former Israeli President Ariel Sharon, “who threw everything in the trash”, because he particularly wanted to continue the establishment of settlers in the occupied territories. Or even Hamas which refuses the very idea of ​​recognizing Israel.

“Frustrations with failed agreements fuel radicalization, and so on. It is very painful and we remain stunned in the face of this violence in humans, its most reprehensible character,” he describes.

Frustrations over failed deals fuel radicalization, and so on

“I published an article in 2002 which already said that it was no longer realistic,” also says Yakov Rabkin, professor emeritus at the University of Montreal and author of the book Understanding the State of Israel. Ideology, religion and society.

Western governments, however, continued to “support the ghost,” he notes. Last spring, the American Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, continued to reiterate the need for a two-state solution. In September, it was also the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who warned the UN General Assembly that there would be no peace without this implementation.

“We are currently repeating this formula officially, but no one believes it anymore,” observes Mr. Rabkin. He says he has “a lot of sympathy for Israelis”, he who is Jewish and who lived for several years in Israel, where his children were born.

However, he does not hesitate to criticize what Zionism has become and “the enormous imbalance of forces”. Yes, Palestinian leadership is divided, and has been for a long time. Yes, foreign interference has often harmed the talks by exploiting the Palestinian issue.

“But when you have two parties whose strengths are not comparable, there is no incentive for the stronger party to make anything by way of concession,” he says.

Which territory?

And even if the two parties have sometimes agreed to sit at the same negotiating table, agreeing on the drawing of borders has remained unachievable. The two experts thus point to the colonization of the West Bank as one of the major obstacles to the two-state solution.

“Israel talks vaguely about a Palestinian state, but it’s like Gruyère cheese: barely 30% of the entire West Bank could go to the Palestinians in the terms in which Israel spoke,” says Najib Lairini.

The food analogy is also useful to Mr. Rabkin: “It’s like we’re negotiating how to split a pizza in two, and one of us eats it at the same time. »

One of the maps often used by official authorities, notably by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has changed little since 1995, or even 1967.

On the one hand, although the West Bank is often presented as a single territorial block on maps, a significant part of the territory is in fact controlled by the Israelis.

On the other hand, we must add to this the colonies which have particularly proliferated in recent years, under the leadership of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Also called “installations” or “illegal replacement colonies” depending on one camp or the other, they are “eating away” at the territory to the point where “there may no longer be room for a second state.” notes Mr. Rabkin.

“At the moment, we see a territory which is managed by a single government, which uses Israeli currency everywhere and which is under the control of the Israeli army. It’s a state, but half of the population has no political rights,” he explains.

It is the “politics of fait accompli” for the two specialists: “The more we delay the completion of the Palestinian State, the more the settlements proliferate and the more we take advantage of the fait accompli to make the creation of a Palestinian State unfeasible. »summarizes Mr. Lairini.


The history of the two-state solution is the “old vicious circle” repeating itself, says Najib Lairini.

It was notably considered in the Oslo peace process in 1993, which concluded with the historic and highly symbolic handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

This idea, however, goes back much further. As early as 1947, the United Nations had proposed a plan to partition Palestine, which was then under British mandate. It also included international status for the city of Jerusalem, claimed by both sides. This plan was never implemented and in 1948, Israel proclaimed its independence (or establishment).

The reactions at the time to this proposal already contained the whole matrix of disagreements which have persisted until today: portion of the territory which would return to each State, control of Jerusalem, management of Palestinian refugees and security.

The idea nevertheless gained ground among UN member states in the years that followed, most notably after the Six-Day War of 1967, in which Israel demonstrated its military superiority over Egypt, Jordan and Syria. . The Israeli army then occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem (as well as the Golan Heights and part of the Sinai desert which will be returned).

A few months after this June war, the UN Security Council voted in favor of resolution 242, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the “occupied territories”. This is an important milestone, because it is still this “green line” drawn then which prevails for the international community, including Canada. “Canada does not recognize the permanent control exercised by Israel over the territories occupied in 1967,” states the official policy, calling this state an “occupying power”.

And now ?

The impossibility of even considering Hamas as an interlocutor in negotiations, since it is on the list of terrorist groups of Western countries, including Canada and the United States.

For the majority of Israelis, there was no need to seek a “solution” before last Saturday: “They lived normal lives and did not need to pay attention to what was happening a 15-minute drive from their home.” residence. […] But this “solution” is perhaps no longer tenable,” assesses Yakov Rabkin.

Imposition by force has been a political constant in Israel’s history, with brief outbursts, and this is what he finds unsustainable. “Israel has won all the wars, but has never won the peace,” he likes to recall.

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