Beyond the Oslo Accords: Three-State Division is the Only Feasible Solution for Palestine

Conventional wisdom holds that a two-state solution, as outlined in the Oslo Accords, is the only path forward to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The architects of the Oslo Accords, former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Fatah Prime Minister Ahmed Queri, have themselves acknowledged the failings of the Oslo Accords, urging people to look past the antiquated peace plan  which was established two decades ago.

Queri favors a one-state solution as the best path for Palestinian equality, whereas Beilin believes that there is still hope for a two-state solution unencumbered by the terms of the Oslo Accords, which have allowed Israel to continually annex more and more Palestinian territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, the one-state solution is practically impossible, as the Israeli public would never consent to it, and the two-state solution depends on an unlikely reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Queri’s call for a one-state solution is appealing to many Palestinians because it would integrate Israel and Palestine into a homogenous entity, with full citizenship for all Palestinians. It would theoretically make the aggressive expansion of Israeli settlements, as well as the thorny issue of control of Jerusalem, moot points. Under this plan, Palestinians would ideally have an equal voice in the political process and would not have to rely on Israel for permission on where to live.

However, the fact of the matter is that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and blockade on Gaza, which viciously admits only the bare minimum of calories each individual needs to survive, already constitutes a de facto single apartheid state. In the West Bank, Israel performs duties that should be within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian government, such as controlling traffic and collecting taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which they often withhold.

Considering the fact that Jewish Israelis already enact discriminatory laws against Arab Israelis, it is hard to imagine a situation in which the apartheid state would fail to perpetuate itself even if Israel granted Palestinians Israeli citizenship. The Jewish minority of such a state would likely continue to monopolize government and educational institutions, possibly going so far as to disenfranchise Palestinian voters. 74% of Israelis already support the apartheid status quo by endorsing segregation and unequal infrastructure in the West Bank for Israelis and Palestinian. These are attitudes that would endure in a single state.

Some will argue that an enfranchised Palestinian majority could overcome these obstacles. In that case, the Jewish population of a single state could be at risk of discrimination in retribution for their treatment of the Palestinians over the past several decades. This is the scenario that plays out in the minds of most Jewish Israelis when they think of a one-state solution, and is exactly why such a solution is impossible. Israel was founded upon the Zionist principle, which emphasizes the Jewish character of the state; that ideology is still very much alive, with as many as 93.4% of Jewish Israelis identifying Israel with Zionism.

The post-colonial era has taught us that no good can come from forcing diverse religious sects and ethnicities into a single homogenous state, especially in the Middle East. One has to look no further than the Lebanese Civil War or the current war in Syria between the Sunni rebels and the Alawite-backed dictatorship. Forcing predominantly Jewish Israelis and predominantly Muslim Palestinians could actually exacerbate racial and religious tensions, leading to increased conflict down the line.   

The internal political strife within Palestine itself is as equally large an obstacle in the two-state solution as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestine was not immune to the Arab Spring, and the 2011 protests that took place in both the West Bank and Gaza likely provided the impetus for Fatah and Hamas’ latest round of reconciliation talks to distract the protesters from their economic concerns. Although the two parties signed a reconciliation accord in May 2011, it will likely never come to fruition. Even if Fatah and Hamas genuinely wished to establish a unity government, pressure from the U.S. in terms of token aid withdrawals will likely make any such consideration impossible from Fatah’s end.

A unified Palestinian state in both Gaza and the West Bank could create a situation reminiscent of the Bangladesh Liberation War, where East Pakistan, divided from West Pakistan by a hostile state, became independent  with the side effect of another war between West Pakistan and India.

Palestinian statehood is the only viable way to ensure peace and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks look as futile as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Although rejecting the notion of Palestinian unity is an unfortunate and bitter pill for most to swallow, it is the most immediate, practical solution for Palestinian statehood. Therefore, the most immediate prospects for peace would establish two separate Palestinian states in Gaza and the West Bank alongside Israel.

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Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris is a reporter with Inter Press Service News. He has worked in Muscat, Oman and was a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. He graduated from UW-Madison in 2011 with a BA in Middle East Studies.

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