OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Another Palestinian state?

The overriding question is whether Palestinians can ever accept the reality that land west of the Jordan River, except for the Gaza Strip, is not theirs.

Israeli troops roll into the city of Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War, June 5, 1967. Photo by David Rubinger.
Israeli troops roll into the city of Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War, June 5, 1967. Photo by David Rubinger.
Jerold S. Auerbach
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016) and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book for 2019.”

There is endless chatter, especially on the political left, about a two-state solution to the decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The state of Palestine would comprise Gaza and what was Jordan’s “West Bank” until the Six-Day War in June 1967 returned Israelis to their biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria.

History provides an understanding of current reality—and fantasy. It began in 1908 with British Cabinet Minister Winston Churchill, who expressed support for the restoration of Jewish nationhood in the homeland of the Jewish people. In a letter to the English Zionist Federation, he wrote: “I am in full sympathy with the historical traditional aspirations of the Jews.”

Jerusalem, he concluded, “must be the only ultimate goal.”

After the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations approved a mandate for Palestine based on the 1917 Balfour Declaration issued by the British government, which recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” Churchill declared that Jews would return to Palestine “as of right and not sufferance, and that this was based on their ancient historical connection.” But several years later, when Churchill became colonial secretary, he removed three-quarters of British-ruled territory, east of the Jordan River, for the creation of Transjordan as a gift to the Hashemite king.

Israel’s 1948 War of Independence achieved its goal of statehood but at a high price. Biblical Judea and Samaria were seized by the Kingdom of Jordan and became known as its “West Bank.” However, 19 years later, Israel regained its ancient homeland. It is now home to more than 500,000 (widely despised) “settlers.”

Might it be that the only viable solution for Palestinian statehood is to be found in Jordan, which includes three-quarters of the original British Mandate for Palestine? Last month in The Jerusalem Post, Israeli historian and journalist Moshe Dann, rejecting the idea of a two-state solution, noted that in the Kingdom of Jordan, more than half the population consider themselves Palestinians. Recognizing it as a Palestinian state would be an acknowledgment of reality.

But pressure on Israel from the Biden administration is unrelenting. Several months ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “disappointed” with Israel’s announcement of plans to build new housing in Judea and Samaria, identified by Blinken as “inconsistent with international law.” He didn’t cite any laws to support his statement. Indeed, former President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had announced that the United States no longer viewed Israeli settlements as a violation of international law. Biden and Blinken, among others, might realize that settlement in the Land of Israel defines Zionism.

For Israelis, the status quo of the current land division may not be perfect, but it is acceptable. Jewish settlements can be viewed internationally as an illegitimate obstacle to peace, but Israel is unlikely to relinquish Judea and Samaria, where nearly half a million Jews inhabit their ancient homeland.

No land is more deeply embedded in Jewish history.

Palestinians continue to live in a fantasy land, imagining control over Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as their path towards statehood. Gaza may be theirs to do with as they wish—once they no longer surrender to Hamas—but biblical Judea and Samaria, along with Jerusalem, are forever beyond their reach.

Perhaps the overriding question is whether Palestinians can ever accept the reality that land west of the Jordan River, except for Gaza, is not theirs. If they do, they will enjoy the benefits of peace and, perhaps, the eventual reward of statehood east of the Jordan River. If not, they will continue to confront a Jewish state that is determined, by any means necessary, to retain its biblical homeland. Their repetitive demand for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” is destined to remain a fantasy—forever.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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