Opinion

Are two states really a solution?

A new book makes the case that the E.U.’s Middle East policy is based on legal fictions.

European Union flags in front of the European Commission in Brussels. Credit: Symbiot/Shutterstock.
European Union flags in front of the European Commission in Brussels. Credit: Symbiot/Shutterstock.
Tirza Shorr
Tirza Shorr

On May 14, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs hosted Prof. Andrew Tucker, the director of the Europe-based research institute Thinc., the Hague Initiative for International Cooperation. Tucker summarized the conclusions of his new book Two States for Two Peoples: The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, International Law and European Union Policy, co-authored with Profs. Wolfgang Bock and Gregory Rose, to an audience of Jerusalem Center fellows, scholars and associates.

Two States for Two Peoples examines the European Union’s assumption that the much-invoked two-state solution will provide relief for the ills of the Middle East by establishing a fully sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 Green Line. Tucker, Bock and Rose assert that the Europeans propose a “utopian” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict disconnected from international legal norms, history and the region’s political realities.

“Despite decades of strenuous E.U. efforts, expending tens of billions of euros, the reality is that we are still light years away from either a negotiated settlement of the conflict or an independent, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state,” said Tucker, an international lawyer originally from Australia, who now makes his home in the Netherlands.

“Europe has a hard time admitting to its failure,” noted Tucker, who said that the Europeans feel that they have invested a great deal of effort and money in a resolution of the conflict, while enjoying very little transparency regarding the funds they funnel to blatantly anti-Israel Palestinian NGOs.

The book, aimed at European policy-makers, raises the question of whether a Palestinian state is required by international law, as the E.U. claims, whether such a state is practically achievable and what can be done to solve the conflict. It dovetails with research by the Jerusalem Center’s Alan Baker, an international law expert and formerly Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Israeli Foreign Ministry legal adviser, peace treaty negotiator and member of the Levy Commission on land ownership in Judea and Samaria.

Baker, the director of the Jerusalem Center’s Institute for Contemporary Affairs, hosted Prof. Tucker’s talk. Baker provided additional insights into false legal assumptions that have become commonly accepted parlance in international public discourse as a result of Palestinian political activism such as lawfare campaigns in the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Baker emphasized that the very concept of “occupied Palestinian territory” is a legal fiction, as are “1967 borders” or the uninformed assumption that U.N. resolutions present binding measures, instead of recommendations for future bilateral negotiations.

Baker noted that “no binding document has agreed upon” the two-state solution and that though the Quartet’s 2003 recommendations called for negotiations, they did not require a two-state solution. He noted that since the E.U. was a signatory witness of the Oslo Accords, it “cannot undermine the purpose of the document by dwelling on the two-state solution, in essence predetermining the outcome.” He also pointed out that the Rabin-Arafat correspondence of 1993 never mentions two states, only a negotiated resolution of all outstanding issues between the parties.

Tucker agreed, saying that the definition of belligerent occupation, important for understanding the legal aspects of the conflict, are widely misunderstood, as are assumptions about “rights” to sovereignty. His book traces the evolution of the E.U.’s “Two States Policy,” which Tucker says is based on “wishful thinking and the deliberate manipulation of international law in order to advance European economic interests, primarily access to oil.”

He noted that though the reality of oil dependence has changed for the E.U. in recent decades, E.U. policy continues to give the Palestinian Authority unquestioning support that began with some “yes” votes by European states on U.N. Resolution 67/19, which upgraded the Palestinians to observer status in 2012. It has resulted in policies such as the E.U.’s recent support for illegal Palestinian construction in the Israeli-administrated Area C of Judea and Samaria.

Tucker also pointed out that the E.U. has ignored the fundamentally religious and cultural nature of the Arab rejection of the Jewish state—which began decades before Israel’s establishment—and the continued rejection of peace and land-sharing by the Palestinians over the past century. This rejection has been consistent from the Balfour Declaration to the Peel Commission to the rejectionist Palestinian National Charters to the post-Oslo Accords era and second intifada, including multiple rejections of peace offers.

Tucker, Rose and Bock assert that the E.U.’s approach stems from the French interpretation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and its “justice” approach, based on post-colonial objectives of “bringing European values to the rest of the world” while growing closer to the oil-rich Arab world with whom relations had become strained. The “justice” approach, which spread to Germany, the Netherlands and other European states, categorized Israelis as “colonialists” and placed the onus of diplomacy, conflict resolution and territorial forfeit exclusively on their shoulders.

The book provides a framework for analyzing the international legal approaches that have come to underpin the E.U.’s policy towards the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. It discusses legal norms, UNSC 242, the concept of territorial sovereignty, the right or lack thereof of self-determination, the law of belligerent occupation, how politics fit into the matrix of these legal issues and how best to effectively solve the conflict.

Tirza Shorr is a senior researcher and program coordinator at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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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