You’ve no doubt noticed: The Biden administration is obsessed with the so-called two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Yet Team Biden virtually never goes beyond lip service—never addresses the huge obstacles to two states, nor does it take concrete actions that would facilitate Palestinian independence.
Contrary to what the administration keeps preaching, Israeli “settlements” and visits to the Temple Mount pose no major barriers to peace with the Palestinian Arabs.
In fact, Palestinians adamantly opposed the Jewish state for many years before Jews began to resettle in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). And Israeli visits to Jews’ holiest site surely pose no barrier to a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Rather, the two greatest obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace are the Palestinians and Israelis themselves. The Palestinians oppose a two-state solution, and prefer an ongoing struggle to “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in December 2021 showed only 39% of Palestinians support a two-state solution, while 59% oppose it.
Indeed, the Palestinians have conducted a murderous terrorist war against Israel for more than 50 years and have rejected every serious proposal for peace and a Palestinian state offered by Israel and its ally, the United States.
A majority of Israelis—58%—also oppose a Palestinian state at this time. Their reason: The Palestinians steadfastly refuse to accept the Jewish state and show no willingness to make peace. According to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute in 2022, just 32% of Israelis support a two-state solution.
If President Biden and company truly want two states, they must create—and implement—a comprehensive strategy to address Palestinians’ resistance to the goal of Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine, living peacefully side by side.
Above all, the United States should diplomatically pressure and condition funding to the Palestinians on removing the two key obstacles to this goal: 1. Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in the region, and 2. the Palestinians’ mission of destroying Israel as their means to freedom.
Palestinian leaders indoctrinate their people to hate Jews and Israel daily—from children’s TV and schoolhouse curricula to pulpit sermons and news programs.
These leaders also incite the Palestinian public to commit acts of terrorism against the Jewish state and its citizens by financially rewarding terrorist murderers.
Above all, the United States should stop coddling Palestinian leaders—both in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza. Both dictatorships need to realize it is they who are the agents of peace with Israel and of their own eventual independence. Instead of hectoring Israel with the “two states” mantra, the United States needs to help the Palestinians recognize there will be no Palestinian state without significant cultural, economic and political changes.
Specifically, Washington should focus energies and resources on assisting the Palestinians overcome five fundamental obstacles currently preventing peace with Israel and their own independence.
First, it must make its funding for the Palestinian Authority, currently about $235 million per year, contingent on a) the P.A. reforming its notorious educational materials to promote peace and co-existence to children, rather than terrorism and Jew hatred; and b) reforming government media so TV news broadcasts no longer deliver daily diatribes about “filthy Jews” and the Zionist enemy who “stole their land.”
Aid must also be conditioned on the Palestinian leadership ending its unconscionable “pay-for-slay” program—paying lifetime salaries to terrorists who kill innocent Jews. Currently the Palestinians spend some $300 million annually on this program. Ironically, rather than supporting peace initiatives, U.S. taxpayer dollars currently fund most of the pay-for slay program costs.
In short, the United States should reward good behavior and penalize bad behavior. It should stipulate that our financial support depends on the Palestinians ending terrorism and promoting peace. Without such incentives, there is surely no hope for the two-state solution that Biden and other Americans swear they are committed to.
Second, Washington must step up its support for the Abraham Accords, to promote Arab-Israeli cooperation and commerce. Simultaneously, it should invite the Palestinians to take part in the economic and cultural cooperation thriving around them, while making it clear that progress towards normalization and peace will continue with or without them.
Third, it must harshly condemn Hamas’s efforts in the Gaza Strip to lure Israel into wars by periodically launching unprovoked attacks against the Jewish state. Likewise, it should emphatically lend its support to the international community when Israel fights back.
Fourth, it needs to help the Palestinians develop economic self-sufficiency. Currently corruption abounds in the Palestinian economy, and about one in four Palestinians has no job. Without Western aid, the economy would collapse. No two-state solution can happen without a self-sustaining Palestinian economy.
The United States and European Union pour hundreds of millions of dollars into “support” for the Palestinians, but where does this money go? Where are the U.S.- and E.U.-sponsored training, incubator and economic development programs? The most lucrative opportunity in the self-ruled Palestinian territories should be meaningful employment, not terrorist pay-for-slay.
Fifth and finally, the United States should make a concerted effort to strengthen the P.A. and help it regain control of all autonomous Palestinian territories, including Gaza. Two states and Palestinian independence will remain a fantasy until the Palestinians achieve some level of political unity and stability—the structure and institutions of a state.
The challenge, of course, is that the Palestinians are fractured into two dictatorships—one ruled by the belligerent terrorist group Hamas, with the P.A. in charge of a competing government in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Unfortunately, the P.A. is slowly losing control of its territory to various semi-independent Palestinian militias. While there’s no denying the messiness of the Palestinian political reality, there’s also no denying that a two-state solution remains impossible with rogue armed groups roaming Palestinian streets.
In sum, if Washington is serious about two states, it must seek to pacify the Palestinians and help them achieve political institutions reliable enough to sustain true independence.
Moreover, if it wants to make the two-state solution a cornerstone of its Middle East policy, it must firmly commit to creating conditions within Palestinian society that make independence possible. Until then, the United States should wholeheartedly support Israel’s efforts to protect its people from terrorism fueled by Palestinian refusal to accept the Jewish state.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.