During his visit to Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated the need for what he and many others call a “two-state solution.” We strongly oppose the use of this term— and not for political reasons. Even if one believes that establishing a Palestinian state is necessary to secure a genuine peace, one should stop using this term because it is a misnomer, both inaccurate and misleading.
The “two-state solution” mantra falsely implies—even claims—that Israel is not yet a state, and that it is not a sovereign, independent, United Nations-sanctioned state until and unless a Palestinian state comes into being alongside it. If this were not the implication, why would anyone be promoting the term “two-state solution”?
The term also falsely implies that both sides of in this conflict, under the solution, are getting the same thing. Yet Israel is already a state, and its legitimacy stands independent of whatever political solution that might one day emerge.
Before 1948, the year Israel was established, one could reasonably and accurately speak of a two-state solution, because that is what was being proposed—a state for Jews and a 23rd state for Arabs. Today, only a Palestinian state is being proposed, and those advocating it should therefore call it the “Palestinian state solution.” But this too is fraught with problems, inasmuch as a Palestinian state under prevailing conditions would not bring peace, and therefore it provides no “solution.”
Quite the contrary: Palestinians have rejected establishing a Palestinian state in the context of accepting a Jewish state on each and every occasion it has been proposed. In 1937, the Peel Commission offered the Palestinian Arabs 95 percent of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—the other 5 percent would comprise a Jewish state. The Arabs said no. The UN offered to divide the land in 1947 into Jewish and Arab states. The Arab powers said no, and invaded Israel in an attempt to destroy the fledgling Jewish state. In 2000, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak and, again in 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, offered more than 90 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza and substantial parts of Jerusalem. In both cases, the Palestinian leadership said no and made no counter-offer.
Furthermore, from 1948 to 1967, all of the West Bank and Gaza and half of Jerusalem were controlled by Jordan and Egypt, yet no Palestinian movement called for a Palestinian state in these territories. If the denial of such a state is the crux of the problem, Palestinians could have been expected to wage diplomatic and terrorist warfare on Egypt and Jordan in a bid to pressure these powers to create one. It never happened.
To call the creation of a Palestinian state a “solution” in which Israel would be accepted continues to be highly unlikely. An October 2010 Palestinian Arab World Research & Development (AWRAD) poll found that 83 percent of Palestinians desire a single state upon the territory of present-day Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, there is no map in the Palestinian Authority (PA) that identifies a country called “Israel”—only the name “Palestine” appears on the entire territory of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in current PA maps. Even the new Fatah ruling party emblem that was recently commissioned by the PA depicts the entirety of Israel draped in Palestinian headgear and labeled “Palestine.” Indeed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas continuously and publicly states, “I do not accept a Jewish state; call it what you will.” The PA’s animus towards Jews is so strong that its leaders—Abbas, Saeb Erakat, Ahmed Qurei, to name three of the most senior leaders—have insisted that no Jew be permitted to live in a future Palestinian state.
Many PA leaders openly call for Israel’s destruction. In UN speeches, Abbas condemns Israel for “63 years of occupation”—meaning all of Israel is illegal, as far as Palestinians are concerned. He calls Israel the “land of Mohammad and Jesus,” denying its biblical Jewish connection. In a New York Times op-ed, Abbas even wrote that a Palestinian state will lead the PA not to peace, but to “internationalize the conflict as a legal matter… paving the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the UN, human rights treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice.”
How is a Palestinian state possible when rivals Fatah and Hamas control the West Bank and Gaza, respectively? All these facts, along with the refusal of Fatah and Hamas to negotiate, are scarcely grounds for belief that a Palestinian state is a “solution” for a real peace.
Therefore, we must all stop using the inaccurate term “two-state solution.” Israel is already a sovereign state and a Palestinian state is not the solution to the lack of peace. Only when Palestinian Arabs and the wider Arab world truly accept the Jewish people’s rights to the land as a Jewish state will a real peace finally emerge.
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of “H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel” (London, 2004).