For decades, the “two-state solution” slogan has triggered a conditioned reflex. It has been widely accepted as the optimal solution to the war that the Arab world has waged against Israel. Each side, however, interprets the term differently. Only by tracing its origin can we understand its double meaning.
From the outset, the term was designed as a weapon, whose purpose was deception. Its facile appeal has remained because the general public is largely ignorant of the real motives behind it.
Most people of good faith understand the “two-state solution” as partition, dating back to the Peel Commission, which, on July 7, 1937, recommended the division of Mandatory Palestine into two unequal parts: one Palestinian Arab, and the other Jewish, with transfers of population. Its conclusion eloquently presented the Commission’s compromise: “’Half a loaf is better than no bread’ is a peculiarly English proverb; and, considering the attitude that both the Arab and Jewish representatives adopted in giving evidence before us, we think it improbable that either party will be satisfied at first sight with the proposals we have submitted for the adjustment of their rival claims. For Partition means that neither will get all it wants.”
The prominent Zionist leaders of the time, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, accepted the Commission’s compromise, namely the “half a loaf”—which was actually much less than half—because they understood the limitations of power. In contrast, the Arab Palestinian leadership, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, rejected the Commission’s proposals. Later, in May 1939, seeking to appease the Arab world, Great Britain caved and issued the White Paper, severely limiting Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine. At this critical moment in history, a real “two-state solution” could have saved many lives.
For his part, the mufti ardently collaborated with Nazi Germany, and spent most of the Second World War in Berlin as a privileged guest, with a fat budget. On Nov. 2, 1943, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, he participated in a rally in the Luftwaffe building in Berlin, whose purpose was to repudiate the Declaration, despite the fact that the Germans had been defeated at Stalingrad. His speech was beamed by radio to the whole Arab world. The following is an excerpt:
“Germany is also fighting against the common enemy who oppressed the Arabs and the Muslims in their respective lands. It understood the Jews perfectly and determined to find a final solution [author’s bold] to the Jewish menace, which will contain their mischief in the world.
“… Allah has determined that there never will be a stable arrangement for the Jews, and that no state should be established for them … I do not have the slightest doubt that we shall succeed in the victory against them, despite the massive help of the cruel allies. Allah helps those to victory who help Him. We will win and liberate our lands from the claws of the Allies.”
The mufti made a common cause with Nazi Germany. He viewed his war against the Jews as a religious war, and supported genocide.
After the war, the idea of Partition found new life in the U.N. Partition Resolution of Nov. 29, 1947. However, when seven Arab countries invaded the newly declared State of Israel, the United Nations did nothing. According to historian Bernard Lewis, “the United Nations failed to act after the Arab states invaded the Land and then treated Jewish and Arab refugees differently, leaving problems that remain today.” As a consequence, the powers that condoned the naked aggression of the Arab world bear a good measure of moral responsibility for the present impasse.
By rejecting the compromise of the Peel Commission and of the United Nations, the Arab side made a costly mistake. When the Arab states attacked Mandatory Palestine in 1947, they were not concerned with the fate of the “Arab Palestinian People” (who at the time simply considered themselves Arabs). They intended to partition the land for themselves.
The nascent State of Israel won the 1948 War for Independence, changing the demographic balance that had previously been to the Arab advantage. Both in 1937 and 1947, the Jews of the Yishuv were the only side that accepted Partition, i.e., “the half loaf.”
At present, the main advocates of the idea of “territorial compromise” are Israel’s enemies, along with well-meaning outsiders and “progressive” Israelis. For the Arab Palestinians, the basic objective is to achieve “justice” by means of “armed struggle.” One need only consult Article 21 of the Palestinian Covenant to establish this:
“The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substituting for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.”
Further, one cannot overlook the PLO’s “authentic genocide message.” For example, Daniel Pipes published a reader’s comment in the Middle East Forum stating that the PLO’s first chairman, Ahmad al-Shukeiri (1908–80), coined the phrase “Driving the Jews into the sea”/“Throwing the Jews into the sea.” The contributor [who most likely was professor Barry Rubin of the IDC Herzliya] observed: “After the Six-Day War, realizing the great damage it has done to Arabs, Arab propagandists, including Shukkeiri himself, tried somehow to ‘transform’ his statement from the meaning of annihilation to the meaning of ‘transfer’ of Jews (or ‘ethnic cleansing’), but it was too late, the clarity of his authentic genocide message was already publicized.”
Indeed, in a 1972 interview with Oriana Fallaci, and, later, in 1980, Yasser Arafat stated the Palestinian position succinctly: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel and nothing else.” During a visit to Venezuela in February 1980, he elaborated on this theme:
“Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war that will last for generations …. We shall not rest until the day when we return to our home, and until we destroy Israel …. The destruction of Israel is the goal of our struggle, and the guidelines of that struggle have remained firm since the establishment of Fatah in 1965.”
Over time, intransigent pronouncements and terrorist attacks, such as Black September (1970) and the Munich Massacre (1972) harmed the Arab Palestinian cause. Consequently, the PLO needed to repair its image in order to achieve its political goals. At the prompting of the Soviet Union, the politburo of North Vietnam coached a PLO delegation.
As early as February 1970, Salah Khalaf, a.k.a. Abu Iyad, led a PLO delegation to Hanoi, where they met the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap. Their political experts advised them regarding how to manipulate the Western media and transform their public image from terrorists to “moderates.” Abu Iyad described this important encounter in his book, “My Home, My Land,” a series of interviews with Eric Rouleau published in 1978.
The North Vietnamese advised the Palestinians on the need to devote attention to the intermediate stages of their war and to accepting “provisional sacrifices.” They suggested that by seemingly accepting “the division of the land between two independent states, without stressing that this was only an interim phase,” the PLO’s opponents in the West would be placated. This is the true origin of the “two-state solution.”
Several years later, the recommendations of the North Vietnamese provided the basic principles of the “‘Phases Program/Phased Plan,” which was formulated in the resolution of the Twelfth Palestinian National Council in Cairo on June 9, 1974.” Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, describes how this strategy was meant to work:
“The Phases Program/Phased Plan calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of the disputed territory that becomes available, whether through war or through a negotiated process…. In adopting this policy, the PLO leadership stressed that accepting any part of Palestine was legitimate as long as the entity established there would serve as the basis for the liberation of the rest of the country—that is the ultimate destruction of Israel.”
Indeed, several Palestinian leaders proudly revealed that they had entered into the Oslo peace process in bad faith. For example, Faysal al-Husseini (1940-2001), whom the media designated a “Palestinian moderate,” declared in an interview published on June 24, 2001, in the Egyptian (Nasserite) newspaper Al Arabi that the Oslo arrangements constituted a “Trojan horse” and part of the “phased goals”:
“When we are asking all the Palestinian forces and factions to look at the Oslo Agreement and at other agreements as ‘temporary’ procedures, or phased goals, this means that we are ambushing the Israelis and cheating them,” he said.
“If we agree to declare our state over what is now only 22% of Palestine, meaning the West Bank and Gaza—our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations.”
It is clear that Faysal al-Husseini gave an accurate explanation of what the Palestinians mean when they speak of the “two-state solution.” The term conceals an ultimate goal of bringing about the end of Israel. The Palestinians are engaged in an open-ended religious war, using military and non-military tactics.
If our leaders sincerely want to advance the cause of peace, they should not delude themselves that they can make our sworn enemies into friends. Advocating for the “two-state solution” in any form is tantamount to gambling with the future of the Jewish state, because the Palestinians are committed to its destruction. They have told us so, and we must take them at their word.
Joel Fishman, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a historian and former editor of the Jewish Political Studies Review. He served as the assistant editor of volumes X (July 1920-December 1921) and XI (January 1922-July 1923) of “The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann” (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1977).