Pundits and politicians—especially in the West—have reflexively called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict for so long, the idea has lost any literal or useful meaning.
One of the two states—Israel—already exists, and its 74-year history provides clear definition. In a relatively short time, the Jewish state has become one of the world’s strongest democracies. It wields eminent political, economic and military influence globally. It is a staunch U.S. ally.
But what would “Palestine” look like? We have few referents for defining the opposite side of the two-state equation. We don’t know who would negotiate a Palestinian state or who would be in charge of it. We don’t know what the terms of a second state would be—like borders and peace agreements with Israel. We don’t know what the vision would be for the new state’s political, military and economic structure.
Why? We don’t know these very fundamental characteristics of a future “State of Palestine” because none of its proponents reveal them. We don’t know what the United States or European Union envision. Likewise, we don’t even know how the Palestinians imagine their new state.
Yet the answers to these questions—and many others—must be provided before rational people can embrace the heartwarming concept of a two-state solution.
How many Palestinians support such a solution?
What we know about Palestinian attitudes toward two states is not encouraging. A November 2021 poll found that only a paltry 29% of all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) believed a two-state solution is the best way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
We should then ask those who advocate a two-state solution to explain: Why do you support something a majority of Palestinians do not? And: How do you propose to convince Palestinians that your opinion is worth more than theirs?”
We should also note that the Hamas-led dictatorship in Gaza—home of some two million Palestinians—violently opposes the two-state solution. Its solution, as defined by the Hamas Charter, is to destroy Israel.
Thus, two-state proponents must also answer: How realistic is a two-state solution if the militant jihadist group that rules 42% of the Palestinian population objects to it in principle?
Who will be in charge of a Palestinian state?
When we talk about peace with “the Palestinian people,” we have to acknowledge that there is no such political unit. The Palestinian Arabs of the region live in two disconnected areas and are ruled by two distinct, warring political groups.
The two Palestinian ruling parties—both dictatorships—are bitter enemies, whose attempts to reconcile over the last 17 years have failed utterly. Neither group—Fatah in the “West Bank” and Hamas in the Gaza Strip—has held elections since 2006.
When the United States and other mostly Western diplomats have attempted to conduct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, they assumed that Fatah represents the “real” Palestinians. They also assumed that in case of successful negotiations, Hamas would somehow “come along”—join the peace party. However, Hamas rabidly denies this, and there is zero evidence backing this assumption.
This raises a huge question for those who advocate a two-state solution: Even if the Fatah party were to accept peace with Israel—which they have refused to do for some 55 years—what makes you think Hamas would a) accept a peace deal in which they had no part and b) would not start a war to conquer the new “state” negotiated by Fatah?
Before we leave the key question of who speaks for the Palestinians, we really need to ask who represents the Palestinians in the “West Bank.”
Last time there were elections among the Palestinians, in 2006, Hamas won the majority of votes. They immediately seized Gaza and threw Fatah out (they also threw many off rooftops).
While current Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas theoretically holds power in the West Bank, he is currently serving the 17th year of a four-year term. West Bank Palestinians have a bankrupt economy; they are propped up by financial contributions from Western nations. Most analysts agree, too, that if Israel did not assist in security in the Palestinian areas, Hamas would quickly take over.
Did we mention that Abbas is 87 years old and has no heir-apparent? Did we mention he canceled the elections he originally called for this April or that 70% of his constituents want him removed from office?
Thus, it’s entirely possible that when Abbas dies, Hamas will simply start ruling the West Bank’s 2.7 million Palestinians as a thugocracy, just as in Gaza.
What will a Palestinian state look like?
We know that Gaza is run by a designated Islamic terror organization, driven by jihadist ambitions and governed by Sharia law. We know Hamas doesn’t believe in democracy, nor in civil liberties, including elections. We know two of their written precepts: Kill Jews; destroy and conquer Israel.
We know that Fatah is equally undemocratic and equally opposes rule of law and basic civil freedoms. What’s more, we know the Palestinian Authority is notoriously corrupt—governed by nepotism, bribery and siphoning Western aid into the pockets of P.A. officials.
In short, the Palestinians have no tradition of Jeffersonian democracy, nor any leader who advocates it. Logically, we would expect the new Palestinian state to look like a toxic mix of the two current governments.
Thus, our final question for supporters of the two-state solution: What facts convince you that a new Palestinian state on Israel’s borders would be a responsible nation that honors freedom for its people and peace with its neighbors?
Who would trust—who honestly would want to risk—a brand new “State of Palestine” like this just a few miles from Jerusalem on Israel’s western border? Under current circumstances, not many Palestinians—and surely not many Israelis.
The idea of a two-state solution has become empty rhetoric—a shallow proposal that raises more questions than it answers. Unfortunately, when we answer those tough questions honestly, rather than portray an inspiring dream of liberation, they portend a nightmare—for the Palestinian people, and especially for Israel.
James Sinkinson is President of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.