By Hymie Rubenstein
THE WORLD'S POLITICAL elite keeps pushing for a two-state solution to the seemingly endless conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This zeal is difficult to reconcile with the desire of most Israelis and Palestinians for a one-state solution to the same conflict.
In a nationally broadcast Jan. 18 news conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he had informed the United States of his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state as part of any postwar outcome in Israel’s nearly four- month attempt to destroy Hamas. Israel “must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” he said, to prevent the creation of an enhanced launching pad for Palestinian attacks on Israel.
Photo credit: Joe Catron
According to Netanyahu, a strong one-state solution to the ceaseless clash between the two sides is the only strategically realistic one for Israel. Presumably, this is because absent such control over the Palestinians there would be unregulated funding from Iran, Qatar, and other bad actors, allowing the construction of land and sea facilities in Gaza for planes and ships carrying all manner of offensive weaponry.
Moreover, given the existing border with two countries, Lebanon and Syria, either hosting or occupied by Iran-backed militant terrorist groups openly calling for a judenrein Islamic waqf — an inalienable land of greater Palestine cleansed of its Jews — adding a third one with a Palestine state would only reduce Israel’s already tattered security system.
Public opinion polls on both sides following the surprise Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom have tightened the region’s Gordian Knot, underscoring the impossibility of a two-state solution in the near or distant future.
A Nov. 14 survey by a West Bank polling firm showed that only 5.4% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank wanted to see one state for the two competing peoples. A two-state solution was supported by 17.2% and 74.7% favoured a “Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea with no State of Israel in between.”
The poll also revealed that 59.3% of respondents strongly supported the Oct. 7 slaughter, while 15.7% somewhat supported it. In sum, 75% were happy to see the slaughter of Jewish men, women, and children.
As for the popularity of Hamas, almost 60% of Gazans had a positive view of the terrorist organization, with 87.7% support in the West Bank.
On the Israeli side, an Oct. 17 to Dec. 3 Gallup poll showed that 65% of Israeli adults oppose the existence of an independent Palestinian state, an almost complete reversal of where they stood on the issue a decade ago when twice as many Israeli adults supported an independent Palestinian state (61%) as opposed its creation (30%).
Another recent poll revealed that 93% on each side see themselves as the rightful owners of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
As for the greater Middle East and North Africa, an Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies poll of some 8,000 Arabs in several Muslim-majority regions (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, and the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank and Gaza) conducted between Dec. 12 and Jan. 5 found that some two-thirds said the Oct. 7 terror attacks in southern Israel were a “legitimate resistance operation” and 19% said that the massacre was a “somewhat flawed” but legitimate resistance operation.
Only 5% denounced Hamas’s war crimes as an “illegitimate operation.” Most Arabs (89%) said they disapproved of recognizing the State of Israel, up from 84% in 2022.
When asked whether they supported or opposed Hamas’s actions, 59.3% of the Palestinians surveyed said they were “extremely” supportive of the attacks and 15.7% said they “somewhat” supported the pogrom. Almost all (98%) said the slaughter made them feel “prouder of their identity as Palestinians.”
Apart from the ethnic and other bias on both sides, taken together, all these polls show that the main combatants and surrounding Muslim peoples see the current conflict as intractable, a view publicly held by only a handful of realistic outsiders.
Arab opposition to a two-state solution was key to the founding of Hamas. Its formative 1988 Charter, a thoroughly antisemitic document, many of its sentiments lifted straight from Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, says:
The [Jewish] enemies have been scheming for a long time ... and have accumulated huge and influential material wealth. With their money, they took control of the world media... With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the globe...They stood behind World War I ... and formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains... There is no war going on anywhere without them having their finger in it. (Art. 22)
The Charter also claims:
The Palestinian movement … strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine [the State of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza] …. The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or any part or abandon it or any part of it. Palestine is an Islamic land…. The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them.
Had there been no response to the Oct. 7 invasion, all 7.1 million Jews living in Israel would be Hamas targets for Holocaust-style execution.
The revised and softened 2017 Hamas Charter, a document that neither recognizes the existence of Israel nor repudiates its goal of “liberating all of Palestine,” shows that any claim that Hamas only wants to see the creation of a Palestinian state separate from Israel is thoroughly false when it states:
Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project that was founded on a false promise (the Balfour Declaration) … Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.
The Oct. 7 invasion was only the latest expression of these genocidal views. Accordingly, focusing solely on unbridled Hamas evil to the exclusion of Islamic chauvinism and pervasive antisemitism, as expressed in these Charters, is perversely short-sighted.
The current preoccupation with statehood is also refuted by historical facts. There would not have been a 1948 war against the new State of Israel save for the Islamic rejection of the United Nations partition resolution calling for two independent states; there was no call for statehood between 1950 and 1967 when Jordan and Egypt, respectively, controlled the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and the Palestinians rejected statehood for open warfare in 1967 and again in 2000.
Regarding the current war, those activists and politicians who keep trumpeting the slogan that Hamas and the Palestinian people are different entities or that Hamas does not represent the will of most Palestinians are wrong on two grounds.
First, most Palestinians have always supported Hamas, an endorsement the aforementioned polls show has only grown since Oct. 7. Secondly, while the Arab street is influential in the Middle East, it is far from decisive: except for Israel, all the region’s countries are autocratic, their despotism often reinforced by well-armed and highly motivated theocratic militias or full-fledged terrorist organizations able to brutally puts down any challenge to the hegemony of the ruling regimes. Hamas, or any other Islamic fundamentalist group that might replace it, would never respect a lasting peace with Israel regardless of any changing will of its people.
None of this has prevented the United States, a country whose political class is more supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself against external attacks than most other so-called friendly regimes, from continuing to argue that the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state should follow an end to the hostilities. It was not surprising then that Netanyahu’s January remarks were disputed by White House spokesperson John Kirby who said that President Joe Biden would “not stop working” toward a two-state solution and that it was in the best interest of Israelis, Palestinians, and the entire region.
"But there's going to be a post-conflict Gaza,” he said, telling reporters the U.S. has been clear that Israel should not reoccupy the territory and that his administration supports governance that “represents the aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
That these aspirations include a judenrein greater Palestine from the river to the sea went unmentioned.
Then on January 20, United Kingdom shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said “Biden is right” in calling for a two-state solution and described Netanyahu's comments as "unacceptable," adding, “Of course, the Palestinian people deserve a state.”
He failed to elaborate on the “of course” part, presumably considering it axiomatic.
In pressing for Palestinian statehood, Lammy, and many others like him, are seemingly oblivious to the fact that national sovereignty is a rare global phenomenon.
There are thousands of unique ethnic groups today — peoples with distinct languages, cultures, religions, and histories stretching back millennia — few of which have their own country.
The Palestinians, along with many other Middle Eastern entities created out of whole cloth by Britain and France after the early 20th century dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, have a far weaker claim to statehood than most of these age-old ethnicities, including the mainly Muslim Kurds whose 35 to 50 million people were denied a promised state of their own in 1920 but continue to live in exploited minority status in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria with hardly a murmur of outrage from the outside world.
The Palestinians, in turn, already have a state of their own — the Kingdom of Jordan — a newly created post-Ottoman nation headed by an imported monarchy where they culturally form most of the population and where it is illegal for Jews to live.
Whether all this orotundity about a two-state solution is merely a case of wilful ignorance or a time-worn reflexive diplomatic shibboleth is unclear.
On Jan. 19, Biden added to this opaqueness by suggesting one path could involve a non-militarized Gaza government when he spoke with Netanyahu about possible solutions for creation of an independent Palestinian state, an incomprehensible option in the hyper-militarized and hate-festering Middle East.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, no friend of Israel, was far less opaque on Jan. 22 when he said, “Last week’s clear and repeated rejection of the two-state solution at the highest levels of the Israeli government is unacceptable. This refusal, and the denial of the right to statehood to the Palestinian people, would indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security.”
Nor was any recognition given to the threat Palestinian sovereignty would pose to Israel’s survival or that neither of the two main combatants are demanding a two-state solution.
The only uncompromising clarity came on the same day when Netanyahu took what may have been his strongest stand ever against Palestinian statehood by claiming, “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River.”
Still, such pronouncements by Netanyahu will never silence the unrealistic demands for a two-state solution from nearly all Israel’s alleged friends, fearful of mouthing the only feasible alternative: one state from the river to the sea.
Neither silence nor fear marks Israel’s most vociferous enemies outside official circles. Anti-Israel, anti-Zionist bodies and movements around the world have never stopped claiming “so-called Israel” is an illegitimate, genocidal, apartheid, settler-colonial entity, claims never officially uttered about Palestine and the Palestinians even though they are a collectivity with no distinct language, religion, nationality, culture, or history. They are a people who began calling themselves Palestinians in large numbers only in 1948, the Arab Muslim descendants of numerous localized lineages, clans, and tribal groups. A strong sense of pan-Arab identity and belief in Islam, not some relatively new ethnic identity, is what has consistently united the Palestinians.
The most important question that needs addressing is how Palestinian sovereignty, whether based on legitimate cultural grounds or not, could ever prevent some other Muslim Brotherhood affiliate from continuing to control Gaza in the unlikely event that Hamas were eliminated.
The Palestinians and their Arab allies have fought ten wars of extermination against the Jewish state and have conducted hundreds of heinous terrorist attacks against innocent men, women, and children both in Israel and abroad. Statehood for a comparatively new ethnicity headed by genocidal antisemites would only strengthen the call for Jewish liquidation by legitimizing it with political independence.
Hymie Rubenstein is editor of REAL Israel & Palestine Report and a retired professor of anthropology, the University of Manitoba.