The two-state solution was first discussed in the so-called Peel Commission. This commission was established during the British Mandate of Palestine (1922-1947). On July 7, 1937, she first proposed the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

At the time, the members of the commission interviewed more than a hundred Jews and Palestinians – only to come to a sobering conclusion. There is an “insurmountable conflict” between the two groups living in a confined space. The groups have nothing in common. “Your national hopes are not compatible with each other.” That is why the country must be divided into two states.

The plan stayed in the drawer. But he provided the blueprint for all further attempts to defuse the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In 1947 it was also taken up by the UN General Assembly, but failed due to the resistance of the Arab states, which wanted nothing to do with a state of Israel.

During the first Arab-Israeli war, which began in 1947 in the Mandate area and lasted until 1949, both parties tried to secure as much territory as possible. On the Israeli side, the war surrounding the country’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948 is considered the War of Independence, in Arabic it is referred to as “the catastrophe” (an-Nakba). After the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem, the two-state solution initially seemed no longer feasible.

The plan did not come back onto the agenda until 1980, when the then European Community spoke out in favor of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and suggested a two-state solution. However, it took more than two decades until the UN Security Council adopted this term in March 2002.

George W. Bush was the first US President to adopt this term. In 2003, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators also took up the plan in the so-called Geneva Accord.

The rapprochement was based on the fact that the PLO had not expressly recognized the State of Israel in 1988, but had implicitly recognized it. She did this by abandoning plans to establish a Palestinian state throughout the Mandate. Instead, the PLO limited itself to the borders of the parts of the country occupied in 1967 (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip).

In a 2017 document, the radical Islamist Hamas stated that it could imagine a national discussion about a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders that were in place up until the Six-Day War. But the same document also states that there is no alternative to a fully sovereign state over the entire Palestinian territory, with Jerusalem as its capital. Such a requirement practically rules out coexistence with Israel.

Approval for a two-state solution among both Israelis and Palestinians has fluctuated greatly over the years, depending on the political situation. In recent years, support for the two-state principle has declined among both populations, according to polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). The one-state solution with equal rights for all has even less approval. From the point of view of many Israelis, this would undermine Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

The last direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians failed in 2014. For years there has been no concrete prospect of a political solution. Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, which is further expanding the area, makes a two-state solution increasingly unrealistic.

2022 was the year with the highest death toll in the conflict since 2005, according to the United Nations. The ultra-nationalist Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been in power since the end of 2022, wants to continue building settlements, and the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank is also being discussed again. Neither a two-state solution nor any other political solution is currently on the agenda.

This text has been updated several times and supplemented with the latest political developments on February 1st, 2023.

Author: Kersten Knipp

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The original of this article “The two-state solution – a utopia?” comes from Deutsche Welle.