The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Putting the Two-State Solution on Hold
How Hamas’s presence in Israel makes an independent Palestinian state dangerous
Two weeks ago, several rockets were launched from Gaza towards Tel Aviv. Luckily, the rockets caused little damage and no casualties, as they missed the areas they were intended for. Israel was quick to blame Hamas, which controls Gaza, and retaliated swiftly with strikes at what it said were Hamas military sites and compounds throughout Gaza. Hamas quickly denied responsibility for the attacks, but expected such a response and unsurprisingly left the targeted sites ahead of time.
The attack on Tel Aviv was the first since the 2014 Gaza War between Hamas and Israel, though mutual animosity has defined the relationship between Israel and Hamas over the last few years.
Unfortunately, this attack can be considered part of a general pattern, rather than just a single incident.
Israel has been the target of many attacks, as a recent Israeli Defense Force (IDF) report estimated that 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel in 2018 alone, resulting in 16 Israeli casualties. These numbers alone not only seem to justify Israel’s intense security precautions, but they illuminate another important insight: right now, establishing an independent Palestinian state would only perpetuate the violence in the region while simultaneously worsening living conditions for Palestinian citizens and endangering Israeli citizens.
This is not to say that a two-state solution is not plausible as a long-term resolution to the conflict. The two-state solution would create an independent Israel and an independent Palestine, justified by the idea is that Israelis and Palestinians want to run their countries differently. Israelis want a Jewish state, and Palestinians want to form an autonomous state. Quite obviously, neither side can get what it wants in a joined state, so the only possible solution that satisfies and protects everyone involves separating Palestinians and Israelis.
In fact, the majority of the international community has expressed support for a two-state solution. Last September, for example, President Trump expressed his support for a two-state solution, declaring it the “best” way to resolve the conflict, though he later backtracked and said he would endorse a one-state solution if it was agreed upon by both peoples.
Ultimately, many two-state solution advocates blame Israel for exacerbating tensions with Palestine and accordingly justify violence by Palestinian militants against Israel, citing Israel’s establishment of settlements in the West Bank and its decision to cut the water supply off to several Palestinian communities in the same area. They argue that if Palestine had its own autonomous state, peace and stability would permeate the region.
Unfortunately, the political situation within Palestine makes an independent Palestine less stable and more dangerous. A two-state solution would simply be imprudent given the current circumstances.
The issue with a two-state solution is that establishing a Palestinian state would effectively leave the West Bank vulnerable to Gaza’s fate. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to the elimination of Israel in favor of a Palestinian state. It ended up taking control by force of arms from the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in 2007. Currently, Hamas foments violence in the West Bank, often resorting to terror attacks against Israelis. Just two weeks ago, Hamas praised an attack in which a Palestinian killed an Israeli and critically wounded two others.
Currently, roughly eighty percent of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, as the Oslo Accords of 1995 partitioned the area into three sections. One of these sections (Area C) is controlled completely by Israel, and Area B is controlled by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Area A, which makes up just eighteen percent of the West Bank, is controlled solely by Palestine. The issue with a two-state solution is that it would likely give the entire West Bank to Palestine, which would give Hamas a stronger position from which to launch attacks on Israel.
This kind of political dynamic is not particularly new to the region. Similar situations were presented to the international community in Iraq, Libya, and Egypt. In all three cases, the stabilizing power in the country was deposed and the country plunged into chaos. In this case, if Israel left the region, Hamas would take advantage of the resulting power vacuum, which has repercussions for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Not only would Israel be more vulnerable to attacks, but also Hamas has proven to be a brutal and incompetent ruling power. Examining living conditions in Gaza, where Hamas has complete control, residents make do with four hours of electricity a day and many people do not have access to clean water because the supply system is contaminated with sewage. Internal violence has plagued the region to the point where travel is either strictly limited or entirely prohibited by other countries.
What’s the main takeaway? A two-state solution would allow Hamas to expand, which would not only threaten Israel and its citizens, but would make life for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank absolutely horrific. This is not a new political situation in the Middle East, so it is vital that the international community refrains from pressuring the two sides into creating a situation where both Israelis and Palestinians would suffer immensely.
In light of Hamas’s increased presence in the West Bank and Gaza, the Trump administration has permanently cut more than $200 million in aid for the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, saying the appropriated funds will be “redirected” elsewhere. However, what is more important is that the international community understand that ridding the area of Hamas is the first step to working towards peace.
Israel was founded in 1948 as a refuge for a people who had been exiled and oppressed for nearly 2,000 years. Israelis reference their historical occupation of the area to justify an establishment of a Jewish state.
Likewise, Palestinians offer a similar narrative: one of dispersion from a homeland and a yearning to return. One people’s possession of a historical homeland led to the dispossession of another people. When one nation—Israel—was born, another national movement was also born.
Evidently, both Israelis and Palestinians desire autonomous states in the Middle East in order to establish their own national identities. A two-state solution can certainly bring peace to the region, but it is important that proper precautions are taken so that the violence does not escalate, and life for both Israelis and Palestinians alike does not worsen.
David Bender is a sophomore studying economics and pursuing minors in history and constitutional studies. On campus, David is actively involved with the Knights of Columbus and the Center for Ethics and Culture. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.