The Two-State Solution: Is it still viable? Was it ever?
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The Two-State Solution: Is it still viable? Was it ever?
11 March @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
In the eyes of many, the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is diminishing. With peace talks stalling and the current political climate in Israel in flux, options for how to deal with the enduring conflict have arguably fallen by the wayside. The outcome of the Israeli elections, that will take place on April 9th, will undoubtedly renew calls for a commitment to ending the ongoing border clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza and also in the West Bank. At this event, Professor Asher Susser will delve into the issues surrounding the historical push for a two-state solution and will look at the prospects of peace that are currently being debated.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to join Professor Asher Susser for an in-depth discussion about the two-state solution.
Professor Asher Susser is Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University. He was the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at TAU for twelve years and taught for over thirty five years in TAU’s Department of Middle Eastern History. He has been a Fulbright Fellow; a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Chicago, Brandeis University, and the Stein Family Professor of Modern Israel Studies at the University of Arizona. His Coursera “The Emergence of the Modern Middle East” has been taken by more than 90,000 students in over 160 countries.
Ellie Green is the Chief-of-Staff to the Executive Director at the Henry Jackson Society. Prior to joining the Henry Jackson Society, Ellie worked as a Communications Officer at BICOM. While at BICOM she managed the digital communications of the organisation and helped to improve stakeholder relations. She has also interned for two New York based non-profits, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, in their Communications department. She has worked at the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and was a Research Fellow at the Religion and Security Council. Ellie read for an MA in Theological Studies at the University of St Andrews. Whilst at university, Ellie was President of the St Andrews Coexistence Initiative and was Convener of the Interfaith Steering Group.
On 11 March, the Henry Jackson Society hosted Professor Asher Susser, to talk about the Israel-Palestine conflict and whether a solution – two-state or not – is possible.
After HJS’s own, Ellie Green, had introduced the event and the topic, Prof. Susser got on with tackling the question(s). Prof. Susser started by pointing out that there had been no war between Israel and any of its surrounding Arab states since 1978, and has even managed to negotiate peace with two them. So, why has the same not been done with Palestine? At the heart of it, Prof. Susser says, is that neither side wants to compromise – that compromise is totally unsavoury. So, should either side allow the status quo to continue down its current trajectory, or should (could) we try something different?
What is it about the negotiations, Prof. Susser posited? For Israel, it is a case of historical justice being played out. But, for Palestine it is a great injustice, an act of aggression, all at their expense. Yet, the issue is not an ethnic one – the majority of Palestinians are Sunni Arabs, no different to those in surrounding Arab nations. What makes them Palestinian is a unique historical occurrence: having an identity born out of losing to the Jews in 1948 and becoming displaced and refugees. So, when Palestinians come to the negotiating table, their idea of ‘self’ is defeat and perceived injustice in 1948 at the very hands of those they are negotiating with.
Prof. Susser pointed out that Israeli negotiations with the other Arab states basically comes to sorting out the result of the 1967 war – negotiations that have been mostly successful. But, when it comes to the Palestinians, the problem is 1948, not 1967; it comes to down to the problem of Palestinian refugees and if they were allowed to return, this would be to return to Israel and Israel sees this as counter-productive and/or -intuitive. This is why the talks always fail, because nothing effective (so far) is done to tackle these core issues, of 1948, in order to sort out the problems of 1967 – indeed, Israel will not negotiate the creation of Israel and therefore 1948.
When talking about refugees, Prof. Susser offered, Palestine wants to negotiate the ‘right to return’ without talking about numbers, but Israel wants to know the numbers. So then, is a two-state solution possible? If things continue, it must be a one-state solution, but can anyone imagine Israel and Palestine cohabiting peacefully together? The same goes for a confederation, one would run into the same fundamental issues. Prof. Susser then entered into a discussion on how a two-state solution might occur through partitioning West Bank; specifically, Israel taking the small area that contains the three major Israeli Jewish settlements (75% of Israeli Jew population in West Bank) and cede the rest of West Bank to the Palestinians, allowing for many years and compensation to allow the smaller Jewish settlements to resettle.
Prof. Susser also discussed Gaza, although in less depth; starting off by admitting that it is the scene of an awful humanitarian crisis. Rebuilding and revitalising Gaza would be practically and physically very possible, but would doing so revitalise Hamas? If (or when) something is to be done about Gaza, then there must be strategies and communications with Hamas in place.
To conclude, Prof. Susser stated that Israel needs to remember that its international reputation relies on Palestinian conflict and partition; that Israel needs to act in its long-term self-interest by finally solving these issues through a two-state solution.
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