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Israel, Palestinians lack alternatives to faltering two-state solution

With the implementation of the two-state solution becoming increasingly unlikely, Israel and the Palestinians must search for alternatives. However, few other viable options satisfy the needs of both sides.

Israel and Palestine flags

Israel lacks the will to make the two-state solution a reality

Two states for two people in the Middle East. This is the objective of the so-called Oslo Peace Process. The intention at the heart of this process is that the areas currently occupied by Israel in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip will one day form a Palestinian state which will live in peace beside its neighbor Israel.

However, the possibility of this intention becoming a reality seems ever decreasing.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to the two-state solution in his rhetoric, at the same time he allows a situation to develop in the occupied territories which makes this solution impossible, explains German political scientist Helga Baumgarten.

Despite Netanyahu's order freezing the construction by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, the settlements are continuously being developed. As the official end to the 10-month freeze approaches, there has been a speeding up of Israeli construction activity in the occupied areas adding to the many new projects which have been developed in the last few months. The construction of the road system connecting the settlements with the heartland of Israel has also been fast-tracked.

However, this road system is for the use of settlers only. The Palestinians are not permitted to use it. As a result, with the help of foreign support, the Palestinians are building their own alternative road system. And that, according to Baumgarten, means that the autonomous Palestinian Authority is forced to accept the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Israel's policies focused on removing Palestinians

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Sholmo

Israel's plans for Jerusalem crush Palestinian hopes

Baumgarten is an expert on such matters. For many years she has lived in East Jerusalem and teaches at the Birzeit University near Ramallah. She has seen the effects of the Israeli expansionist and settlement policy with her own eyes. In no other place is the Israeli expansionist policy more clear than in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians see the capital of their future state.

"They are trying to get Jerusalem under complete Israeli control and to push the Palestinians out of the town," says Baumgarten. This is also the case in the West Bank where Israel is attempting to get as much land as possible under its control. Unofficially it is hoped that the Palestinians find themselves under so much pressure and have to live in such difficult conditions that they have no other choice but to leave."

About 500,000 Jewish colonists currently live in the occupied areas. Their towns, villages and farms cut through the West Bank and prevent the possibility of a coherent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital from being created.

The two-state solution championed by many international powers, including Germany, is no longer a viable option. "There is no political will in Israel to remove the occupied areas," says the Israeli historian Tamar Amar-Dahl. She stresses that neither President Shimon Peres, nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor even Secretary of Defence Ehud Barak are ready to renounce the West Bank.

Alternatives hampered by self-interest and fear

An Israeli soldier points his gun toward a crowd of Palestinian onlookers

Living together in one state seems an impossible situation

Amar-Dahl, who teaches at Berlin's Humboldt University, has just published a biography of Peres, the 87-year-old president of Israel who is regarded as an architect of the Oslo Peace Process for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In reality, she says, Peres is an opponent of the two-state solution.

"Peres has been fighting against the two-state solution for many years," she said. "He is actually very fearful of a Palestinian state being created in the occupied areas so he has tried to develop alternatives."

However, these alternatives give no answer as to what should happen with the Palestinians and in which state they should be given their full rights. Could a bi-national state in which both people live together equally be a solution? Amar-Dahl says no.

This draft has been on the table for 30 years now but it has no chance of success as it contradicts the view of the Jewish and democratic state which most Israelis want. The bi-national state solution also gives the Palestinians equal rights, which goes against what the Zionists in Israel want.

Helga Baumgarten also says that the bi-national solution would make the Jews the minority in the land as evidence collected over the last 10 years has shown that the Palestinians are already the majority in the area between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan. Only the two-state solution could guarantee the continuity of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

"In the long term, these are the options; settlements and occupation or a state in which Jewish Israelis will sooner or later be a minority," says Baumgarten. "Only the foundation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza could prevent this."

But the belief and hope of ever getting their own state is also dying among the Palestinian general public. In contrast, the one-state, bi-national solution is winning more supporters, at least among intellectuals. After 43 years of occupation, many Palestinians see no other way to finally get the rights they have been denied for so long.

Author: Bettina Marx (nda)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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