AMMAN – Jordanian, Palestinian, and Western politicians and researchers have agreed that the option of a “two-state solution” is no longer viable, nor is it a feasible or realistic option in the context of developments on the ground and in the context of clear Israeli policies that eliminate any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state from the territories occupied in June 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital.
At an expert seminar held last week by the Politics and Society Institute and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (via Zoom), politicians warned that continuing to talk about a two-state solution in Arab or international diplomatic discourse would not change the reality and that doing nothing or waiting for unexpected changes was also not an option.
On the other hand, the participants saw that Israeli policies are clearly moving towards eliminating any possibility of a two-state solution and weakening any hope of restoring Palestinian rights, and they pointed to the major changes that have taken place on the ground that confirm that this option is no longer possible according to the Israeli playbook: the number of settlers has reached 700,000, and settlers are using Palestinian roads and infrastructure and providing hope for Israel.
This workshop is the third in a series of virtual sessions organized by the Politics and Society Institute and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung over the next few months with a focus on Jordanian foreign policy under the theme “A Turning Point – How Can Jordan and its Partners Successfully Navigate Through Uncertainty?”
The workshop was attended by a group of Jordanian, Western and Arab politicians and was addressed by former Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, Amal Jado, deputy minister of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Tobias Tunkel, director of the Near East, Middle East, and North Africa at the German Federal Foreign Office.
Based on the discussions of the closed session, PSI presents a decision paper, which is issued to help decision-makers understand the political reality, possibilities, options, and recommendations.
From a de facto scenario to a rights-based approach
It is quite clear that the no-state solution actually exists and that Israeli policies are far from accepting the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. Therefore the proposal remains either the scenario of a fait accompli and its consequences, which will end up in either a fragile entity with no borders or sovereignty, the declaration of a nominal Palestinian state without Jerusalem, or the carving out of part of Jerusalem (as proposed by the deal of the century) and considering it the Palestinian capital with Israeli control over Al-Aqsa and the Old City, or trying to look for regional roles for neighboring countries to deal with the West Bank and Gaza.
What is important is that sticking to and holding on to the idea of a two-state solution in diplomatic discourse and mourning this option will not lead anywhere. Therefore, Jordanians and Palestinians standing by idly is not a solution. It is necessary to move to an innovative approach, and an elite group of Palestinian and Arab politicians has begun to put forward the option of “Palestinian rights”, that is, focusing on Palestinian rights, which are guaranteed by international law in the face of Israeli policies that ignore these rights.
The rights approach is based on embarrassing Israel before the international community by showing it as an apartheid regime and that it does not give the Palestinians their political, legal, religious, and human rights, an approach that, in the opinion of the proponents of this trend, is very clear and moves away from the thorny debate, Israeli procrastination, and lengthy international ropes in dealing with the already dead peace process (which still awaits being officially declared dead). Thus, this provides the Palestinians with the opportunity for international action and activism to confront flagrant violations of the rights and freedoms of both the Palestinians in the territories of 1948 and of 1967 who continue to be subject to the occupying power and sovereignty despite the existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is not yet recognized by the world as a sovereign state.
If this is the Israeli option, the outcome at hand is that Israel will bear its political and legal costs to the world, and the Palestinians will demand their rights under occupation.
Milestones in the transformation of the conflict
The size of the Israeli settlement presence clearly confirms that there is no intention at all on the part of Israel of allowing a two-state solution. There are today 700,000 settlers residing in the West Bank, new settlement projects are expected soon, and no one in Israel is talking about a two-state solution (except the single statement made by the Israeli Prime Minister at the last meeting of the United Nations General Assembly). A participant shared, “In the past, Israelis did not dare to walk through the roads of the West Bank, but the situation today is completely reversed. The Israelis are the ones who walk on the roads while Palestinian cities are surrounded by fences, checkpoints, and settlements, and they are the ones who are afraid to walk on the roads today”.
One of the headlines of the internal transformation is the issue of Jerusalem, which is rapidly and continuously taking on a religious dimension, and Israeli policies are reinforcing the process of Judaization and Israelization of the Old City. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority appears to be in a state of extreme weakness, the Palestinian scene suffers from a political-geographical rift, and there is a crisis in Palestinian legitimacy as a result of the disruption of legislative and presidential elections.
It is clear that the Israeli position has chosen the path of perpetuating the current situation and the option of “no state”. The opening of Eilat-Ramon airport to the Palestinians is perhaps an example of this, and there are increasing Israeli voices for this after the battle of “unity of squares” (in the recent period) began to propose the development of political solutions in dealing with Hamas-Gaza as an alternative to the security or armed solution, which means that there are Israeli plans for continuous and final separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, a scenario that the current state of Palestinian division and fragmentation helps.
One participant said that he was at the United Nations one week prior and that he had not heard anyone talk about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, since everyone is preoccupied with the energy crisis and the Ukrainian war, and the Palestinian issue is no longer a priority for the international community.
Participants saw the so-called “Abraham Accords” as representing a major shift in the context of the conflict, weakening the Palestinian position and the chances of a political solution in favor of what some are proposing under the heading of “economic reform” or regional integration, which integrates Israel into the region.
Jordan’s Options: Towards New Approaches
Participants disagreed with regard to the mass transfer scenario, with some seeing it as being clearly possible in light of the current waves of refugees in many regions of the world such as Iraq, Syria, and, more recently, Ukraine, meaning this scenario under the threat of wars and conflicts cannot be ruled out. Other participants maintained that this is unlikely and that the Palestinians cannot leave their lands under any circumstances.
Participants were divided into two groups. The first was the minimalist trend: participants believed that Jordan has no choice but to support the Palestinians, assert their legitimate, political, and historical rights, stand up against any transfer attempts, and not accept any role in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the maximalist trend saw the need for Jordan to engage more deeply in the Palestinian situation because of its direct connection to Jordanian national security, the matter of the guardianship of the holy sites, and the issue of refugees. Accordingly, it is necessary that Jordan develop its relations with the various and multiple Palestinian forces, increase the strength of the internal Palestinian arena to face the scenario of “no state”, and move away from the option of economic normalization linked to the Abraham Accords because of the negative impact of these policies on the rights of the Palestinians and the pivotal Jordanian role in the Palestinian situation.
Participants saw that Jordan’s foreign policy needs to change its strategy from thinking about and rigidly adhering to the two-state solution to adhering to key principles that preserve the rights and interests of the Palestinians regardless of the form of the solution, whether it is a two-state solution or otherwise. These principles can be summarized in six main points:
- Palestinian rights first, and the solution comes second. For decades, strategies calling for a two-state solution have led to a disregard of the situation on the ground, affecting the daily lives of Palestinians, violating their rights, and allowing Israel to gradually kill the possibility of the two-state solution on the ground. The focus today must shift towards a human rights strategy that ensures that the situation in the occupied territories does not deteriorate, that the living conditions of their people do not deteriorate, that their lands and homes are not confiscated, and that they are rooted in the land.
- Support the stabilization of Palestinians in their lands and warn against any attempt to change the demography of the occupied territories. If Israel is not heading toward a one-state solution or a two-state solution—and this is what this position paper embraces—the logical conclusion would be to provide an alternative homeland for the Palestinian people through the displacement of the Palestinian people under the pretext of war or a state of armed conflict. In recent years, the world has witnessed several waves of displacement of the Syrian people and, more recently, the Ukrainian people in this way, which has brought back to the modern political imagination the idea of displacement and demographic change on the ground. Therefore, Jordan’s strategy should be oriented towards supporting every action the Palestinians take today to assert themselves with their land.
- Encourage reconciliation, end the division between Hamas and Fatah, and hold Palestinian elections. The lack of a unified Palestinian leadership today leads to the reinforcement of non-statehood and leads toward a dark future for the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora and makes any political process with the hope of reaching a solution a mirage in the absence of political legitimacy, the decline in the confidence of the international community, and the absence of any strategic visions for the form of a final solution.
- Work towards ending the siege on the Gaza Strip and stop treating it as separate from the West Bank.
- Emphasize the illegality of settlements and stop settlement expansion. Work with the international community to end any policies that treat settlements as part of Israel, as well as support international boycott movements of settlement products.
- Stop looking internationally at the Abraham Accords as a way or mechanism to accelerate the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict and adopt a strategy of viewing them as bilateral economic and political agreements that have nothing to do with peace (there is no mention of the word peace in the agreements).
Conclusion and recommendations:
The situation in the Palestinian territories today is moving towards the consolidation of the fait accompli with all its instability, suffering, and human rights violations in Palestine. The continuation of this situation represents what can be called the “no-state solution” where the political, economic, and social situation in the Palestinian territories is maintained and chaos is institutionalized to prevent the resumption of the peace process.
Israeli policies in stabilizing this situation depend on the transformation of Palestinian land into isolated enclaves besieged by a network of settlements and military and economic infrastructure that are connected by a network of roads, checkpoints, and fences. In addition, Israel is developing an economic and social relationship between it and the population of the occupied territories independent of the Palestinian Authority through work permits within the Green Line, travel through Israeli airports (Eilat-Ramon in particular) and reducing the role of the Palestinian Authority in exchange for increasing dependence on the occupation authorities to improve the living conditions of Palestinians pending improved conditions to push for another solution.
The dispute between Hamas and Fatah and the postponement of elections in the Palestinian territories entrench this situation. The division and loss of political legitimacy internally and internationally lead to the entrenchment of instability and the inability to unite efforts within strategic frameworks to preserve Palestinian rights and resume the peace process.
Adopting policies of appeasement and waiting for conditions to improve to push for a two-state solution again will not bear fruit. It actually means consolidating the Israeli grip on the occupied territories and deepening the conviction of the international community that coexistence with a non-state solution without reaching a final solution is possible.
- Pursuing a human rights strategy based on giving the Palestinian people all their political, economic, and social rights and maintaining their stability in their lands instead of adopting strategies based on the rigid form of a solution.
- Warn the international community of the danger of an eruption of conflict within the occupied territories and the resulting displacement and removal of the Arab inhabitants of the occupied territories, warn of Israeli attempts to change the demography of the occupied territories, and support every action and measure to stabilize the Palestinians in their lands and help them prevent displacement.
- Work on mediation, accelerate the Palestinian national reconciliation process, and push for the reactivation of the role of the Palestinian Authority internally and externally.
- Move again towards the resumption of the political process and avoid following the policies of calm-and-wait for the improvement of political conditions.