Courtesy Reuters

Two-State Progress

By David Harris

Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon (“The Death and Life of the Two-State Solution,” July/August 2015) focus on how to move Israel toward supporting a two-state accord. But there is another side to the discussion: how to move Palestinian leaders toward supporting such an agreement.

The Palestinians have had multiple opportunities to secure a state of their own. These began with the two-state proposal of the United Kingdom’s Peel Commission in 1937, followed by the recommendation of the UN Special Committee on Palestine ten years later. The Arab side rejected both opportunities. From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem were in Arab, not Israeli, hands, yet there was no effort to create a Palestinian state. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel offered to exchange newly acquired lands for peace, again without success. In 2000–2001 and again in 2008, the Israeli government put a two-state proposal on the table, neither time triggering a Palestinian counter-offer. And Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was met not with confidence-building measures by the Palestinians but with missiles and mortars from Hamas-ruled areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning policies have recently drawn much comment, even as Netanyahu has reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state deal. Yet there has been little scrutiny of those actions of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that have undermined confidence in the sincerity of his commitment to a two-state accord. These include his 2011 speech at the UN acknowledging Christian and Muslim links to the land of Israel but deliberately omitting reference to the original Jewish presence there; his erroneous and incendiary description of Israeli policies as “genocide”; his coalition agreement with Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s annihilation; and his glorification of Palestinian terrorists. If Palestinian leaders genuinely seek an enduring two-state deal, they must do more to convince Israel that a workable accord is possible. The responsibility cannot be placed on Israel’s shoulders alone.

DAVID HARRIS, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee