It’s become a mantra, “Two-State Solution.” A kind of magic formula, if you say it enough times you might believe that it must be a great idea. We already tried it twice, and the results were disastrous. Israel relinquished control over Lebanon and then Gaza. This withdrawal created two states, and they are no solution. The opposite has happened. Each withdrawal empowered radical elements that seized control of territory and used it to attack Israeli towns and cities. Two Iranian proxy states were created. As a result Israel was forced to defend itself first in the north from attacks from Hezbollah and then in the south after Hamas launched thousands of missiles into Israel. In each case there was a war, and Jews and Arabs suffered from the hostilities.
We hear the refrain time and again “if only Israel made concessions” there would be peace. But Israel has made many concessions. Today Palestinians control most of their own affairs on the West Bank. Israel gave up a crucial buffer zone in Southern Lebanon and uprooted close to ten thousand Jews from their homes in Gaza. None of these has brought peace. In each case, instead of peace it has created more conflict. These concessions empowered the Palestinians to demand more and become more bellicose. Now they won’t even negotiate despite urging from the United States and other world powers.
As Americans we think every problem has a solution; two states sound so alluring. It’s a catchy phrase that sounds simple and great. We are not asking the essential question: what do the Palestinians really want? Is it peace, or just another stage in a conflict that has been going on for centuries. After the Arab leader Salahadin conquered Jerusalem, Jews lived for centuries in a tenuous situation. There were pogroms and expulsions. Jews did not have full rights under Arab rule. Jews were the “Dihimi,” a second or third class of citizen, never given full rights. When Jews began to reassert their historical rights over their homeland a century ago, the Arabs time and again rejected every offer for compromise.
The Palestinian Authority has made its vision of its state clear. Its Supreme Court has ruled that the penalty for selling land to a Jew is death. Over a million Arabs live in Israel. They own land, vote and have members in the Knesset, and even the Supreme Court has an Arab justice. If the Palestinians really want peace, why can’t Jews live in as a minority in a Palestinian state? Why do they have the death penalty for selling land to a Jew? Why do they demand that all Jewish communities be removed from the territory they want to use as a state?
Before there can be any negotiations, it is imperative that these questions be answered. They go to the core of the central issue. Is a state on the West Bank really a final peace or just a step in a long-term goal of the destruction of Israel? What will happen if Iranian-backed Hamas, the PLO’s partner, seizes control over the West Bank and targets Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with missiles? Why should hundreds of thousands of Jews be forced from their homes in the name of peace? Why can’t they live as citizens if they want in a Palestinian state?
We share our dreams with our children. I believe the Palestinians, when they teach children in their schools, that their intention is a state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Let’s stop the fantasy. If the Palestinians really wanted “two states for two peoples,” they could have had it years ago. Barak offered a gracious deal to Arafat at Camp David; Olmert did the same with Abbas a few years later. They could have easily settled the conflict. Let’s not help them advance their real goal — one state for just one people, and the death penalty to anyone who sells land to a Jew.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen/Chabad. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org