Opinion| The Palestinian issue and the prospects of a two-state solution

Hatem Sadek
10 Min Read
A Palestinian protester waves her national flag in front of Israeli security forces during a protest marking the Palestinian Land Day in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, March 28, 2015. Land Day commemorates the unrest that erupted in March 1976 when Israeli Arabs protested the Israeli government's confiscation of thousands of acres of Arab-owned land and in which six Arab citizens were killed by Israeli police. Photo by Shadi Hatem

The Palestinian issue has a long and complex history, and the recent events have added more challenges and uncertainties to the possibility of resolving this crisis that has lasted for more than 70 years. One of the proposed solutions is the two-state solution, which has been a subject of debate and skepticism among the parties involved.

This is what President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi highlighted during his meeting with the prime ministers of Belgium and Spain. He suggested new concepts to resolve the crisis that are different from the previous political templates, which have become outdated and irrelevant to the current situation and the major shift in the balance of power between the conflicting parties. Therefore, he proposed the idea of a demilitarized state, which would indicate the willingness of the Palestinian side to abandon the idea of conflict and focus on the economic, social, and political benefits that both the Israeli and Palestinian parties can achieve after a period of building trust.

President Al-Sisi’s proposal is not a call to accept the status quo, but rather an attempt to learn from history. The Palestinian issue is perhaps one of the most complicated issues in human history, because it involves two peoples who claim the same land, and each of them believes that they have full legitimacy over it, based on historical, ideological, and ethnic grounds. This is the core of the crisis, even before the “Balfour Declaration”, which transformed the crisis from a historical dimension to a political one.

It is unwise to ignore the fact that the Palestinian issue is an issue of missed opportunities, and it is useful to recall some historical facts to illustrate this point. The first opportunity was the UN Resolution of 1947, which was the partition resolution that divided Palestine into two Israeli and Palestinian states. According to this resolution, most of Jerusalem was allocated to the Palestinians. The Israelis accepted the resolution, but the Arabs and Palestinians rejected it, hoping to regain the whole land. Thus, the first opportunity was lost.

The second opportunity was the 1948 war, which resulted in the establishment of Israel as a state with international recognition, while the Palestinians remained as a group of refugees waiting for a hope that seemed impossible.

The third opportunity was the 1967 war, which was a huge setback for the Arab side, and led to the Israeli occupation of all of Palestine. The hope of restoring Palestine became a mere illusion.

The fourth opportunity was the 1973 war, which enabled Egypt to regain Sinai and the peace treaty that followed. The late President Anwar Sadat invited the Palestinians to join the peace process, which offered them a chance to have a semi-independent state with a divided Jerusalem. However, some parties intervened and played on the emotions and religion of the people, and the initiative was rejected. Thus, another historic opportunity that could have been a basis for further progress was lost.

Since then, we have been living in the atmosphere of the issue of lost opportunities, and every time the Palestinian issue returns to the forefront, the proposal is rejected, until the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat realized that the opportunities were diminishing and only crumbs remained.

Finally, Yasser Arafat was convinced to accept an agreement known as the Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Under this agreement, it was only possible to recognize a non-independent Palestinian Authority and separate parts of the Palestinian territories.

Thus, what remained of the dream turned into just a nightmare, and everyone woke up one morning and all the good opportunities they had hoped for had been lost.

What I mean by this historical narration is that rights only come back through the balance of power. A right without power is just a historical icon that does not have the power to preserve itself, and it is always in need of forces on the ground to protect and develop it.

Even when former US President Donald Trump launched what he described as the deal of the century to resolve the Palestinian issue, it did not bring anything new. Perhaps what has increased in the past is the stabilization of the status quo for the Israelis who are seeking to find their religious state. The same is also true for the Palestinians, who will have a share of the eastern Quds represented by the village of Abu Dis, and what is more, is the economic aspect that will be relied upon as an auxiliary element in convincing the parties to accept the deal.

History has never and will not remember that Egypt has ever failed to defend the rights of the Palestinian people. Since the issuance of the United Nations resolution in 1947, the Palestinian issue has become its top political priority, and thousands of martyrs wounded, and missing persons have been sacrificed for it during decades of conflict with Israel.

On the Palestinian side, the brothers there were not up to the responsibility they shouldered. In fact, in many cases, the matter between the Palestinian factions that were originally formed to liberate the land was more like a race to reap the spoils. The tragedy has become greater and more comprehensive. It is no longer limited to the loss of land but has extended to the loss of what is more important and dangerous, such as the loss of identity and the widening of the gap between the factions. The crisis extended from a struggle over influence and control over grants and aid to accusations of treason and working for one party at the expense of another. Here the tragedy turned into entertainment, and things reached a clash, a military conflict, and assassinations that affected almost all of their military and political leaders.

In that atmosphere, it was easy for the issue to turn, in the hands of some of its people, into a prey and a source of wealth. Without going into details, any reader of history or researcher on the Internet can find books, volumes, and documents about how the Palestinian issue was transformed from the largest crisis and most complex humanitarian problem into a mere means of financial gain in the hands of some.

Today the scene is repeated, and despite Egypt’s support for the brothers in Gaza, we find some motorists using social media sites as a front to wage a fierce war against Egypt, claiming that it is not fulfilling its role in providing support to the Palestinian people. This is at a time when Egypt is opening its borders and hospitals to receive hundreds of wounded Palestinians for treatment and to provide all possible and available support to our brothers. These biased people forget that the Palestinian issue is a central issue for Egypt. These biased people also forget that Egypt is making strenuous efforts to achieve a ceasefire to avoid further violence and the shedding of the blood of innocent civilians from the Palestinian people who are paying the price of military confrontations for which they are not to blame.

This is the hellish cycle in which the crisis is going, and whenever a new idea is presented, it is met with rejection and its speaker is accused of treason and selling the cause. What is required now is to bring about a real change in ideas so that we can keep pace with reality and interact with it according to the balance of power and not according to empty slogans that have harmed the cause more than its enemies. Previous solutions are no longer useful, and now is the time for reason and wisdom, moving away from the empty slogans that caused the loss of more than 17,000 Palestinians in less than 50 days, half of whom were children and women. The last call, and also the remaining hope, is to deal with President Al-Sisi’s proposal realistically, away from polemics and café generals.

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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