A Travellerspoint blog

The Two State Solution

It's Really Complicated

sunny 92 °F
View Israel and Jordan on paulej4's travel map.

The Welcome Dinner last night was large and lavish. Nicky and Jane hosted a couple hundred of us--100 or so who have flown here to be with them on this joyous occasion. The bride and groom glow, the champagne flows, food is abundant and the DJ sends out a bass beat that I imagine can be felt by neighbors within a one mile radius. It is wonderful and we enjoy renewing friendships with many whom we have not seen in too long.

We collapse into our Hilton bed at midnight and do not stir until nearly 8:00am when we are greeted by a panoramic view of the Mediterranean beneath us.


Today (the weather is expected to be much more moderate with a high of only 89 degrees) we meet B4's old friends Aya and Shlomo to renew that relationship as well. While one should not talk politics or religion, the State of Israel holds these two things as their very heartbeat of being. As an example, each sleeping room here at the Tel Aviv Hilton sports a a mezuzah comprising a piece of parchment called a klaf contained in a decorative case and inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah. Our door at home hosts a mezuzah but seeing one on my hotel room entry is a new experience for me. None here shy from speaking of the history or heritage of this young nation.

In case you need a refresher, here is what we have learned, discussed and digested.

On November 29, 1947, after the defeat of the Nazi holocaust regime, the United Nations voted to establish two states in a partitioned Palestine. David Ben-Gurion and 37 other founding signatories wrote, “it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of he Charter of the United Nations.

The plan was accepted by the “Jewish Agency” and soundly rejected by Arab leaders. Gunfire and warfare erupted there soon after and continued over time making the plan problematic to say the least. The U.S. has been alternatively aggressively and passively working toward creating these two states for forty years. That heretofore failed effort now appears to be, finally, dead.

What is the background of all this? Israel, the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people is also claimed by the Palestinian people. Therefore, a separate state needed to be created for the Palestinians so they could also have a homeland; a state that could and would peacefully live side by side with Israel. How to make this work? Peacemakers have referred to this as the “Two State Solution.” President Clinton worked to make it happen and failed. President Nixon also tried and failed. Both Bushes and Obama got no success.

Over the years, wars happened to upend any desired balance. To ensure their security from attack, Israelis occupied more and more of the territory from which the attacks originated and that would form that future Palestinian state. It was a matter of survival.

But, the general push of the U.S. was to find a homeland for the Palestinian people. One legal reason cited is that Israel took the land in the West Bank by force during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. This was condemned by the UN and the U.S. as an unlawful seizure then and until now.

The reality of all this is that until and unless the Palestinians are offered a homeland, they will always be displaced people who will pose a threat to Israel and other countries in the region.

Israel has been on both sides of this issue. Early on, most Israelis on both sides of the political aisle agreed that some kind of a two-state solution must happen; they had some level of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people. That reportedly changed when Netanyahu first came to power. He built the Israeli economy into one of strength and prosperity; he built up the military so Israel become more capable of repelling those who would seek to destroy it by force; in the name of security—fully justifiable according to many—he built a wall between Israel and the West Bank so that it was easier to turn away from the plight of the Palestinians.

New settlements were built by the Israelis in the occupied territories which would make it impractical and more difficult for Israelis to ever leave those areas. In his first comment after taking office when asked about it, President Trump said, “So, I’m looking at two state and one state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

Later, he said, “I do like a two-state solution. That’s the one that I think works best. I don’t even have to speak to anybody. That’s my feeling.”

Later still, he said, “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.” But then he backed Netanyahu by officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. Embassy there. We drove by it yesterday. The status of Jerusalem--where some here point out gives Palestinian residents "all of the benefits with none of the costs" is contested. The Palestinians believe that East Jerusalem is and should be the capital of their state. This change would seem to eliminate that possibility. President Trump also then stopped foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority and to the UN Agency that helps Palestinian refugees and closed the Palestinian Authority’s representatives’ office in Washington. All of that undermined the Palestinian leadership’s authority and legitimacy.

Soon after that, Trump signed a declaration recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the place over which Israel took control in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats. Israel had seized this high ground during war for exactly that purpose.

Next, Netanyahu said that he would seize the West Bank as part of Israel which had previously been designated as a part of the Palestinian part of an eventual two-state solution. Popular opinion is that Trump’s latest statements essentially give Netanyahu permission to move ahead with this without American resistance.

Under the Obama administration and before, the U.S. pressured Israel to slow down or halt moves such as this. That has changed under Trump who has a clear affinity for Netanyahu who also has a lengthy relationship with Jarod Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor on Israel.

Last week, the United States ambassador to Israel and President Trumps former bankruptcy lawyer, David M. Friedman, declared Israel was “on the side of God,” describing that “Israel has [being on the side of God] as one secret weapon that not too many countries have.” Couple that with the fact that the United States has made deep cuts in aid to the Palestinians and stopped referring to the West Bank as “occupied,” it is clear that the U.S. is clearly taking sides.

So, after forty years, things have taken an abrupt U-turn. Instead of suppressing Israel’s more aggressive instincts, this administration encourages them. Part of that is probably due to both leaders having a hard-line view regarding Iran and the threat that it represents to both the region and the world. A stronger Israel provides a bulwark against a strong Iran.

However, if the future of Israel rests on the twin beliefs that it be both Jewish and democratic, a future problem presents itself. If you have a one-state solution you have a “greater Israel” where Israel annexes the West Bank and Gaza and becomes one nation with both Palestinians and Jews living inside it. If Israel denies the Palestinian residents of these lands the right to vote because they are not Jews, then it becomes a de-facto apartheid state—something for which the world has in the past expressed disdain. If Israel gives Palestinians the vote, they face, over a decade or so, having the country lose both its Jewish character and its democratic majority at the polls. In essence, under a one-state outcome, they can either be a democratic state or be a Jewish state but not easily be both.

Democracy would then have to be sacrificed to maintain a Jewish state. This is the current situation regarding Palestinians who live on the West Bank because they have no Israeli vote. What happens if today’s “no vote” reality becomes a permanent reality?

Some say that the next U.S. President or the next Israeli Prime Minister or both can simply undo the one-state outcome because both Trump and Netanyahu will be out of power. But there is a problem: Once the new Israeli settlements are built and occupied and the local Israeli government taking control, how does one undo all of the inherent property rights questions that will be created once homes, schools and infrastructure are created? And, who lives in and learns in those structures? Will the Palestinians be a part of that or will a “separate but equal” solution—or not solution at all—be offered?

“It’s Complicated.”

But today was not.


Aya and Sholmo called for us at 9:30. Aya is B4's friend of 35+ years and it shows. We were off touring north along the Mediterranean coast. Interestingly, our first stop (unintended) was at Acco/Akko/Acre which has been controlled over history by Romans, Ottomans, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Byzantines, and the British. To make a long story short, however, today it is controlled by us holding court at the Uri Buri restaurant. Our fabulous server, Liem, took control and delivered her choices to populate our tasting menu. She excels at choosing wonderful flavors. Coupled with a wonderful bottle of Bat Shlomo (the name made me choose it) sauvignon blanc, the meal was exceeded only by the conversation.


On the way out of town (hastened because B4 had a conference call participation scheduled back at the hotel at 5:00pm local time) we stopped in to visit the wine cellar at The Efendi Hotel, a trip worth making if only to visit its 900-year-old wine cellar.

It is a joy to watch old friends re-connect and I had that opportunity today.

Tonight, the entire crowd gathered for Shabbat Dinner. Serenaded by a "Greek Chorus" of young men--a surprisingly good idea--we laughed as non-Jews (or others not familiar) struggled with their kippah (men's head covering) and pondered when it was OK to eat the hallah (bread). The nice thing about Jews hosting non-Jews (at least in my experience) is that they are absolutely non-judgmental about cultural unfamiliarity. I cannot say the same about many other religions.


Typical speeches--although only a couple of them went into areas best left unspoken--highlighted the evening with emotions high. As anyone who knows Nicky and Jane might predict, there was way too much food and wine.

Back to our room at midnight we gazed at Tel Aviv preparing for the sabbath and fell into bed having successfully managed jet lag for yet another day.AfterDark.JPG

Posted by paulej4 00:03 Archived in Israel

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I am thoroughly enjoying "my trip" to Israel complete with history lessons.
Thank you.

by Cookie Thompson

Once again we are thoroughly engaged and living vicariously through your travels and fascinating blog!
Can’t wait to see you when you return for a continuation of the history lesson and it’s myriad consequences. Safe travels :-). Mary and John

by Mary O

Thank you so much for including all of us on this amazing journey! We are forever grateful!
We look forward to seeing you when we are all home at the same time.
Safe travels. James and Sam

by James Landrum

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