What problem does the “two state solution” solve?
Against the backdrop of the recent violence, with everyone pointing fingers at the other, I considered the “two state solution” by asking something more fundamental: What problem does that solve?
I realize this is a complicated problem, and everyone asserts their opinions about the causes. Politicians and media pundits explain, excuse, and justify their positions, yet nothing gets done. And supporters on both sides feel it’s justified, which further blocks solutions.
From the most basic perspective, the problem is quite simple: As long as one side wants to eliminate the other in its entirety, irrespective of borders (and all that entails), then they will continue to pursue that agenda. And if one side is forced to defend themselves, then you have the circumstances we see today: Violence. I don’t care which side you’re thinking of, the concept applies to both sides, each of whom feels they’ve been wronged, and that the other side is governed by corrupt officials who do not have their own constituents’ interests in mind, let alone anyone else’s.
So, when people talk about a two-state solution, for one to even work, at least a critical mass of people on each side actually has to want to work with the other, to live alongside in peace, to collaborate and find common goals. They must feel they can trust the other side, and who will keep the extremists from taking seriously bad actions. And if violent actions occur, the responsible side will self-police and hold violators accountable.
That’s kind of hard right now. Surveys show that 1 in 3 on both sides believe that violence is justified to advance their interests. A similar survey shows that over a majority also say that the goal is more to “ensure the country’s survival as we know it,” versus “enacting good public policy.”
When people on both sides are so vehemently opposed to the other, what difference do borders actually make?
Ok, so let’s play out that scenario: If there’s some kind of agreement, where borders are drawn and other regulatory matters are outlined, what happens next? You still have exactly the same kinds of interactions between the peoples of each country acting exactly as you have today. But with more bureaucracy. The two countries are inexorably tied together for resources, labor, trade, economics, currency, land use, and so many other things, that they have no choice but work with one another on everyday matters. So, with this kind of daily interaction, you need that kind of trust, or things simply break down, and militants start taking action… again.
This gets down to the street level. How will it go over with the local population if someone who claimed to be victimized by the other takes some sort of action in response? Who’s the policing force? Will their treatment of that incident be regarded by the other side as appropriate and fair? Even daily interactions with police will not change, just because there are two states. People will still feel as they do — perhaps even more so — and will be more bold in their actions, both offensively, and defensively.
Nations are only able to operate “peacefully” with their neighbors when there are agreed upon protocols. Sure, nations disagree, and things can get really bad. This leads to threats of violence, and sometimes, actual military operations. And it’s usually that threat that keeps each side from letting things get out of control within their borders. But, could we expect both sides to do that in a two-state solution?
Because at the end of the day, drawing political lines may well create a new country, but it won’t stop both sides from feeling the way they do, and therefore, angrier individuals will take action. All you need is one terrorist on one side to take an action entirely on their own, and things will flare up again, exactly as they are now. Or possibly worse.
Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about Israel and the Palestinians? Haha! Oh, wow. I didn’t think of that. Isn’t that funny.
Of course I thought of it. I’m a satirist.
So now that I’ve brought it to your attention, the parallels are quite extraordinary aren’t they? The “recent violence” that I cited earlier wasn’t the conflict between Hamas and Israel, it was the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.
And the inequities that Palestinians feel for their land, being evicted from their homes, and all sorts of other violence (that often goes in both directions) are not that different from the inequities here in the US, where police and protesters meet, or just police and people. Violence flares up, people demonstrate, maybe throw stones, and then the police come in and crack down disproportionately on the demonstrators, and the cycle repeats. The parallels are undeniable.
Yet in both countries, politicians and media pundits explain the events, excuse their own actions, and justify their positions, yet nothing gets done. And it’s all because of the other.
While we all feign disgust and abhorrence at political violence, Politico’s analysis of surveys shows “Americans who identify as Democrat or Republican, 1 in 3 now believe that violence would be justified to advance their parties’ political goals.”
So, we have the same mindset as both Israelis and Palestinians.
Americans also support the notion that the country’s survival is more important than actual governance, just like Israelis and Palestinians. The polling firm Echelon Insights asked American voters in January 2021 if they think the goal of politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or “ensuring the country’s survival as we know it,” and it showed that only 25% of Republicans felt the goal was to enact good public policy, compared to 47% of Democrats who felt that way. Either way, more than 50% of those from both parties felt that protecting the country from the other party was more important.
In fact, America has been so divided, that disdain for the other political party is the primary driver in how and why people choose their own political parties. According to Pew Research, “Republicans (71%) are more likely than Democrats (63%) to cite the harm from the opposing party’s policies as a major reason to affiliate with their party.”
So, while many think that problems in Israel can be resolved through a two-state solution, it’s not any more realistic than doing it here in the US. In fact, the humorous reaction you probably had when I mentioned California’s and Texas’ plans to secede from the US is the same reaction I have when it comes to people thinking that a two-state solution would actually solve any problems.
Now, making a new country for Palestinians may well be good for completely different reasons than solving any kind of conflict between the countries. Yes, there would be beneficiaries, and it would stabilize some aspects of life for certain elements within those populations, but whatever benefits that might exist would never be enough to overcome the hate, anger and other racial and cultural and religious divides. Such divisions run deep, and making two separate states won’t work any better in Israel than here in the US.
The real problem is when leaders of nations “otherize.” A problem that occurs everywhere in the world. They gain political power by inducing fear, anger and animosity to rally their base, and then the killing begins. And they are on both sides. We all have them — every country, and every group. Keeping the extremists out of your group is the first step towards peace, but that first step is hardest when the other group doesn’t do the same.
Obviously, we Americans are not experts at solving political violence. Remember, we’re still new at this. We’ve only been killing each other for a few hundred years, a blink of an eye compared to the real experts that have been at it for thousands of years. Since… well, since they walked out of that garden.
Real solutions require looking deeper into what actually works, and I won’t tell you what that solution is because then I’d have nothing left to satirize.