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General Studies 2 >> International Relations

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1. Context
Hamas’s October 7, 2023 attack in Israel and the latter’s continuing war on Gaza have brought the Palestine question back to the fore of West Asia. As the war has destroyed much of Gaza and killed 36,000 of its people, the world has also seen more countries voicing strong support for a future Palestine state. 
2. What is a Two State Solution?

The two-state solution refers to a proposed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, envisioning the establishment of two separate sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, coexisting side by side within agreed-upon borders.

Key elements of the two-state solution typically include:

  • Borders: Negotiating the borders between Israel and Palestine, which would likely be based on the pre-1967 lines (also known as the Green Line), with potential land swaps to accommodate demographic realities and security concerns.

  • Jerusalem: Addressing the status of Jerusalem, which is considered a holy city by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The two-state solution often proposes Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine, with East Jerusalem serving as the capital of the Palestinian state.

  • Security: Ensuring the security of both states, including mechanisms for demilitarisation, border security, and counterterrorism cooperation.

  • Refugees: Resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees, who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and subsequent conflicts. The two-state solution typically involves compensation, resettlement, and/or return options for Palestinian refugees, while also acknowledging Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

  • Settlements: Addressing the status of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Many proponents of the two-state solution advocate for the dismantlement of Israeli settlements located outside of the agreed-upon borders of Israel.

3. Origin and History of Two-State Solution
  • The origins of the two-state solution can be traced back to the 1930s during the period of British rule in Palestine.
  • In 1936, the British government formed a commission led by Lord William Robert Peel, commonly known as the Peel Commission, to investigate the reasons behind the Arab-Jewish conflicts in Palestine.
  • A year later, the commission recommended dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. At that time, Jews constituted approximately 28% of the population of Palestine.
  • According to the Peel Commission's proposal, the Arab state would encompass the West Bank, Gaza, and the Negev desert, while the Jewish state would include much of Palestine's coastline and the fertile Galilee region. However, the Arab population rejected this proposal.
  • Following World War II, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) presented another partition plan. This plan suggested dividing Palestine into three territories: a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone for Jerusalem.
  • Under the UNSCOP plan, Jews, who comprised about 32% of Palestine's population, were allocated 56% of the land.
  • The partition plan was endorsed by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 181). Despite India's vote against it, the Arab nations rejected the plan, while the Zionist leadership of Jewish settlers in Palestine accepted it.
  • Subsequently, on May 14, 1948, the Zionists unilaterally declared the establishment of the state of Israel.
  • This declaration sparked the first Arab-Israeli war. By the time an armistice agreement was reached in 1949, Israel had seized approximately 22% more territory than initially proposed by the UN
4. International Legitimacy
  • During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel gained control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
  • Israel still holds authority over these territories, except for the Sinai, which it returned to Egypt following the 1978 Camp David Accords. In the 1960s, Palestinian nationalism gained momentum under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
  • Initially, the PLO sought the complete "liberation" of all of Palestine, but later accepted the two-state solution based on the borders of 1967.
  • Israel initially dismissed any Palestinian claims to the land and labeled the PLO as a "terrorist" organization.
  • However, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, during which Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel, Israel agreed to the Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreement at the Camp David Accords.
  • As part of the Framework, Israel consented to establish an autonomous self-governing Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to implement UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories it occupied in 1967.
  • The Framework laid the groundwork for the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 and 1995, which formalized the two-state solution.
  • Under the Oslo process, a Palestinian National Authority, serving as a self-governing body, was established in the West Bank and Gaza, and the PLO was internationally recognized as the representative body of the Palestinian people.
  • The Oslo Accords held the promise of creating a sovereign Palestinian state coexisting peacefully alongside Israel. However, this promise has yet to be realized
5. What are the hurdles to achieving the two-state solution?
  • he assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a key architect of the Oslo Accords, in 1995, marked a turning point. The subsequent rise of a right-wing Israeli government and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, opposed to the agreements, further strained the peace process. Despite renewed diplomatic efforts, significant hurdles persist.
  • One obstacle is the undefined borders. Israel's ongoing expansion through settlements in Palestinian territories clashes with Palestinian aspirations for a state based on the pre-1967 borders. The presence of hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers who would need to be relocated creates a complex political challenge.
  • Another issue is the contested status of Jerusalem. Both Palestinians, who view East Jerusalem as their capital, and Israelis, who claim the entire city, have deep religious and historical attachments to the city.
  • The right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 is another hurdle. International law supports their right to return, but Israel opposes it.
  • These unresolved issues pose significant barriers to achieving a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
6. Way Forward
While these are the structural factors that make the two-state solution complicated, on the ground, Israel’s rightwing leadership shows no willingness to make any concessions. Israel wants to continue the status quo — the status quo of occupation. The Palestinians want to break that status quo
For Prelims: GS II- Two State Solution, Conflict of Israel and Palestine
For Mains: GS II - Current events of International relations, The Ongoing Conflict of Israel and Palestine
Previous Year Questions
1.The term "two-state solution" is sometimes mentioned in the news in the context of the affairs of (UPSC CSE 2018)
Answer (B)
Source: The Hindu

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