Saturday

24th Feb 2018

Opinion

How to save the two-state solution

  • Israeli soldiers at prayer (Photo: Flickmor)

It is increasingly apparent for everyone who is following the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians that the window of opportunity for solving the conflict through a negotiated two-state solution seems to be closing.

The reasons for this are many, but most notably, there seems to be no real effort on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side - both of which are deeply divided over how and even if to divide the land - to push for a realisation of the two-state solution.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

This is indeed a tragedy for the two sides because the current status quo will almost certainly guarantee future rounds of violence since few Israelis and Palestinians really want to live together in a single state, regardless of whatever shape or form such a state might have.

The lack of progress is also a tragedy for third parties, like the European Union, which have tried to legitimise a two-state solution for the past two decades. But without genuine support from the parties directly involved in the conflict, it is hard for outsiders like the EU to really change the situation.

The question of "what the EU can do in the conflict?" has been asked so many times that it almost equals Sigmund Freud’s legendary question of "what does a woman want?"

It might indeed be that it is too late for the EU or for anyone else to save the two state solution, but if the EU really wants to, then it must make a final push to delegitimise Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

As Peter Beinart suggested in a recent op-ed in New York Times, such an approach must start with language. Since the West Bank is not a democracy and since it is occupied by Israel, it should, according to Beinart be called for what it is: non-democratic Israel.

The EU is well-suited for starting a campaign of delegitimising the occupation and the settlements on the West Bank, because it is the largest bloc of liberal democracies in the world.

As such, the EU can effectively legitimise or delegitimise many parties in world politics. The EU was, for example, widely considered to be the battlefield field for the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN where its 27 votes were considered crucial.

The EU is important as a legitimiser in international affairs because some two dozen other liberal democracies, countries like Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Canada look closely to how the EU acts, votes and speaks in various international forums. For this reason, the former editor-in-chief of Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, often referred to the EU "as a kind of global barometer of legitimacy in international affairs." 

The process of delegitimising the occupation must be launched simultaneously with a process of legitimising Israel within its 1967 borders. In words and deeds, the EU must have an ironclad commitment to Israel within these borders.

The EU’s statements must be tough against those groups firing rockets at Israel, including calling by name the leaders of the various factions to stop firing. Historically, the EU has been ambivalent on this.

The EU’s actions must include efforts to reach out to the Israeli public, something it has failed miserably to do during the four decades it has taken an interest in the conflict. Even if the strengthening and deepening of the existing framework for co-operation between the EU and Israel should be the long-term objective, less abstract things such as giving young Europeans and Israelis more opportunities to meet each other through travel, work and education could be one of  the short-term goals.

As a teenager, I spent six months on a kibbutz in Israel during the Second Intifada, an experience which gave Israel a place in my heart forever as well as an authentic experience of what it was like to live in a country that is under permanent threat from its enemies. This kind of deeper understanding is needed between the EU and Israel today.

The second part of Peter Beinart’s strategy to stop the settlements and save the two state solution is to impose a boycott of goods produced in settlements. For obvious historical reasons, many European leaders would find economic warfare against Jews to be morally wrong, and it is indeed hard to imagine the EU uniting around anything that relates to boycotts of Israel.

At the same time, in my work on my doctoral dissertation about the EU as a peacebuilder in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have interviewed senior EU officials who privately told me that they see no reason whatsoever for settlement products to be sold in the EU. Leaked EU papers have also suggested that the EU should ban violent Israeli settlers from entering the Union.

Pro-Israeli observers might argue that too strong a focus on settlements absolves the Palestinians from their responsibilities. There is some truth in this, but the main reason why the statebuilding project in the West Bank is now hitting a dead end is because of Israel’s refusal to cede territory in Area C [the part of the West Bank under its full control] for the Palestinians to build their state on. Area C is 60 percent of the West Bank where the settlements are located, the same territory the Palestinians need to make their state contiguous and viable.

The statebuilding project in the West Bank, which has often been described as a bicycle that must either be pedaled on or fall over, is now falling over. The way to reverse this is to focus on the settlements and start delegitimising the occupation.

The EU, which has invested more than any other actor in the statebuilding project in the West Bank should take the lead.

The writer is a PhD student at Lund University, Sweden. His thesis is on the role of the European Union in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

Analysis

We are not (yet) one people

Talks on the next EU budget will start on Friday. Brussels wants to do much more than before – and needs a lot more money. But arguing about funds won't be enough.

Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills

The European Commission is considering rolling back medical research incentives, on the faulty assumption they are somehow driving higher drug prices. But not only is that premise flawed – the proposed fix will do nothing to benefit ordinary health consumers.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?