Explained: The Israel - Palestine Two-State Solution

As military combat continues between Israel and the Hamas, calls for the two-state solution have been reiterated internationally.

Amid the escalating situation between Israel and Palestine, India asked the two countries to immediately resume direct dialogue and said that New Delhi supports the two-state solution. "I reiterate India's strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution", said Ambassador TS Tirumurti, India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Addressing the UN Security Council on a debate in the 'Middle-East' - a way of referencing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas - Tirumurti was conveying India's traditional position supporting the eventual creation of both an independent Jewish and Palestinian state as a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict between the countries.

"Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of millions of Indians, who visit the city every year," he added.

The current crisis, in which Israel has launched airstrikes in retaliation for rocket attacks from Gaza, stemmed from confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators in Jerusalem. However, the tensions are not new. The two-state solution has been the stance of the United States and the United Nations, as they have repeatedly called for an Israeli state and a democratic Palestinian state existing side by side.

Here's all you need to know about this two-state solution.

Also Read: Hashtag Tracker: Israel-Palestine Tension Triggers Battle Of Hashtags

What is the two-state solution?

The state of Israel came into being in May 1948, permanently fracturing boundaries of what was the British Mandate of Palestine, giving rise to peoples of two nations and a war between Israel and members of the Arab world.

The two state-solution seeks to permanently resolve the boundaries and borders in the region, thus paving the way for a Jewish-majority Israel, and a separate state for the Palestinian people.

Currently, the players in the region are the Israeli government, the Hamas in the Gaza Strip which frequently mounts rocket attacks on Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, an autonomous governing body for Palestinian interests, which itself is riddled with instability. US President Joe Biden spoke to its president, Mahmoud Abbas, on May 15 on the current conflict and reaffirmed US support for the two-state solution.

What are the problems facing this process?

The first of several issues concerns the demarcation of boundaries between the two potential states, which has been shaped by decades of war, agreements and intrusive settlements.

In 1967, Israel fought a conflict called the Six-Day War, by the end of which Israel was in an occupational position in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, the Golan Heights region belonging to Syria, East Jerusalem and Sinai Peninsula in Egypt (which was given back to Egypt starting in 1979). Most international players are calling for any boundaries in the two-state solution to be pre-1967. The complication to the matter is that Israel has settled in these regions, and has enacted barriers, thus creating an unofficial status quo, making them tedious to amend.

The impending expansion of these settlements into the enclave of Sheikh Jarrah is also the linchpin that has ignited the current string of clashes.

The second issue is that of Jerusalem, a historically rich city holding important heritage for three major world religions - Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Most of these heritage sites are at close quarters, making it hard to draw a border. The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex - the third holiest site in Islam - also has the holiest site in Judaism - the Temple Mount - adjacent to it. While Palestinians call for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.

In 2017, the US under then-President Donald Trump recognised this claim and in an unprecedented move shifted the US Embassy to Israel to the city the next year. It is unclear if the incumbent administration under Biden will reverse this stance. However, his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, gave an indication of maintaining the status quo in his Senate confirmation hearing in January.

Another issue is the refugees that have emerged from near seventy years of warfare. These refugees are in camps in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and within the conflict zones of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. The UN Relief and Works Agency For Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) put the number of these refugees registered with it at 5.6 million as of 2019.

A future two-state solution is unclear on the rights of Palestinian refugees and what it means for them to return home.

What is the alternate solution?

The alternative is a one-state solution with equal rights for all but not the majority, which has the risk of perpetual internal instability. A few on the Israeli far-right take this alternative further, calling for a one-state solution with reduced Palestinian rights. In fact, according to several polls, public support for a two-state solution seems to be on a decline.

"For decades, there has been a one-state problem in Israel-Palestine. Since 1967, one state has ruled over the territory, from the river to the sea. That of course is Israel," wrote Yousef Munayyer in Foreign Policy. Deutsche Welle reported that fewer than half of Israelis favor the two-state theory as attacks by Hamas and allied groups have eroded their support. "And most also reject an idea of a one-state solution, which, from their point of view, would undermine the country's identity," the report noted.

The two-state solution, therefore, is considered to be the most internationally acceptable of all the solutions.

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