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Israel-Hamas war affirms the indispensability of a two-state solution

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 8 December 2023

Whereas Israel's stated goal from the onset of its war in Gaza was and still justifiably is the destruction of Hamas, Israel has not offered as yet any clear exit strategy. Even though Hamas cannot be defeated completely, Israel, with the support of the US and Saudi Arabia in particular, will have to offer a sound alternative that meets the Palestinians' aspirations and renders Hamas irrelevant. President Biden should demand that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military brass develop, in coordination with the US, a clear exit strategy and an endgame consistent with Israel's right to exist with peace and security, and the Palestinians' right to establish a state of their own.

Although there are several options that have been discussed, including the permanent reoccupation of Gaza by Israel, the resettlement of the Palestinians from Gaza in Egypt, allowing the Palestinians to establish a civilian authority while Israel maintains overall security in Gaza, or militarily occupying part or all of Gaza, I maintain that none of the above are viable because the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state is central to any sustainable resolution. The Biden administration must insist that Israel agree to this outcome through a negotiating process sponsored by the US and Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia-the three Arab states that are directly affected by such an outcome and also exert the greatest influence on the Palestinians.

The exit strategy that must end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Given the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been marked by several wars, major violent encounters, and massive losses of lives and destruction that have now culminated in the most horrifying war between Israel and Hamas, it is time to push for a permanent end to the conflict. The US and the Arab states must bring every pressure to bear on Israel and the Palestinians to end the conflict based on a two-state solution.


Needless to say, the negotiations will be extremely difficult and complex and may well take a year or even more to conclude; nevertheless, there is simply no other viable option. The only alternative is continuing the bloody conflict for decades to come, after which nothing will fundamentally change. Israel will continue to exist but live by the gun, as will the Palestinians with their aspiration for statehood, which remains sine qua non to peaceful co-existence.

Transitional period

For Israel and the Palestinians to reach a sustainable peace agreement, it is necessary to establish a transitional period whereby the United Nations would assume responsibility in Gaza. Administratively, the UNSC should pass a resolution requiring a transitional authority composed of Arab civilian leaders and Palestinian experts in various fields, known for their balanced views and commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If the UNSC fails to pass such a resolution, the Arab League can do so instead. In addition, UNWRA, which has been on the ground for decades, providing aid and development services, including education, healthcare, microfinance, and job training, is in the best possible position to assume greater responsibility, provided that it will be strictly monitored under a modified and expanded mandate.

As Israel begins to withdraw its forces from Gaza gradually, it will be necessary to establish a peacekeeping force to be in charge of security. This force ought to be comprised exclusively of the Arab states that are at peace with Israel, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. This force must ensure that other than internal security forces, Gaza is demilitarized and remains so under a newly-elected Palestinian Authority.

The Arab states should condition their commitment to provide a peacekeeping force upon Israel's acceptance of a two-state solution, and in fact, in recent conversations with several Arab officials, I was told in no uncertain terms that their countries will not agree to form such a peacekeeping force unless it has been agreed upon in advance by Israel. In addition, they want an ironclad commitment from the US to take whatever steps necessary to pressure Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state to live in peace with Israel.


The concern that such a peacekeeping force composed of Arab militaries may have about fighting against residual Hamas militants-Muslim and Palestinian-can be addressed only under this mandate. That is, the peacekeeping force can thus justify fighting back against such resistance because it is critical to preserving any agreement reached to establish a Palestinian state.

In terms of Arab financial support, here again, in my conversations with Arab officials, they emphasize that under no circumstances would they contribute to rebuilding Gaza and invest in institutions and infrastructure in the West Bank unless two preconditions are met.

First, both the Israelis and the Palestinians must agree that they will enter into a negotiation process with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state because they are adamant on not investing billions in reconstruction only to see it destroyed again. Second, it must be guaranteed that any interim solution be used only as a vehicle toward a final resolution. Otherwise, it would serve as nothing less than a respite before another disaster unfolds.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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