Israel and Palestine Give the Two-State Solution Another Look


Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine will resume on September 2 in Washington, D.C. The announcement of the talks has been greeted with a polite but skeptical nod from the media and a rolling of the eyes from experts in the realpolitik of international affairs.

The assumption behind these dismissals is that peace talks have become ritualized face-saving gestures for all parties concerned — Israel, Palestine, and the United States — but serve as no more than a way of maintaining the status quo in the Middle East.

No doubt that all three countries have political factions that would strongly oppose any agreement containing concessions that, in their eyes, gave away too much or too little in land, water, or political autonomy.

In other words, the received wisdom on the state of play between Israel and Palestine is that a standoff exists, and the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is going to continue far into the future. The standoff suits not only Israel and Palestine but the other Muslim countries of the Middle East who, for reasons of their own self-interest, have distanced themselves from the Palestinians.

The facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are easily arranged to fit this scenario: Too much history, and too much blood, creating too many ideologically aligned factions always ready to fight rather than seek a solution through compromise.

During time spent in the region over the past six years, I’ve met enough people of goodwill, on both sides, to have some hope that the political deadlock will one day be broken, a two-state solution will be found, and both Israelis and Palestinians will be freed from the militarized, interlocking existence they have been living since 1967.

Israelis are increasingly concerned about the impact on their national character of maintaining the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Generations of Israeli men and women have fulfilled their required military service at checkpoints, security barriers, and through the various uprisings (intifadas). Israelis are asking whether this service is coarsening their moral outlook, encouraging an oppressor mentality. The bombardment and invasion of Gaza at the end of 2008 cost Israel’s international standing dearly. Zionist immigration has been steadily dropping since 2000 — perhaps due to the perception by the world’s Jews that Israel has been made a less than desirable place to live.

Palestinians, especially those in walled cities like Bethlehem, have children who have never seen the Mediterranean Sea that lies only a few miles to the east. Unable to secure travel visas, they have lost touch with relatives who live only a few miles away, on the other side of the local barrier and checkpoint. The economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid, since business can hardly prosper where every road is blocked with a checkpoint that may or may not be open when you get there, and if you can obtain a visa. Palestinian young people, especially those who travel abroad for college, are choosing to live elsewhere. The decline in the Christian presence on the West Bank has much less to do with Muslim hostility than loss of economic opportunity.

In a meeting with a retired Israeli general
a few weeks ago in Tel Aviv, I asked him whether a two-state solution was still possible, given the fact that Israel would lose its military presence in a land where terrorists have vowed its destruction. His answered surprised me, along with all those in the room: “The time will never be perfect for negotiations, so we must do something now, and figure out how to make it work.”

The general’s attitude is echoed by many of the leaders I’ve talked to in recent years from both Israel and Palestine. But this leadership will have to figure out a way to control or neutralize their countrymen who would rather take up arms than give up any land or settlements.  However, there are also many who simply want to end the madness.

Both sides have agreed to a one-year deadline to resolve the basic issues in the way of an agreement. The issues are many, but the most contentious include the drawing of borders, the status of Jerusalem, the Palestine military, the Jewish settlers — now numbering 500,000 on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem — and the “right of return.” The last of these, I am told, could be the deal-breaker, but a modest compromise solution has been floated that might satisfy both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu (but could cause them both complications at home).

It’s been widely reported that the United States used its muscle bringing about these talks and marked “a rare success for U.S. diplomacy in the region.” The presence of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah of Jordan, also invited to the talks, will provide the opportunity to gather much-needed regional support for any progress made during initial negotiations.

There are many wild cards that could end the negotiations abruptly, not the least of which is a newly nuclearized Iran. Thus far, Israel has not sent its air force — perhaps the best in the world — to take out Iran’s nuclear reactor, as many expected. Perhaps this is a sign that Netanyahu is willing to give the peace talks a chance. Abbas, it can be hoped, appreciates Israel’s restraint and will arrive on September 2 determined to take advantage of what may be the last chance for a Palestinian state.

Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah and Cyprian who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • Austin

    We should all hope and pray for some success from these new talks, however, I am not optimistic. As Deal points out, factions in all sides do not want a change from the status quo. I think some Israelis however, are starting to understand that the status quo cannot go on forever. AIPAC or not, sooner or later the United States will grow weary of the whole thing and begin to disengage. Unlimited and unqualified American support cannot be assumed for an indefinite period of time.

    Also, demographics are against the Israelis. The Palestinians have a higher birthrate, and there is now a scenario, where many of Israel’s “best and brightest” have immigrated to the United States. I have met more than a few young Israelis who have moved to the US so their children can live in safety.
    This scares the Israeli leadership for many of its best young people to be voting with their feet.

    The two state solution is not a good solution, but it is the only one that I can think of. Sooner or later, it must come to this, or the Israelis risk being overtaken by events. Israel cannot survive in the long run with a large Muslim populaton within Israel. They must have their own state, or things will become very difficult in the future [even more so than now].

    There is an assumption that the status quo can be preserved for decades. It cannot. I think that deep down, Bibi & CO. know this, but they are unable to do anything about it.

  • Mother of Two Sons

    Sad to say, Catholics today are so dissassociated from the history of this Holy Place that it just becomes noise on the news about a “it’s not fair that they took our Land from us” dispute. This is OUR Holy Land and we need to support the preservation of this place where Jesus became man, walked, preached and prophesied, was crucified, died and rose again… and where the Holy Spirit was first imparted on the First Christians….. not to sound like I am telling you what you know…… but once Jews and Christians are reduced to land disputes with Muslims and each other, and the history of the Land is left out of the discussion or the very mediators really don’t have an appreciation/belief in the deep roots of the conflict being a fundamentally disparate understanding of God’s will, they will continue to sit around a table and arrive at the same outcomes; each have a compelling need to be RIGHT! This is a Spiritual battle and it requires prayer and fasting, seeking God’s direct intervention.
    Perhaps it is easier to see my point, imagine if Mahmoud Ahmadinejadd had a visitation from God, similar to Paul, what could that bring to the Middle East… to the world. That my friends is worth praying and fasting for, no?
    And here is a link to prove it could happen; it happened for this Muslim:

  • Tom

    Israel’s best two-state solution is one run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the other by the PLO in the West Bank.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Question: You say…

    Thus far, Israel has not sent its air force — perhaps the best in the world — to take out Iran’s nuclear reactor, as many expected. Perhaps this is a sign that Netanyahu is willing to give the peace talks a chance.

    What, specifically, does the fact that Israel has not yet launched an attack to preemptively destroy an existential threat to her existence, have to do with peace talks with the Palestinians?

    I am speaking in principle. In reality, if the Palestinian forces are funded and in many ways controlled by Iran, that is a different matter. But if Palestine is not in fact merely Iran’s outermost province; if Hamas is not merely Qods, then to what extent are their interests separable, and seen to be separate by the average Palestinian (Arab, not Persian) Muslim on the street?

    Similarly, in Lebanon, there is Hezbollah. If the Israelis strike Iran, then Hezbollah will strike Israel — naturally, because Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy on Israel’s northern border. But to what extent is Iran’s well-being tied to the well being of Lebanon, generally? Would it be Lebanon which struck Israel? Would it not in fact be Hezbollah?

  • Dovid

    …and the naivete of cloistered men and women is one of them.

  • Michael J. Kerrigan

    I am becoming a regular reader of Inside Catholic, due in no small measure to the excellent reporting, as is the case of Deal Hudson’s August 30th piece on the negotiations between the Israel’s and the Palestinian.

    Many years ago my wife and I traveled to the Holy land and personally met with members of the Knesset, Palestinian Christians and and Palestinian Muslims.We were more hopeful then than today. However, I particularly liked Deal’s hopeful quote from the Israeli General. Perhaps former Senator Mitchell can replicate a two State accord not unlike his success of the Good Friday accord in Ireland?

    Soon after nine eleven, I recall the cheers of celebration among the Palestinians amidst, on the same day, the tears among the Israeli’s. Apart from being a lone ally in the Middle East, I think of my Catholic faith not just as the New Testament but also the Old.

    It is difficult for me to be more understanding of the Palestinian cause when we now Iran support for Hamas, the most violent element in that cause. My bias in favor of the state of Israel aside, I am pleased to read such a balanced report Inside Catholic.