The Failure of the Two-State Solution: Human Rights in Israel-Palestine

Megha Gupta, Apr 7, 2023

In the aftermath of a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem committed by two Palestinian nationals, bloodshed between the two warring countries continues to escalate at the expense of the ongoing refugee crisis along the Israel-Palestine border. The violence between the two opposing factions is nothing new to the region ever since Israel’s creation in 1948. The two-state solution was culminated by the victorious allied powers in the aftermath of the Holocaust as an attempt to make reparations towards the European Jewish population. The consequence of infringing upon an existing country’s national sovereignty has led to a 75-year-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, resulting in an ongoing humanitarian crisis. 

Despite the intentions of the United Nations, violence continues to persist, in part due to the large amount of support Israel receives from the United States in financial and military aid. U.S. support derives solely from its political interests in the Middle East at the expense of 5.8 million Palestinian refugees displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip as humanitarian aid is brushed over in favor of military assistance. January’s recent attacks have caused increased tensions between Israel and Palestine. A fear of the unknown grips the two countries in a standstill waiting for the next bloody strike. The latest terrorist attack in Israel is suspected to have been committed by a Palestinian terrorist group. The violence sheds light on the failures of the two-state solution by revealing the realities of the human rights crisis along the Israel-Palestine border.

The modern state of Israel was born from a larger Zionist objective to create an independent country for the Jewish people in the original land of their ancestors. After World War I, Zionist leaders presented a plan for the settlement of the Jewish State to be suitable enough for an economic “return to the land” that would allow the population to thrive as it had in the past. Of the boundary lines drawn, the territorial plan included separating the existing state of Palestine to complete the ultimate Zionist goal of “the Promised Land,” land that had once belonged to the Jewish people before the creation of Christianity. The devastating consequences of the Holocaust in the aftermath of World War II incited a pressing need for the creation of a new Jewish State as a part of the reparations made for the European Jewish population. The need forced Zionist leaders to concede to a divide of Palestine between Jewish and Arab populations, a plan originally suggested by the British Royal Commission and agreed upon by the United Nations on November 29, 1947. The State of Israel was officially established on May 14, 1948, prompting Israeli officials to immediately build stronger defensive lines for “secure boundaries” along their shared borders with Palestinian territory. Thus, what began as a national liberation coalition turned into 60 years of violence and bloodshed between the Arab and Jewish populations, two ethnic groups consistently submerged in tragedy.


War, rather than negotiation, became the key tactic in determining the boundaries between Israel and Palestine between 1948 and 1974 as Israel focused national efforts on crushing Palestinian resistance. Israeli distress towards Palestinian nationalism stems from the threat Palestine represents as a competing claimant for the same territory. Israeli rights for Palestinian land become distorted given Palestine’s rights to the previous territory it had possessed prior to World War II. This issue was contested during the Six-Day War in 1967 after Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian nationalism radicalized in the years following the Six-Day War. Arab militarism pandered to a new form of Palestinianism embodied in the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was driven by Israeli military presence in Palestinian land with Western support. 


However, Israel’s legitimacy was called into question in the years following the war as Palestinian dissenters began strikes and protests across Israeli-occupied territories, leading up to the October War in 1973. A second war was imminent given Israel’s heightened defenses from the persisting tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the root of the deteriorating Israel-Palestine relationship revealed during the October War. Israel’s second victory only led to further hostilities between the two states as the U.S. intervened and enacted the Camp David Agreements in 1978, creating a self-governing rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and legitimizing Palestinian rights. Israel’s power and Palestine’s resentment continued to rise as Israel further expanded Jewish settlements into the West Bank under the Oslo Accords in 1993. The diminishment of the Palestinian presence in their territory and the resulting treatment of Palestinians as second-class citizens has only served to add fuel to the fire in the years since. Today, the Israeli government continues to approve settlement construction of civilian infrastructure in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, infringing upon Palestinian territories. Potential annexation of the West Bank by Israel contradicts international law as well as rids Israel of its credibility in negotiating rule over the West Bank, further snubbing the two-state solution. As a result, millions of Palestinians have been forced from their homes, with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency estimating around 5.9 million Palestinian refugees evicted from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The extensive conflict surrounding Israel's statehood indicates that the two-state solution for the Jewish population's nomadic problem has proven to be more of a failure than a fix.


The modern era of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has seen a shift in the violence both sides inflict upon each other towards terrorism and advanced military operations. Israeli law marks the PLO as a terrorist organization, and many media outlets seem to agree, if articles condemning Arab attacks on Israeli territory and supporting Israeli military raids on Palestinian refugee camps are any indication. In the nearly 75 years of contention between the two states, neither side considered negotiation a viable option nor would their populations accept compromise to ensure peace. The prolonged conflict has seen Israel subdue rebellion after rebellion in quick succession through detention, torture, and arrests, raising concerns amongst human rights organizations regarding Israel’s breaches of international law. 


Uprisings between Palestinians and Israeli police led to a massive human rights crisis by the end of the 1980s, raising international awareness and concern for the violation of Palestinian rights and the increased number of refugees along the Israel-Palestine border. The resulting human rights movement became a tool used amongst Palestinians and Israelis both to facilitate political change and motivate the international community to end the violence. The Israeli government maintained the stance that any measures taken against Palestinian nationalism were justified means against terrorism as a larger emphasis was placed on border security rather than human rights protection during negotiations in the 1990s. Israeli provocation of Palestinian authority acts as justification for U.S. interference in the conflict to pursue their Middle Eastern agenda while disregarding the ongoing human rights crisis. As the situation continues to intensify along the border, U.S. conflict resolution seeks to fortify a permanent separation between the two states to protect their own interests rather than those of the refugees lining the streets of the West Bank. 


The cycle of violence continues to endure with Palestine’s latest terrorist attacks prompting swift Israeli military interference. On January 26, 2023, Israeli Defense Forces conducted a raid in the West Bank against a Palestinian terrorist cell. Nine Palestinians were shot and killed in the military operation conducted to prevent further Jihad terrorist cells from spreading across the refugee camps in the West Bank. On January 27, 2023, a Palestinian terrorist shot 7 dead in Jerusalem near a synagogue, the deadliest terrorist attack on Israeli soil since 8 Israelis were shot dead in 2011. Following the incident, Israeli military furthered the slaughter by killing 5 Palestinian fighters in Jericho on January 30 after the outbreak of a fight between Israeli forces and Palestinian suspects involved in the terror attack. With 60 Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli military forces in January and February alone, 2023 is on track to becoming the deadliest year for Palestinians under Israeli rule. 


The most recent attacks on both sides have acted as the spark to ignite mass bloodshed once again, continuing the never-ending succession of conflict between Israel and Palestine. Violence has become a normalized occurrence amongst Palestinian and Israeli children, and refugee camps continue to grow in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Israel prepares to mount more attacks in response to Palestinian aggression. The two-state solution has done nothing but incite continuous carnage between Israel and Palestine at the expense of innocent civilians. February’s attacks only serve as added evidence of the failures of an outdated and unreliable solution dominated by privileged voices with political stakes in the outcomes. The blood spilled between Israel and Palestine has dated back hundreds of years, and it will continue to spill under current international law. 


Israel and Palestine’s bloody history bleeds into the present as both states increase their fervent attacks against civilian settlements and refugee camps, continuing to add to rather than solve the existing humanitarian crisis along their borders. The consequences of the two-state solution continue to worsen nearly 75 years after its enactment, allowing Western influence to continue an agenda and pour resources into military operations while neglecting humanitarian aid. The bloodshed of recent attacks in both Israel and Palestine serves as a reminder for the international community of its failures regarding the two-state solution as well as its inability to solve the resulting human rights crisis.


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