Features Australia

The dead horse of Palestine

The legal, strategic and moral cases against the two-state solution

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

George Orwell warned against ‘flyblown metaphors’ in his wonderful essay Politics and the English Language. Yet there are times when a political writer encounters sophistry so absurd that a descent into cliché constitutes the only adequate response.

Thus, the phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ leaps front of mind after reading a spate of newspaper editorials and opinion pieces bemoaning the evils of Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to additional regions of Judea-Samaria, aka the West Bank.

The defunct equine in question is the ‘two-state solution’ that has long been the centre-piece of diplomatic initiatives to end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. And typical of this teeth-gnashing, garment-rending ‘woe is me’ style of editorialising was an op-ed by Australian academics Anas Iqtait and Tristan Dunning that ran in the Age on 23 May 2020.

In this article, Drs. Iqtait and Dunning expend almost 1,000 words arguing that a move by Israel to annex portions of the West Bank will be the death knell of any chance for a negotiated peace. Of course, how anyone still retains faith in the two-state solution after almost three decades of diplomatic failure recalls that famous Einstein definition of madness as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

The creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank will never happen for very good legal, strategic and moral reasons. To indulge in another Orwellian faux pas, the ship of dreams Two-State-Solution has not only sailed, but has long since sunk.

The legal argument against Palestinian statehood has particular salience as this is the centenary of the 1920 San Remo Convention, when the victorious WWI Allies decided the fate of the vanquished Ottoman Empire. By the terms of this agreement, Britain was awarded temporary governance over the land of Israel for the express purpose of establishing ‘a national home for the Jewish people’. This British Mandate encompassed pre-1967 Israel, the West Bank and the entirety of Jordan.


We’ll leave aside the Trans-Jordanian part of the British Mandate that was hived off by Whitehall unilaterally in 1922 as a consolation prize for Hashemite Prince Abdullah after Arabia was given to the House of Saud. The more important point is that when now-King Abdullah of Jordan conquered the West Bank in 1948-49, his subsequent annexation of that territory was never recognised by the international community. Thus, there’s a cogent legal argument to be made that Israel’s capture of the West Bank (Judea-Samaria) during its defensive war of 1967 simply restored the geographical unity of that single territorial entity.

Don’t forget that the Palestinian Arabs voided the 1947 UN Partition Plan by embarking on their war of wanna-be genocide against the Jewish community of the British Mandate. Lest anyone be inclined to challenge this assertion, we refer them to the words of the Arab League Secretary General Azzam Pasha as published just a few weeks before the UN partition vote in the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar al-Yom.

The creation of a Jewish state, warned Pasha, ‘will lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre that will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.’ If there’s a singular salient lesson to be learned from 20th century Jewish history, it’s that if people say they intend to kill you, it’s wise to take them seriously.

The geo-strategic argument is simpler, arising from the fact that Israeli territorial withdrawals most often lead to the establishment of terrorist enclaves on the doorstep of the Jewish State. After Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it got rocket fire, suicide bombers and terrorist infiltration tunnels rather than peace. There’s no way Israelis are going to replicate that experiment in the West Bank which is only 20 kilometres away from downtown Tel Aviv.

The collapse of the Arab Middle East into bloody chaos over the past decade affords even greater weight to such geo-strategic considerations. As Syria is torn to shreds by civil war and Jordan teeters on the brink of financial insolvency, Israel simply cannot and will not abandon its most defensible eastern border along the Jordan River.

Nor will Israel ever agree to the Palestinian demand for a fully sovereign nation-state with its own army and foreign policy. Independent Palestinian public opinion surveys consistently show that a large majority of Arab West Bank residents reject any form of Jewish national self-determination. The West Bank is far too small, and West Bankers far too radical, for Israel to accept an independent Palestinian state in the hills overlooking major Israeli population centres.

The moral argument against Palestinian statehood is self-evident as well. The Palestinian Arabs have forfeited any legitimate claim to independence through their repeated rejection of any political compromise that recognises Jewish national ambitions.

The state of Israel affords political equality to all citizens, including 1.8 million Muslim and Christian Arabs who enjoy freedom of speech and religious worship while participating in fair and open elections.

By contrast, Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 16th year of his four-year term as Palestinian Authority president, demands that any future Arab state in the West Bank must be utterly Jew-free. In other words, the PA is calling for the ethnic cleansing of 460,000 Jews from their homes in Judea-Samaria and Jerusalem.

Soi-disant human rights ‘activists’ who argue for this mass deportation of Jews remind us of a favourite scene from the movie Shooter. After confronting rogue army officer Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover), the US attorney general declares: ‘Colonel, your moral compass is so effed up I’d be surprised if you can find your way to the parking lot.’

So what’s the ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? In fact, is there even one to be had? We don’t know. But we do know that an independent Palestinian state in the Judea-Samaria will never come into being. And rightly so.

Dr David Adler and Ted Lapkin are the President and Executive Director of the Australian Jewish Association.

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