What Challenges Exist in Implementing a Two-State Solution in the Israel-Hamas War?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a long-standing conflict that has resulted in numerous wars, major violent encounters, and massive losses of lives. The war against Hamas is a brutal and potentially explosive episode that could lead to the next conflagration in the West Bank. Israel has not yet offered a clear exit strategy, and with the support of the US and Saudi Arabia, it must find a sound alternative that meets the Palestinians’ aspirations and renders Hamas irrelevant.

President Biden should demand a clear exit strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military, in line with Israel’s peace and security rights and Palestinians’ state establishment. While several options have been discussed, none of them 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 directly affected by such an outcome and exerting the greatest influence on the Palestinians.

The only viable option is continuing the bloody conflict for decades, after which nothing will fundamentally change. Israel will continue to exist but live by the gun, while the Palestinians will continue to pursue their aspiration for statehood, which remains essential for peaceful co-existence. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a transitional period for a sustainable peace agreement. The United Nations should establish a transitional authority, consisting of Arab civilian leaders and Palestinian experts, to ensure a peaceful resolution. If the UNSC fails to pass such a resolution, the Arab League can take over. UNWRA, which provides aid and development services, can assume greater responsibility under a modified mandate.

As Israel withdraws its forces from Gaza, a peacekeeping force should be established, composed exclusively of Arab states at peace with Israel, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. This force must ensure Gaza is demilitarized and remains under a newly-elected Palestinian Authority. Arab states seek a peacekeeping force contingent on Israel’s acceptance of a two-state solution and an ironclad US commitment to pressure Israel to establish a Palestinian state for peace.

The peacekeeping force can justify fighting back against residual Hamas militants, as it is critical to preserving any agreement reached to establish a Palestinian state. Arab financial support for rebuilding Gaza and investing in West Bank institutions and infrastructure must meet two preconditions: both Israelis and Palestinians must agree to enter into a negotiation process with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state, and interim solutions must be used only as a vehicle toward a final resolution.

The Palestinian Authority will govern the West Bank and Gaza post-Hamas, but this will not occur for at least 18 months after the establishment of a UN administrative authority in Gaza. Palestinians in both territories are preparing for a new election, as the current Palestinian Authority (PA) is corrupt and President Abbas is rejected by the majority of Palestinians. A recent poll shows that 74% do not trust either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Both Palestinian territories suffer from corruption, human rights violations, misappropriation of finances, joblessness, and hopelessness, and they would welcome a change in the governing authority.

On the Israeli side, Netanyahu and his coalition partners should not wait for an independent Palestinian state. Once the war ends, Netanyahu will face an inquiry into the savage butchery of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas. He will have to resign or be ousted, and a new government must be established in Israel, committed to a two-state solution. Once these prerequisites are in place, the UN administrative authority will relinquish its role and responsibility to the PA.

The US and Saudi Arabia can play a crucial role in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US has been a guarantor of Israel’s national security, and President Biden must make it clear that his unwavering support bears considerable political cost to America domestically and internationally. Many countries view the US as complicit in Gaza’s horrors, and President Biden must advocate for a two-state solution, a long-standing proposal.

The negotiating process will undoubtedly take more than a year, but President Biden cannot afford to miss this historic opportunity. He must stop giving Israel carte blanche, demand accountability, and ensure both sides negotiate in good faith to reach a peace agreement. Saudi Arabia can complement the US initiative by seizing on the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian relations and offering an unprecedented breakthrough to bring an end to the conflict. After the war, they will normalize relations with Israel with a two-state solution and continuous negotiation until an agreement is reached.

The war must end, leaving Hamas dramatically weakened and in disarray. Hamas’ ultimate defeat will not be on the battlefield but by creating an alternative to Hamas’ governance from which the Palestinians will significantly benefit. Israel should not prolong the tragic war by even one unnecessary day, as it will deepen hatred, enmity, and distrust between Israel and the Palestinians and make a solution to the conflict ever more intractable. A sustainable peace agreement based on a two-state solution can be reached by starting the peace process now, even before the war comes to an end.

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