In recent days, there have been publications and newspaper articles in Israeli and some Western media outlets accusing Hamas of sabotaging the prospects of a two-state solution. They also claim that Hamas is solely responsible for eliminating any chance for achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis due to the recent escalation known as Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, launched in the Gaza border settlements last Saturday.
The writer and political analyst, Mark Lavie, published an article in Israeli newspaper, Jerusalem Post, titled “Hamas has Killed the Two-State Solution.” Lavie began the article by stating that “The atrocities Hamas terrorists have perpetrated against Israel have buried the peace process and the two-state solution forever. Hamas is to blame for this. But not only Hamas.”
Lavie went on to blame the other Palestinian wing, the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, because his political party, the Fatah Movement, took to social media to call on his people to “kill everyone who is a settler, everyone who is Israeli.”
However, this claim is unfounded, as the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank published a single statement after the announcement of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, stating that “The silence of the international community regarding the practices of Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people is the main reason behind the escalating situation.” They added that ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, with East Jerusalem as its capital along with the 1967 borders, in addition to recognizing the Palestinian’s right to independence and sovereignty, that would ensure security and stability in the region.
On the other hand, the Palestinian news agency, WAFA, quoted Mahmoud Abbas during the meeting, which included several civilian and security officials, “The need to protect the Palestinian people and their right to defend themselves against settler terrorism and Israeli occupation forces.” Without prompting for killing settlers or Israelis.
According to the Jerusalem Post article, the writer claimed that the repeated rejection of peace initiatives by Palestinians and Israel’s recognition of independence was “The actual end of the peace process, though most of the West did not accept that obvious conclusion.” The writer also added: “The Palestinian rejections destroyed Israel’s moderate peace camp and even led to the election of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The U.S. conservative Senator, Lindsey Graham, also shared a tweet on X saying “I am appalled by anyone who would blame Israel for the ongoing situation in the Middle East. Iran and Hamas do not want a two-state solution, they want a one-state solution. They want to destroy the Jewish State. We’re in a religious war and I unapologetically Stand with Israel.”
Furthermore, a statement has circulated on some Israeli social media pages, stating that “Hamas does not want a two-state solution. It wants a final solution.” This is an allusion to the comparison of what the Nazi Germany did in the 1930s with the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, which resulted in the Holocaust.
What is the Two-State Solution Proposal?
The two-state solution is an international proposal based on the Arab reversal of the demand for the complete liberation of Palestine in favor of a two-state solution, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state where both Arab and Jewish populations have citizenship and equal rights within a unified entity.
The two-state solution is based on two states in historical Palestine living side by side, the State of Palestine, which includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside the State of Israel, which includes the remaining 78% of historic Palestinian territories. This concept was established in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 after the 1967 war, following Israel’s control of the rest of historic Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights.
It should be noted that some Palestinians adopted these principles in 1974, within the Palestinian National Council’s interim program. While this program was opposed by some Palestinian wings, forming what became known as “Rejectionist Front.” Subsequently, it became a reference for negotiations in the Oslo Agreement of 1993 between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel.
Israel Undermined the Two-State Solution for Decades
In reality, Israel has not ceased violating the fundamental requirement for implementing the two-state solution since its inception. This requirement includes the cessation of settlement activity and the recognition of Palestine’s independence within the borders established in 1967. Israel has strengthened its policy of settlements construction in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967, expanding existing settlements and annexing additional lands to them. These settlements are considered in accordance with Security Council Resolution 448 of 1979, which provided for their illegality, under international law and represent a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly Article 49.
Until recently, Israel had taken careful steps to annex more territories of the West Bank due to its fear on international decisions rejecting settlement expansion. Although Israel did not respect these resolutions, the situation has worsened with the arrival of a far-right government that unites the strongest supporters of settlement expansion. This has led to Israel seizing over a million dunams of Palestinian lands, reclassifying them as “Israeli lands.”
Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has built more than 130 settlements and around 140 outposts, with approximately 700,000 Israeli settlers now reside in these areas, including 230,000 in East Jerusalem.
When Barbara Leaf, the former top U.S. diplomat for Middle East affairs, was preparing to visit Israel in June 2023, the Israeli government, which had promised the United States not to expand West Bank settlements for four months, made one of its most dangerous decisions to accelerate settlement growth. On June 18, 2023, the occupation approved a plan aimed at shortening the time required to issue construction permits in West Bank settlements. The plan granted the extremist Finance Minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, full authority to approve settlement construction plans without the need for the prime minister and defense minister's approval.
Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionist Party, is one of the most important pillars of Netanyahu's current government. He enjoys extensive powers that go beyond his role as the finance minister and holds the title of "champion of Israeli settlement" within his midst. Top of Form
In 2017, Smotrich wrote an article titled "The Settlement Plan," in which he announced his plan to annex and control the West Bank territories. He argued that the two-state model had brought Israel to a deadlocked, and that there was no place in Israel's territory for two contradictory nationalist movements. With his rise to the Israeli cabinet in December, 2022. Based on the coalition formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with religious parties, Smotrich and other radical government ministers are able to put their ideas into action and make them part of the official policy of the current occupying government, the founding documents of which stipulate that the Jewish people have the exclusive and indisputable right in all parts of Israel's territory, including the West Bank, and contradicts what is stated in the two-State solution, which is claimed by media outlets and Israeli spokespersons.
Smotrich's expansive governmental powers have undeniably bolstered the settlement agenda within the West Bank. Upon his appointment as Minister of Finance, he did not hesitate to direct government agencies to gear up for settling an additional half-million settlers in the area, boldly committing to allocate new budgets—amounting to billions of shekels—for the development of settlement infrastructures.
Yet, Smotrich's influence extends even further. This past February, he secured an equally pivotal role, being appointed head of the Civil Administration and, accordingly, assuming the governorship of the West Bank per Israeli law. This role does not merely mean a change—it signifies a shift in the official governance structure of the West Bank, moving numerous administrative powers from the military leadership of the occupying forces to the civilian leadership, now embodied by Smotrich himself.
The pace of the Netanyahu government's annexation steps is unparalleled in the occupation’s history. This past March, the Israeli government gave the green light to a draft law enabling Israelis to return to four settlements in the West Bank, adjusting the 2005 disengagement law that mandated the withdrawal of settlers from these settlements in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the hotly debated "judicial reform" plan—igniting extensive, month-long protests—is another in a series of manoeuvres aiming to bring the West Bank firmly under control. Smotrich himself has confirmed this, stating that reevaluating democratic and legal structures might cement the government's annexation of the West Bank.
Settlement Expansion Is Not Exclusive to Netanyahu’s Government
Allegations swirling within Israeli opposition groups squarely place blame on Netanyahu and his current administration, accusing them of deliberately undermining the two-state solution and colluding with Hamas. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, known for its liberal leanings, spotlighted remarks from Dimitri Shumsky, a history professor at Al-Quds University. He contended, “Thanks to the millions of Qatari dollars pouring into Gaza—and sanctioned repeatedly by Netanyahu as part of a deliberate, malicious policy designed to bury the two-state solution—Hamas has amassed considerable military capabilities.”
Historically, the settlement inclinations of preceding left-wing liberal Israeli governments have scarcely diverged from those of their right-wing contemporaries. Israeli Labor Party-led governments, notably aligned with leftist movements, have previously proposed plans for West Bank annexation.
Post-1967 war, Yigal Allon, a former Labor Minister, envisioned annexing substantial West Bank areas, inclusive of the Jordan Valley and Greater Jerusalem. This continuity prevailed a decade later under Menachem Begin and his Likud party, advocating for the Greater Israel program that called for West Bank annexation, staunchly opposing international compromises in what he dubbed, "The heart of the biblical region."
Despite the majority of the Israeli political spectrum formally endorsing the notion of a Palestinian state post-Oslo Accords, myriad subsequent right-wing Israeli governments have perpetuated the settlement process over the past three decades, albeit at a more subdued pace compared to the present government.
Movements, such as those spearheaded by Naftali Bennett, who upon entering politics in 2013, vehemently demanded the total Israeli annexation of Area C—counter to the Oslo Accords—were striking. Upon his 2021 ascension to power, Bennett led his government to fortify occupation rule in Area C. Consequently, Fadi Al-Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, proclaimed that Bennett’s government’s first year was the most perilous and challenging for both Jerusalem and its inhabitants, noting initial approval for constructing 14,108 settlement units and demolishing 270 Palestinian structures.
A Settlement Under the Guise of “National Parks”
Last September concluded with the Israeli District Planning and Building Committee in Jerusalem greenlighting a new plan to establish an urban natural park spanning approximately 700,000 square meters out of 1.1 million square meters of Beit Hanina, Hizma, and Shuafat lands. These lands are purportedly natural reserves belonging to a settlement, Pisgat Zeev, recognized as one of the largest settlement blocs east of Jerusalem.
The blueprint indicates the park will encompass a visitor center, a sports and community hub, a swimming pool, and a parking lot. The Jerusalem Municipality hailed the park as an “unprecedented public victory against real estate dealers” wanting to erect high-rises in the area, highlighting on its website that creating a “green lung in the heart of an urban environment in Jerusalem” would meld natural flora, fauna, and avifauna, enticing residents to settle.
While the municipality underscores the park’s significance in safeguarding wildlife and nature, it omits that it will besiege Palestinians, stifling their geographic expansion and barring them from their lands by segregating Palestinian neighborhoods. This exploits future settlement projects, seizing open lands in East Jerusalem.
This approach is not novel. Numerous Palestinian lands have been confiscated and morphed into “national parks” under the National Parks, Nature Reserves, National Sites, and Monuments Act, which springs from the 1943 British Mandate Act allowing land expropriation for public benefit.
For instance, the settlements of Har Shmuel and Neve Shmuel were erected on roughly 500 dunams of Nabi Samuel village land, northwest of Jerusalem. These settlements transformed the village into a cell for the "Haredim" extremists, who converted the area between the mosque and the archaeological site in the village into a Jewish synagogue, claiming the Prophet Samuel as one of the Jewish prophets.
The village succumbed to Israeli occupation post-1967, and subsequently, all its homes were razed by order of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir. In 1971, villagers were relocated to homes approximately 100 meters east of the mosque and the archaeological site, and atop the ruins of their previous residences, Israel erected about 1,000 residential facilities.
In 1995, under the directive of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, 3,500 dunams of the village's land were commandeered to become part of an Israeli "national park." This confiscation included the village's agricultural lands and homes, with notable sites like the mosque and the Prophet Samuel's shrine, along with the surrounding archaeological area.
This past May, the present Netanyahu government proposed alterations to the law on national parks, nature reserves, national sites, and memorials, aiming to enforce its application on West Bank archaeological sites. The explanatory notes attached to the proposal declared that "the lands of Judea and Samaria (the biblical name predominantly utilized by Israelis when referring to the occupied West Bank) abound with heritage sites of significant national and historical importance for the progression of settlement in the Land of Israel."
Normalization Has Not Thwarted Israel’s Settlement Endeavors
Contrary to allegations proliferating in Israeli and Western circles—that through Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Hamas thwarted peace prospects between Israel and the Arab countries, which might have paved the way for peace with the Palestinians and perhaps later implementation of the two-state solution—settlement expansion has continued unabated. For instance, the American Time magazine published an extensive report titled “Why Hamas Tried to Sabotage Arab-Israeli Peace Prospects With a Massive Unprovoked Attack.”
Was Israeli normalization with certain Arab countries truly a restraint against settlement endeavors? Back in 2017, under Netanyahu's prime ministership, the Likud Party, which he led, adopted a resolution to pursue the outright annexation of the West Bank. While international dissent thwarted immediate implementation of this decision, by 2019, he voiced his intentions to propel the phased application of Israeli sovereignty over the territory, particularly after securing the backing of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
In 2020, the Israeli Prime Minister disclosed plans to commence unilateral annexations of lands slated for Israeli sovereignty but swiftly backpedaled on this decision, ostensibly to smooth the path towards normalization agreements with several Arab nations.
However, this Israeli retraction was neither absolute nor strategic, but seemingly tactical. The Netanyahu administration persisted in fostering and widening numerous settlement projects in the West Bank, such as Highway 55—stretching from the periphery of the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank to Kafr Saba, northeast of Tel Aviv—like other roads, facilitating the confiscation of expansive areas of West Bank territory.
This maneuver also functioned as a method to navigate international public opinion. The Israeli government typically announced initial plans to construct settlements in certain sensitive regions, eliciting objections from the United States and various Western nations, then publicly suspended its initial project, diverting attention while inaugurating other settlement projects in divergent areas.
This dynamic was evident with the E1 construction project, intended to sever the northern West Bank from its southern part—a move the international community identifies as a substantive barrier to the two-state solution. When the United States opposed the project, Israel committed to halting its completion, but concurrently revealed to Washington its plans to construct 4,000 new units in the area in the ensuing period.
Therefore, asserting presently that Hamas undermined the two-state solution by initiating a military operation against the settlements encircling the Gaza Strip appears as a claim that distorts and veils a reality stretching across decades. The facts illustrate that Israel has perpetually refrained from committing to a two-state solution, irrespective of its governing body, continuously aligning with extremist rhetoric and expansionist tendencies while endeavoring to avoid antagonizing its allies. This has been done in blatant disregard for international treaties and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which classifies transferring the civilian population from an occupying state to occupied territory as a war crime.