US President Joe Biden continues to combine arming Israel to the teeth for its genocidal war on Gaza with hypocritical phrases about supporting a “just” long-term solution for the Palestinian people—a supposed Palestinian state alongside Israel. The other Western powers invoke similar platitudes about a “two-state solution”, including Labor’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, who could not bring herself to criticise even the Israeli blockade that cut off food, water and medical supplies to the civilian population of Gaza.
Let’s cut to the chase: the US and its allies have no intention of forcing Israel to allow the Palestinians to have a genuine state of their own.
Talk of a two-state solution by the great powers and their mainstream media acolytes is nothing but a fig leaf to cover up their concerted backing for Israel’s decades-long war against the Palestinian people. And it is not just the Western powers. The Arab capitalist regimes, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, also cynically employ rhetoric about a two-state solution in an attempt to deflect attention from their unwillingness to defy Western imperialism and give any meaningful support to the oppressed Palestinian masses.
Talk about a supposed two-state solution has been bandied around for well over 50 years, but not one serious step has been taken towards achieving that goal. Why? Because Israel is an aggressively expansionist colonial state that is intrinsically hostile to the Palestinians having any right to national self-determination and a state of their own.
Indeed, the Zionists long denied the very existence of the Palestinian people. The Zionists adhered to their own version of terra nullius: Palestine was “a land without people for a people without land”.
According to the advocates of a two-state solution, the West Bank (the area to the west of the Jordan River) combined with the tiny Gaza Strip would form the basis of a Palestinian state. But ever since Israel’s invasion of the West Bank in 1967, Zionist settlers backed by the Israeli military have been relentlessly seizing more and more land and expelling increasing numbers of Palestinians from their homes.
The West Bank is now honeycombed with Israeli military outposts and Zionist settlements, and the pace of land seizures and murders of Palestinians by the far-right Zionist settlers has dramatically accelerated over the last decade. There are now around 430,000 heavily armed Israeli Jewish settlers on the West Bank as well as 220,000 in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians are being reduced to living in little pockets of walled-off land similar to the bantustans of apartheid South Africa or the reservations that the US state used to confine Native Americans as it stole their land. However, the process of dispossession that took hundreds of years in North America has taken place in Palestine in a matter of decades.
Left to its own resources, the Israeli state would never have been powerful enough to carry out this ongoing project of ethnic cleansing. It needed the military and financial backing of US imperial power.
The US has long seen Israel as a vital protector of Western imperialist interests, above all oil and trade through the Suez Canal, in this politically unstable region. Precisely because Israel plays such a vital strategic role for world capitalism, the US is simply not prepared to take the sort of decisive measures that would be needed, including cutting off arms supplies, to force Israel to accept the establishment of a truly sovereign Palestinian state with an independent foreign policy and its own armed forces and security apparatus.
The most that Israel has ever been prepared to accept grudgingly is a Palestinian mini-state on the West Bank and Gaza ruled over by the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA) to police the Palestinian population on behalf of the US and Israel. The West Bank authorities have never had genuine autonomy or control over their supposed territory, and Israel has never allowed the return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants driven out in the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.
Israel and the US effectively control the funding of the PA, and the Israeli army continually carries out military operations on the West Bank, attacking Palestinian refugee camps and backing the far-right Jewish settlers who murder Palestinians and seize their land.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at its radical height in the 1960s opposed any idea of a two-state solution. The PLO was for one democratic state for all the people of Palestine—Arab and Jew alike.
However, following the severe defeat inflicted upon the Palestinian resistance by the Jordanian army in the 1970 Black September massacre, and subsequent defeats in Lebanon, the PLO’s vision substantially narrowed. It pulled back from mobilising to confront the Zionist state and instead increasingly relied on diplomatic lobbying, motions in the UN and pleas to the US administration to act as an honest broker to negotiate the setting up of a Palestinian mini-state on the West Bank.
By the time of the 1993 Oslo Accord, the PLO, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and with the support of the Palestinian capitalist class, was prepared to accept the few crumbs still left on the table. In return for being allowed to establish the Palestinian Authority, the PLO agreed to be a police force over its own people on the West Bank and Gaza on behalf of the US and Israel.
Despite the PLO’s capitulation, Israel was never prepared to carry out its side of the Oslo agreement. It continued to seize more land on the West Bank, violate the authority of the PA with repeated military attacks and sabotage the West Bank economy.
The two-state solution of a Palestinian capitalist state alongside Israel is now totally unviable. Yet all around the world liberal and social democratic politicians and some on the left continue to cling to this dead end because they refuse to countenance a revolutionary challenge to the state of Israel. The reality is too hard for them to face: that for any hope of Palestinian liberation, the power of the Israeli state will have to be broken. There is simply no other way forward.
The ongoing struggle of the Palestinians is vital for challenging the oppressive Israeli state. But on their own, no matter how heroic their resistance, the Palestinian masses are not going to be able to break the power of the heavily militarised Israeli state backed by all the might of the US, still the world’s leading imperialist power. To succeed, they need wider support and solidarity.
The working classes of Egypt and the other Arab states have shown time and time again that they are prepared to rise up against their own venal capitalist ruling classes and support the Palestinian people. It is this mass working class force that needs to be galvanised if we are to have any hope of ending the genocide of the Palestinian people and winning freedom and democracy for all the oppressed of the region.
The uprisings that swept the region in 2011 show that this is possible, but also that the aims of any mass movements that emerge are vitally important. Simply bringing down dictators, or winning limited democratic rights, is not enough to transform the situation fundamentally or win liberation. The radical reordering of society based on mass working class democracy, that is socialism, is needed to achieve that aim, and the need to build up the forces of people committed to that goal is as urgent as ever.