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A Bloody Quarter-Century Later, the Jury Is In on the 'Two-State Solution'

Martin Sherman is the founder and CEO of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, and served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He holds undergraduate degrees in physics and geology, an MBA, and a PhD in political science. Sherman’s publications include The Politics of Water in the Middle East (1999), Despots, Democrats and the Determinants of International Conflict (1998), as well as numerous essays.

Here is a December 25, 2018 quote from Israel's Major General (res.) Gershon HaCohen, spoken just days after I conducted the interview with Martin Sherman that follows:

It is mind-boggling how proponents of West Bank withdrawal so cavalierly ignore the likely threats attending this move. So strong is their fixation on the necessity of withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines that it has made them totally oblivious to realities on the ground.


David Levy: What is one to make of the so-called two-state solution? Makes little sense today. Did it ever make any sense? The Fatah and Hamas charters are and have always been very clear in their advocacy of a one-state solution: A Palestine from the river to the sea that would replace Israel. Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah never speak of two states.

How is it that there are, even now, prominent Israelis who see this mythical two-state solution as a resolution of the conflict?

Martin Sherman: I certainly identify with the skeptical tone of your question and I certainly have never been able to understand why people chose to go along that route. Apparently many were taken in by its seductive allure. I think in many ways Israeli political parties that opposed the two-state notion were at fault, because they did not offer a sufficiently persuasive case for the alternative view.

I think you are right about Fatah and Hamas. In fact, if you look at the Fatah constitution, if anything it is more explicit about eradicating the “Zionist entity” than Hamas.

DL:  How have Israelis been able and willing to ignore that reality?

MS: The power of wishful thinking. In the early 1990s, the two-state concept became an accepted and acceptable element of Israeli foreign policy. Up until then ... to suggest two states was an anathema, border-line treason. You could go to jail for doing what the government is doing today.

DL: Before the Oslo Accords?

MS:  Yes, and in fact people did go to jail.

Let me give you one quote, spoken almost four decades ago:

The establishment of such [a Palestinian] state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces (more than 25,000 men under arms) into Judea and Samaria; this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other [military] equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens.

In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population ... in areas adjacent to the frontier-line.