In order to make progress toward a two-state solution “Israel [and the United States] must take steps to help improve the level of the Palestinian economy and the daily lives of Palestinians,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Isreali Civil Administration in the West Bank, at a CAP event, “Prospects for a Two-State Solution: Understanding Challenges and Creating Opportunities,” on Friday.
Brian Katulis, an advisor to Middle East Progress and CAP Senior Fellow, moderated the discussion, which also featured American Task Force on Palestine advocacy director Ghaith al-Omari. Formerly, al-Omari was an advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and currently he is also an advisor to Middle East Progress.
Omari and Paz discussed the prospects for a two -state solution under the current situation. Both panelists emphasized the important roles that the United States, economic development, and negotiations must play in the process, and the challenges that Israel and Palestine will face. With regard to Hamas in Palestine, General Paz said, “there is no good option; we have to choose the best of several bad options.” Hamas’ stronghold is secure and Paz believes that the only effective course of action is to “give Mahmoud Abbas an opportunity to deal with them in order to reach an agreement of a united government.”
In the near term, the Palestinian Authority is stable in the West Bank while Hamas has strong control over Gaza so there is no immediate political logic towards unifying. “I would argue that an artificial agreement would be harmful,” said al-Omari, which is why “change must come from all players, but it must begin with Israel.” Current Israeli policy supports a two-state solution and a reversal of this could cause further destabilization in the region. However, it is likely that Benjamin Netanyahu will put together a government that will not have majority support for a two-state solution.
Strong proactive action from the U.S. is necessary for Israel to effectively push for a two-state solution. The language coming from the Obama administration thus far has been “shockingly great” said al-Omari, “they have said all the right things.” Both Paz and al-Omari strongly praised the new administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, however they acknowledged that only a crisis will truly test the administration’s dynamics.
Israel must decrease their roadblocks and checkpoints in order to increase accessibility and movement of goods in the West Bank, which will stimulate the Palestinian economy. “The security situation is not the same as it was at the beginning of the First Intifada,” said Paz, who personally helped to set up the blockades that were necessary at the time, “now we are in a different security situation.” Today, removing the checkpoints and blockades will serve to heighten security by stabilizing the Palestinian economy.
Despite the importance of foreign, especially U.S., aid and assistance, it is crucial that the money does not contribute to corruption. Al-Omari emphasized that to avoid this it is necessary to “create a system of transparency, governance and unity. When the U.S. is putting money into Palestine,” he continued, “they have every right to use it in a transparent, clear way.”
A peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine is vital to stabilizing security in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The Obama administration must take a leading role in the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and all parties involved must work towards achieving a two-state solution. The realization of this solution, however, will not be possible unless crucial steps are taken towards improving conditions for the Palestinian people and creating a system of political transparency.
Brigadier General (Ret.) Ilan Paz, former head of the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank (2002-2005)
Ghaith al-Omari, advocacy director, American Task Force on Palestine; advisor, Middle East Progress; former advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Discussion moderated by:
Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, advisor, Middle East Progress
A light breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m.
A light breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m.
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Closed-captioned-enabled video will be posted following the conclusion of the event.