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Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.

February 27, 2017
Published in Uncategorized

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There are really two questions that this resolution asks –

  • Is the two-state solution desirable?
  • Should the US no longer pressure Israel to work toward it?

These are separate questions in the sense that both the two-state solution may be desirable and that it may be undesirable for the US to push Israel to work toward it.

They are related questions in that movement toward the two-state may only work if the US applies pressure.

These are two important things to keep in mind as we move through a discussion of the two-state solution.

Other important things to keep in mind –

  • Recently, the US hasn’t pressured Israel very hard on the two state solution and, most recently (February 14), it appears that the Trump administration has decided not to pressure them at all..

Nikita Vladimirov, The Hill, February 14, http://www.thehill.com/policy/international/319590-report-wh-official-says-us-wont-insist-on-two-state-solution-for-israel

A senior White House official said that President Trump’s administration will not insist on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, the longstanding cornerstone of international peace talks, according to the press pool report. “A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official told reporters. “Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that’s what the parties want, or something else. If that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them.

There is even evidence that is specific to pressure –

Taylor Wofford, 2-23-17, Policy Mic, Here’s why Trump’s ambivalence about a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine Matters, https://mic.com/articles/169420/here-s-why-trump-s-ambivalence-about-a-two-state-solution-for-israel-and-palestine-matters#.nZJ2H0LSB

. Under President Barack Obama, the United States steadily applied pressure to Israel to stop building new settlements in Palestinian lands, and, with nudging from the U.S., Netanyahu even endorsed a (limited) two-state solution in 2009. But Trump’s ambivalence on the issue means the pressure is off. Abandoning the two-state solution is “another nail in the coffin of the peace process, which already had a lot of nails in it,” Martin Indyk, a former Middle East peace negotiator under Obama, told Reuters.

This creates interesting questions —

  • Is it possible to even be Pro? If we aren’t pressuring Israel to do this now, what can the Pro say?
  • If there is even a very small amount of pressure in the status quo that makes it possible to reduce it to zero, what’s the value to going to zero pressure?
  • If there is no pressure now, how can the Pro say it is good?

The problems created by these questions are compounded by the simple fact that almost all of the evidence says the two-state solution is not achievable, at least any time soon.

In this next section, I will review the arguments on both sides of the topic with consideration for the issues that have just been discussed. No team can ignore these issues when debating the topic.

The Pro

There are a couple of common Pro arguments.

US-Israel relations. This argument is straightforward — Pressuring Israel on the two-state solution hurts US relations with Israel and that strong relations with Israel are important to US power projection in the Middle East, technology sharing, non-proliferation, containment of Iran, and other US foreign policy objectives. It is easy to find evidence for both the link (pressure hurts US-Israeli relations) and the impact (Israel-US relations good). The difficult part, of course, is to find evidence that says the US is continuing to (significantly) pressure Israel, or at least that it is continuing to do so in a way that hurts relations. Since the resolution calls for a reduction in pressure, the Pro needs to win that there is meaningful (in terms of hurting relations) pressure now.

To be honest, it is hard to find evidence from after the Netanyahu-Trump meeting (mid February) that says the US is still pressuring Israel in a way that hurts relations. But at least for starters, it is possible to find evidence that there is still pressure —

Arutz Sheva, 2-24-17, Trump: I like 2 state solution, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/225619

His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, later tempered this stance, saying Washington “absolutely” supports a two-state solution but wants new ideas on how to move forward.

Although the Pro’s uniqueness evidence for pressure will be weak (there just isn’t great evidence that the US is pressuring Israel on the two-state solution now), Pro teams should keep in mind that Con teams may very well not even challenge them on this issue because they may need to win, “pressure now” to win their arguments.

Two state solution bad—Israeli and Palestinian security. There is a considerable amount of evidence that a two-state solution threatens Israel’s security because it leaves an “enemy” state on its border. There is also evidence that it would threaten Palestine’s security because Palestine isn’t yet ready to become a functioning state. The arguments being made are reasonable, but the weakness is that these arguments are only relevant if a two-state solution materializes. As noted, that is a difficult argument for Pro teams to win AND many Pro teams argue that a two-state solution will never come to be. If a two-state solution never materializes, “two state bad” arguments are not relevant.

Alternatives to a two state solution. Pro teams that want to argue against a two-state solution need to be able to argue for an alternative – if there is no two state solution, what will happen? A lot of evidence argues the alternative is war, and since I assume that Pro teams don’t want to ague for a Middle East war, they will need to suggest what will happen if there is no two-state solution.

These are the common alternatives —

One state solution —  Under this alternative, Israel simply absorbs Palestine to become part of Israel. It is unlikely that Palestine would go along with this, but even if they did, since Palestine’s population will soon surpass Israel’s population, then Israel would have to choose between either being a Jewish state or a democracy because it would have a non-Jewish majority.

State-minus solution – This is a commonly suggested alternative the basically enables the Palestinian Authority to exist as an administrative state but not a country. It is unlikely that Palestine would ever agree to this and it would magnify the Palestinian security problems discussed above.

Confederation – In this solution, both Israel and Palestine would function basically as administrative states that would be controlled by a confederation. Most also consider this idea to be unattainable.

Unknown alternative. I read an article recently that supported Trump for casting doubt on the two-state solution because it seems that it will never happen, due to substantial opposition and many, many factors outline in the evidence that is in the release. Although the author didn’t have a specific alternative in mind, she suggested that it will facilitate “thinking outside the box” and that such thinking will be good for finding potential solutions to the problem since the ones that have been proposed now (including the two-state solution) won’t get us anywhere.

This review of potential Pro arguments is obviously not especially encouraging. So what is the Pro to do?

It is tough, but I think the Pro should make two arguments – US-Israel relations and the general argument that we should just abandon the two-state solution because it will inevitably fail and because it is creating a mental block to possible practical alternatives.

The Con

I think the Con is easier on this topic as long as the Con takes advantage of arguments that properly account for what is going on in the status quo.

The best approach for the Con is to simply make the following arguments —

(a) Any US-pressure on Israel post the Trump-Netanyahu meeting is minimal at-best and not enough to damage relations. In the status quo, the US is simply keeping the two-state as an option and maybe, at best, encouraging Israel to keep on open-mind to it.

(b) Completely abandoning any hope for the two-state solution would disrupt that peace process and that the peace process stops conflict from breaking out even if it it does not result in the two state solution.

© Since a two-state solution will never happen, the Pro cannot win on arguments that the two state solution is bad.

In other words, the Con should defend the idea that some very slight US nod in favor of continuing to support the two-state solution will prevent a break-down in peace talks even though it won’t lead to a two-state solution. Con teams can also argue that staying committed to the possibility of the two-state solution will demonstrate general US leadership, protect US relations with other Arab states, and benefit US relations with China, a country that also supports the two-state solution.


The two-state solution topic is a very timely one, but it is a bit complicated by the fact that US pressure on Israel for the two-state solution has recently been reduced and that it is something that is very difficult to achieve. Teams on both sides of the topic must recognize this, but they should also understand that they can use that to make arguments that will strategically benefit them. I think the reality that facilitates that strategic choices favors the Con, but there are also arguments the Pro can use to their advantage.

Two State Solution

Max Fisher, 12-29-16, New York Times, The Two-State Solution: What it is and why it hasn’t happened, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/world/middleeast/israel-palestinians-two-state-solution.html

What is the two-state solution?

It helps to start with the problem the solution is meant to address: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At its most basic level, the conflict is about how or whether to divide territory between two peoples. The territory question is also wrapped up in other overlapping but distinct issues: whether the Palestinian territories can become an independent state and how to resolve years of violence that include the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the partial Israeli blockade of Gaza and Palestinian violence against Israelis. The two-state solution would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — two states for two peoples. In theory, this would win Israel security and allow it to retain a Jewish demographic majority (letting the country remain Jewish and democratic) while granting the Palestinians a state. Most governments and world bodies have set achievement of the two-state solution as official policy, including the United States, the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This goal has been the basis of peace talks for decades.

Winnick, 2-7-17, [Jack Winnick received his M.S. and PhD. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and has held several prestigious positions in the field, including working as an expert consultant at the NASA Johnson Space Center and as a Professor of Chemical Engineering at several universities. He has also been a Middle East scholar for over forty years, traveling to the area for the State Department for the purpose of technology transfer to the Arab nations, and cooperation between Israel and Egypt, American Thinker, February 7, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/02/just_what_is_the_israelpalestine_twostate_solution.html

The so-called “Two-State Solution” has been touted for many years by Israel’s enemies as the only way to achieve peace. The fundamentals of this “solution” consist of the creation of two new countries. One would comprise the “West Bank,” historically known as Judea and Samaria, and be populated and governed solely by Arabs. As in other Arab countries, Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims would be unwelcome. The other “country” would comprise the area now known as Israel, but would be open to the return of millions of Arabs as citizens. These “returnees” would include all Arabs who could show any relation to those living in the ill-defined region known as “Palestine” prior to the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

Two State v. One State

Voc.com, 2016, What are the “two state solution” and the “one state solution” http://www.vox.com/cards/israel-palestine/two-state-one-state

These are the two broad ways the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might end.

The “two-state solution” would create an independent Israel and Palestine, and is the mainstream approach to resolving the conflict. The idea is that Israelis and Palestinians want to run their countries differently; Israelis want a Jewish state, and Palestinians want a Palestinian one. Because neither side can get what it wants in a joined state, the only possible solution that satisfies everyone involves separating Palestinians and Israelis. The “one-state solution” would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big country. It comes in two versions. One, favored by some leftists and Palestinians, would create a single democratic country. Arab Muslims would outnumber Jews, thus ending Israel as a Jewish state. The other version, favored by some rightists and Israelis, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and either forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote. Virtually the entire world, including most Zionists, rejects this option as an unacceptable human rights violation. Most polling suggests that both Israelis and Palestinians prefer a two-state solution. However, the inability of Israelis and Palestinians to come to two-state terms has led to a recent surge in interest in a one-state solution, partly out of a sense of hopelessness and partly out of fear that if the sides cannot negotiate a two-state solution, a de facto one-state outcome will be inevitable.

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