By Carol Rushton
For years, Arabs and pro-Arab sympathizers have insisted that there would be peace in the Middle East if Israel would simply accept a two-state solution: Divide Israel into two countries, one for Israel and the Jews, and one for Israel’s Arab population, known more commonly today as “Palestinians.”
Under this scenario, Israel would have to give up their biblical lands of Judea and Samaria for Israeli Arabs to have their “state.” Some plans also include some compromise on Jerusalem and returning the Golan Heights, the biblical land of Bashan, to Syria.
Most world leaders condemn Israel for not accepting the Arabs’ terms, which would include 100% of Jewish settlements removed, a land bridge connecting Judea and Samaria with the Gaza Strip, and the right of return for all Arabs and their descendants who fled Israel after the 1948 statehood declaration. They blame Israel’s rejection of these demands for Muslim terrorism in the Middle East and the world, including terror attacks in Europe and Asia.
What the vast majority of the world doesn’t realize is that the Arabs were presented several times with a two-state solution during the 1930s and 1940s and rejected it.
The Balfour Declaration
Jews like Theodore Herzl had been working for years to re-establish a Jewish homeland somewhere in the world where Jews would be free to be Jews without the shadow of persecutions, pogroms, and ghettos dogging their every step. Herzl raised awareness of the Jewish homeland movement by holding a series of Zionist congresses in Europe. Without the Zionist movement, the Balfour Declaration would probably never have happened.
The Balfour Declaration came about against the backdrop of World War I. Great Britain had thought that the war against Germany wouldn’t last but a few months. By 1917, both countries had lost thousands of young men and were bogged down in a conflict that neither side seemed capable of winning.
Enter Chaim Weizmann, a Russian Jewish chemist and ardent Zionist who had found his way to England by way of Germany. Weizmann was able to provide the British military with a way of producing acetone, used in weapons and ammunition, which the military desperately needed to help Great Britain win the war.
Weizmann had met British politicians Arthur Balfour and David Lloyd George, some years before World War I. He was able to enlist both Balfour and George in the dream of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East.
Balfour already believed in the concept of a homeland for the Jews but favored one in Uganda, believing that there were too many problems to establish a Jewish country in the Holy Land, then under Ottoman rule. Weizmann persuaded Balfour to think otherwise.
Weizmann asked Balfour, “Would you give up London to live in Saskatchewan?” When Balfour replied that the British had “always” lived in London, Weizmann responded. “Yes, and we lived in Jerusalem when London was still a marsh.”
The rest, as they say, is history. When George became the prime minister of Great Britain in 1916 and appointed Balfour as foreign secretary, the stage was set for the Balfour Declaration, issued in 1917.
The main text of the letter from Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild is below:
“I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
“I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.”
The Balfour Declaration gave the Jews permission to have a homeland in the Holy Land.
After the Balfour Declaration: The British Mandate Period
In 1922, the League of Nations came up with the Mandate for Palestine, which encompassed the area which now makes up the modern State of Israel and Jordan. This gave Great Britain the authority to encourage Jewish immigration to the Holy Land for the purposes of establishing a Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel. Jews from all over the world could now legally come to the area west of the Jordan River to live, develop the land, and start businesses.
Great Britain even allowed the Jews to form local government bodies after they immigrated. The Mandate for Palestine actually used the words, “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.”
However, Great Britain did not keep its promises to the Jews. In the early 1900s, oil companies from Great Britain and the U.S. started to become deeply involved in developing oil fields in Arab countries. This gave Arabs the leverage to pressure Great Britain into retracting their promises to Jews in the Diaspora concerning immigration and a future country in the Holy Land.
Great Britain issued the famous White Papers in 1930 and 1939, detailing their plan not only to restrict Jewish immigration to the British Mandate area in the Middle East but also to prevent as much as possible Jews buying land in that same area.
This caused much tension between the local Jewish government in the Holy Land, the Arabs, and Great Britain for almost the entire period between the Balfour Declaration and the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.
The U.N. Partition Plan and the State of Israel
When World War II ended and the full extent of the horrors that Nazi Germany had inflicted upon the Jews became known, worldwide opinion was very favorable toward the Jews. Considering what the Jews had gone through in the Holocaust, many Western nations were sympathetic concerning Jews having their own homeland in the Middle East.
Great Britain had actually floated the two-state solution in 1937 and 1939, one state for the Jews and one for the Arabs using the entire area of the Holy Land. Both times, Arabs rejected the idea outright, even though Great Britain caved to Arab pressure in severely limiting Jewish immigration to 75,000 over a five-year period and giving the Jews only 5,000 square kilometers while the Arabs would retain the remaining 21,700. Jews weren’t thrilled with these proposals but tried to negotiate for better terms.
Great Britain continued to try to work out a solution between Arabs and Jews but because the British insisted upon the Arabs’ complete approval of any deal, no plan could be finalized. The British finally realized that their efforts were futile and turned the problem over to the United Nations.
The U.N. formed a special committee which recommended the same plan Great Britain had earlier. The Holy Land would be split into two states, one for Arabs, one for Jews. The Jews got the raw end of the deal, retaining a smaller land area with Jerusalem becoming an internationalized city. Even though the Jews viewed the plan as problematic for them, they indicated their willingness to work with the U.N. on the plan. The Arabs refused to consider the U.N. plan.
Below is a quote from Arab League Secretary Azzam Pasha to David Horowitz and Abba Eban in a meeting on September 16, 1947.
“The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It’s likely, Mr. Horowitz, that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won’t get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you. I am not sure we’ll succeed, but we’ll try. We were able to drive out the Crusaders, but on the other hand we lost Spain and Persia. It may be that we shall lose Palestine. But it’s too late to talk of peaceful solutions.”
Predictably, the Arabs rejected the two-state solution once again and demanded their own plan: One state under Arab rule. The U.N. told the Arabs to go jump in the lake and adopted the two-state partition plan on November 29, 1947.
This put the Jews between a rock and a hard place. They really needed a larger territory in order to reasonably defend themselves from the Arab nations they knew would attack if they declared a state and to absorb new Jewish immigrants into the country. On the other hand, some land for a Jewish state was better than none. The U.N. partition plan was not a great deal, but at least it was a deal. What should they do?
The Jews decide that while they weren’t completely happy with the terms of the partition plan, an imperfect plan was better than none. On May 14, 1948, the modern State of Israel came into existence. The Arab nations that surrounded Israel attacked the new Jewish state but were eventually defeated.
The Arabs’ One State Solution
While the Arab countries were defeated by Israel in the late 1940s, they never stopped trying to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Arab nations attacked Israel again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and have supported and launched many terrorist attacks against Jews and Israel through the years. Even when Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO, none of these brought peace to Israel with her Arab neighbors.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a far-reaching agreement to allow the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in 2000 at the White House. The agreement would have greatly endangered Israel’s security while giving Arafat and those he represented 98-99 percent of what they wanted. Arafat rejected the deal and was blamed by American President Bill Clinton and Arabs in the Middle East for missing what they considered a great opportunity.
Dennis Ross, a long-time U.S. government official and not exactly pro-Israel, gave his account of the 2000 White House summit between Barak and Arafat in his book, The Missing Peace, and in a lecture in Australia as reported in an Australian publication, The Volunteer.
Quoting from Wikipedia, Ross “suggested that the reason for the failure was Arafat’s unwillingness to sign a final deal with Israel that would close the door on any of the Palestinians’ maximum demands, particularly the right of return. Ross claimed that what Arafat really wanted was ‘a one-state solution. Not independent, adjacent Israeli and Palestinian states, but a single Arab state encompassing all of Historic Palestine.’ Ross also quoted Saudi Prince Bandar as saying while negotiations were taking place: ‘If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won’t be a tragedy; it will be a crime.’”
In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s replacement, Mahmoud Abbas, an agreement that would have once again greatly compromised Israel’s security, including a withdrawal from 93% of Judea and Samaria. Abbas turned down this deal as well.
For almost 100 years, Arabs living in the Holy Land have been offered agreements, treaties, plans, and deals for a two-state solution: One state for Arabs and one state for Jews. Jews have accepted these plans with reservations. Over and over again, the Arabs have rejected these offers. Every single time.
As Dennis Ross pointed said, Arabs have proved they are not interested in a two-state solution. They are only interested in a one-state solution: An Arab country from Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea as reflected on their maps, with no Israel and no Jews.
The overwhelming majority of Arabs have never accepted Israel and the Jews in the Middle East. They never will.