This October, Sweden became the first western European nation to formally recognize Palestine as a state. Whilst other eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland have made the declaration much earlier, this first acknowledgment from western Europe signals an important step forward in bringing popular legitimacy to the notion of Palestinian statehood. Although Sweden’s announcement has been praised by Palestinian solidarity groups globally, the nation still appears to be condoning solutions which are at risk of becoming outdated.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has said that the current situation "can only be solved with a two-state solution." The call for a two-state solution is one which has been echoed by other Western governments since the 1947 UN partition plan, but can it still be considered a viable solution? In theory, the notion of partition into two separate states is an understandable step for the West to take, but lobbying nations fall short in that their focus is often on the reinstatement of Palestinian lands along the 1967 borders. This would result in Palestine taking the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
To explain why this may not be a viable option requires analysis of how the geopolitical landscape has changed since these proposals were initially put forward. The Palestinian political field has been polarized since the late 1980s with the emergence of Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority, with a distinct lack of coordination between these two parties. During this period of polarization, Israeli settlements have been expanding, with more and more Palestinian land being claimed and built upon by Jewish settlers. Israel’s "creeping" strategy is perhaps one of its most effective methods of increasing its territory.
Image via Sabbah Report.
Israel uses its complex legal system to justify annexing additional land with the rhetoric that it is seizing land for military purposes, that it constitutes "State Lands," or that it must be confiscated for "public needs." What often follows is the building of apartment blocks and houses on the land. Israel ensures that these occupied lands remain under its control by providing financial incentives to foreign Jewish populations willing to relocate. This allows Israel to put people on the ground and keep the areas occupied. Segregated roads are constructed exclusively for Israeli use, connecting the newly built settlements and further dividing Palestinian communities.
The overall impact of Israel’s road and settlement planning strategy has been the territorial fragmentation of the West Bank. This has led Julien Bousac to refer to the West Bank as an archipelago: a series of isolated Palestinian islands. The West Bank is no longer occupied by a contiguous Palestinian population, but an array of Palestinian communities divided by infrastructure, with an ever-encroaching Israeli population on its fringes. This strategic fragmentation ghettoizes Palestinian communities in these areas in order to facilitate further expansion of Israeli settlements and to prevent the coherent social, economic, and political organization of Palestinian people.
Image by Julien Bousac via Imaginary Atlas.
Although Sweden’s recognition of Palestine as a state has already proved fruitful in pushing Palestinian struggles further into the public domain, its call for a two-state solution in its current form is outdated. Sweden is not alone in supporting this plan; the UK government has proposed that a two-state solution could be implemented by arranging land swaps between Israel and Palestine to reinstate the 1967 borders. Given the current geopolitical landscape, it seems unlikely that this could ever be a viable solution. The level of dispersion of Israeli infrastructure, and the growing population within the 1967 borders mean that every month in which action isn’t taken, the old theory of a two-state solution within these borders becomes increasingly unlikely. I would argue that the dispersion of the Israeli population is already too great for this resolution to be practical without the mass upheaval of populations.
Any new proposals need to account for the reality of Palestinian existence: the levels of territorial fragmentation, and the extent of Israeli settlement and infrastructure within the 1967 borders. If governments are truly serious about a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, the first step is recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state alongside Israel, for how can this motion proceed unless Palestine is a state? With that established, it is imperative that the rhetoric of the "two-state solution" is refined by governments into tenable forms which show a true understanding of the current state of the land.
Gareth Davies is an Associate Editor for Warscapes. He graduated from the University of York with a BA in English and Related Literature. He is currently studying towards an MPhil in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict at Trinity College Dublin. He has experience in writing about representations of conflict in film and literature, and his research focuses on genocide theory and military technology.