There has been a significant and unexpected shift in the West’s perception of the crisis between Israel and Palestinians, and it is focused on one of the most promising and crucial potential policy areas: the two-state solution.
Setting up a Palestinian state has long been seen as the key to long-term peace. But efforts to do so have been beset by what amounts to an Israeli veto over moves in that direction.
Now, the major humanitarian crisis caused by Israel's war on Gaza has reshaped the parameters of the debate over the wider, decades-long and seemingly intractable conflict.
There is now a marked willingness from both the United States and Britain to acknowledge the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, regardless of Israel’s position.
Previous backing for a two-state solution has been designed so that both the Palestinians and Israelis have to agree to every step. This bilateral clearance for legal, political, and geographic terms, as well as security matters, meant progress could be halted at a whim by Israel.
Now, key Western powers are in favour of a unilateral approach, opening the way for what could be faster progress.
The bilateral approach — now out of favour in Washington and London — goes back to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.
It developed further through both sets of the Oslo Accords, as signed in Washington in 1993 in Taba, Egypt and in 1995. These agreements all outlined mutual commitments between Israelis and Palestinians.
These deals created a dual-track diplomatic framework, which essentially granted Israel a privileged position, supported by significant backing from the US, which, in effect, meant Israel needed to approve the details over any creation of a Palestinian state.
This left any deal exposed to opposition within Israel, notably from the country’s right-wing religious factions. It also made it easier for hardline Palestinian groups to oppose the peace process, pointing to the extent of Israel’s influence over moves to a two-state solution.
Over the years, without tangible progress, hardline groups on both sides that are opposed to a two-state solution have risen in prominence. Their resistance to it comes from a range of complex and often conflicting reasons and has contributed to the decline in diplomatic moves toward it before the war.
The weakening of the Palestinian Authority – established under the Oslo Accords as Israel's partner in peace negotiations – allowed Hamas to emerge as a significant alternative force.
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