Chasing a Mirage Amid a Famine

The recurring refrain that there is a route to a two-state solution diverts attention from what is truly urgent: ending the famine and securing a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, queue to receive food distributed by aid organizations in March 2024. Photo: Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images

It is difficult to believe, but after more than 200 days of war, there is still no ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

According to the United Nations, approximately 1,500 Israelis and over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed. The Gaza Strip lies in ruins and starvation is widespread.

Even while the global community fails to bring the war to an end, it talks about a two-state solution. This is putting the cart before the horse.

Gaza and reverse diplomacy

Israel is known for its short wars. The Suez Crisis of 1956 lasted for two months. Israel occupied Gaza during that crisis too. During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel crushed Jordan, Syria and Egypt and conquered the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan Heights, along with, of course, Gaza. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 lasted for around a month.

A common feature of all these wars was that they were conventional wars between nation states. The international system, whether through peace negotiators, the UN Security Council or direct superpower pressure, brought to bear mechanisms that put an end to the fighting. It was only after the wars ended, first in 1967 and then again in 1973, that the difficult and long-drawn-out work of resolving the underlying conflicts began.

In this sense, the war in Gaza is almost the opposite. The fighting has not ended, but meanwhile there is talk about the route to a two-state solution.

It is not the warring parties who are talking about a two-state solution, it is the rest of the world. This is absurd. In speech after speech, US President Joe Biden explains that the important thing now is to map out the route to a two-state solution, while his own diplomats have vetoed all but one of the Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire. The one time that the United States did not use its veto, in March 2024, American diplomats were quick to claim that the resolution was not binding.

This claim completely undermines the international system. The whole point of the Security Council is that its resolutions are binding. This is precisely why such intense efforts are made to get resolutions through the Security Council, while similar resolutions are adopted by the General Assembly.

All the talk about there now being opportunities for a two-state solution simply consists of talking points from a bygone era that has no correspondence with reality. It reflects a pathological need to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, it is counter-productive. In reality, the tunnel is pitch-black. As long as the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza is insufficient to end the famine, and as long as the dangerous war situation continues, all discussions about a two-state solution are a distraction.

Horrific figures

The statistics are painful reading. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) prepares daily reports about the situation in Gaza. 1.1 million people, approximately half of the entire population, are now living in conditions classified as Phase 5 (Famine), the most severe level of the IPC Acute Food Insecurity scale.

In North Gaza, where the situation is the most extreme, there is not even access to clean water. So far, 28 Palestinian children have been officially recorded as having died of starvation, but this figure could rise rapidly. In North Gaza, 31 percent of all children aged under two are suffering from acute malnourishment, while in Gaza as a whole, 50,000 children are in the same condition.

The UN body that in the past was best placed to supply humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, UNRWA, has been subjected to a targeted Israeli campaign and is banned from entering North Gaza.

World Central Kitchen, which should have played an important role in getting food aid into Gaza, withdrew after seven of their employees were killed by an Israeli air raid. Following pressure from the United States, Israel promised to open an extra border crossing and to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

This sounded like a turning point, but figures from OCHA tell a different story. In early April, there was a slight upturn in the number of trucks entering Gaza, but by the end of April the numbers levelled out at around 200 trucks each day.

This is well under half of the 500 trucks that were entering Gaza daily before war broke out. Even before the war, 500 trucks were not enough. As a result, Gaza’s population was poorly equipped to cope with long-lasting war.

Now the population is exhausted and starving. In addition, Gaza’s infrastructure lies in ruins. Gazans are completely dependent on humanitarian aid, and the amount entering Gaza is nowhere near sufficient to meet their needs. This situation is the result of deliberate policy.

Pressure must increase.

Pressure from the United States has mostly been about increasing the supply of humanitarian aid into Gaza and preventing an Israeli assault on Rafah.

Both these things are important, of course, but a ceasefire must be put in place in order to end the enormous suffering. The fact that the international community is unable to get the parties to agree on a ceasefire gives the impression of complete hopelessness. When the United States asks Israel to show restraint, but at the same time protects Israel by using its veto in the Security Council and supplying Israel with weapons, we should not be surprised that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignores admonitions from the United States.

If one is unwilling to use the political capital necessary to get Israel to enter into a ceasefire, and to allow a sufficient quantity of humanitarian aid into Gaza, then it is completely unrealistic to think that one can get Israel to agree to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Without such a withdrawal, a two-state solution is impossible.

The Israeli government knows this and has used the war in Gaza massively to increase settlements in East Jerusalem. The war in Gaza has not opened a window onto a view of a two-state solution, it has simply brought with it enormous human suffering. All possible measures must be implemented to end this suffering, rather than chasing a mirrage.


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