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Biden puts two-state solution back into play

Could the Biden Doctrine create a demilitarised Palestinian state out of the ashes of Gaza?
TJI Wrap
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US President Joe Biden (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images).

Published: 20 February 2024

Last updated: 21 March 2024

Could the Biden Doctrine create a demilitarised Palestinian state out of the ashes of Gaza?

The possibility of re-opening peace negotiations is gaining ground as the international community invests hope in the Biden Doctrine, a plan that aims to use hostage and ceasefire negotiations to leverage a regional solution to the conflict.

The Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese and the British foreign secretary David Cameron are among those who have floated the possibility of recognising a demilitarised Palestinian state in recent weeks.

Their support comes on the heels of the US declaration that it is actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel.

The Biden Doctrine in a nutshell

The details of the Biden plan have yet to be hammered out. But it is expected that any negotiations would have to begin with a deal to release Israeli hostages in exchange for an “extended humanitarian pause”, which it is hoped would be long enough to negotiate the next stage and prevent the resumption of war in Gaza.

 The deal would also involve the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have been convicted of terrorism.  

The US and its Arab partners – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates –still hope this process will begin before March 10, which is the start of the month of Ramadan.

An incursion into Rafah would derail this plan and is widely opposed by the international community on humanitarian grounds. Israel is increasingly understood to be facing a choice between a deal to release the hostages and pursuing its goal of “total victory” over Hamas.

If the pause goes ahead, the Biden Doctrine would use the opportunity for the US to launch talks on post-war Gaza, the future of the West Bank and other regional issues.

A key aim is the creation of a revitalised Palestinian Authority capable of running a future Palestinian state, and willing to agree to a demilitarised state.

Negotiations would also include normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, in return for US military support of Saudi Arabia. A key aim would be the establishment of a strong regional axis against Iran. 

What would it take?

Three key issues are at stake in the negotiations over a future Palestinian state: territory, powers and recognition.

On territory, the question will be whether Israel will be expected to withdraw to pre-1967 borders and, in particular, how to handle East Jerusalem and the Old City. It is possible that in the first iteration, some form of state in the West Bank and Gaza may be recognised without a decision on final borders.

On powers, issues of economic and security status will require ongoing negotiation between Israel and a future Palestine. Demilitarisation will be a precondition but Israel will demand strict security conditions.

Recognition is perhaps the most difficult issue. Palestinians would need to eschew irredentism – the aspiration to all the land “from the river to the sea” – and recognise that Palestine is the nation state of the Palestinians who live within its borders – not those who live in Israel or Jordan. Israel would need to recognise Palestine and deal with the far-right settlers who define “Judea and Samaria” as an inalienable part of Biblical Israel.

Is it possible?

The Biden Doctrine is widely regarded as ambitious, if not unrealistic. Certainly, the plan has not received any support from Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s cabinet on Sunday unanimously approved a declaration rejecting “international diktats” seeking to push Palestinian statehood.

“Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” the motion said. “Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre would be a massive and unprecedented reward to terrorism and would foil any future peace settlement.”

The Palestinian Authority is also displaying scepticism, saying that if the US is serious, it should recognise Palestine as a full member state of the UN, re-establish the PLO offices in Washington which were closed during the Trump administration, demand a freeze of settler construction and make a clear statement that any diplomatic arrangement will be based on the 1967 borders.

On Sunday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said US President Joe Biden reported plans to present a diplomatic initiative in a few weeks for recognition of a Palestinian state are meaningless, given that the Israeli government is not a partner for a diplomatic dialogue.

Perhaps the greatest hope is that neither the ageing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, 88, nor the electorally wounded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a strong hope of holding onto power for much longer.

On the Palestinian side, Egypt is leading a plan that would see Hamas absorbed into the PLO to produce a new Palestinian government able to represent all Palestinians and perhaps willing to negotiate for a state.

In Israel, Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party is well ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud in the polls and many commentators expect an election this year.


Why Biden is unveiling his vision for Israel and the Palestinians now, and what's in it (Alon Pinkas, Haaretz)

Rebuffing Biden, cabinet rejects unilateral Palestinian state as ‘reward for terrorism’ (Times of Israel)

Ramallah calls on U.S. to back Palestinian Authority as UN member state (Haaretz)

Palestinian statehood: Do it right (Gidi Grinstein, Times of Israel)

While Israel avoids discussing 'The Day After' Gaza War, the Palestinians are working on a plan
(Zvi Har’el, Haaretz)

Israel says it will launch Rafah assault if hostages not freed by Ramadan (Guardian)


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