You Can’t Oppose a Ceasefire and Support a Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestinethedigitalchaps


The civilian population of the Gaza Strip is estimated at about 2.2 million people. Of these, 1.8 million have been displaced from their homes by Israeli bombing. In most cases, Israel won’t allow them to leave Gaza.

For now, they’re sheltering where they can—1.1 million are in UN facilities. Many more are scattered in places like churches, mosques, and hospitals. And a great many have lost their lives when those shelters have themselves been bombed.

We keep being told that the goal of the campaign is to “eliminate” or “destroy” Hamas. In practice, it looks a whole lot more like indiscriminate payback against the Palestinian people as a whole for the atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Certainly, the rhetoric of a great many current and Israeli officials suggests as much. And it’s reasonable to worry that the effect, in practice, of civilian death and displacement on this scale will be to supercharge Hamas recruitment.

The fighting was briefly (and mostly) paused due to a temporary truce to allow some of the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 to be released in exchange for the release of a few of the many thousands of Palestinians held in “administrative detention” by Israel. A global peace movement has been pushing for this cessation to be turned into a long-term ceasefire—ultimately in the hopes that the long cycle of attacks and counter-attacks, massacres and counter-massacres, can be brought to an end through some sort of negotiated settlement.

The most common idea about what that settlement would look like is a “two-state solution” whereby a Palestinian state would be created in some or all of the territories Israel conquered in the Six-Day War in 1967—the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Sept. 27, 2023.

Abir Sultan/Getty Images

Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin has argued that the peace movement’s premise is misguided. In her article, “Backers of a Two-State Solution Should Oppose an Immediate Ceasefire,” Rubin contends that anyone who wants such a long-term settlement should first back Netanyahu’s attempted “elimination” of Hamas.

Rubin’s argument is flimsy at best. But it reveals a much bigger problem in American discourse on the Middle East. Mainstream American politicians and commentators, from President Biden on down, invariably say they want a two-state solution. But they’re backing a bloody campaign of collective vengeance in Gaza that makes peace more distant than ever.

A Two-State Solution with “Amalek”?

In Israel, the ruling Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu has been openly and militantly opposed to any sort of “two-state solution” for a very long time. And, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been even more intensely opposed to a “one-state solution” whereby Palestinians are simply given equal rights and allowed to vote in Israeli elections. He’s honest about his goal of permanent Israeli dominance over the millions of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians who have spent the last 56 years as subjects but not citizens of the Israeli state.

This was already an atrocity of historic proportions before the recent pause in fighting.

As such, when he orders indiscriminate bombing in Gaza and openly compares Hamas to Amalek—an enemy that God commands Israelites in the Bible to eliminate totally, killing not just soldiers but women, children, and “suckling babes”—he doesn’t have to worry that he’s undermining long-term hopes for peace. He’s never pretended to harbor any such hopes. But hardly any mainstream American politicians or commentators would admit to believing that millions of Palestinians should be permanently deprived of legal and democratic rights.

In trying her hardest to jam the square peg of support for Netanyahu’s campaign of mass killing and displacement of Gaza Palestinians into the round hole of bringing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to a just and peaceful resolution—and doing it all in the pages of The Post where we can check her work—Rubin is providing a useful service. She’s demonstrating the incoherence of a combination of positions held by “serious” opinion-makers and politicians across the United States.

Rubin’s polemical gymnastics are intended to show that being against Netanyahu’s attempts to obstruct a two-state solution should somehow go hand in hand with supporting Netanyahu’s bombardment of Gaza.

“Tolerating Hamas’ survival amounts to the failed approach Netanyahu pursued for too long. A brighter future for both sides is possible only when he and Hamas no longer can throw obstacles in the way of peace,” Rubin argued.

An image of Palestinians walking by rubble in Gaza.


Palestinians move toward safer areas following the resumption of Israeli strikes, after the expiration of a seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas militants.

SOPA Images

Her piece starts with a gotcha directed against “Netanyahu’s harshest critics,” who often point to past statements by Netanyahu where the prime minister admitted to being happy to divide and conquer the Palestinians by letting Hamas dominate local administration in Gaza while the Palestinian Authority—run by Hamas’ great rival, Fatah—plays that role in the West Bank. If Palestinians in the two territories where such a state would hypothetically be formed were united under the same leadership, it would be harder for Israel to resist global pressure to agree to a two-state settlement.

Well, Rubin reasons, anyone who wants such a settlement should want to take away this excuse. The “destruction of Hamas” will take it away. Therefore, to bring about a settlement Netanyahu is bound and determined to oppose, Netanyahu’s critics should support…what Netanyahu is doing in Gaza!

You get the sense that Rubin was proud of the cleverness of this argument. But does it make any sense?

“Destroying Hamas”—Or Destroying Gaza?

I have no more love for Hamas than Rubin does. But realistically it’s not going anywhere until the conditions that lead so many Palestinians to join it have been altered.

Israeli settlers on the West Bank have had all the legal rights of Israelis. They vote in Israeli elections. If they’re accused of crimes, they’re tried in regular Israeli civilian courts. They’re considered for every legal purpose to “live in Israel.” Palestinians living minutes away have none of those rights.

Israel pulled out the relatively few settlements that had been constructed in Gaza in 2005, not to let the Palestinians form an independent state there but to essentially convert the whole strip of land—25 miles long, six miles wide, and three times as densely populated as Los Angeles—into something like a tightly quarantined prison camp, and to have a free hand to aerially bombard it whenever the need arose.

Israel controls the land, air, and sea borders, and has at some points severely restricted the intake of food into the territory, with Israeli officials openly talking about putting the population of Gaza “on a diet.” During the 2018 “Great March of Return,” the IDF shot a large number of unarmed Gazans for getting too close to the strip’s perimeter. Under conditions like that, it’s little wonder that so many young men in Gaza are ready to join up with whoever gives them a banner to fight their occupiers.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, “counterinsurgency campaigns with the stated goal of ‘eradicating’ some terrorist or guerilla force are dime-a-dozen around the world.” Such campaigns actually resulting in the non-existence of the targeted force are far more rare. In this case, as Israeli propaganda itself often points out, the top leadership of Hamas isn’t in Gaza at all. It’s in Qatar. And it’s all too probable that brutality being inflicted on the entire Gazan population will generate a long line of eager recruits for Hamas or other terrorist organizations.

Rubin writes that it’s an “open question whether Israel’s tactics in northern Gaza have met its moral and legal obligations.” That’s a bad joke.

The latest estimates have close to 15,000 Gazans dead—and no one really denies that the overwhelming majority have been civilians.

That’s thousands more than the death toll in Iraq when the U.S. bombed and invaded that country in 2003. It’s far more than the 10,000 civilians who have been confirmed dead in Ukraine since Russia invaded in 2003. To really put those numbers into perspective, the population of Ukraine in 2022 was 18 times the current population of Gaza. Assume for the sake of argument that the real figure in Ukraine is several times the confirmed figure and the disparity is still staggering. If you think Russian President Vladimir Putin is guilty of grave war crimes in Ukraine—which, to be clear, I do—that phrase only scratches the surface of what’s going on in Gaza.

The overwhelming majority of the population in one of the territories in which any hypothetical Palestinian state would be created have already been displaced from their homes, and some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have already floated plans to transfer the entire remaining population to the Egyptian desert.

This was already an atrocity of historic proportions before the recent pause in fighting.

The idea that letting it go forward will somehow serve the cause of ending the long-term cycle of violence and arriving at a negotiated settlement is abject nonsense.