“The Two State solution is dead” Jeff Halper tells Ottawa crowd

halper crowd Ottawa

Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper delivered a sobering message to about 275 people who crowded into the First Unitarian Congregation in Ottawa on February 28th. “The two state solution is dead”, he declared, “and Israel killed it.”

During three and half busy days in Ottawa, Jeff Halper had 10 different meetings with interested groups, ranging from a session with a group of students on Carleton Campus, to a group of concerned clergy and lay members of the United Church of Canada. He also had a cordial meeting with a number of NDP Members of Parliament, organized by MP Libby Davies.  Halper is in Canada on a tour organized by IJV and UNJPPI. In all his meetings, his message was the same: “The two state solution is over. We need to start thinking about other approaches.”

halper close ottawa crop

As Halper describes it, on the ground today there is already only “one state” from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. That state is Israel. It has one currency (the shekel). One electrical grid. One army. One water company. One road network. One commercial airport. One external border. The total population of this state is about 12 million. About half of them, its Jewish citizens, have full rights. The other half, (the Palestinians) either have second class status (inside Israel) or live with no rights at all under military rule (in the territories Israel occupies.)

In Halper’s view, there might have been a possibility of a two-state solution many years ago, but today the integration of the West Bank into Israel is almost complete.


The Palestinians are being crowded into ever smaller areas. Israel is now destroying houses and forcing Palestinians out of what the Oslo Agreement defined as “Area C” (here shown in blue), leaving them with only the green areas.

Halper outlined how Israel uses zoning laws to force the Palestinians off their lands and “Judaise” the area. He cited the example of one Palestinian family refused a building permit by Israeli authorities because the land was zoned as “agricultural.” Only metres away, however, an “exemption” to that zoning rule had been granted for the building of new homes for Jews. When the Palestinians defied the law and built anyway, their house was demolished by the Israeli military. Not once but several times. Halper claims that since 1967, when Israel took control over Jerusalem, over 25,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished under various pretexts, while at the same time tens of thousands of new homes for Jews have been built in East Jerusalem.

After his presentation, there was a lively question and answer period. Many in the audience found the presentation depressing. This was especially true of those who still had hopes that one day a “Two State Solution” would bring a measure of peace to the area and justice to the Palestinians.

But Halper countered by saying that we have to be realistic and start thinking about alternatives. He clearly touched a nerve. Many of the audience made donations to support the work of his organization (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) and that of the National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine.

“In all the groups I spoke to,” said Halper at the end of his stay in Ottawa, “very few people pushed back. I think there is a growing understanding that the Two State solution is no longer an option, and people who are really interested in justice and security in the Middle East, have to start thinking about another approach.” Halper heads to Halifax on Saturday, followed by events in Western Canada. See his full schedule here.


  1. I really respect Jeff Halper’s work and The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentations. But I think he’s wrong about the two-state solution. Is there a single country or multilateral organization that recognizes Israel’s jurisdiction over Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights? If one PREFERS a single democratic state, it’s of course convenient to announce the death of the two-state solution — but one should then at least try to show that a single democratic state is more likely or easier or faster that two states. Halper doesn’t bother. He does show that Israel has done everything it can to kill the two-state solution, but that’s different; and I’m not sure why we should surrender to Israel’s plan.

    1. Arthur, it’s not “surrendering to Israel’s plan”, but is acknowledging a reality that has been sadly incontrovertible for the past 30 years or more. My sense is that to hope for a “two state solution” at this point is about as realistic as hoping that the US will withdraw from California and Arizona and return them to Mexico.

      Former Deputy Mayor and Chief Planning Officer of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti said as much over 30 years ago.

      So, my own sense, again, is that we’ll be more productive talking about how to achieve what Jeff talks about — a single, truly democratic political entity between the river and the sea — rather than a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state. I think that train left the station two generations ago.

      1. Nope. Jeff is more than entitled to his opinion. He has and continues every day to face down a belligerent Israeli government and its policies of control and exclusion in the West Bank. But the answer is that Labor opened the door to Two States 20 plus years ago, negotiated with Yasser Arafat to create a Two State solution in 2000 and may just get the chance to do it again beginning in April 2015. It won’t be easy and the movement of some 50,000 to 100,000 settlers into a reconfigured state of Israel and and independent state of Palestine will take a lot of time and effort. But I believe it remains the best hope for a reasonable solution requiring concessions on both sides. As the old song goes; “give peace a chance!”

      2. Rabbi Mivasair – You should know better. And you are deceiving people with your misleading talk. The reason the 2 state solution is not happening is because the Arabs aren’t prepared to negotiate properly with the Jews and israel. The so-called palestinian Arabs have refused several decent offers. Their intention is to replace Israel altogether. They have done NOTHING towards building propoer structures of nationhood or civil management and billions and billions of dollars in international donations has been wasted or siphoned off by crooked politicians. So don’t blame Israel for defending itself.

    2. It is not surrendering to Israel’s plans. It is demanding the dismantling of ZIonist apartheid.
      A state with full citizenship rights for Palestinians. Nothing less.

      1. Nice to hear from you, David. I hope you’re well. Israeli governments and settler militants have done everything they could to make the two-state solution impossible. As you know, the plan was to put sufficient “facts on the ground” — i.e., settlements — so that ending the occupation was impossible. You and Halper argue that they have succeeded and that we should give up on two states. You can call it “acknowledging” and I call it “surrender.” Can we agree that you and Halper are willing to acknowledge an Israeli victory here and that “larrysturn,” George Jacoby and I are not?

        Pronouncing the two state option dead is insufficient. It’s not the kind of thing that can be dead. You have to at least make an attempt to show that the single democratic state is more likely or easier or faster that two states.

        I would say, scratch someone who claims the two-state solution is dead and you’ll find someone who prefers “a single democratic state.”

      2. I would say, Narendra Mohan, that you clearly prefer a single, democratic state. Many Palestinians agree with you; many do not. But that’s a different matter than whether the two state solution is dead or not.

        One thing Jeff Halper said is that, despite his strong views, it’s clearly up to Palestinians to decide what their goal is. I agree completely. Our goal in Canada should be to force Israel to obey international law.

  2. It is understandable like Jeff Halper to be skeptical about the prospects for a “two state solution” given the difficulties that the Jewish state of Israel has put in the way of the emergence of a free and sovereign Palestine capable of solving the Palestinian national issue including refugees. But it is the only realistic solution supported in international law and action, by the US as principal peacemaker and the major powers involved in the conflict including Canada and international orgs including the UN, the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic conference and the major jewish and Arab lobby groups and most NGOs. Neither a Jewish Israel with so called equal rights for its Palestinian minority or a binational democratic state of Israetine will be possible. All legitimate means must be used to encourage through negotiation to force the creation of Palestine within a reasonable time including diplomatic pressure and the use of BDS.
    Appropriate democratic and human rights for minorities within Israel and Palestine can be assured through agreement as well as sharing of resources and security. Canada must be encouraged to support its stated objective of the “two state solution of Israel and Palestine in its traditional balanced and forceful way rather than engaging in unqualified and uncritical support for Israel including all its activities and efforts to undermine Palestine.

  3. I’ve heard Jeff Halper speak before. He’s a fraud. He’s dishonest and only amplifies the hatred that Arabs have for Jews. He’s receiving lots of backing because there are still lots of antisemites and Israel haters out there. But he’s not fooling most sensible people. If he had any integrity at all he would be campaigning for the Arabs to sit down and start negotiating honestly. But it’s not going to happen for a long time. The so-called Palestinian Arabs have to rid themselves of Hamas and depose the Abbas regime. They also have to show good faith and ask for all these Israel protest movements to change their tone and accept Israel. BDS poisons the souls of the haters. It’s stupid and produces no useful results.

    1. Why do you wish to remain Anonymous? Let me remind you Palestinians are semites too. In fact they have more of a right to semiticism than Ashkenazi Jews. Professor Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University actually says as much in his book, that a Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza is more likely to be a descendent of one of the twelve tribes of Israel than a Jewish person with European heritage. Let me remind you that one opens peace negotiations with one’s enemies and not with one’s friends. And if one is really serious about negotiating a just peace, one sets no preconditions like recognition of a state’s right to exist, before participating in the process. If you want such recognition, then bring your demands to the negotiating table.Here it is important to remind ourselves that it is the state of Israel that holds all the trump cards. It is Israel who are building illegal settlements in the West Bank, not the other way round. I hold no brief for Hamas, but don’t you think the onus is on the Israeli government to also recognise Hamas as the Legitimate Democratically elected government of the Palestinians? Arabs & Jews have lived in harmony for centuries before the Balfour declaration and the subsequent establishment of the state of Israel. There is so much intellectual dishonesty in the Palestinian-Israeli discourse. One of the many convenient lies we are told in the West is this concept of Judeo -Christian values. As any honest Jewish person will acknowledge that no two religions have more in common than Judiasm and Islam. And no two people are more alike in culture, habits and temperment than the two semitic races, Jews and Arabs.

  4. The tragic dilemma of Zionism “???” against Palestinian rights.
    In his book Israelis: Founders and Sons, Israeli author Amos Elon discusses the lack of realism about the Palestinian population on the part of the early Zionists: “There are few things as egocentric as a revivalist movement. For decades the Zionist leaders moved in a strange twilight zone seeing the Arabs and the same time not seeing them. Their attitude was a combination of blind spots and naiveté, of wishful thinking, paternalistic benevolence, and that ignorance which was often a factor in international events and sometimes their cause. It may very well be that without this ignorance most Zionist leaders would not have ventured on their task in the first place.”

    In 1925, under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin, an association called Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) was established in Palestine and proposed binationalism as the proper solution to the conflict between Zionists and Arabs, two peoples claiming the same land. In their credo, issued in Jerusalem in 1927, Brit Shalom said it was intent on creating in Palestine “a binational state, in which the two peoples will enjoy totally equal rights as befits the two elements shaping the country’s destiny, irrespective of which of the two is numerically superior at any given time.” Its spokesmen included such figures as Robert Weltach, editor of Judische Rundschau, the journal of the German Zionist Movement, Jacob Thon, from the settlement department of the Jewish Agency, Judah Magnes, chancellor and first president of the Hebrew University, and such university faculty members as Martin Buber, Hugo Germann, Ernst Simon and Gershon Scholem. For these men, Zionism was a moral crusade or it was nothing.

    Brit Shalom’s leader, Arthur Ruppin, was saddened by the growing disparity between universal moral values and narrow Jewish nationalism. “What continually worries me, he wrote”, “is the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Palestine…the two peoples have become more estranged in their thinking. Neither has any understanding of the other, and yet I have no doubt that Zionism will end in catastrophe if we do not succeed in finding a common platform.”

  5. Thanks to Dr Halper for his presentation, and above all for his commitment to justice for Palestinians. Also a special thanks to Peter Larsen for having organized the evening conference on January 28. It was interesting to hear a committed man speak about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I came out knowing a bit more than I did when I entered the church that night. I wasn’t expecting a miracle solution coming out of Dr Halper’s mouth. I wasn’t disappointed. Dr Halper joins the rank of so many people trying to find a just and honourable way to settle this almost century old problem. It makes me think of the astrophysicists defending their theories on the start of the universe. Nevertheless there are certain aspects that I felt were left out of the arguments presented by Dr. Halper. The most important one concern the dilemma in which the Israelis finds themselves. Today the majority of Israelis have no sympathy for Palestinians and view them if not as terrorists as the government of Israel keeps pounding, at least as a nuisance in preventing Israelis from having a peaceful future.
    What was left out was the sense that what the Israeli government and a good portion of the Israeli population for that matter wish deeply for is to gain control of the entire territory under military occupation (Gaza being an exception for sustainability reasons) but not having to be troubled by the inconvenient presence of Palestinians. Over the past twenty years of attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement, Israel has systematically placed conditions in the face of the Palestinian party that cannot be met by the later. The latest invention is the condition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It sounds very much like Iran or Saudi Arabia forcing a single faith on all their population. In Saudi Arabia that might be easier to pull then in Israel which is considered as a sacred land for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Furthermore if I am right there are at least 20% of non Jews living in Israel proper with somewhat less of an equal status as Jews enjoy. After following this conflict for more than 40 years and having travelled and lived the region, I have come to the conclusion that Israel really wants all the territory and would be happy to push the Palestinian population out of it, even if it took a century to achieve that objective. In the past few years members of the Israeli political class have voiced such an opinion in very clear terms. Israel has practically won the war now with Palestinian reduced to living in ever smaller areas. Israelis certainly are not willing negotiate a two state solution at this point. They stand to lose too much. They will continue to play the victimized role, provoke Palestinian outrage with their actions and complaining that the Palestinians won’t come to the negotiation table even if all the dice have been tricked in the favour of the Israeli side.
    So what’s left? The one democratic state solution Dr Halper believes in? My thinking is that this is a form of utopia. The right questions have not been posed. The one state solution is not viable, not anymore than the two state solution for the same reason. It is not conceivable for Zionist ideology to imagine living side by side with so many aliens that are not Jewish, even if these people were not a demographic menace within 10-20 years. The whole project of a Greater Israel with a strong minority of non-Jews exercising the same rights and having their say in the governance of the state (unlike the current state of affairs in the Knesset) is not realistic from the Zionist point of view. For Palestinians, the ideas of being citizens of a state based on a religion which is not theirs would sound to the least curious and to the most unthinkable since Islam and politics are inseparable (if you are a fundamentalist). These two fundamentalisms are incompatible and could not even begin to sit together to work out what might be a one state solution.
    Setting aside religious and cultural differences, what real possibility is there for a just one state solution? What about equality of all in front of the law? Who’s law, the one for Jews, the Sharia or laws that don’t distinguish between religions? Can all citizens be seen as equals under the constitutions and the countries laws? What about freedom of opportunity and of movement? Could Palestinians who wish be enabled to settle in what is now considered as Israel proper do so? Could Palestinian have building permits in all of the territory? What about access to water? Would current restrictions imposed on Palestinians be lifted? Could any form of litigation be solved by non biased laws? What would guarantee freedom of opportunity to all citizens irrespective of the origins? These questions and many many more remain unanswered.
    For Palestinians both these approaches mean they stand to lose and become second rate citizens in their own ancestral territory. For the conqueror, it’s not gone far enough in terms of finding a solution for the cumbersome Palestinian presence. The least optimal solution for Zionist thinking at this point would be to build a strong apartheid regime with Palestinians reduced to reservation like settlements and making life so bad for them that they would feel compelled to leave their homeland once and for all. And so one of the world’s most crying human injustices would continue to unfold with the support of a few ideologically biased partners while the rest of the world looks on, incapable of exercising the right pressure on Israel to stop its unjust oppression of Palestinians under the guise of protecting its national security.
    I come to the conclusion that there are no viable solutions on the table at point. If there is one, it remains to be developed. That why I am not giving up my interest.

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