• By: Ali Inan

In the aftermath of the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent conflict in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains firm in his resistance to a two-state solution.

The question of an independent Palestine has, however, become a focal point in discussions between Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden. President Biden expressed optimism about finding common ground, stating, “I think there’s ways in which this could work,” alluding to a potential postwar agreement that could lead to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state.

This vision aligns with efforts by the U.S. State Department, as reported by Axios, to explore models for a demilitarized Palestine based on global precedents. The international community is increasingly considering demilitarization as a viable solution to address Israeli security concerns and provide Palestinians with a state of their own.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has hinted at recognizing a demilitarized Palestinian state, a sentiment echoed by some leaders in the Arab world, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

However, transitioning to a demilitarized state poses diplomatic challenges. Existing examples of demilitarized territories, like Liechtenstein, differ significantly from the complex situation between Israelis and Palestinians. Liechtenstein, nestled between Austria and Switzerland, benefits from the protection of its neighbours, unlike the contentious proximity of Israel and a potential Palestine. Comparisons with countries like Costa Rica and Haiti, which have experienced varied outcomes after demilitarization, underscore the complexities involved.

The potential for external influence, as seen in the Solomon Islands’ shift towards Beijing, adds another layer of concern for the Palestinian territories.

Both Israel and Palestine have their own concerns regarding such a formula of demilitarization. From an Israeli perspective, concerns about security remain paramount.

Former deputy national security advisor Eran Lerman suggests a “1.8-state solution” with strict restrictions to address Israeli apprehensions. Netanyahu’s proposal of a “state minus” includes limitations on sovereignty and additional guarantees for Israel beyond demilitarization.

The debate extends to the Palestinian side, where opinions on demilitarization vary. While some argue for the importance of final border settlements, others, like Palestinian political analyst Nour Odeh, emphasize the need for international guarantees to prevent Israeli attacks.

Egyptian President al-Sisi proposes a multinational security force to address security concerns for both states during the transition. This idea finds some support among Israeli intellectuals, who suggest testing it in Gaza before broader implementation.

However, the larger question looms: Will Netanyahu or any future leader be willing to consent to the creation of an independent Palestinian state? As diplomatic efforts continue, the demilitarization dilemma remains a critical factor in shaping the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

  • The writer is a PhD scholar in English Literature, a Lawyer, and an International Relations analyst.

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