Down with the phrase ‘two-state solution’

By definition, a solution puts an end to a problem by successfully eliminating the challenges at hand. Enter solution, exit problem.

April 2, 2019 16:46
3 minute read.
Israel's hot borders

Map of Israel 521. (photo credit: Graphic by Pierre Narais (ICEJ))


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In the battle for public opinion, language is not just a powerful weapon – it is a stealthy one. Sometimes a phrase becomes so familiar, so entrenched in the vocabulary surrounding an issue, that its insidiousness escapes attention.

Reading a news article the other day, I was suddenly struck by how seamlessly the phrase “two-state solution” has been integrated into geopolitical parlance about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, even though it cloaks a mere proposition (and a flimsy one at that) in the garb of certitude. To call a proposal a solution is entirely conclusory. It assumes, as we say in the law, facts not in evidence. Yet the phrase now occupies key real estate in the debate over Israel’s future.

My purpose here is not to explain why politicians, journalists and activists the world over don’t think twice about referring to the “two-state solution” (that, frankly, is not much of mystery), but to draw attention to this casual use of language which I believe wreaks subtle damage to the cause of those opposed to its underlying message.

A solution is not a proposal for how to solve a problem. It is not an attempt, an experiment, a bypass or a gamble. By definition, a solution puts an end to a problem by successfully eliminating the challenges at hand. Enter solution, exit problem.

Some of those who advocate for the establishment of another Arab state carved out of Israel sincerely believe that will solve Israel’s problems; that the Palestinian Arabs and the terror factions among them will give up their bloody campaign against us; that peace will reign – here in Israel, in the region, in the universe even.

Of course, none of those theories are proven, or even provable. So one could rightfully call the concept of giving a state to the Palestinian Arabs a “two-state framework,” “two-state plan,” or “two-state proposal.” But not a – and certainly not the – “two-state solution.”

If you’re wondering what difference the terminology makes, consider the outrage that erupted when an upstart Israeli biotech firm recently claimed to be on the verge of finding a cure for cancer. Absent clinical testing and published results, the company’s announcement was attacked with ridicule and attack by many oncologists. “Cure” is a loaded word. By definition, a cure promises more than a treatment or therapy – it stands for a complete eradication of disease from the human body. So you can’t toss the term around unless you have the evidence to back it up.

Another overblown term thrown around like a Nerf ball these days is “progressive.” Brand yourself a progressive, get the media to call you a progressive, and suddenly you’re a leading light of your party, your country, your generation – even if your idea of “progress” (see it inside the word?) is a leap backward toward the failed policies of the past. While “progressive” is a more subjective term, its hijacking by self-serving ideologues should not go unanswered.

Why should advocates of a Palestinian state (some, but not all of whom would not care whether Israel survives the experiment) be given a free pass to co-opt a term that enshrines their opinions as fact? When one camp in a debate can tout their position as the solution without being challenged, where does that leave the rest of us?

With Israel facing vicious, pseudo-diplomatic assault from well-positioned, well-funded critics, honest talk about our Jewish state is increasingly threatened. To that end, it’s high time to take the phrase “two-state solution” off the table.

The writer is a contributing editor to The Jewish Press and a freelance writer and editor. She holds a J.D. from Fordham Law School and worked as a court attorney and magazine editor. A former New Yorker, she lives with her family in Jerusalem.

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