A. Official Policy Statements on the Two-State Solution by PC(USA) General Assemblies
1. The 214th General Assembly (2002) urged “all the parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to work toward a just sustainable peace by… an affirmation by Israel that it will work with Palestinians toward the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state with the same sovereign rights as those of the State of Israel” (Minutes, 2002, Part I, pp. 732–33).
2. The 215th General Assembly (2003) reaffirmed “the actions of previous General Assemblies (cf., in 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1992, 1991, 1990 …, 1988, 1987, 1986, and earlier to 1967) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and communications by the Stated Clerk based on those actions … supporting the resolutions of the United Nations, affirming the right of Israel to exist within secure borders, and the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, including the establishment of their own sovereign state and the right of return of Palestinian refugees” (Minutes, 2003, Part I, p. 636).
3. The 218th General Assembly (2008) endorsed “the ‘Amman Call’ regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches’ conference, ‘Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East,’ … including its affirmation of the U.N. resolutions that are the basis of a projected ‘two-state’ solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refugees and occupied peoples …” (Minutes, 2008, Part I, p. 1137).
4. The 219th General Assembly (2010) called for “the immediate resumption by Israel and Palestine of negotiations toward a two-state solution” (Minutes, 2010, Part I, p. 1023).
B. The Two-State Solution Then and Now
[See Map 1 and Map 2 under “Additional Resources.”]
These maps clearly delineate the present status of the so-called “two-states” of Israel and Palestine. Map 1 shows the erosion of the Palestinian territory, over six decades, which was to provide for a viable state. In the panel outlining the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947, as well as the panel showing a significant loss of territory from 1949–1967, a two-state solution still appeared viable. As can be seen in the panel showing the present state of Palestine since 2005, it is hard to look at this portion of the map and think that a two-state solution can ever be achieved. It is important to remember that all the white space in what once was a contiguous West Bank (named because it is west of the Jordan River) represents land now controlled by the Israeli military. The green splotches (often referred to as Bantustans or cantons) are separated by thirty foot concrete walls, electrified and barbed wire fencing systems, and checkpoints managed by the Israeli military through which all Palestinians, as well as others (tourists, for instance), must pass to travel between Palestinian cantons or into Israel proper. Tourists pass through easily, of course, as they go to visit holy sites on the Palestinian side of the walls (Bethlehem, for instance). Palestinians do not. They are prevented from visiting friends and family in other regions, conducting business, receiving adequate medical care, pursuing an education, or even getting to their olive groves for planting and harvest. As it presently stands, the “Palestinian state” has no contiguity and the matrix of Israeli occupation prevents free movement among Palestinians.
Map 2 shows why this matrix presently exists. This map, prepared by the United Nations Human Rights Commission for a report on the human rights situation in Palestine in March 2013 points out where the numerous illegal Israeli settlements presently exist. The settlements are called “illegal” for the simple reason that international law clearly prohibits occupying nations from creating permanent settlements on the land they occupy for the purpose of transferring their population to occupied regions. Bear in mind that for each black dot on the map, there is a system of walls, fences and checkpoints separating the settlements from Palestinian populations. In order to accommodate this, large sections of Palestinian land have been confiscated to provide what the Israeli government considers to be an adequate buffer zone between its citizens and Palestinians. In addition, from the Palestinian land that has been confiscated for this purpose, Israel draws out the natural resources necessary to support the settlements. This includes sources of Palestinian water, greatly reducing the water supply of Palestinians in the areas where they are still permitted to live.
At the present time, Israeli settlement expansion continues at a fast pace and in five to ten years there will be more black dots on the map than there are today. In light of these facts on the ground, it seems unrealistic, and perhaps even naïve, for the PC(USA) to maintain a policy of calling for a two-state solution when no real possibility of that seems to exist. The commissioning of this report is intended to provide the church with precise and accurate information to help it shape its policy on this conflict for the future. It is important to note that this is not a call for creating policy to support a different kind of solution (one-state, for instance). Rather, it is an effort to examine how our church can continue to be relevant in the discussion about the situation as it presently stands. This first requires an honest appraisal of the rapidly changing facts on the ground and whether past policies adequately address those facts.
C. Recent Developments
The 220th General Assembly (2012) called upon the General Assembly Mission Council to “create a process to raise funds to invest in the West Bank” to be inaugurated at this 221st General Assembly (2014) (Minutes, 2012, Part I, p. 1400). The purpose of this is to fund “active investment in projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and help in the development of a viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state” (Minutes, 2012, Part I, p. 1396).
As virtuous as this statement sounds, its fundamental flaw comes in the fact that no one knows what a “viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state” looks like, nor how to achieve that even though our church has been calling for this since 1967. The reason for this is simply because every policy and every action taken by the Israeli government in regard to Palestine is dedicated towards the non-existence of a viable infrastructure in the Occupied West Bank. There can be no denial, in accordance with the approval of the Middle East Study Committee report by the 219th General Assembly (2010) that the facts on the ground in present-day Palestine point toward the destruction of everything required to ensure that a viable Palestinian state can ever exist. In that sense, the Middle East Study Committee report, known as Breaking Down the Walls, as well as the study guide of the Kairos Palestine Document developed by the Middle East Monitoring Group (2012), are clear warnings that the viability of a sovereign Palestinian state, if not impossible already, is in extreme danger.
In March 2013, the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, quoted Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative movement: “The passivity of international diplomacy and that of the Americans in particular is especially dangerous and unacceptable in the face of the establishment of an even more extremist, settlement-expanding Israeli government than its predecessor. This Obama policy speeds up the end of the two-state solution.” The article points out: “At the beginning of his presidency Obama raised expectation when he called for a halt to construction in the settlements, but he quickly abandoned this demand and now only expects that the Palestinians renew the barren negotiations that have gone on for 20 years. All that Israel expects from the Palestinians in the negotiations is to agree to self-rule in Bantustans—something no Palestinian or none of their leaders will accept.”
With this said, and in light of the fact the 220th General Assembly (2012) voted to put a plan for investment in Palestine in place, we call upon the General Assembly to not receive the General Assembly Mission Council plan for investment without seriously considering what is truly required to bring Christians, Jews, and Muslims together in a way that would actually create a viable infrastructure in a land where the policies of the occupier are dedicated towards not only preventing that, but destroying what little infrastructure presently exists. Accepting such an investment plan at this General Assembly must be coupled with an action that takes seriously the present condition of the Palestinian state, honestly asks hard questions about standing General Assembly policy regarding the two-state solution, and fully informs all Presbyterians (as well as our ecumenical partners) about these conditions and facts. The purpose of this overture is to not derail recommendations asked for by the 220th General Assembly (2012), but to simply point out that this is not enough. We need to completely understand all the conditions under which we are investing Presbyterian funds, and consequently, the barriers to overall success from the standpoint of human justice.
It is our contention that the best entity to study this issue, from our historical positions up through our contemporary concerns, is the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, which understands the full breadth and depth of this issue as well as General Assembly policy statements as they have been discussed and debated in our denomination throughout the decades.