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Should Malaysia continue to support 'two-state solution' in the Palestinian conflict?

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has been urged to abandon the policy in light of recent developments in Gaza.

3 minute read
Like many Muslim countries, Malaysia has made the two-state solution as its official policy on the Palestinian conflict.
Like many Muslim countries, Malaysia has made the two-state solution as its official policy on the Palestinian conflict.

Former Umno leader Khairy Jamaluddin's call for the Malaysian government to reconsider its policy of supporting the "two-state solution" for the Palestinian conflict is feasible, analysts say.

The two-state solution refers to the Oslo Accords of 1993, in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel agreed in principle to the existence of two states, namely an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

At the time, Western leaders hailed the agreement as a milestone in the efforts to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East and received the support of most Muslim countries, which also embraced the two-state solution as a matter of policy in relation to the Palestinian conflict.

Some Muslim governments also see the two-state solution as a middle ground that allows them to maintain good relations with the United States, Israel's most important ally, while maintaining their support for a free Palestine.

Among them is Malaysia, which still officially represents this position in international forums.

However, this was recently challenged by former Umno leader Khairy Jamaluddin, who called for Malaysia to stop promoting the two-state solution.

"Israel does not believe in a two-state solution at all. They have done nothing in the last ten years to show that they are committed to a two-state solution," the former minister had said in a session of his podcast Keluar Sekejap in February last year.

"They (Israel) pretend to respect the two-state solution, but in reality they do not. So I think it's time for Malaysia to stop saying that we support the two-state solution."

Such a view is not new. A month before the Hamas attacks on Oct 7, think tank Center for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) questioned Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for supporting Asean's decision to endorse the two-state solution.

"Given Malaysia's historical commitment to self-determination and human rights, we urge the prime minister to reconsider and take a more resolute stance against Israeli apartheid. The call for such a stance is grounded in a firm commitment to upholding international law, human rights and justice which have long been at the core of Malaysia's foreign policy," said Azril Mohd Amin of Centhra.

Just this month, during his visit to Germany, Anwar and Chancellor Olaf Scholz issued a joint call on the international community to work towards a two-state solution.

Despite the fact that Israel was created from stolen Palestinian land, many consider the two-state solution to be realistic in the hope of at least achieving peace in the Middle East.

Even Hamas, who fiercely opposes the two-state solution as it indirectly recognises Israel's right to exist on seized lands, appears to have softened its stance in its 2017 charter.

However, in order to achieve this, Israel must fulfil a number of conditions, including on the status of Jerusalem, illegal Jewish settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, all of which the regime has failed to meet.

The recent war that broke out in Gaza has effectively brought the two-state solution to an end. Many Israeli leaders openly oppose any prospect of a free Palestinian state and even call for the expulsion and genocide of Palestinians.

Two weeks after the Oct 7 attacks, Craig Mokhiber, former director of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the two-state solution as a joke and impossible to achieve in his resignation letter.

Analyst Syed Ahmad Israa Syed Ibrahim said that this view has long been expressed by various quarters in Malaysia.

"While the rejection of the two-state solution is not in line with the United Nations position, it is not against international law.

"Malaysia has the right to take such a position and the right to lobby other countries to take the same position," said Syed Ahmad, who heads the IRIS Institute think tank.

He said that since the two-state solution was rejected by Israel itself, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should now reassess its position.

Humanitarian Care Malaysia (MyCare), a charity organisation that actively sends humanitarian aid to Gaza, said the two-state solution cannot be implemented under the Israeli apartheid system that deprives the Palestinian people of statehood.

"For Malaysia, a two-state solution is impossible to achieve as Malaysia will never recognise Israel since its establishment in 1948, nor the Israel that was founded on stolen Palestinian land. Not to mention that Palestine has existed alongside its occupiers for 75 years," said MyCare counsellor Hafidzi Mohd Noor.

However, analyst Azmi Hasan believes that a two-state solution is currently the "most reasonable" way forward.

"Malaysia still adheres to several principles of the two-state solution, namely the pre-war 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the capital and the right of Palestinian refugees to return from other countries," he said.