We cannot lose sight of the two-state solution

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City panorama, Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount, Jerusalem

We were deeply shocked by Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel that took place on 7 October and by the atrocities committed against Israeli civilians. We share the immense pain and suffering of all Israelis, of the victims’ families, and of the hostages. At the same time, we see the disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza and share the suffering and pain of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. We feel the pain and suffering experienced by our teams in Tel Aviv and in Ramallah, and thank them for their efforts. We are especially concerned about the difficult situation of our partner organisations in Gaza, Israel, and in the West Bank. Together with them we work towards strengthening democracy, human and women’s rights and environmental justice which are also parameters of a peaceful solution. To all of them, we extend our sympathies and express our support.

Five weeks after 7 October, when over 1,200 people in Israel were killed in targeted attacks and over 200 were abducted, the war between Hamas terrorists and the Israeli army still continues. In Gaza, according to the local Ministry of Health, over 11,000 people have been killed; 240 hostages are still being held by Hamas. Rockets continue to be fired at Israeli towns and villages. The suffering of Gaza’s civilian population increases by the day. Families fear for the lives of their relatives who are held hostage in Gaza. At the same time, violence perpetrated by settlers in the occupied West Bank is on the rise and has also resulted in the loss of life.

This situation makes clear how urgently there need to be talks about pathways and preconditions for a peaceful, dignified and safe coexistence of Israel and Palestine in the region. A political initiative is crucial for discussions on the conditions of a peace that can enable a common future for all people in the region – and it can only be a common one.  

Germany stands with Israel, which now has to defend itself in order to protect its population. At the same time, all conflict parties including Hamas, as well as the international community, are bound by international humanitarian law and the protection of human rights. Germany and the EU have increased their humanitarian aid for Gaza and the West Bank and, just like the United States, are calling on Israeli forces to uphold international law while defending themselves, to avoid civilian casualties, and to enable humanitarian aid deliveries for civilians which due to the cordoning off of Gaza have depended on external aid for years already. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated on 11 November 2023: “The answer to the question how Israel acts in Gaza also affects Israel’s long-term security.”

The Heinrich Böll Foundation has for a long time been part of a progressive civil society in Israel and the Palestinian territories that is promoting dialogue and co-operation. For us, Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself is as non-negotiable as the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to their own state, as well as the adherence to human rights and to international humanitarian law. In solidarity with the families of those held hostage in Gaza we demand their unconditional release. We view the disarmament of Hamas and the strengthening of a legitimate political representation of the Palestinians as preconditions for a sustainable peace.

This situation is a challenge for us as an institution that promotes civic education domestically and abroad, and that is committed to democratic decision-making, socio-political engagement and international understanding. As a German political foundation we are deeply conscious of our historic responsibility for the Shoah and for the security of Israel. This responsibility is the basis of our activities in Germany and abroad. That includes our deep commitment to universal human rights and to the dignity of each human being as defined in Article 1 of the German Basic Law.

The mission of our Foundation demands of us to actively oppose all forms of antisemitism, racism, discrimination against Muslims, and religious or ethnic discrimination of any kind. For that, everyone has to work together who supports the protection and promotion of equal rights, freedom, and respect. We are bound to this as well by our commitment to universal human rights and to the liberal democratic principles that form the basis of democracy in Germany.

That is the foundation of our work with human rights defenders and other civil society organisations in the region and worldwide. Together with them we are working on enabling constructive debates, inclusive perspectives, and mutual understanding to advance political options on the basis of the two-state solution, based on the borders of 1967. As the Heinrich Böll Foundation we want to continue to be a platform that promotes and strengthens political and societal dialogue, especially in such a complex situation.

We cannot only expect political solutions of Israel and Palestine. The international community as well has the responsibility that the preconditions for a peaceful solution do not deteriorate further. The EU and the United States, as well as the Arab states, are required to prevent a further regional escalation, and to demand the avoidance of civilian casualties. Everyone is called upon to develop and support a political solution that guarantees the right to self-determination and the security of Israel and of an independent Palestine.

This is what we, as a German political foundation with our international network of offices and partners are working towards.