Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the official policy or position of the PLO/PA or their members. The designations employed in this article and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the PLO or the PA.
The Discourse of a Two-State Solution
Recently, the political discourse of a two-state solution is fading away due to new facts on the ground generated by the Israeli systematic policies of occupation. Twenty-five years have elapsed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, which made the two-state solution the only game in town. Recently, however, objective conditions, combined with developments on each side have bolstered a draconian paradigm shift toward exploring new plausible solutions, of which the one with the most potential is the one-state solution. This article will explore the failures of the two-state solution and the emergence of the one-state solution in a contextual analysis of the pros and cons of each.
Evidently, Israel bears the brunt of this dramatic situation, with its consistent policy of the subjugation of Palestinians and the confiscation of their lands, not to mention the human rights violations practiced by the Israelis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). These severe conditions suffered by the Palestinians are precarious at best in reframing the contours of the proposed Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Israel also exploits the factional bickering between Hamas and Fateh to create new facts on the ground, coupled with regional security imbalances and the extreme support of the United States along with a weak European Union busy with Brexit and the internal splits over the issues of refugees and anti-Semitism. These conducive conditions are well utilized by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in justifying land grabs and the building of new settlements.
Consequently, the two-state solution is facing a serious challenge. The increasing number of settlers — 650,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - is a major stumbling block on the path to a contiguous Palestinian state. It is safe to assume that these clear signs of growing misperceptions among both the Israelis and the Palestinians make a two-state solution almost impossible to attain. All the strenuous diplomatic efforts exerted in the last two decades have not succeeded in bringing about a shift away
from the status quo of brute occupation. As a result, the peace camps on both sides have lost their impact and have been rendered ineffective; this coupled with the stalling of the peace talks and the historic paradigm of the intractable issues which are in serious doubt today.
The breakdown of the peace process is paving the way for a new approach that could be much more complex and problematic, such as:
a) Maintaining the status quo.
b) A single bi-national state.
c) A confederation between Israel and Palestine.
d) A confederation between Palestine and Jordan.
It is premature for these various options to be part of a full political discourse, for the one-state solution is not yet fully accepted by both sides under the current circumstances of a total stalemate. The two-state solution is higher on the agendas of both Palestinians and Israelis, and maintaining the status quo will pose steep challenges for Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and a democracy. It is imperative to describe the two-state solution as it has developed since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Its specific parameters had been well defined based on the following:
a) International framework: United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, withdrawal to the 1967 borders, end of claims and mutually recognized boundaries.
b) Territory and boundaries: the 1967 borders, border rectification based on geographic contiguity and demographic considerations, and dismantlement of settlements.
c) Refugees: a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees based on UN resolutions and international humanitarian law.
d) Jerusalem: implementing the Clinton Parameters with full accessibility to the holy sites by all religious worshippers with the arrangement of a special regime for the Old City/a corpus separatum.
e) Security: will be based on a Palestinian demilitarized state with an international multilateral force acting as a buffer deployed in the Jordan Valley agreed by both parties.
f) Mutually agreed recognition of the two sovereign states based on a shared transboundary and equitable natural resources.
These intractable final status issues should be addressed fully to realize a permanent resolution to this protracted conflict with full consent to mutually agreed-upon one-to-one land swaps. This preferable solution is still supported by the international community, regardless of the regional complexities and the internal splits among both publics, which in turn make it more complex and difficult to achieve. The loss of trust has created disillusionment with the two-state solution. Therefore, security and mistrust
have pushed the body politic to the extreme right in Israel, which is totally convinced that Israel should maintain the status quo, making the Oslo Accords a dismal failure.
These current factors on the ground and the new emerging state of being are developing into a recipe for disaster in attaining the Palestinian national project, which by de facto pushes for new debates and political discourses of alternative options to be considered. It is evident by now that the two-state solution is still relatively acceptable by both publics, though with less visible support today than a decade ago. Mutual distrust and fear are growing more than ever, and the normative view of a two-state solution is crumbling by the day. However, it is important to note that the Palestinian leadership and the public at large has not declared the two-state solution as dead despite the dynamic changes on the ground.
The One-State Debate
As the two-state is fading away, there exists today a one-state Israel which controls the West Bank and East Jerusalem through its security and economic policies, thus maintaining an occupation that is very cheap to
sustain. The proponents of a one-state solution firmly believe that a single unified state with full equal rights of citizenship regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, based on freedom is the most plausible with less xenophobic nationalism on both sides. One problem with this solution is that it would threaten the concept of a Jewish state.
A second model is for a single bi-national state that recognizes both individual and collective rights through a multicultural approach. Both communities would share the same land but remain nationally separate. To illustrate further the one-state model, it is clear the political reality on the ground is a de facto single state based on a colonial settler movement epitomized in an apartheid system. Many efforts should be exerted to adopt the bi-national model, i.e., narrowing the gulf of inequity between
the two peoples to accommodate a state for all its citizens. This discourse is becoming more popular among the youth, intellectuals and academics in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and it is also favored by the Palestinians living in the Diaspora. This trend has emerged from their frustration with the stalemate in the peace process and the burdens of occupation, with no end in sight.
Regardless of the growing enthusiasm, the one-state model still lacks an institutionalization process, and has failed so far to find traction in daily politics. However, it is clear by now that Israel’s apartheid policies will act as a major catalyst to a paradigm shift among youth in adopting the one-state model.
The Pros and Cons of Alternative Solutions: Continuation of the Status Quo
According to advocates of this current situation, most Israelis believe reaching a solution with the Palestinians to be of very low priority. Consequently, the status quo is satisfactory. The leaders are unwilling to move ahead and seem unprepared to take calculated risks involved in advancing peace in the absence of a trusted third-party broker to facilitate the negotiations process.
There are many trade-offs as far as Israel is concerned, because effective control of the West Bank and Gaza remains highly costly in terms of resources. The perpetuation of the occupation limits strategic and economic opportunities with regional and international actors and creates conditions conducive to intermittent conflicts that will prolong the zero-sum scenario, which will further intensify the confrontation and violence. There should be a genuine re-thinking of how to avoid escalation into greater confusion and anarchy. Surely this rationale lends itself to deep soul-searching that seeks truth and reconciliation and a mitigation of the Palestinians’ suffering as well as the end of occupation.
In general, the continuation of the status quo is disastrous in terms of conflict, stability and security, not only in Palestine and Israel, but in the Middle East region.
|A pragmatic and viable resolution that |
has not been given up on completely
yet as it seems to be the fairest
solution for both sides, but it still
requires trust and goodwill for a
division in sovereignty without
|Since Oslo, only 43% of Palestinian |
citizens currently accept i t ,
compounded by the fact that American
politics heavily favor Israel’s policies.
|The push for it has become a priority |
in terms of security, where special
measures and arrangements will
comprehensively address risky state
and non-state actors.
|From the Palestinian side, the |
increasing number of Israeli
settlements and the decreasing control
of the Palestinian Authority over
those areas have led to dwindling
support in favor of it.
|Although public opinion trends are |
not favorable to this solution on either
side, they are not the main influencer
for either government.
|The principles of this solution |
fundamentally ignore how interlinked
and intermeshed the two societies
are in terms of economy, settler
population, basic infrastructure and
even Palestinians residing within
|In Israel, there is no alternative vision |
more ideal or feasible than the twostate
solution despite the public’s
pessimism about it.
|Parties on both sides such as Hamas |
and Israeli right-wing groups deem the
two-state solution to be impractical
because it runs counter to their
core national goals where each side
envisions the other as utterly beaten.
Confederation is a model of two independent sovereign states with strong economic ties yet clearly defined territorial borders. The basic concept is advocated mostly by civil society organizations and is based upon the notion of two governments and a border on or near the pre-1967 “Green Line,” where each state is given the freedom to exercise its national rights and identity.
The terms that shape this confederation are a far cry from the two-state paradigm, as they push for certain components of each state’s sovereignty to be shared and agreed upon. For example, the border would be set in place to facilitate, and not to restrict, movement. Furthermore, every person would be afforded an equal opportunity to work or study in or traverse the region, except for specific individuals who present a legitimate risk to security.
Jerusalem, being a significant point of contention, would become a city that serves as the capital of the two nations. Holy sites will be overseen by an independent international administration, in the same manner as outlined in the two-state solution.
Unrestricted movement and an integrated Jerusalem would not be achieved without special security arrangements and structural changes. These measures would require tight security coordination from both sides as outlined in the Oslo Accords; this cooperation would serve to reinforce the previously mentioned arrangements and changes.
Another major pro of the confederation model is that it provides citizens of both sides the right to peacefully secede as well as the opportunity to live as permanent residents in the other state albeit they would be able to only vote in elections of their country of origin; these terms also extend to the 1948 refugees returning to Israel.
|A viable solution to be considered if |
the two-state solution’s complexities
become hard to resolve.
|This solution is considered by most |
Israelis as racist and unequal because
they view it as leading to a slow but
definite demise of their current Jewish
|The Palestinians’ long-term goals and |
interests demand this solution to be
revived as it affords a unified state
with equal rights of citizenship for
all as well as freedom of movement,
access to land and resources.
|Has very little support from the left |
and right, especially the right, whose
ultimate dream is the Zionist Jewish
state; these groups regard this solution
as a threat to Jewish identity and
|Critics of the two-state solution |
have demonstrated the difficulty
of freezing and dismantling Israeli
|Provides a clear advantage for one |
nation to dominate the other in terms
of sovereignty, collective rights
and national aspirations. Also, it
would legalize Israeli settlements
and weaken the diplomatic leverage
enjoyed by the Palestinians.
|There have been some models of one |
state for two nations or more, namely
the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and
Czechoslovakia, but those examples
are quickly disappearing.
|Israeli-Palestinian partition remains |
the path of least resistance for
political leadership who factor in
public opinion, the majority of which
still believe in the two-state solution
however unlikely it may be for both
|The Palestinians’ dream of living in |
their own sovereign state after decades
of statelessness and resistance is too
tempting for a one-state solution to
be advocated by them.
|The perks of statehood are too |
appealing for either side to consider
a one-state solution. Those perks
and opportunities include, but are
not limited to, financial benefits
gained through membership in the
international community, regulatory
powers, trade agreements, diplomatic
ties and participation in international
What is required from the international community to salvage the two-state solution since it has adopted it after the Oslo peace process?
The international community has been officially committed to a two state solution, particularly following the Oslo Accords in 1993. However, with U.S. President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and reversing years of U.S. policy, the idea of upholding a traditional two state model has been put on life support, making it less likely to achieve an optimal negotiated resolution for the Palestinian cause.
Due to Israel’s continued violations of international law with its unrelenting settler activity which prohibits the Palestinian people from establishing their own sovereign state, it is imperative to call upon the international community to condemn and put an end to such violations, which are contributing to the slow death of the two-state solution. Furthermore, in order to give the two-state solution a new lease on life, Europe must recognize Palestine as an independent state on the 1967 borders
with East Jerusalem as its capital, and agreements regarding settlement policy and demolition of Palestinian homes must be set in place by the UN for Israel to comply with. Finally, a joint international group should be created in order to maintain peace and stability in the region while abiding by UN resolutions.
For a genuine and lasting peace to take hold, the Oslo Accords must be re-packaged and expanded, and a mutually accepted political/economic framework needs to be developed by policymakers on both sides. For discussions of a two-state solution to come back into focus, such collective efforts for an improved version of Oslo must be implemented. Moreover, a softening of positions on both sides, an extension of economic peace and an unconditional end to Israel’s colonization project are crucial; not taking these steps could prove to have grave consequences for Israel, Palestine and the United States.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the peace process has gone through periods of total stalemate. The two-state concept had been the ideal and feasible solution accepted in principle by the parties to the conflict and blessed by the international community. The political frame of reference has been, and still is, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). However, rapid changes on the ground have created new objective conditions that have exacerbated the relationship between the contending parties.
The third-party broker, i.e., the United States, has failed to narrow the gulf of inequity between the parties and has taken a clear stand in unequivocally supporting Israel. In spite of the futile effort exerted, the U.S. has failed in achieving a peace deal. However, Israel’s land grab policy, advanced by a right-wing government catering to the settlers, is making it impossible for Palestine to maintain geographic contiguity — ensuring that it will never become a viable state.
Direct negotiations have halted since the Annapolis talks in 2007, and the difference in perspectives, approaches and direct talks have only widened. Consequently, after 25 years of a futile peace process, and with the dramatic changes on the ground, the political discourse on the two-state solution has become less important, and alternatives are opening a new way of re-thinking the entire process of ending the conflict.
Models of one-state, a bi-national state, confederation with Jordan and federation with Israel have become more fashionable, since there is no hope for implementing the two-state solution under the present conditions. Whether feasible or not, at least these models are being discussed in intellectual circles among academics, politicians, youth and particularly in the Palestinian Diaspora. These models have been mapped briefly to shed light with no in-depth analysis. However, one cannot deny that the
public is being exposed to serious discussions about these alternatives. Most importantly, is there hope for reconciliation, and is the two-state viable, given the cancerous spread of settlements? Furthermore, the internal Palestinian split is an added complex factor that impedes a consensus in public opinion. What we are living today is a status quo plus, which is very convenient for Israel with no cost at all.
Dramatic changes are key to any solution. Until then, the Palestinians will continue to suffer from a repulsive occupation that will deny them their national identity and their aspirations for a viable contiguous state.