European Council on Foreign Relations




The viability of the two-state solution

By David Newman - 18 December 2013

The Two State Stress test highlight the changing thinking within the European establishment and their growing belief that disincentives will have to be applied to Israel in moving toward a two-state scenario. This was clearly seen in the European position regarding Israel’s participation in the latest scientific research program, Horizon 2020, and its insistence that no institution operating beyond the Green Line would be allowed to take part.

There is also a growing feeling among the pragmatists, those who support the principle of two states, that as time passes and the realities on the ground become increasingly entrenched, the classic model, involving a clearly demarcated territorial separation between the two states, is no longer possible to implement. Since the alternatives – the continuation of occupation as advocated by the Israeli right wing, or a single binational secular state as advocated by the far Left and much of the Palestinian constituency, are considered by most to be far worse options, this requires thinking outside the box concerning alternative ways to implement two states and enable power sharing without territorial separation.

This may require going back to some of the federal and confederal ideas advocated by Prof. Daniel Elazar back in the 1970s but that were largely disregarded at the time, or a system of cross-citizenship for all Palestinians and Israelis, regardless of their territorial location, as proposed by a Shashar Center think tank at the Hebrew University just a few years ago. It may sound far-fetched right now, but conflict resolution must always grapple with the realities of the present, rather than those of a past era – whether that era be 1948, 1967 or even 2005 (the Gaza withdrawal).

As time moves on, so the facts on the ground continue to change, and these in turn become the new realities.

The principle of two states for two peoples still remains, in the view of this writer, the fairest way to resolve the conflict, if it is ever to be resolved. But this must now be viewed not as a simple territorial divide (with or without land swaps), but as a system of power sharing which is practiced by both peoples in a way which ties in with the contemporary realities and which causes as little physical dislocation as possible.

The article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post - Click here to read the whole article.

David Newman is the dean of the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University.


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