European Council on Foreign Relations




Two-state solution and one state reality

By Khalil Shikaki - 27 December 2013

As Palestinians and Israelis support, and sometime negotiate, a two-state solution, they simultaneously engage in other activities that undermine their declared goal.  Israelis elect right wing parties that create facts on the ground, facts that produce a one-state reality and make it more difficult to separate the two peoples. Palestinians are divided and when reacting to Israeli facts on the ground entertain ideas like the one-state solution and approaches like return to violence. Israelis find more comfort in the status quo than in any other conceivable alternative.

The one-state reality is sustained by this Israeli comfort and by Palestinian belief that the future, with its demographic trends, is on their side. While the prospects for a one-state solution are worse than those of the two-state solution, the status quo inches day after day into a consolidated one-state reality. Apart from limited exceptions, the US and the rest of international community contribute their share by essentially turning a blind eye to some of the most entrenching one-state dynamics. If the on-going US diplomatic effort fails to bring about a Palestinian-Israeli agreement the current drift to the unknown will only accelerate. Sooner or later, the two-state solution will no longer be a viable means of altering the one-state reality. More than twenty years of international investment in the peace process would go to waste.

Nothing captures the interplay between these two dynamics, those pushing toward a two-state solution such as the Kerry efforts and those pulling toward a one-state reality such as the Israeli settlement construction, in a systemic, comprehensive and quantitative manner, than ECFR's Two-State StressTest (TSST). By documenting, assessing, and assigning weights to indicators that operationalize and measure the gravitation toward a one-state reality, the exercise provides a highly useful tool to explore the viability of the two-state solution. But it is not just an academic exercise; it provides policy-relevant conclusions. Although it does not provide policy recommendations, for those who seek to influence the dynamics of the two unfolding processes, the TSST provides useful clues: the indicators and categories of indicators change over time directing policy attention to those areas that need immediate action if the two-state solution is to remain relevant.

Without a doubt time is running out for the two-state solution. The status quo is highly resilient: the domestic environments in Israel and Palestine do not provide a compelling driver; the leaders are not sufficiently motivated; and the US and the international community have not yet provided the parties with choices they cannot ignore.

In previous successful Arab-Israeli peace efforts, when leaders and their domestic environments were inhospitable to peace making, the US role was the critical driver. American efforts succeeded only when the US Administration put bold ideas at the table and made it clear that it was willing and able to use leverage to force the parties to take them seriously.



Khalil Shikaki is the Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Ramallah, Palestine


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