Can the two-state solution be saved?

Fierce debate has erupted over an article arguing that the US should use harsh sanctions to force Israel to become a bi-national state.

Israel’s One-State Reality: It’s Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution was written by four academics from George Washington and Maryland universities and published in the journal Foreign Affairs.

The article says Israel has killed the two-state solution through settlements and the US should pursue a single, binational state to replace Israel, using harsh sanctions to force Israel to accept a one-state reality.

“The promise of a two-state solution made sense as an alternative future in the years around the 1993 Oslo accords, when there were constituencies for compromise on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides and when tangible, if fleeting, progress was made toward building the institutions of a hypothetical Palestinian state. But that period ended long ago. Today, it makes little sense to let fantastical visions for the future obscure deeply embedded existing arrangements.

“It is past time to grapple with what a one-state reality means for policy, politics, and analysis. Palestine is not a state in waiting, and Israel is not a democratic state incidentally occupying Palestinian territory. All the territory west of the Jordan River has long constituted a single state under Israeli rule, where the land and the people are subject to radically different legal regimes, and Palestinians are permanently treated as a lower caste. Policymakers and analysts who ignore this one-state reality will be condemned to failure and irrelevance, doing little beyond providing a smokescreen for the entrenchment of the status quo,” they write.

Former diplomats Michael Oren and Martin Indyk, and academics Dahlia Scheindlin, Asad Ghanem, and Robert Satloff each responded, taking issue with the analysis – some arguing that the two-state solution could still be rescued and others suggesting different paths to, or problems with, a binational state.

Indyk writes that the two-state solution is likelier to work than “a quixotic effort to delegitimise Israel and force it to abandon its Zionist identity”.

He said the US needed to take a much harder line against settlements.

“Since the Biden administration is committed to achieving a two-state solution, it needs to take more vigorous steps to restore both sides’ belief in the possibility of achieving one. At the top of the list must be preventing Israel from consolidating the one-state reality, especially through settlement activity. The administration should not just oppose the Netanyahu government’s intention to legalise more than 100 illegal settlement outposts but also threaten to stop shielding Israel from retribution in international forums for its settlement policies if it goes ahead with the plan.”

On the other hand, Ghanem argues a single, binational state is the solution, but it will only occur when Palestinians resolve internal conflicts and rally around a single national project.

“The first step on the road to a better future is for the Palestinians themselves to change. They must transcend their geographical and ideological differences and rally around a single national project. The only configuration that can advance a gradual  democratisation process and deliver practical solutions to all Israeli Jews and to all Palestinians —whether they reside in a refugee camp, the diaspora, the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel — is a single, binational state. Building one should be the goal of all Palestinians.”

Oren, too, argues for a single state but from an Israeli right perspective. He says Israel did not kill the two-state solution “because it was never alive” and that the US should support strengthening the Palestinian economy and exploring “viable alternatives” such as federations or trusteeships.


Israel’s One-State Reality: It’s Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution (Foreign Affairs)

Can the Two-State Solution Be Saved? Debating Israel’s One-State Reality (Foreign Affairs)

Photo: Art of a peace dove wearing a bullet-proof vest outside the Palestine Heritage Centre in Bethlehem (Deborah Stone)