“Hamas would provoke, Israel would respond militarily, and the international community would wring its hands”. (Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2011)
As the Hamas-Israel war is still ongoing it’s time to think day after scenario. Once Hamas is disarmed, dismantled, and defeated, an operation to ease the humanitarian situation of the Gazans will begin immediately – probably as international cooperation. This activity is easy to implement, it only requires money, time and will because different organisations have done reconstruction projects many times before. The biggest problem is choosing a vision to move towards, what to aim for when the immediate humanitarian crisis has been taken care of.
For many years, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the 2-State model. This has also been accepted as a solution in many organisations, such as the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. For the past couple of decades, direct negotiations based on the ‘2-States’ model have been almost the only starting point and alternative. Maintaining the negotiation process has even become a more important goal in itself than reaching an agreement. The negotiations have also constantly started and ended without any mentionable results and there is no promise of an agreement even in the foreseeable future. It seems to be clear that the road map of the 2-State model has come to a dead end.
1- or 3-State alternatives
When the 2-state model, despite many attempts, has not progressed, alternative models have also been presented over the years. I myself have previously supported, for example, the 3-state (return) model, in which Gaza, previously controlled by Egypt, would be returned directly to Egyptian control, and Areas A and B of the West Bank, previously controlled by Jordan, now controlled by the Palestinian Authority, would be returned to Jordan’s control (Jordan’s option). This model, like the possibly connected Sinai option to increase the Gaza area, has not achieved any significant international support, so it looks like an infeasible solution at least in the time span of a decade(s).
In recent years however the One-State model has emerged more and more as reality. The model of one state – “Isralestine” – would include two nationalities in one state west of the Jordan River, this state could also take the form of a federal state or a confederation. There are no negotiations on this model of solution, but rather the situation de facto is drifting towards it as a result of the lack of perspective created by the stagnation of the peace process.
According new analysis [Israel’s One-State Reality-It’s Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution By Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Shibley Telhami in Foreign Affairs May/June 2023] the authors claim e.g. following:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in Israel with a narrow, extreme right-wing coalition has shattered even the illusion of a two-state solution. Members of his new government have not been shy about stating their views on what Israel is and what it should be in all the territories it controls: a Greater Israel defined not just as a Jewish state but one in which the law enshrines Jewish supremacy over all Palestinians who remain there. Netanyahu’s new governments’ extremists boast of their mission to create a new Israel in their image: less liberal, more religious, and more willing to own discrimination against non-Jews. By not formalizing sovereignty, Israel can be democratic for its citizens but unaccountable to millions of its residents.
The INSS memorandum (Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Viability of One-State Models) seeks to explore whether it is possible to implement a one-state model that is both Jewish and democratic.
According to the memorandum’s analysis, none of the different one-state models appear to be conducive to achieving a permanent, lasting and successful solution to the conflict. Because of the deep-rooted animosity between the two populations in recent decades – cultural, social and economic tensions are difficult to disentangle; free movement would restore the spread of terrorism from the West Bank throughout Israel.
Further, full and equal citizenship rights for Palestinians would irreversibly change the Jewish character of Israel. All models to be implemented require agreements with the Palestinians, causing endless disputes.
Back to 2-State
Israel has attempted to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute through a negotiated permanent agreement – 2-State solution – twice since the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords: in 1999-2001, under PM Ehud Barak, and in 2007-2008 under PM Ehud Olmert. Peace efforts finally stalled in 2014, when talks failed between the Israelis and Palestinians in Washington.
The most recent peace plan – prepared by the US when Donald Trump was president – was called “the deal of the century” by Prime Minister Netanyahu, but was dismissed by the Palestinians as one-sided and never got off the ground.
Based on the background described above, I think it is clear that the road map of the 2-State model has come to a dead end. However, this does not mean that the vision itself should be abandoned as the other alternatives are worse (1-State or Zero option or Status Quo) or unrealistic in the medium term (3-State).
Now when the road map of the 2-State model has come to a dead end, the Middle East peace process is at a crossroads. In my view, there are three main paths to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and they are as follows:
Cold Peace: The zero option or “Cold Peace” may be realistic under this government, but it is not the solution as the problems will be the same as described above related to the 1-State approach.
Starting (re)negotiations: The only way to more sustainable peace solutions – quality peace – is the motivation and commitment of the parties – individuals, clans, communities, ethnic groups, etc. – to a negotiation result that includes a bitter compromise through dialogue, in which the positions of the other parties are understood or even tolerated. This process is likely to take a few decades if the various stakeholders are committed to it (More about quality peace in my articles (Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too? and Quality Peace)
Constructive unilateralism: The best short-term solution towards the 2-state model and related actions can be decided by Israel immediately.
Blue White Future (BWF) is a non-partisan, non-profit political initiative founded in 2009. Blue White Future has provided tools for the Israeli leadership in implementing a 2-state solution. In 2012 BWF called on Israel to “take constructive steps to advance the reality of two States based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps — regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it.” According BWF “through a series of unilateral actions, gradual but tangible changes could begin to transform the situation on the ground.” This idea came to be known as constructive unilateralism.
The vision of two states and the road map of constructive unilateralism to achieve it is based on the assumption that Israel should move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and Israelis in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state (i.e. two states for two nations). As long as Israel wants to be part of the democratic world – it must give equal rights to all human beings living in the borders of the country. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions.
Therefore the two-states-for-two-peoples reality is indispensable.
If the Palestinian side has a power vacuum – waiting post-Abbas and post-Hamas era – and is not prepared to implement a 2-State solution, Israel can make a lot of steps it can take to begin the separation from the Palestinians.
The Components of `Constructive Unilateralism’ according BWFs review (2022) are:
First, Israel should declare that it adheres to the vision encapsulated in its 1948 Declaration of Independence, which inevitably requires a border within which its fundamental values will govern; second, in the absence of meaningful negotiations towards such a vision, Israel should take independent steps to create a reality of two States. Such a reality can later lead to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.
The concrete actions may include e.g. following tasks:
- To stop building settlements outside the blocs connected to -67 green line and Israel should also remove the outposts. Israel should refrain from building new settlements and from expanding existing settlements east of the separation barrier and in Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem. Construction could continue in the settlement blocs and in the Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.
- Preparation of a viable, national-scale plan to relocate up to 100,000 settlers – currently living outside of the settlement blocks and in areas Israel will eventually withdraw from – within Israel proper in a compassionate, well organised way. The Knesset should compensate any Israeli settler living outside of the blocs, once he or she decides to resettle in Israel. Israel should make a plan to relocate tens of thousands of settlers and implement it.
- Israel should enact a law that allows for voluntary evacuation, compensation and eventual absorption of settlers presently residing on the eastern side of the security barrier, to encourage settlers who wish to relocate within the green line or within settlement blocs, regardless of whether an agreement with the Palestinians is concluded.
- Making the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian State; reaching an arrangement on Jerusalem’s Old City’s holy sites to allow freedom of access and worship
- Constructive unilateralism also means that any independent step taken in the future can be clearly evaluated regarding whether they moves Israel closer to the reality of two states, and are thus considered constructive, or take parties further away.
- BTW also Palestinian side can make unilateral constructive steps after the Hamas-Israel war if Palestinians start together with the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Gaza while preventing arming.
By these actions it is possible to enlarge the A- and B-areas of the West Bank where the Palestinians hold full responsibility and formal independence and decrease area C- which will be annexed to Israel. The advantage of the solution is that the area of the future Palestinian state would be larger and not as fragmented as the area currently under the Palestinian Authority. In the future, an isolated underground or overland passage between Gaza and the West Bank to connect these areas is also negotiable.
BTW also Palestinian side can make unilateral constructive steps after the Hamas-Israel war if Palestinians start together with the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Gaza while preventing arming.
The components of 2-State solution – Parameters of the Israel-Palestine Conflict -have been roughly clear the last two decades but the final agreement is still missing. From my perspective a new road-map is needed and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ a step forward and in my opinion also to the right direction. This plan might be provocative but for me it seems to be a realistic tactic towards a 2-State solution.
In the future, when the time is right, direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine could begin. Negotiations would then ensue over borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security arrangements. In addition Israel could simultaneously enter into dialogue with other Arab countries and issue a formal response to the Arab Peace Initiative.
The West should continue leading the security, financial, and diplomatic efforts to transform Gaza from a terrorist statelet into Dubai on the Mediterranean once Hamas is disarmed, dismantled, and defeated.
A Palestinian state should exist where leaders have both the self-awareness to engage in introspection and the vision to look forward optimistically to the year 2100, like Salam Fayyad during his time as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority 2007.
From my point of view securing the future of Israel as the democratic nation-State of the Jewish People requires creating a reality of two States, based on disengagement from the Palestinians.
In my opinion this road-map would create a pathway for securing Israel as a Jewish democracy and implement a 2-State solution. Be there a Palestinian state, Egyptian Gaza autonomy via implementing Sinai option, federation with Jordania (Jordanian option) or something else would anyway be up to Palestinians and hopefully also their neighbours.