Too late for two states: the benefits of pivoting to a one-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

AuthorHabib, Sama

As a result of the 70-year conflict between Israel and Palestine, the United States should reconsider its support for a two-state solution and instead pivot to a one-state solution. Policymakers have assumed that deep hatreds can only be settled through separation. However, this policy has caused a stalemate and does not take into account fluctuating developments in the region. A more adaptive strategy is necessary. Using theories of ripeness and conflict mediation, this bold flip in policy can pave the path towards lasting peace. Exercising the instability created from Syria's civil war, the United States, can ripen the Israel-Palestine conflict by exposing the mutual security benefits gained from uniting against a common enemy: ISIS. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria offers the parties a unique opportunity for peace as a rallying cause. As a close ally of Israel, the United States is in the ideal position to lead mediations centering around talks of permanent ceasefires, economic integration, and eventually political power sharing of a unified, binational state. In conjunction with Qatar acting as the Arab broker for Palestine, the United States should leverage its power to get the parties to the table in order to create the framework for a pocket of peace in an ever-rickety Middle East.


Almost everywhere one looks, tension and violence rage across the Middle East. Whether it is Iran and Saudi Arabia's proxy war via Syria, the Saudi military campaign in Yemen, or the domestic struggles between Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government and the resentful Muslim Brotherhood, conflict permeates the region. Cue the collapse of Iraq and Syria and enter ISIS stage left. International officials are left watching as the Middle East begins to resemble a modern-day soap opera. However, the one storyline that has remained consistent is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, if the United States could take advantage of the region's new players, they could steal the show and become the real star, instead of its haughty director.


It has been the United States' stand that a two-state solution will ensure the greatest long-term peace for the territorial disputes between Israel and Palestine. This is based on the premise that the sectarian and religious divides are too entrenched for the different populations to coexist within one state. However, given the discontinuous nature of the territory under the current proposal for the state of Palestine, a two-state solution is doomed to fail. Would a Palestinian citizen need to pass through an entirely separate and hostile state to reach one part of her country from another? What security precautions would be taken to ensure that Palestinians traveling from Gaza to the West Bank would be safe in "foreign" Israel? Essentially, the clouds of Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, combined with persistent Palestinian attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians, along with the unrealistic territory propositions, clog any drives toward a two-state solution.

Advocates for the two-state solution claim the need to separate hostile parties. A recent RAND study estimated the economic costs and benefits of a two-state solution based on present trends, and found that over a decade with a two-state solution, Israel's gross domestic product would be $123 billion larger than it would otherwise be (a 5 percent increase), and that the Palestinian economy of the West Bank and Gaza would be $50 billion (49 percent) larger. (1) While there are clear economic advantages to a two-state solution, the study considers the volatility of a two-state relationship and includes an estimated cost of an all-too-possible violent uprising. Such a conflict would cost Israeli GDP some $250 billion (equivalent to 10 percent), and the West Bank and Gaza $46 billion (46 percent). (2) Without knowing these figures, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that the establishment of a Palestinian state is no longer a valid matter and is not beneficial. Rather, he believes it is harmful in light of the fragmentation of Arab countries that have been established for decades and centuries, as well as ISIS's control of areas within such countries. (3)

Thus, the premise of a two-state solution is damaging to the peace process itself whereas a one-state solution allows for a more preventive response to future conflicts. Moreover, if Palestine obtains statehood, any attacks against its neighbor can provide Israel with a casus belli. Without learning how to coexist with Israelis first, a two-state solution may put the region in even more peril. Any acts traced to Hamas will threaten the safety of a new state from its inauguration and cause even more grievances. Without including Hamas in the political process, the organization will continue to be a thorn in the side of both Israel and Palestine. Hamas has shown clear political clout in Gaza and has a functioning military wing to support its political agenda. (4) By continuing to disregard Hamas in elections and peace negotiations, mediators are perpetuating the cycle of violence, most recently seen in the October 2015 knife intifada.

This exclusion only prolongs the peace stalemate as it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to destroy Hamas, because it is so deeply rooted. (5)


Although the Oslo Accords purported to lay the groundwork for a new Palestinian state, in reality, neither party remained faithful to the agreement--Israeli forces redeployed to the occupied areas and in retaliation, Hamas attacked Israeli officers. Today 1.8 million Palestinians, including 1.2 million refugees, are crammed into Gaza, just 25 miles long and eight miles at its widest. (6) Israeli settlers continue to move into the West Bank, and there are no signs of construction halting. Most recently, in January 2016, Israel confirmed 153 new housing...

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