After Oslo: Rethinking the two-state solution

Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags as they celebrate after the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a Palestinian-drafted resolution to fly Palestine's flag at United Nations headquarters, during a protest against Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, September 11, 2015. There were 119 votes in favor out of 193 U.N. members.The United States and Israel were among eight countries that voted against the Palestinian-drafted resolution, which says the flags of non-member observer states like Palestine "shall be raised at (U.N.) Headquarters (in New York) and United Nations Offices following the flags of the member states." REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman - RTSMSD


With the Oslo peace process effectively dead, prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue may soon follow suit. Although territorial partition remains theoretically possible, the success of Israel’s settlement enterprise along with the Palestinian Authority’s continued decline and possible collapse threaten to eliminate chances for a viable Palestinian state once and for all. Moreover, the precarious political consensus that has helped to keep the two-state solution alive within Israeli, Palestinian, and even American politics for nearly two decades is now collapsing on all sides. Given the likely demise of the traditional partition model, the time has come to begin looking seriously at the full range of potential solutions—as distinct from outcomes—including confederation and even binationalism.

While the option of a single state (one person, one vote) may be ideal from an egalitarian point of view, given Israeli opposition and the persistence of two distinct national movements, it remains, at present, nonviable. Confederation models are useful in that they allow both peoples to exercise self-determination and national self-expression without physical or territorial separation. Despite the various practical and theoretical shortcomings of confederation, its real value may be less as an alternative to the two-state solution than in providing new ways of thinking about two states—by expanding the universe of possible options and negotiating tools available to the two sides. Given the highly inequitable and unsustainable nature of the current one-state reality and dwindling prospects for a traditional two-state solution, it would be irresponsible not to explore the full range of potential solutions.