The Four Two-State Solutions

Listening to Rob Malley on Fresh Air yesterday, I was reminded that 1) we tend to assume there is a two-state solution waiting on the shelf and 2) Malley disagrees and thinks maybe we are not as close as we believe: “If we all knew what the solution looked like, if everyone agreed, we probably would be there already.” (starts @ about  31:10)

Part of the problem is the use of the phrase “two-state solution” to imply full agreement when in fact it has multiple meanings. I think we have four versions of the two-state solution. (I am leaving aside the Old City for now in #1 and #2.) All of the versions assume Israel exists alongside Palestine.

1. The Abbas version

Palestinian sovereign capital in East Jerusalem. Palestine in Gaza and 97-98% of the West Bank. 1:1 swaps where Israel annexes at Latrun and narrow territorial version of settlement blocs (Efrat, Maale Adumim but not Ariel). Israel annexes Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem like East Talpiot and Pisgat Zeev. Symbolic right of return (5-25K total) but mostly financial compensation for refugees. Israel would close settlements in Palestine.

No Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley but perhaps international peacekeepers.

2. The Olmert Version

Palestinian sovereign capital in East Jerusalem. Palestine in Gaza and 92-95% of the West Bank. 1:1 swaps where Israel annexes at Latrun and more expansive territorial version of settlement blocs (Efrat, Maale Adumim, Ariel). Israel annexes Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem like East Talpiot and Pisgat Zeev including any post-Oslo areas (like Har Homa or Ramat Shlomo). Possibly symbolic right of return (5-25K) but mostly financial compensation for refugees. Israel probably would close settlements in Palestine.

In other words, very similar to #1 but slightly less for the Palestinians on each issue.

3. The Netanyahu Government

Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. Possibly Palestine could have an office there or something short of sovereignty in an outlying suburb (linking back to something like Abu Dis in the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan of the 1990s). Palestinian religious access to holy sites in Jerusalem. Palestine in Gaza and, say, 50-60% of West Bank. Very constrained Palestinian sovereignty. No Palestinian right of return. International community could provide compensation for Palestinian refugees. Jewish refugees from Arab countries are also a live issue. Palestinians must recognize Israel as Jewish state. Israel might close a few isolated settlements but most would stay in place.

Israeli military presence in Jordan Valley and at Palestine’s border crossings.

4. A Hamas version

Borders along the exact 1967 lines including the entire West Bank (100%) and Gaza Strip. No land swaps or Israeli annexation. All of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, would be under Palestinian sovereignty. As many Palestinian refugees as like, or at least a very large number, would be allowed to return to Israel. Israel would close all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

No Israeli or international military presence in the Jordan Valley.

The United States and EU are probably most comfortable with variants of #1 and #2. The Arab League (and its 2002 plan) is more with #1 (though Israeli critics tend to see it as #4).

So a lot of people mouth the words two-state solution. But they mean different, sometimes incompatible outcomes.

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12 Responses to “The Four Two-State Solutions”

  1. Great policy brief Prof Pressman. Can I haz RSS feed?

  2. Great piece and an important distinction not made clear enough in other places. Looking forward to more !

  3. Nice analysis. I would say, though, that the gap is not that wide. Why? because, first, # 3, the Netanyahu option, is not really a two-state solution. Netanyahu uses this definition to preserve the status quo, not to reach a solution. And can we really describe #4 as the Hamas version? Hamas demand #4 as a prerequisite for agreeing to negotiate with Israel a long-term truce, not peace. So for many in the Hamas, as well, it’s more a way to preserve the armed struggle than a way to resolve it.

  4. On #3 (Netanyahu), it is not a two-state solution in the sense of what most supporters (eg Quartet, Abbas/PA, Olmert, Obama/US) define as a two-state solution. I agree – Netanyahu wants to keep a process going and in doing so preserve Israeli-US ties. But for ideological and security reasons, this Israeli government seems highly unlikely to move toward #1 or #2, the definitions widely accepted as a two-state solution.

    I am less certain about Hamas. To what extent do Hamas leaders see #4 as a starting point for moving toward #1 but under what Hamas would see as fair negotiations? Would Hamas ever drop the right of return? Do Hamas leaders view a long term truce as a bridge to peace or a bridge to nowhere?

  5. And preciesly how does a two-state solution differ from apartheid? By this IO mean that if a two state solution is OK in Palestine, then what was wrong with creating a white state and a black state in South Africa?

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