Resolutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be reached either by agreement or evolution.
As the peace talks stumble toward their formal end point, there are essentially four scenarios for political developments between the river and the sea, excluding resurgent violence: two states by agreement, two states by evolution, one state by agreement, or one sovereign entity by evolution.
Policymakers should acknowledge these scenarios openly to assess what each one will mean for the future of the region.
I recently proposed using basic values as a guideline to assess the desirability of such scenarios: reducing violence, realizing human and civil rights, providing for collective rights, and doing so in a sustainable way. It’s also worth considering the feasibility and consequences of each possibility.
Two states by agreement. This scenario looks increasingly unlikely, largely for political reasons. Likud essentially doesn’t want it; its other half, Israel-Beitenu, claims to want it but only under unacceptable conditions, including unilateral disenfranchisement of Israeli citizenship. Jewish Home, is steadfastly opposed. Palestinians have become so disillusioned about statehood as Israel defines it that PA President Mahmoud Abbas lacks the legitimacy to make major concessions on their behalf.
Another reason is physical: land, population and infrastructure developments over the last two decades mean that a Palestinian state will be chopped up by settlements too entrenched to be vacated. Therefore, “statehood” won’t offer much greater mobility or economic freedom for Palestinians; sovereign borders might even replace military checkpoints posing much greater bureaucratic obstacles.
However, this solution could theoretically reduce violence by establishing representative political frameworks for each society, to guarantee discrete collective and civil rights. Whether that means more human rights for Palestinians than today depends on how the Fatah and Hamas authorities rule; their current record does not bode well. An agreement over two states with borders and finalized political status is probably relatively sustainable. But the lack of feasibility makes most of this assessment moot.
Two states by evolution. The lack of a negotiated agreement could make this more attractive to Palestinians. If they are to suffer the constraints of highly circumscribed statehood, at least they will not also be forced into concessions they resent as the price.
States can be defined as entities with a people, territory, government and the ability to enter into foreign relations. The Palestinians are making strong progress on that last one. Compared to other disputed states, Palestine enjoys...Read More