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A more sensible two-state vision for Israel and Palestine

Political separation doesn’t necessitate geographic and demographic separation.

By Said Zeedani

A view of Jerusalem behind the separation wall, Abu Dis, West Bank, February 26, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A view of Jerusalem behind Israel’s separation wall, as seen from Abu Dis, West Bank, February 26, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Just a few weeks into the al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, I was enticed by and attracted to a unique idea for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which continues to entice me 18 years later. The contours of the idea — acceptance of the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living next to each other in peace and security, on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders  — remain valid provided the three following conditions are met:

  1. Separation between the two states would be – or should be – political in nature, without being matched by the kind of strict geographical and demographic separation advocated and supported by successive Israeli governments and mainstream political parties.
  2. Partnership between the two states in those matters which are difficult or undesirable to partition.
  3. Preservation of the unity of the country and respect for the attachment of its people, whether Arab or Jews, to the entire country or part of it, whether that attachment is psychological and emotional, religious or historical.


The idea is simple and sufficiently clear, even if its implications, the commitments it entails and its implementation require clarification. It would require significant modifications to the two-state solution but would not alter its essence or affect its primary impetus.

On the one hand, this idea seriously engages with the fundamental Israeli-Jewish demand to preserve Israel as a state the majority of whose citizens are Jews. On the other hand, it also seriously engages with the fundamental Palestinian demand for an independent Palestinian state on the basis of the borders of June 4, 1967, and for the return of refugees, or at least those who so wish, either to the Palestinian state or their homes from which they were uprooted in 1948. Moreover, it presents a more promising approach to engage seriously with the other thorny issues, such as Jerusalem and the settlements.

Refugees: Any Palestinian refugee will be able to exercise the right of return, whether to the state of Palestine as a citizen with equal rights, or to Israel as a permanent resident, whose citizenship rights would be fulfilled in the Palestinian state. This distinction between citizenship rights and residency rights would make the right of return easier to swallow, especially for Israeli Jews who insist on a state in which Jews are the majority of citizens.

Settlements: Once the borders between the two states are agreed, the Jewish settlers finding themselves with the borders of the Palestinian state would be able to choose to remain wherever they are – naturally, without their current privileges – either as Palestinian citizens with equal rights, or as permanent residents in the state of Palestine, exercising their right of citizenship in the state of Israel. In most other formulations, the settlements remain an impossibly tough nut to crack. Annexing of the settlements to Israel, even as blocs, would diminish the viability and desirability of a Palestinian state. Evacuating the settlers and dismantling the settlements or their major blocs would be hard for any Israeli government to bear.



Jerusalem: Even according to the scenarios currently circulating, the solution for Jerusalem in all its aspects combines partition and partnership, as some of the dimensions of the problem of Jerusalem cannot be partitioned between two states. We therefore need to break this complex issue down to its components, and distinguish those which can be subject to partition and those that cannot. The vision built on this idea foresees Jerusalem as an open city, united on the municipal level, with West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and under its sovereignty, and East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and under its sovereignty. The Arab population of Jerusalem would be citizens of Palestine, while the Jews of Jerusalem would remain, as they are, citizens of Israel.

The country as a whole would remain one unit and one physical space, for the purposes of labor, travel, and residency. In this manner, both Palestinians and Israeli Jews would feel that the entire country is theirs, even though they would be citizens of a state that is only a part of that country. It is a mistake, at best, and misleading, at worst, to underestimate the importance paying credence to that attachment.

Finally, since the one-state solution is a faraway dream, and since the two-state solution, as propagated and defended from a Palestinian, Arab and international points of view, has begun to fissure and crumble as a result of continuous Israeli positions and practices, shouldn’t we seriously engage with ideas such as those outlined here? I would think so. And to the doubters and the fearful on both sides I say: let’s have an open, honest discussion.

Dr Said Zeedani is an associate professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University. A version of this article was originally published in Arabic in Al Hayat.

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    1. itshak Gordin Halevy

      This solution tramples the Torah and deprives the Jewish people of its historical, national and religious heritage. Especially since there never was in the History an Arab State of Palestine. The Jewish people are asked to give up everything for utopia. Ridiculous..

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: Maybe you’re right, I can’t tell a real Jew from the those fake ones. Help me out here – is this guy a Jew?


        Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      There is no reason to engage in serious conversation about ideas that aren’t serious.

      Of course political separation requires geographic and demographic separation. That is the idea behind political separation – for laws passed by political bodies to apply to specific geographic areas and to apply to and be in the name of the people residing in those areas. That is how every country in the world works and the alternative is just meaningless utopian posturing.

      The purpose of such ideas is to cover up the underlying drive to eliminate the Jewish majority in Israel in order to eliminate Israel as a country down the line.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: We await your proposals.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Bill Bilek

      There already exists an independent state occupying 80% of “historic Palestine”, populated by a 75% majority of Palestinian Arabs.

      The Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank should be given the opportunity to move to that existing state, the deal sweetened by extremely generous compensation both per family, and to that existing state’s budget to assist in the relocation.

      If the goal of the Palestinian Arabs is to have an independent state in Palestine, dignity, peace, security, prosperity – all that is achievable – tomorrow.

      If the true goal (as many suspect) is the destruction of the Jewish state and the extermination of its population, the war, misery, and bloodletting will continue.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Mass ppopulation expulsion of JORDANIANS back to JORDAN is the only real solution.
        The fakestinyan disease can only be extinguished by removing the cancer.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          And who are you two? Herod the Great and Son of Herod? Dispensing despotic decrees? You want to exterminate Palestinians’ culture, right to self determination, and ownership of land; and do what? Forcefully mass-transfer or exterminate as many of them as is necessary when they don’t behave themselves and accept the “opportunity” you’re offering them?

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Who am I ?
            A Person that actually lives in the place.
            Unlike you – some armchair visionary living in some SJW bubble 5000 miles away.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Doesn’t cut any ice with me. So what? What despot isn’t local? Samer Badawi, Amjad Iraqi, Michael Omer-Man, Noam Sheizaf, et al. also live in the place. That’s one of the things that makes +972 Magazine so authentic and authoritative.

            Reply to Comment