The current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate is as comprehensive as it is unprecedented. All relevant parties — Israelis, Palestinians (both Fatah and Hamas), the United States, the European Union, the Arab world — are preoccupied with their own internal or regional political or economic issues, not to mention the possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb and Israeli threats to attack. The only good news is that Israeli-Palestinian violence is also largely on hiatus — though by no means gone, as rockets fired at southern Israel occasionally remind us.
Many assume that if President Barack Obama wins re-election he will restart the “peace process.” We consider this unlikely. Throughout the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict the United States has been able to stop wars and to further agreements (Jimmy Carter with Camp David and Bill Clinton with Oslo) only after local leaders took the first step. At the moment, this seems unlikely to happen. So we believe that it is time for those truly interested in viable solutions to face the current reality, as dispiriting as it may be.
For decades, we have firmly believed that the only way that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in the long term is by creating two separate states. This remains the best option. For years, about 70% of Israelis and Palestinians have accepted this solution, but a similar proportion believes that it may not happen during their lifetime. It is highly ironic — and tragic —that, now that the notion of two states for two people is the common wisdom, embraced not only by the world community but by many of its longtime foes, its political feasibility seems near zero.
We are at a point of paradigm shift in the conflict. Old assumptions about what is possible must be re-examined in terms of current realities. We have prepared a brief typology of what we regard as the realistic remaining options. The fact is that there are a variety of possible scenarios — not simply one state versus two.
We start with a fundamental assumption: Any solution that does not promise Palestinians (as well as Israelis) control over their own fate will not last. The history of the conflict, including the revolt of 1936-39 and both intifadas, shows that Palestinians may remain quiescent for up to a generation but will not accept that their destiny remains forever subordinate to the needs of others.
With that as a given, here are the choices:
1) The classic one-state solution. This would involve the creation of a single democratic, secular state, an idea once championed by the PLO and recently re-embraced by many Palestinians and their sympathizers. Perhaps most Palestinians would accept this. But there is no imaginable scenario under which more than a minuscule fraction of Jewish Israelis would, since they would quickly become a minority in this new country.