Conventional wisdom suggests that we all know the essentials of what a final deal between Israelis and Palestinians will look like: two states, some land swaps, and a sensible compromise regarding Jerusalem, refugees, resources and security issues.
But as the Israeli government presses on in its settlement-building ventures, and President Trump casually states his indifference to promoting a two-state solution, the decades-long impasse has resulted in several alternative ideas over the years. Some are advocated by certain sects of Israeli and Palestinian societies, others by particular corners of the international community, and there are those ideas conceived in the ivory towers of academic circles that may never become policy, but are sure to make you think twice.
Proposed by the right-wing Israeli think tank Ariel Center for Policy Research, this viewpoint condemns what it calls “the defeatist campaign” of previous Israeli governments under the Labour Party. The ACPR dismisses ideas of a Palestinian identity as “euphemistic,” believing instead that “Jordan is Palestine.” A “zero-state” solution would have Israel extending sovereignty over the West Bank, providing limited autonomy for Arabs in the West Bank who would become Jordanian citizens living as expats. Gaza would be handed over to Egypt to deal with. Already assuming these terms would never be accepted by their Arab counterparts, the zero-state solution would be a unilateral decision by Israel.
Increasingly, a one-state solution is being looked at as viable, if not inevitable, by numerous groups. However, what a one state solution looks like depends on who you’re listening to.
Isratin would bestow equal rights and citizenships to all inhabitants of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza under one political unit. Advocates believe that settlements have effectively erased the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, leaving this framework as de facto solution. Others view a prospective “Palisrael” as the only democratic, just solution.
Some Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent, who worry a two-state solution might force them to leave or join a Palestinian entity they’ve been separated from, favor such an arrangement.
But while the proposal has some support among left-wing circles, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians oppose the idea as anathema to self-determination. Zionists view Isratin — which Israelis fear would lead to a Palestinian majority — as the destruction of the Jewish state. Islamists and Pan-Arab nationalists similarly oppose it along ethnic and religious lines.
Other versions of the plan include a form of power-sharing between Jews and Arabs under a federalist structure, allowing for self-rule on issues insular to respective ethnic groups while residing under the same larger political entity.
A settler’s one-state solution: Greater Israel
Some right-wing Israelis advocate for Israel to annex the West Bank and provide Palestinians in the region with limited rights, denying them citizenship to avoid the perceived demographic threat. Voluntary emigration has also been offered as a possibility as well. Some Israeli figures, particularly Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post, actually believe that the population statistics are misleading and a Jewish majority will be maintained in the event of annexation and citizenship for all.
These proposals often exclude Gaza as a lost cause without a Jewish presence. To solve this problem, Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar proposed applying the Emirate system found in the Gulf states to the Palestinian enclaves within Greater Israel in a so-called “eight-state solution,” an arrangement where Gaza would simply be one of seven Palestinian emirates.
Naftali Bennett, leader of the settler Jewish Home party and Israel’s Minister of Education, has proposed creating a quasi-Palestinian state. Bennett would seek to annex Area C of the West Bank and give Palestinians living there citizenship. In the rest of the West Bank, there would be increased Palestinian autonomy and political independence, with military infrastructure and checkpoints removed. However, this quasi-state would not enjoy control over its borders or have a military.
Hamas’s one-state solution: Greater Palestine
Most recently, Hamas leaders have claimed to accept terms that would establish a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders. However, Hamas’ founding charter sought for a greater Palestine in the entire area that would be Islamist in nature, an aspiration which has remained constant among conservative Palestinian populations.
The ‘Greater Gaza’ Plan
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi floated offering the Sinai Peninsula to Palestinians to combine with Gaza and form an autonomous, demilitarized Palestinian state. This proposal would deliver Palestinian refugees and residents in the West Bank to an area rich in natural gas with their own coastline. In return, the Palestinians would end claims to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. However, both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority voiced opposition to the proposal.
Similar to the “zero state” proposal, a three-state solution generally involves Gaza becoming a part of Egypt and Areas A and B in the West Bank reverting to Jordanian control. Advocated by former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton as well as former Israeli national security advisor Giora Eiland, this idea finds support in right-wing circles, though it fails to address Palestinian sovereignty and the lack of willingness by Egypt and Jordan to absorb these populations.
Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at The Forward.
Solutions To The Israel-Palestinian Quagmire Abound