The possible demise of the two-state solution has led to growing interest in a one-state solution. This approach proposes full equality for all the Palestinians now living under Israeli control, with full civil rights, including national voting rights. However, a single, democratic, civic or binational state is highly unlikely to emerge in the foreseeable future. Most Israelis and Palestinians want their own state, to fulfill their collective desires for national self-determination.
A single state is likely to generate a relentless competition for power and control, which could easily turn deadly. Further, given Israel’s superior economic and military power, a single state is more likely to become a Jewish ethnocracy than the secular democracy that its left wing proponents envisage. To a certain extent, this is already the case today, as Israel in effect rules over the West Bank and East Jerusalem and, according to a UN commission, has “effective control” over Gaza too.
With both two-state and one-state solutions seemingly impossible, it is easy to fall into despair. We believe this is dangerous. Such despair fosters passivity and perpetuates the status quo. And the violence is a brutal reminder that the status quo is deadly for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Moreover, despair is rooted in the mistaken notion that there are no other options. But there is another way. It combines elements of both one-state and two-state solutions. It is a confederal approach, proposing two sovereign states, with an open border between them, freedom of movement and residency, and some limited shared governance. Call it the two-state solution 2.0.
The 1967 ceasefire lines would be the basis for a border, but a different kind of border, not today’s 9m concrete wall, but one aimed at allowing people on both sides to cross freely, to visit their holy places, to work, shop, socialise – in short, to breathe.
Dov Waxman is a professor of political science, international affairs and Israel studies at Northeastern University, Boston, and co-director of its Middle East Centre. His new book, Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel, has just been published by Princeton University Press. Dahlia Scheindlin is a public opinion expert and international political consultant. She writes for +972 Magazine and is a part-time lecturer at Tel Aviv University. This article is based on a longer essay in The Washington Quarterly (pdf), Volume 39, No 1