David Lehrer

One-state, two-state or stalemate – the climate doesn’t care

The rising pressure on dwindling natural resources affects and connects us all, regardless of political borders
(R. Lee / iStock)
(R. Lee / iStock)

Can we envision a political horizon to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Some of us still believe that a two-state solution is the best outcome for all people in the region. Many, Israelis and Palestinians, however, have given up on the two-state solution as unfeasible and believe that we are heading for a one-state solution. For many, one-state dominated by Jews or one-state dominated by Palestinians was always the preferred outcome. In my opinion, under the current leadership of both Palestine and Israel, the only foreseeable outcome is a stalemate. Perhaps we need to reimagine the region not as two geopolitical entities locked into a zero-sum game, but as a shared geographical space with overlapping historical ties, claims and aspirations.

Whether or not historical processes lead the region towards a two-state solution, one-state solution, or no solution, there are two things that will remain true:

  1. Demand for water, energy, food, and ecosystem services in Israel and Palestine will struggle to keep pace with supply.
  2. The supply of water, energy, food, and ecosystem services in Palestine and Israel are inextricably connected.

The first statement is true for three reasons: current demand is already overwhelming supply, (water and energy supply in Palestine are insufficient to meet the current needs, and even in Israel, water and energy infrastructure are stretched), the population in the region will almost double over the next 30 years, doubling per capita demand, and the climate crisis will reduce precipitation, increase temperatures, increase extreme weather events and negatively impact water supplies, energy supplies, food security, and ecosystem services.

The second statement is true because Israel and Palestine’s natural resources (natural water sources and ecosystems) are shared but controlled by Israel, while Palestinian infrastructure for water, energy, and food supply have not been able to develop, due to Israel’s control over Area C in the West Bank and the political instability in Gaza.

Whether one believes in a two-state solution, a confederation, a binational state, a state for all, or a state only for those with power (morally unacceptable to me), guaranteeing equality of access and supply to meet the demand for basic needs such as water, energy, food, and ecosystem services, is needed for any solution to work.

In fact, equality in access and supply of basic human needs is not a geopolitical issue. It is a transboundary and transnational issue. It is not connected to any one political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and should be looked at through a regional lens (including potentially other Israeli and Palestinian neighbors).

While the political horizon remains distant, politicians from Israel and Palestine must be made to understand that progress on securing an equal supply of water, energy, food and ecosystem services for all Palestinians and Israelis in the region is not an obstacle to any current or future political process. Environmental equality for every human being west of the Jordan River will reduce the state of despair and move a political horizon closer.

About the Author
Dr. Lehrer holds a PhD from the Geography and Environmental Development Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a joint Masters Degree in Management Science from Boston University and Ben-Gurion University. Dr. Lehrer was the Executive Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies from 2001 until August 2021 and has now become Director of the Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy. Dr. Lehrer has been a member of Kibbutz Ketura since 1981.
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