Emanuel Shahaf

The Two-State Dogma

The two state solution (2SS) for reasons of intellectual dishonesty more than for  any other reason, has become the dogmatic default solution to the I/P conflict. It  has been regurgitated 24/7 ever since it became relevant in the years after the Oslo Accords were signed and a solution to the conflict was discussed in earnest and has become actionable around the year 2000 as a serious proposition. Over the years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has never wavered in its insistence on pursuing the 2SS. Israel, on the other hand, with brief interludes, has hemmed and hawed to prevent its advancement and implementation and clearly has gone back on the earlier support that was voiced by PM Netanyahu in his speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009. Since then, consecutive Israeli governments, most of them under Netanyahu (but not only) have not just maintained their opposition to the 2SS but have actively pursued policies and taken practical steps to make the 2SS nigh impossible. That has happened mainly through the continuing massive expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria but also by systematically and progressively creating a one state scenario integrating the occupied territories with Israel economically and with regard to government regulations.

At the same time as Israeli governments have taken these steps, they have made a continuous and well funded effort to get public and political support for their policies to the extent that by now, close to 90 MKs reject a 2SS (3/4th  of the Knesset) and accompanying public sentiment isn’t far behind. So while the world,  jointly with the Palestinians, has set its mind on the 2SS and only the 2SS, Israel, more than ever before, is nowhere close in mindset and has been actively campaigning against it. Needless to say that after the events of October 7th, the rejection of the 2SS by the public has only been reinforced and support is lower than ever with barely one third of Israelis in favor.

While it cannot be ruled out that the international community will attempt to force Israel to comply with demands for a 2SS, if by political pressure or by sanctions, or both, that would still be an unlikely scenario, presumably more because it would be  counterproductive than for any other reason. Dragging Israel into a 2SS under the present circumstances when in the wake of October 7th there is just no public or political support, would probably be more like setting the scene for another disaster than for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. 

What is sorely missing and it is not entirely clear to me why that is so, is a vibrant (or any) discussion of alternatives to the 2SS which, despite being around ever since the report by the Peel Commission of 1937, has never really been implementable except possibly after the War of Independence in 1948, in the wake of the Partition  Resolution UNGA181. Israel for reasons of his own, historically prefers not to suggest any alternatives thus by default serially affirming a status quo that, while generally appearing to be maintainable, if costly at times, has proved on Oct. 7th to be anything but.

Nevertheless, until now there’s almost nobody out there, not in the Middle East and  not the rest of the world who is seriously looking at something that could take its place. Politicians, media personalities and analysts the world over are adamant, even when repeatedly challenged, to describe it, as the French newspaper Le Monde recently did (Dec. 2024) as “the only prospect of a lasting settlement to the current conflict”. Nor has Israel been shaken out of its complacency with regard to the need to come up with an alternative. 

That is, plainly speaking, intellectually dishonest. As if all the world’s ethnically  challenged countries only found self-determination in physical separation along ethnic lines. As if all the world’s ethnic groups or even most of them, have their own independent country or state. As if it is self evident that any ethnic group that has been wronged has to get its own state and as if it is upon the international community to see to it that another state is born to correct a wrong from 76 years ago when UNGA181, the UN Partition Resolution could not be implemented due to the refusal of the Palestinians to step up. This intellectual dishonesty is  compounded by the opposition on the left side of the political spectrum in Israel, which, perversely enough, contrary to the position of every single left wing political movement in the world, without flinching in the slightest, has insisted for years on strongly advocating for separation of the population (and the land) along ethnic lines (2SS). 

So we know what the left wants. The right wants annexation but curiously without ever clarifying what status it wants to accord the local Palestinian population. As if there really is an option other than total  equality.

Now regarding the strange absence of a lively discussion on alternatives to the 2SS I can guess why Israelis want to keep mum on it: The alternatives are one state scenarios and they are scary as hell for most Israelis. For the life of me I don’t understand why the world, media, academia and all don’t tell us about possible alternatives. Why the European countries don’t venture discussing alternatives to the 2SS, why the US government does not talk about other approaches to resolve the conflict. They all stick to the dogma of the 2SS.

It’s definitely time to move on, the 2SS is beyond implementation, it is a bad solution, both peoples subconsciously understand that and therefore resist its  adoption forcefully, openly or surreptitiously. It’s a disaster for the Palestinians whose economy would be severely damaged, it’s a massive political liability and potential trauma for the Israelis who will have to disengage from many areas of the West Bank, withdraw hundreds of thousands of settlers and expose themselves to another less than friendly state next door.

It’s time to work on a one state solution. The fact that Israel has been living rather well, all things considered, with a 17% Palestinian minority should give us a clue that a country with shared sovereignty between the Jordan and the Mediterranean  is feasible even though it is definitely challenging but certainly not more challenging than creating the State of Israel in the first place. The perceived demographic threat can be addressed through managed regional autonomous areas, by differentiating the treatment of regions and through a carefully planned federal government in charge of the whole area, or most of it. Similar solutions have been arrived at elsewhere, no good reason we can’t do likewise. What we cannot do is remain stuck with an untenable status-quo because the dogmatic default solution cannot deliver.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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