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“Parallel States” Plan for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Is a Recipe for Disaster

I have long argued that the Oslo framework holds back the two-state solution by tying each side to a rigid set of parameters that “everybody knows” and yet nobody seems to want. The process can be disrupted and reshaped without giving up on the idea of two states for two peoples. In fact, I imagine a bit of creativity would help things along.

With that said, solutions that are radically different are not automatically preferable just because of their radicalism. At Tablet, Mathias Mossberg has published an adaptation from the new book on the conflict he edited, One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States. It is a long read, but interesting and imaginative. It is also, however, deeply misguided, unrealistic, and a formula for trouble as far as the eye can see.

Mossberg’s basic idea is one of “Parallel States,” in which both Israel and the Palestinian territories would become part of one state structure but divide sovereignty among the individuals of this modified “condominium” based on religion, ethnicity, or personal preference. It’s worth reading the whole piece to see how Mossberg has fleshed out the plan, but here is the crux:

In a Parallel States structure, one Israeli state and one Palestinian would both cover the whole area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. In such a scenario, military, political, and economic barriers would be lifted, and a joint security and defense policy, a common and equitable economic policy, and joint and harmonized legislation would replace existing divisions. Such a structure would allow both for an independent Palestinian state and for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic at the same time. It would bring an end to occupation and would permit free movement over the whole area for both peoples, as well as providing a vision for an end of conflict.

There are a few points to make in response. The first is that the bureaucracy such a structure would create would be a nightmare–it would make the current Israeli bureaucracy look like a floating libertarian utopia in comparison. How to adjudicate a neighborly dispute when each is a “citizen” of a different state authority on the same land? What if someone changes citizenship, since personal choice is an option here? Which law applies to their past contracts? Employment terms? Accumulated physical and intellectual property?

Second, Mossberg relies on a few tropes to sign the two-state solution’s death certificate, such as discredited demographic time bomb fears and the idea that settlements contribute to a state of affairs that is making a Palestinian state in the West Bank virtually impossible, which is not remotely true and glosses over the lack of outward expansion of the settlements over the last decade-plus. Any solution to the conflict that’s based on false premises, as Mossberg’s is, should raise red flags immediately.

Third, Mossberg doesn’t–at least in this lengthy essay–really grapple with the toughest obstacles. Here is his section on security:

Security and defense would be of paramount importance in a Parallel States structure, as well as in a more conventional two-state structure. This poses particularly vital questions, in that security is a basic need for each side in existential and concrete ways. To craft a common Israeli-Palestinian security strategy, outlining how Israelis and Palestinians could cooperate and ultimately join forces in a common security system, covering external borders as well as internal order, is a challenge that should not be underestimated.

A joint external security envelope, with a high degree of cooperation on external security and with joint or coordinated external border control, has to be envisaged. It is worth noting, though, that already today there are elements of an internal security structure that contains separate institutions and security forces, but also a high degree of coordination.

Yes, it would be a challenge. How might it be solved? Not with academic platitudes, that’s for sure.

Fourth, Mossberg all but cheers the end of the Westphalian order. This strikes me as a mistake. Just because the nation state is struggling in the modern era does not mean it deserves to perish. It’s true that Mossberg is not removing sovereignty when he removes the nation state. But it would be a step backward in global order–possibly with major repercussions elsewhere.

Finally, there is the reason we are having this discussion, at least according to Mossberg: Gaza. The recent Gaza war, he says, probably signals the end of the traditional two-state solution. But his Parallel State structure calls for the erasure of borders. Israel and the PA in the West Bank have established some very constructive avenues for security cooperation, though they would be challenged significantly by this state condominium-esque arrangement.

Gaza, on the other hand, is a different entity entirely. Yet Mossberg mostly treats Gaza as a question of economic integration, with not nearly enough energy devoted to the much greater question of security. Gaza is led by Hamas. The terrorist group won’t disappear just by having its official authority taken away. How could Hamas be integrated into a borderless Israeli-Palestinian state project? The answer is: it couldn’t, not in a way that would enable the survival of the state structure.

If the answer is, then, that Hamas has to be routed and replaced in Gaza, then that seems to be an argument for the rejuvenation of the two-state solution, not its abandonment. In any case, the Parallel States structure is not the answer.

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6 Responses to ““Parallel States” Plan for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Is a Recipe for Disaster”

  1. ROBERT ENNIS says:

    Leaving the issue of Gaza aside, I think the concept is sound and workable. Basically, it allows for mutual “right of return” and solves the demographic dilemma by keeping Palestinians, regardless of where they reside, out of Israeli elections.

    I do not see the problem of having both capitals, Israel and Palestine, in Jerusalem. This would cause trust to increase over time. Cyprus is a good example of something like this working.

    I think it is worth proposing. Most probably, the PA will find it totally unacceptable. But, maybe not.

  2. E B TRAININ says:

    Oh sure…sound and reasonable says Mr. Ennis. He and Mossberg must be living in a different reality that I and most Israelis live in. Their reality is that the Arabs really want peace and Israeli policy is the main hindrance to achieving it. My reality is that the Arabs do not want a state of their own; what they do want is that there should not be an Israel. Sure, former enemies make peace like in Ireland and France/Germany but there is one major difference here: THE ARABS DON’T RECOGNIZE THE RIGHT OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE TO A STATE!!! Don’t they get it??

  3. DAVID MARKS says:

    Just like Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites in Iraq. This has to be the dumbest most moronic idea I have ever heard.

  4. JOHN GLUECK says:

    The idea that there can be a “Palestinian State” on any land west of the Jordan is ridiculous. Disarmed willing Arab citizens are the only ones who should remain living in Israel, including Judea and Samaria. The Oslo process was a timely deception put upon the war weary Israeli public by humanist-globalist buffoon-in-chief Clinton. For Peres and Rabin to return a vile murderer like Arafat to Israel and make him a billionaire is a disgrace. The Arabs have never accepted anything but war leading to annihilation of the Jewish people. It is classical Islam to accept any terms when defeated, rearm and renew the quest for domination, beginning with Israel. Deception and lying are standard operating procedure. This and all other two-state solutions are a recipe for more war.


    This is hudna, which Hamas believes in—peace with your enemy until you’re strong enough to destroy him. This is what Mohammad did to the Jews of Medina—10 year hudna, attack after two. The Arabs will have the “right of return” which means 6 million more Palestinians, plus the current Pals in Fatah, Hamas and Israel. Twelve million Arabs and 6 million Jews living in peace and harmony. There is one Jewish nation in the world and it took a few thousand years to achieve it. Now Jews are expected to give it up to live subsumed by people who hate them.

  6. PETER YOGMAN says:

    I agree with most comments. The parallel state structure is really the dumbest idea I have heard in a very long time. Muslims believe Jews are descended from apes and pigs (it’s in the Koran). Islam is a political system not just a religious one. Until Jews are made dhimmis and pay the tax or convert (that’s in the Koran also) they will be terrorized. There is really no distinction between Islam in Gaza or the West Bank. It’s just a matter of fast jihad or slow jihad. Please Mr. Mandel, become a little better educated on Islam before you cause more damage.

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