The carnage unfolding in Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7 makes clear that the status quo in the Middle East is not sustainable. Since the 1967 Six-Day War, the state of Israel, whose population is over 70 percent Jewish, has controlled both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories that are predominantly populated by Muslim Arabs. There have been efforts in the past to create a Palestinian state from the two occupied territories, namely through the Oslo Peace Process begun in 1993. But those efforts never came to fruition. Indeed, even before the onset of the current war in Gaza, achieving a “two-state solution” seemed further than ever from a reality.
That’s not to say there isn’t still interest in a two-state solution. To the contrary, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to pursue and adopt such a resolution once the war in Gaza is over. A majority of Palestinians favor the two-state solution. And while support in Israel for it had dropped to just over 40 percent even prior to Oct. 7, a solid majority did favor that outcome in 2021.
Despite a two-state model long being seen as the solution to the problem of Israeli-Palestinian relations in the former British protectorate of Palestine, it’s time to rethink the viability of the two-state solution. The Oslo Process itself was flawed, as it did not adequately account for the power imbalance favoring Israel, such as creating a noncontiguous Palestinian state that required a connecting land corridor that Israel could easily cut off. But even an alternative process leading to a two-state solution could well prove just as untenable. Instead, there is a need for a bolder approach, one that Israel itself should consider unilaterally adopting: a three- or even four-state solution.