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One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States

One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States

by Mark LeVine (Editor), Mathias Mossberg (Editor), Jens Bartelson (Contribution by), Peter Wallensteen (Contribution by), Nimrod Hurvitz (Contribution by)

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One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. “If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable,” the book asks, “can the land be shared in some other way?”



One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. “If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable,” the book asks, “can the land be shared in some other way?”

Leading Palestinian and Israeli experts along with international diplomats and scholars answer this timely question by examining a scenario with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, allowing for shared rather than competing claims of sovereignty. Such a political architecture would radically transform the nature and stakes of the Israel-Palestine conflict, open up for Israelis to remain in the West Bank and maintain their security position, enable Palestinians to settle in all of historic Palestine, and transform Jerusalem into a capital for both of full equality and independence—all without disturbing the demographic balance of each state. Exploring themes of security, resistance, diaspora, globalism, and religion, as well as forms of political and economic power that are not dependent on claims of exclusive territorial sovereignty, this pioneering book offers new ideas for the resolution of conflicts worldwide.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
UC-Irvine historian LeVine (Heavy Metal Islam) and Mossberg (Sweden’s embassador to Morocco, 1994–1996) assemble distinguished scholars, diplomats, senior government officials, and international lawyers to lend support to a creative solution to the Israel-Palestine peace process: “establishing one Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine, which would exist simultaneously and on the same land with an Israeli state on all of Eretz Yisrael.” Not least because nothing else has worked, “the idea of resolving the... conflict through a Parallel States structure is new, logically attractive, and without an exact precedent.” In brief chapters, mostly academic in tone, the contributors discuss the potential modes of operation of a dual-sovereignty country, including the implications of a shared economy, establishing a judicial system, and the types of security guarantees that could induce the Israelis to accept such an arrangement. Lund University political scientist Jens Bartelson notes that the idea of national sovereignty has not kept pace with the changing nature of global conflict, and that wars increasingly concern “whether the conflict in question is international or domestic in nature.” Meanwhile, LeVine and UC-Irvine doctoral candidate Liam O’Mara IV argue that religion in the parallel states could go from being a driver of conflict to a unifying force. The essays are necessarily short on specifics, but the idea merits further exploration. Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Agency. (July)
Booklist - Jay Freeman

"In an effort to circumvent a seemingly bleak future, a group of Israeli and Palestinian scholars is proposing and examining an interesting and provocative paradigm shift . . . these essayists provide some interesting and refreshing ideas."
Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

"It is evident that the editors put considerable thought into seeking a fine balance between Israeli and Palestinian scholars—and this is done quite artfully."
Al-Monitor - Arad Nir

"A perceptual and cognitive turnaround aimed at formulating a solution to the situation. And it may well be that this is precisely what it takes to get out of the impasse the diplomatic process has reached."
Agence Global - Rami G. Khouri

"A provocative and daring new approach to peacefully meeting the national rights of Israelis and Palestinians."
afkar/ideas - Joan Català Margarit

"Throughout the book, Levine, and Mossberg investigate every aspect of of the idea of "Parallel States." They analyze a new coexistence of Israel and Palestine at all levels: economic, religious, judicial; and how it would prevent the emergence of tensions between the communities."
Intellectual Discourse - Muhammad Yaseen Gada

"[One land, two states] stimulates new thinking towards resolving the Israel- Palestine conflict."
Contemporary Jewry

"One Land, Two States performs a valuable service in presenting a different framework for discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . . . the questions it raises are provocative and worthy of further thought and discussion."
Kirkus Reviews
A coterie of bold, open-minded international academics offers a fresh paradigm for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.The free movement of people and goods over one shared area, while governed by one Israeli state structure and one Palestinian, offering common economic and security policy, and equal (if separate or harmonized) political, legal and civil benefits for all? Proponents of the Parallel States Project, organized by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Sweden's Lund University, reached out to Israeli, American and Palestinian academics for some thoughtful ways of breaking out of the countless failed models for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. A two-state solution is considered dead in the water, according to Alvaro de Soto (former UN special envoy), while the apartheid structure of Israeli occupation is not feasible. Neither side is willing to give up its territory or sovereignty—but what is "sovereignty," Jens Bartelson (Lund Univ.) asks in an excellent historical overview, but an outmoded notion of the modern nation-state that has eroded since the pressures of globalization? Indeed, many of the contributors look to the once-utopian structure of the European Union as an effective new way of "dovetailing the sovereignty claims of individual states within an institutional framework." What would this parallel sovereignty with integrated resources look like? Peter Wallensteen (Uppsala Univ.) lays out a graduated concrete plan starting in 2017, delineating everything from the safeguarding of human rights to taxation and property rights. Crucial concerns of security are hashed out in two separate essays, one from the Israeli side (Nimrod Hurvitz and Dror Zeevi) and one from the Palestinian (Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi), though the general consensus seems to be that by mixing the populations, hostility and terrorism are eliminated, encouraging other Arab countries to ease their animus of Israel. Also important: empowering the Palestinian economy and allowing refugees right of return.A visionary approach so daring that it could actually work.

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University of California Press
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Read an Excerpt

One Land, Two States

Israel and Palestine as Parallel States

By Mark LeVine, Mathias Mossberg


Copyright © 2014 Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95840-1


One Land—Two States?

An Introduction to the Parallel States Concept


The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has now raged for the better part of a century. Israel was established as a state in 1948, but the origins of the conflict go back much further, at least to the first days of the Zionist movement. Some say the conflict was born more than three thousand years ago, when Moses espied the green strip of Jericho from Mount Nebo, on the other side of the Jordan River; or earlier still, when Abraham first passed through the land of Canaan and rested in Shechem, close to today's Nablus.

From the biblical period through the present day the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River has been the site of innumerable conflicts over territory and the identities that have taken shape within it. As we go to press, prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians remain bleak despite yet another wave of U.S.-brokered diplomatic activity, primarily because a territorial division acceptable to both sides is not in sight. Israel continues to strengthen its presence across the West Bank, while remaining in control over many aspects of life in Gaza. Among increasing numbers of both Palestinians and Israelis the view is gaining ground that the time has run out for a traditional two-state solution—that is, a division of historic Palestine/Eretz Yisrael into two territorially distinct states.

If a two-state solution seems increasingly remote, a one-state solution remains unacceptable to the vast majority of Israelis for political and cultural as well as demographic reasons. A significant percentage of Palestinians is similarly not ready to give up the long-sought-after dream of a sovereign Palestinian state. Facts on the ground have led to loss of hope, and the belief is widespread that the two-state solution is dead. There is a growing debate about alternatives, and this book is a contribution to that debate.

The fundamental question that this book poses is whether it is possible to envisage a new kind of two-state structure that could meet some of the basic demands and desires from both sides. Could a concept with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory, with one answering to Palestinians and one to Israelis regardless of where they live, be envisaged? Could such a concept contribute to unlocking positions on key issues and thus opening up a way forward?

The contributors to this volume explore different aspects of this vision of a Parallel States structure, one Israeli state and one Palestinian, both states covering 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.

This vision of two states on the same land is, of course, only a vision. It may be that it is far too remote from present realities ever to be implemented or seriously contemplated as such. But considering the present lack of movement and of ways out of the present deadlock and even of ideas, more imaginative scenarios may have to be reflected upon. It cannot be excluded that such a discussion might reveal elements of solutions not previously considered, and thus indicate other ways forward.

The international situation is constantly changing, not least in the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings have created a completely new situation across the region. Old truths are being questioned and new thoughts introduced, while long-stable balances of power, alignments of forces, and strategic principles and concepts have been challenged and even upended.

Today, neither sovereignty nor the role of the nation-state is what it was even a generation ago. Despite the ongoing political and ideological salience of the nation-state, in practice national sovereignty is now divided and circumscribed in unprecedented ways, while control of territory has lost its power to determine the shape, path, and speed of development or the broader well-being of peoples.

Developments in international law; the growth and proliferation of international institutions; and economic, technological, and political globalization have all contributed to creating more porous borders between states, as well as limiting a state's capacity to exercise indiscriminate power. The concept of power itself is gradually gaining both new content and new dimensions. The scope of military power is increasingly challenged and complemented by economic, technological, and political power, as well as the power of information. Economic and political power no longer flow mainly from control of land.

But the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is like few others, stubbornly focused on control of land. Developments on the ground have in many ways gone too far to permit a workable territorial division of Palestinians and Israelis into distinct political entities. Physical and political obstacles continue to grow. Politically, the Israeli electorate is increasingly skeptical, not to say hostile, to a deal with the Palestinians built upon the principle of dividing the land (Pedazhur 2012). The thirst of the Israeli right to settle more and more land remains unquenched. Physically, the web of Israeli roads and settlements on the West Bank is forming a geological sediment on top of the existing Palestinian society, and politically the Israeli "matrix of control" is slowly making substantial and sustainable development impossible for the Palestinians (Halper 2008). In Gaza, economic and social conditions remain miserable, while the recently celebrated economic growth in the West Bank has been limited to a few cities and is not built on a stable political framework or an autonomous economic foundation. The Palestinian Authority's attempt to build a state under occupation has all but failed. Palestinians and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel, despite their citizenship, continue to suffer discrimination in various ways.

Israel continues to control almost all the territory of what was once the Mandate for Palestine, and has so far not been willing to part with what Palestinians regard as the minimum necessary to enable the creation of a territorially viable Palestinian state. Demographic developments are making Palestinians a majority in the whole area of pre-1948 Palestine (Eldar 2012). A situation with a minority controlling more than 80 percent of the territory and suppressing the majority of the population is not sustainable.

The so-called peace process has brought neither peace nor process. That is, not only has it failed to provide peace, but its continued existence is also owed to the necessity of maintaining the "process" at the expense of a peace whose contours and implications none of the interested parties would likely accept (LeVine 2009: 180f.). The failed Palestinian attempt in 2011 to gain recognition at the United Nations has been characterized as the final burial. The new UN vote in 2012 to grant Palestine nonmember state status was an important Palestinian psychological and political victory, but it changes little in reality.

The present paradigm of dividing the land geographically has not worked, in spite of thirty years of continual efforts, numerous plans, and endless talks—or talks about talks—involving the two parties, the United States, the European Union, and large parts of the international community (Tyler 2012). And there are solid reasons why it is not working: physically there is not much left to divide, and politically the necessary political will has not been mobilized.

Put simply, a two-state solution seems no longer in the cards. A one-state solution most likely never was. In the view of the authors of this volume, it is time for a rethink. If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable, can the land be shared in some other way? Is it possible to imagine another way that can provide an opening out of the present deadlock?

It is into this situation that we introduce the concept of parallel states. Can one design a scenario with a new type of two-state solution: one Israeli state structure and one Palestinian state structure, in parallel, each covering the whole area, and with equal but separate political and civil rights for all? Such a scenario would mean decoupling the exclusive link between state and territory, and replacing it with a link between the state and the individual, regardless of where he or she lives. Two state structures, parallel to or "superimposed" upon each other, would thus cover the whole area of Mandatory Palestine.

The question of who should belong to which state could be addressed either by nationality or by choice or by some combination of both. Thus people in the whole area could be able to choose freely to which state they would belong, and at the same time have the right—at least in principle—to settle where they liked within the whole territory. Citizenship could then be the result of an individual's free choice or nationality, and would follow the citizen throughout the territory.

Such an arrangement would likely lead, on the one hand, to a mainly Jewish-Israeli area consisting of the bulk of present-day Israel and a number of the larger Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But this area should also be open for Palestinians wishing to live there, initially perhaps in limited numbers, until the structure won general acceptance and confidence from both sides. Israelis living in this area would be under Israeli jurisdiction, but individuals living there could also be free to choose to belong to the Palestinian state, and thus to be under Palestinian jurisdiction.

In the same way, one could imagine a Palestinian area consisting of the West Bank and Gaza, and maybe parts of the areas in Israel where Palestinians now predominate. Such an area would, however, in the same way be open for Jews-Israelis—and others—who wished to live there, perhaps with corresponding numerical limitations initially. These Jews-Israelis would be under Israeli jurisdiction and belong to the Israeli state, despite living in Palestinian-predominant areas. Dual citizenship could be an option in some cases, while differing levels of political rights could be elaborated, allowing Palestinians or Jews to participate in local or regional governance while maintaining national ties to their own state.

The application of such a structure to present geographic and demographic realities might have to be complemented with the notion of separate "heartlands": areas where present separation patterns remain and continue to be legally protected. These should be more limited areas around the major economic and security concentrations, such as Tel Aviv and Ramallah (see map 1.1).

Thus, two parallel state structures could cover the whole area, with separate heartlands but with soft and porous borders between them. Israelis and Palestinians could each claim their own state with its own special character and identity, but they would complement each other and not be mutually exclusive.

In such a structure, both states would keep their own national symbols and their own government and parliament, as well as maintaining distinct foreign policy and foreign representation. They could choose to join in a defense union, an economic union, or a customs union, or any combination of these, with one currency, one labor market, and joint external border management. Elements of this can, to some extent and in practical terms, be said to be in place today, even if one-sidedly and with strong forces pulling in different directions.

Of course, there would have to be joint, integrated, or in any case harmonized legislation in a number of areas, including areas like communications, road traffic, police, and taxation. In other areas, such as civil law and family matters, jurisdiction in many parts of the world has already followed religion rather than territory for hundreds of years, and such areas would thus not necessarily present a major problem, although admittedly parallel legal systems by definition involve complications.

The Parallel States framework would be an innovation in international politics, in international law, and in basic constitutional matters. The scenario would differ from both a federal and a binational system but would have elements of both.

Before outlining in more detail how such a scenario could be imagined, we need to take a look at some basic elements of the conflict, and also at recent developments in the understanding of sovereignty and what they mean in the present-day world.


The contemporary conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is generally regarded as territorial at its core, with the key issues said to include land and borders, Jerusalem, settlements, and refugees. Yet defining the conflict in these terms has not yielded meaningful progress toward a peaceful resolution. A longer and deeper perspective is inevitable. The search for an end to the conflict must go back to its beginning (Agha and Malley 2009).

Basic fears, concerns, and aspirations of the two sides have to be addressed. Exploring these is likely to highlight different perspectives and concerns from Israelis and Palestinians, but also to reveal some fundamental elements common to both.

For Israelis, security is a sine qua non, and an existential issue. The quest for security was the basis for the establishment of the state of Israel, and the Jewish state satisfies the fundamental Jewish-Israeli need for Jews to be in charge of their own destiny, to have a place on earth secure from persecution, and to protect their own identity (see, e.g., Strömbom 2010). Closely linked to the Jewish identity is the Jewish people's specific attachment to the Holy Land.

For Palestinians, the defining issue is not security as such but the loss of land—in itself a key security issue—linked to existential fears of an ultimate loss of identity. Palestinians feel a physical threat wherever they are, be it in Israel, the Occupied Territory, in camps, in neighboring states, or in the diaspora. Palestinians also have a need for dignity, equality, and justice—focused in particular on the issue of return and on a full recognition of the right to return.

In contrast to Israelis, many Palestinians early on did not in the same way consider statehood a primary objective, even if this appeared to be the case for several decades, particularly for the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (see, e.g., Khalidi 1997: 19ff.). Palestinian nationalism and the drive for a nation-state found institutional expression in the PLO in the late 1960s. As the peace process has waned, the notion of statehood has been receding for many Palestinians. They wish to get rid of Israeli occupation, but not necessarily to divide the land. Ending the occupation and implementing justice remain central, along with an abiding attachment to the land (Karmi et al. 2011; Klein 2010).


Excerpted from One Land, Two States by Mark LeVine, Mathias Mossberg. Copyright © 2014 Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark LeVine is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, a contributing editor for Tikkun, and a senior columnist for Al Jazeera. He is the author of Overthrowing Geography and the coeditor of Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel (both from UC Press).

Mathias Mossberg is a retired Swedish ambassador with extensive personal experience from the peace process and related track-two diplomacy as well as from mediation efforts in other conflicts. He is Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden.

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