For Israelis and Palestinians, the two-stage option

(Robin Van Lonkhuijsen / EPA)
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In the coming weeks or months Palestinians will likely put an end to the latest peace talks, just as they did in 2000 and 2008. Israel will of course be blamed; however, the reality will remain the same as it has been for the last 20 years: The so-called two-state solution is far from a solution but rather is a recipe for disaster.

Even if by some miracle Secretary of State John F. Kerry and the U.S. administration are able to push through a historic compromise, it may only aggravate the conflict, creating an extremist and belligerent entity on the hills of Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank) overlooking Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport.

With Israel’s major population centers in close missile range, a new confrontation would be almost inevitable, with dire consequences.


It doesn’t have to be this way. If we admit the failure of the two-state formula, we could slowly and realistically move toward peace and reconciliation.

The time has come to replace the old two-state paradigm with a new and more achievable goal: the two-stage solution. The first stage is ensuring security, stability and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians — what I call peaceful non-reconciliation. The second would be a gradual move toward a final resolution of the conflict, consolidating peace and political rights by bringing Jordan back into the picture and dividing functions, not territory.

Stage one is already under way without the need for lengthy diplomatic deliberations. In game theory terms, a stable equilibrium is already being forged. The status quo as it relates to Israelis and Palestinians is not an ideal situation, nor does it fulfill all the aspirations of either population. But the players on both sides know that they will not benefit from radically changing the current reality, given the existing options.

With some tragic exceptions, security for both Jews and Palestinians prevails. Both economies have been growing at decent rates over the last decade. A modern Palestinian city, Rawabi, is being built north of Ramallah, making it the largest construction project in the area. The Palestinians fly their own flag over their own government buildings. Their uniformed police patrol their streets. In fact, about 95% of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and 100% in the Gaza Strip are governed by their own brethren, not Israel.

In addition, Israel and the international community can and should actively work together with the Palestinians to improve their quality of life.

As long as security is assured, checkpoints and even the entire security barrier can and should be removed. The so-called refugee camps, in which the fifth-generation descendants of the original refugees still live in squalid conditions, can and should be completely rebuilt and modernized.


At the same time, the Palestinians must abandon their policy of hatred, incitement and glorification of terrorism to give a new generation of Israelis hope that peace can be achieved.

Naturally, even an improved status quo in Judea and Samaria would be a temporary situation. However, if supported by the world, it could prevail as long as a final-status agreement remains out of reach.

It may take decades to recover from the last 20 years of negotiations, which raised premature and irresponsible expectations that there can be two separate states between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. However, once this has begun to be achieved, the second stage of the two-stage solution can evolve. It will have to include Jordan.

Situated on what was once the eastern side of British Mandatory Palestine, with a majority of Palestinians among its citizens, Jordan bears a great deal of responsibility for the creation of the current territorial conflict.

Preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, Jordan annexed Judea and Samaria after taking the area in the 1948 Israeli war of independence.

Then, in 1967, Jordan joined forces with Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Palestine Liberation Organization in an attempt to annihilate Israel. Israel prevailed, liberating Judea and Samaria, but Jordan continued to assert some responsibility over the Palestinians living there, despite the area being under Israeli control. Those Palestinians were given Jordanian citizenship until 1988, when Jordan conveniently relinquished its legal and administrative connection to Judea and Samaria, thereby reframing the conflict as one exclusively between the PLO and Israel.


The strategic hills of Judea and Samaria are the ancient Jewish heartland and the cradle of Jewish civilization; therefore, no other nation state but Israel can exist west of the Jordan River. This doesn’t mean the process of self-rule of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria should regress; it should advance.

For instance, in what may well be a new and unique political model, Jordan could take full responsibility for residents of the Palestinian Authority, effectively replacing it with a Jordanian “functional exclave” while Israel has overall sovereignty. Israel would continue to be responsible for the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who would reside in their own communities. Amman would be the site of the Palestinians’ government, and they would receive full political rights as Jordanian citizens, able to elect and be elected to the highest positions of government. Gazans would have to decide if they wish to join or remain isolated.

In the rapidly changing Middle East, there are no quick-fix solutions. A new, gradual approach is needed that takes into account the Palestinian choice of war over compromise in 1947, 1967 and 2000. Israeli President Shimon Peres used to advocate for the “Jordanian option” and a functional compromise for Judea and Samaria, but he abandoned the idea for the sake of the Oslo accords. With the 20 years of hindsight, maybe the younger Peres was right.

Dani Dayan is the former chairman and now the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, which represents the settler movement.