[The following report was released by European Council on Foreign Relations on 12 December 2013.]
Today ECFR is launching the “Two State-Stress Test” (TSST) – a new online tool that provides a comprehensive assessment of the key issues that would make or break a two-state outcome between Israel and Palestine. The TSST is based on an innovative methodology that allows policy makers to assess the progress towards and the regression away from the goal of a two-state solution.
The main findings of the 2013 TSST show a lead sustainer of the two state option and several strainers:
- Diplomacy On the one hand, US-led diplomatic efforts were again on display this past weekend when Obama and Kerry addressed a US-Israel forum in Washington. This came after last week’s visit by Kerry to Israel Palestine, the seventh since he was appointed. The Two State Stress Test indicates that a lessening of this intensity would leave the prospects for the two-state solution even more fragile.
On the other hand, the largest strain on prospects for the two-state solution come from two main issues:
- Settlements: The territorial issue and particularly the continued expansion of Israeli settlements both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem –at a conspicuously faster pace since peace talks have resumed.
- Political debate in Israel: The dynamics of the Israeli political and public debate which combines little public confidence in the talks, cabinet and ruling coalition members openly opposing two states and advocating different variations on annexation of the West Bank, and tepid popular support for commonly agreed parameters for a two-state solution.
The findings are grouped into seven categories: the main traditional dossiers for negotiations (East Jerusalem, territory/borders, security and refugees) along with a measurement of the degree of diplomatic activity, and a survey of the political and public debate on both sides.
The TSST Factsheet
Categories are scored from 0 (maximum sustain for the two-state solution) to 5 (maximum strain for the two-state solution).
Territory: score – 4
The number of settlers in the West Bank grows at a higher speed than natural population growth in Israel. The first six months of 2013 saw a 70 percent increase in new construction starts in settlements of the West Bank compared to the same period in 2012. No permanent checkpoints have been dismantled while flying checkpoints have been established at a higher rate than in 2012.
Jerusalem: score - 3
Despite occasional claims of an undeclared settlement freeze in East Jerusalem, the Israeli government issued tenders for 1,618 housing units in the settlements of East Jerusalem, when talks were underway. Demolitions and evictions of Palestinians are on the rise from 2012.
Diplomacy: score - 2
Since Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank in March 2013, the US has entered a period of intense engagement while the EU’s decision to issue guidelines excluding settlements from EU projects along with increasing talk of labelling settlement products, and the consequent alarm this has provoked amongst Israelis, represent a potentially significant milestone in attempts to alter Israel’s cost/benefit calculations towards the occupation – although the extent to which the EU will apply its leverage remains unclear.
Security: score 3
Palestinian violence was limited during the first half of 2013, almost reaching the level of security enjoyed by Israel in 2012, when no Israelis died in the West Bank. The second half, however, saw an up-tick in “lone-wolf” attacks. Palestinian factions have fired a total of 87 projectiles towards Israel from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. This represents 3.42 percent of those fired in 2012. Israeli state violence has also remained limited and, despite occasional flare-ups in Gaza, the November 2012 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has largely held.
Refugees: score 3
Almost all Palestinians polled (92 percent) think that at least an acknowledgement in principle of the right to return is needed in order to make a peace deal “tolerable”, while a majority is ready to compromise on the implementation of the right of return. Only 15.3 percent of Jewish Israelis polled support a limited return for Palestinian refugees and only 23.9 percent agree that Israel should accept partial historical responsibility for the suffering of Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinian debate: score 3
The Palestinian debate: 55 percent of Palestinians from the OPTs said in March 2013 that they supported a two-state solution but only 11 percent of Palestinians from the OPTs said that the current talks will lead to an agreement in one year, 19 percent predicted that this would happen in five years, and 22 percent said that an agreement is inevitable but that it would take more than five years; 47 percent, meanwhile, said that they did not believe that a peace agreement would ever be reached.
The Israeli debate: score 4
In 2013, 62 percent of Israelis supported the two-state solution but only 28.8 percent think that a two-state solution can be achieved through negotiations; 51 percent of Israelis think that it is absolutely impossible to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians; and 68 percent said that this would be impossible to achieve in the next five years.