Opinion | Want Israeli-Palestinian Peace? Try Confederation

Sam Bahour
7 min readFeb 12, 2021

Politicians and experts should not doubt a two-state solution. But they should finally consider a plausible version of it.

Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour

Mr. Avishai, an American-Israeli professor and writer for magazines, lives in Jerusalem. Mr. Bahour is an American-Palestinian who lives in Ramallah in the West Bank and is a management consultant. They have proposed a confederation to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for years.

A Palestinian demonstrator at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit… Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images, via LightRocket, via Getty Images

Donald Trump has left the Biden administration myriad international crises, and nowhere more obviously than in Israel and the Palestine Authority.

Mr. Trump dismantled relations with the Palestinian side and greenlighted an extremist Israeli government to act as it pleased, ratifying Israel’s exclusive claim to Jerusalem and its continuing settlement project. The normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whatever their other features, were presented as a way to pre-empt legal recognition of Israeli annexation of territory where Palestinians live outside Jerusalem.

As if to mock a President Biden administration, in November, Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet opened bids for the construction of 1,257 units in Arab East Jerusalem, and the United Nations has reported that settler violence spiked last spring, during the early days of the pandemic. A poll last year of Palestinians conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research shows a rise in support for armed struggle.

Given how explosive the situation has become, Mr. Biden’s vague reaffirmation of the two-state solution in November seemed a relief — enough to prompt the Palestinians’ president, Mahmoud Abbas, to renew economic and security cooperation with Israel after six months of boycott. The acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Mills, told the Security Council recently, in familiar language, that both sides must avoid “unilateral actions” making that solution more difficult.

But tensions will not be dissipated by an American president halfheartedly chasing the past. The Oslo peace process, begun in 1993, proposed two states separated by a hard border, which President Biden and inertia would seem to argue for. Yet…