Since 1993, the American administration has supported the “two-state” solution. For those of us who have forgotten, it was supported both by Republican George W. Bush's administration and by the two Democratic administrations which preceded and succeeded it.
This solution is based on four assumptions. One, the solution to the conflict should be geographically restricted to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Two, the solution requires the establishment of a Palestinian state with full sovereignty. Three, the border between Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines. Four, the West Bank and Gaza must constitute a single diplomatic entity.
These four assumptions create very limited room for negotiations. The Clinton Parameters (Bill’s, not Hillary’s), as they were presented in late 2000, are the practical translation of these assumptions. Anyone who tries in the future to return to negotiations based on these parameters will reach a similar to identical plan.
But who says these assumptions are four cornerstones we cannot do without? If we free ourselves from them and try to look into the entire range of possible solutions, we will find that some of the other solutions have an outstanding advantage over the only known solution.
Among the other solutions, we can talk about a “regional solution” with land swaps between four players—Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine—or about the creation of a federation between Jordan and the West Bank, or about a functional and not necessarily territorial division between us and the Palestinians. And yes, even Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett’s plan to annex C Area and establish Palestinian autonomy in the rest of the area.
We should remember that until 1992, both the Likud and the Labor Party completely ruled out the “two-state” idea. In the past 24 years, a different plan could not even be considered, as three American presidents and six American secretaries of state rushed to declare shortly after taking office that they were committed to the “two-state” solution. US President-elect Donald Trump will likely not make such a declaration, and neither will the person he selects as his secretary of state.
The Israeli government has two options: It can either determine that there is no solution to the conflict and that it should therefore continue “managing” it, or it could launch a dialogue with the new administration which would examine the entire range of possibilities, without being committed to the four aforementioned assumptions.
In the short run, the first approach may have an advantage, as the Trump administration won’t pressure Israel to reach an agreement and will likely be more lenient regarding the settlements.
In the long run, this approach could be revealed as a mistake. First of all, if and when the Palestinian side realizes that there is no diplomatic hope of any kind, it will strengthen both Hamas in the West Bank and other radical elements. From there, the road to a third intifada could be short. Second, and more importantly, the Trump administration could actually be attentive to other and better solutions. If we waste the next four years, we may regret it in the future.
Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland is the former head of Israel's National Security Council.