The Palestine Papers
PA negotiators are increasingly proposing an idea that’s met with derision from
Israelis, sharp criticism from the US.
David Poort Last Modified: 26 Jan 2011 19:42 GMT
Erekat raised the one-state option during several 2009 meetings with US envoy George
Mitchell [EPA] Palestinian negotiators are more frequently threatening to abandon the
goal of a two-state solution in their conflict with Israel and are pushing for a one-state
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is very well aware that a one-state solution constitutes a
threat to Israel, and has used the threat during half a dozen meetings documented in The
The two-state solution remains the conceptual basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
However, as it has failed to accomplish a final agreement, Palestinian interest in a one-state
solution has seemingly grown.
The one-state solution is generally presented as a nightmare scenario for Israel. The likeli-
hood that Palestinians might one day constitute an electoral majority in a bi-national state
which is seen as inevitable – is viewed by many Israeli Jews as a threat to the ‘Jewish character’
of the country.
Quoted in a post-Annapolis interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz in November 2007,
Ehud Olmert, the then-prime minister, warned of the implications of a one-state solution.
The Palestine Papers reveal that from the run up to the Annapolis talks in 2007 onwards,
the PA has increasingly used the one-state solution ‘threat’ during negotiations with Israeli
and American officials.
In an April 2008 meeting between Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, and Ahmed
Qurei, the former PA prime minister, Israel proposed land-swaps that, according to the
Palestinians, did not abide by the 1967 borders. When met with the one-state solution threat,
Livni was quick to change her tone:
Round after round of failed peace talks and a simultaneous increase in illegal Jewish
settlements have left the Palestinians desperate for an alternative solution. The one-state
approach has therefore evolved from a mere threat to a serious option for many Palestinians.
At the end of 2009, an internal Palestinian memo urged the PA to develop the one-state option
as a “credible alternative to the traditional two-state solution”.
On October 2, 2009, during a meeting at the State Department with George Mitchell, the
US Middle East envoy, a clearly frustrated Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring
to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement,
should settlement construction continue in the West Bank. The US, a long-time ally of Israel,
urged the Palestinians to continue direct negotiations with Israel despite the continued
Erekat’s meeting with Robert Serry, the UN special envoy to the PA, on October 13, 2009,
was a clear indicator of the frustration within the Palestinian leadership:
Within the same month, on October 21, Erekat repeated his threat to Mitchell to opt for
the one-state solution if Israel continued to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
Mitchell responded by warning Erekat that a push for a bi-national state would cause
the US government to abandon its role as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinian
Despite both peoples’ majority preference for separation – an Israeli state, and a
contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – support for the one-state option
is seen to be on the rise.
A poll released in April 2010 by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, for
example, found 34 per cent support for a bi-national state, up from 21 per cent in June
2009. An October 2010 pollf from the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research
found 27 per cent support for a one-state option, up from 23 per cent in May 2009.
In 2003, Muammar Qadafi wasone of the first Arab leaders to publicly endorse a one-state
solution, which he named ‘Isratine’ [a combination of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’].
Qadafi argued that a two-state option would create unacceptable security hazards for
Israel on the one hand, and would do little to address the issue of the Palestinian refugees
on the other.
The ‘Isratine’ proposal may have seemed far-fetched at the time; however, with the recent
Israeli announcements of yet more illegal settlement construction in the West Bank, and
given the current status of the so-called peace process, Qadafi’s vision of a single state for
Palestinians and Israelis seems ever the more imminent.