Report - Foreign Policy Association

Israel and Palestine: Two States for Two Peoples—If Not Now, When?

  • Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace
| March 2010


The members of the Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace are Alan Berger, Harvey Cox, Herbert C. Kelman, Lenore G. Martin, Everett Mendelsohn, Augustus Richard Norton, Henry Steiner, and Stephen M. Walt.

Policy Statement of the Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace

A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of compelling interest to the United States. It offers the only realistic prospect for lasting peace and attainable justice for Israelis and Palestinians. It offers clear and substantial benefits to Americans, Palestinians and Israelis, as well as to most of the other states in the region.

  • For Americans, a two-state solution would eliminate one of the grievances that feeds radical extremism throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. It would fulfill pledges that U.S. President Barack Obama made during his historic June 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, and it would enhance the U.S. position throughout the region and around the globe. An end to the conflict would also help fulfill America's long-standing commitment to Israel's survival and its commitment to Palestinian self-determination.

  • For Palestinians, obtaining their own state means an end to more than four decades of occupation, acknowledgment of their past suffering, the fulfillment of their national aspirations and an opportunity to shape their own destiny at last.

  • For Israelis, a two-state solution ends the demographic challenge to Israel's character as a Jewish-majority state, removes the stigma of being an occupying power, enables a lasting peace with the entire Arab world and eliminates a critical barrier to full international acceptance.

The benefits of a two-state solution are incontestable, and genuine progress must be achieved quickly. Continuing the status quo—fruitless negotiations, Palestinian divisions and the steady expansion of Israeli settlements—may soon make it impossible to create two states for two peoples. The result would be the latest in a long line of tragedies: extremists on both sides would be vindicated; America's image would suffer, complicating foreign policy in a crucial region; Israel would cease to be a democratic and Jewish-majority state and be condemned as an apartheid society; and the Palestinians would continue to suffer in poverty and powerlessness.

Therefore, achievement of a two-state solution should be a top foreign-policy priority for the United States. Although many observers look at past failures and despair of future progress, there is now widespread recognition that a two-state solution is the only outcome consistent with the principles of attainable justice.

Accordingly, this policy statement makes the case for strong U.S. action to bring about a two-state solution sooner rather than later. Part I describes the basic elements of a two-state solution. Part II considers the possible alternatives and shows why they are unacceptable. Part III examines the political context of negotiations and summarizes the current positions of Palestinians, Israelis and Americans. Part IV outlines why achieving two states for two peoples is vital to U.S. foreign policy and security, and the Conclusion explains why the Obama Administration must use its full influence on both parties to bring about a fair and final settlement.

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For Academic Citation: Boston Study Group on Middle East Peace. “Israel and Palestine: Two States for Two Peoples—If Not Now, When?.” Foreign Policy Association, March 2010.

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