EWI Speaker Series: Two States, One Land: Is It Possible?

News | November 20, 2014

EWI’s Speaker Series highlights provocative approach to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Watch the full event here:

As part of the New York Center’s EastWest Institute’s Speaker Series, Dr. Mathias Mossberg and Mark LeVine discussed Two States, One Land, on November 20.  In the center’s packed conference room, the editors discussed their new book, a compilation of essays from leading Palestinian and Israeli experts, which  puts forth a parallel state solution to this deep and seemingly intractable conflict. The far-ranging essays discuss the concept of two distinctive states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, sharing and governing over the same land. This solution, according to Mossberg and LeVine, would offer an answer to the failures of previous attempts at a two-state solution at Oslo, for example.

Also speaking on the panel were Hiba Husseini, Managing Partner of the law firm Husseini & Husseini and legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiations team in the Oslo, Stockholm and Camp David peace processes, and Dr. Dror Ze'evi, a visiting scholar and instructor at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, Bosphorus University and on the faculty at Ben Gurion University since 1992 and one of the founders of The Department of Middle East Studies at Ben Gurion University.

“It is incumbent upon us to think of a new solution, because of the long-standing nature of the stalemate.” Ze’evi said.

Mossberg is a retired Swedish ambassador, the president of the Swedish North-African Chamber of Commerce and senior fellow, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden. Mossberg was also a vice president of EWI and responsible for its Middle East Program. LeVine is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, a co-editor a contributing editor for Tikkun and a senior columnist for Al Jazeera. With recognizable members of both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conversation, as well as a number of dialed-in listeners from around the world, the speakers began by explaining what they called the “Parallel States Project.”

“The Parallel States Project is a way to think outside the box.” Mossberg explained. “It is an intellectual provocation to Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Parallel States Project, by proposing the sharing of one land and integrating many areas of both the Israeli and Palestinian state systems, would require widespread cooperation and confidence from both camps. Furthermore, a system of two states sharing one land requires careful consideration of the basic needs of both sides: security, identity and access to land. A two state-one land system would need a high-level of cooperation between both peoples, on a common Israeli-Palestinian security structure, widespread economic integration and the preservation of the national identities of both states.

"Challenges would be enormous, but the proposal would also address many of the biggest issues." Husseini stated.

Another important aspect needed to make this system viable is the concept of separating statehood from land. This radical way of thinking, a negation of our traditional notion of statehood introduced many centuries ago by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, is absolutely integral to the success of any system that attempts to create two distinctive but integrated and cooperative nationalities in one land. Any success of Mossberg and Levine’s idea of a two-state system sharing the same land could set a precedent for avoiding future conflicts around the globe.

“This plan would not only work in Israel-Palestine,” LeVine stated. “Perhaps it could be applied to eastern Ukraine."

In places where previous attempts of a two-state solution have failed, two separate national states sharing the same land offers a challenging but viable solution to the Israel-Palestine question. All speakers emphasized that if there is a genuine will to work and live together, necessitating security and economic cooperation, there can indeed be two distinctive national identities sharing, peacefully, the same land on the same terms.

“If we have provoked leaders to think in a new way, we have succeeded in some way.” Mossberg said.