Sunset for the Two-State Solution?

Policy Outlook Carnegie Endowment
The Bush administration is using its final months to try to gain agreement on a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict—but much of the framework supporting such an agreeement has collapsed. The next president will face a series of bleak choices, of which a two-state solution remains the most attractive.

The current U.S. approach to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict actually further undermines the chances for a two-state solution. Rather than pretending that an agreement is possible now, it would be far better if U.S. efforts in the remainder of this calendar year began to address the underlying problems to improve the scenarios for the next administration, urged Middle East expert Nathan J. Brown in a new report.

The next U.S. administration will face a series of bleak choices on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, of which a two-state solution remains the most attractive. But the framework to support a two-state solution has collapsed. A two-state solution will require a more viable and unified Palestinian leadership and less intrusive Israeli security in the West Bank.

To keep a two-state solution alive for the next administration, the Bush administration should:

  • Stop blocking a power sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the best short-term path toward restoring Palestinian leadership.
  • Pursue a realistic cease-fire between Israel and Hamas by supporting Egyptian mediation efforts. 
  • Initiate indirect contact with Hamas through President Abbas—both the costs and benefits of direct engagement with Hamas are greatly exaggerated.
  • Develop Palestinian institutions capable of authoritative decisions, rather than short-sightedly embracing individual leaders.
  • Support Fatah reform—the party’s last hope for new blood and credibility.
  • Back the restoration of democratic rule in Palestine by reviving the terms of Palestine’s Basic Law or interim constitution. 

“The menu that will greet the incoming U.S. administration in January 2009 is short and unappetizing.  The most attractive option—revival of the two-state solution—will require extremely robust efforts indeed. And it will also demand more patience, concerted attention, and tolerance for risk than the United States has shown so far in dealing with the conflict.”

About the Author
Nathan J. Brown is director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a distinguished scholar and author of four well-received books on Arab politics.

End of document

About the Middle East Program

The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.