The Palestinian-Israeli Confederation: An option worth considering

We present a summary of the ideas that we think are worthy of thought and discussion, which were discussed in a study by the Palestinian researcher Omar Rahman. Furthermore, the Centre will publish all the writings and research that shed light on the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli confederation as our contribution to enriching the dialogue on ways to get out of the current impasse.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entering a new stage. A viable diplomatic process for resolving “final-status” issues has been non-existent for several years. The usual renditions about a two-state solution are outworn and the predicament on the ground for Palestinians is becoming more strenuous. The Palestinian national movement is feeble and fractured, leaving it ill-equipped to face down persistent challenges and unable to exert leverage in pursuit of its goals. Israel is rapidly consolidating decades of illegal settlement activity through legislative and institutional means, positioning itself to formally incorporate vast swathes of the West Bank into the state through de jure annexation.

This has come at the direct expense of establishing an independent Palestinian state and leaves scores of Palestinians stranded under Israeli sovereignty without political rights or a horizon for achieving them in the future.

Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Therefore, it is clear that the historically discussed classical solutions can no longer be applied, and it is perhaps time to consider alternative options, like the confederal model.

A Confederation has the potential to serve as a workable and mutually appealing model of governance that liberates Palestinians from the current reality of unfrogiving oppression, halts further settler colonialism, preserves self- determination and national expression for both sides.

Recent research has thus provided suggestions and an indication into what such an arrangement would look like. Broadly, a confederal solution for Israel-Palestine is justified by three fundamental concepts:
1. Both peoples have the right to national self-determination, which can be fulfilled through statehood.
2. The two sides are too intermingled and interdependent to separate neatly into distinct, ethnically homogeneous states. Undergoing a process of homogenization would require highly unethical and destructive methods, such as forced population transfer, which negatively outweigh the presumed value of partition.
3. Both peoples have needs, aspirations, and rights tied to the entirety of Israel Palestine. A paradigm that successfully applies concepts of shared sovereignty can mitigate the zero-sum challenges that stem from rival claims.

Government and Foreign Relations:

Each state would run its own domestic affairs, including legal affairs, education policy, healthcare, social security, agriculture and rural development, sports, policing, and taxes, as well as maintaining its own national symbols and socio-cultural and religious institutions.
Both sides would have a fairly comprehensive set of domestic institutions, including parliamentary, executive, and judicial branches. Limited powers would be ceded to joint institutions with the authority to manage agreed upon issues for the mutual benefit of all.

A Palestinian state would need to exist within a sizable and contiguous territory that could reasonably accommodate its current and future population, as well as provide economic opportunities well into the future.

Citizenship and Borders:

While each state should maintain ultimate sovereignty over its territory and borders, both states should agree to allow freedom of movement between them, enabling Israel-Palestine to remain intact as a single geographical unit.

This principle would be enhanced by a system of permanent residency, which would allow citizens of both states to live, study, and work in either without needing citizenship or special permits.58 In essence,
political and voting rights would be decoupled from economic, social, residential, and property rights.

Demographics: Refugees and Settlers:

Using the system of permanent residency, Palestinian refugees would be given Palestinian citizenship and a choice of whether to become residents of Palestine or Israel, or to receive compensation and settle elsewhere.Regional states that harbor Palestinian refugees, like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, could also participate in this framework by offering their refugee populations permanent residency.

A mechanism can be put in place to compensate Palestinians for land that was expropriated, particularly private property, while other land ownership issues can be negotiated. Because settlements would become municipalities of the State of Palestine, the violation to international law that the settlements constituted would not be validated, but the underlying obstacle to conflict resolution would be reduced. Settlements would cease to be Jewish-only communities. Their infrastructure would be available for public use. But unlike in a traditional two-state arrangement, where the border simply moves, settlers would not be required to become Palestinian citizens. They would remain Israelis with resident rights in Palestine equal to Palestinian citizens living in Israel.


Since 1967, the entirety of Jerusalem has been under Israeli administrative control. Although in 1980 Israel’s Knesset passed a Basic Law declaring a united Jerusalem its capital, only a handful of states recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city. At the same time, Palestinian non-citizens comprise roughly 40 percent of Jerusalem’s population, in spite of decades of Israeli policies aimed at altering the demographic balance through settlement construction, aggressive discrimination, and displacement.

In a confederal arrangement, Jerusalem would be the capital of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, as well as the seat of the supranational confederal government. The Jerusalem municipality would be a jointly administered region of the confederal state, with an elected municipal council and local district councils.

Both states would have nominal sovereignty over the city, sharing it like property owned within a marriage, while administration of government services would be devolved to the municipal authorities.
A similar example is Brussels – which is a separately administered region within Belgium that serves as the capital of the federal government, of the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, and of the French-speaking region of Wallonia.


The confederal model attempts to resolve an underlying dilemma between Israeli security and Palestinian sovereignty. At present, Israel is unwilling to give up its security control and entrust aspects of its future security to an independent Palestinian state, which it sees as either inevitably hostile, or weak and unstable. Palestine, on the other hand, is unwilling to concede core dimensions of its territorial sovereignty to Israel, which it views as inherently hostile, aggressive, and exploitative.

Palestine would be responsible for its internal security, but joint operation centers would be established, including joint task forces for counterterrorism purposes. Palestine would have its own seaport in Gaza, either on land or offshore, as well as its own airport in the Jordan Valley, with arrangements in place with Israel and third parties to monitor and help develop capacity.

Israel would not have to entrust its security to an independent Palestinian state, because Israel would be working with that state on a constant basis in the relevant areas. Any sphere under the sovereign jurisdiction of the individual state would be so for both sides; and any sphere under joint sovereignty would also be for both sides.

For access to further information and greater detail, the PDF link to Omar Rahman’s research as well as further work on the topic are provided below:

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