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What are the “two-state solution” and the “one-state solution”?

These are the two broad ways the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might end.

Thousands of Muslims gathered and held a rally in the National Monument yard, near the US Embassy Jakarta, on May 11, 2018. They condemned the removal of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Aditya Irawan/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Editor’s note, November 9, 2023: This story has been updated to reflect details of the current Israel-Hamas war. For all of Vox’s latest coverage on Israel and Palestine, see our storystream.

The “two-state solution” would create an independent Israel and Palestine, and is the mainstream approach to resolving the conflict. The idea is that Israelis and Palestinians both want to have their countries; Israelis want a Jewish state, and Palestinians want a Palestinian one. Because neither side can get what it wants in a binational state, the only possible solution that satisfies everyone involves separating Palestinians and Israelis.

The “one-state solution” would merge Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big country. It comes in two versions. One, favored by some leftists and Palestinians, would create a single democratic country. Arab Muslims would outnumber Jews, thus ending Israel as a Jewish state. The other version, favored by many on the Israeli right, would involve Israel annexing the West Bank and either forcing out Palestinians or denying them the right to vote. Virtually the entire world, including most Israelis, rejects this option as an unacceptable human rights violation.

But belief in the possibility of a two-state solution has dropped significantly, which seems to have let to a decline in public support. In one survey, published in January 2023, only 34 percent of Israeli Jews and 33 percent of Palestinians supported a two-state solution — which the authors note was “linked to low perceived feasibility.”

The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to come to terms on two states has led to a recent surge in interest in a one-state solution, partly out of a sense of hopelessness and partly out of fear that if the sides cannot negotiate a two-state solution, a de facto one-state outcome will be inevitable. But each version of the one-state solution is unacceptable to one side or the other, and it is difficult to see how one could be implemented in the foreseeable future without significant violence.

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