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Research Questions

  1. Are any of five proposed alternative futures in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians?
  2. If not, what types of modifications to these proposals would need to be made to make them viable?
  3. What types of action can the international community take, if any, to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict?

For decades, the two-state solution has dominated efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Growing doubts about the viability of the two-state solution raise the question of which, if any, possible alternatives could succeed, if appropriately supported by the international community.

RAND researchers conducted 33 focus groups in the region to gather qualitative and quantitative data on the viability of five alternatives: the status quo, the two-state solution, a confederation, annexation, and a one-state solution. The focus groups, conducted in July 2018 and May 2019, collected detailed opinions of more than 270 individuals, including West Bank Palestinians, Gazan Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and Israeli Arabs. These data provide a novel means of investigating whether there are any areas of overlap between Palestinians and Israelis that might form the basis for renewed dialogue.

None of the alternatives was acceptable to a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians. The two-state solution was the most politically viable alternative, although all four populations voiced skepticism toward it. The status quo was preferred by Israeli Jews but strongly disliked by Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians' preferred alternative was the two-state solution, while Gazans ranked a one-state solution slightly above the two-state solution. The data highlight the deep distrust and profound animosity of each side for the other. It is hard to imagine a departure from present trends and where they might lead unless and until strong, courageous leadership among Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community articulates a desire for a better future for all.

Key Findings

  • None of the alternatives was acceptable to a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians. For Israeli Jews, the only alternative rated "acceptable" by a majority of participants was the status quo. For the other three populations—Israeli Arabs, Gazan Palestinians, and West Bank Palestinians—no alternative was acceptable to a majority of participants.
  • The two-state solution was the most politically viable alternative, although all four populations voiced skepticism toward it. The two-state solution was the preferred alternative for both the Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians and the second-highest-rated alternative for Israeli Jews and Gazan Palestinians. None of the other alternatives garnered anything close to this breadth of support.
  • Palestinians stated that they want the two-state solution, but with major modifications. These participants reported that, among other modifications, the new Palestinian state would need to have an army to defend itself and protect its borders and would need to have economic control over its borders.
  • The status quo was preferred by Israeli Jews but strongly disliked by Palestinians.
  • There was widespread skepticism that any alternative would be feasible. Israelis and Palestinians reported that they distrusted their own leadership, the leadership of the other side, and the people from the other side.
  • Separation was the most important factor in determining acceptability.
  • Israeli Arabs and Palestinians indicated that all alternatives were biased in favor of Israeli Jews.
  • A blend of economic and security guarantees—for Israelis and Palestinians alike—will be needed to enable a peaceful resolution to the conflict.


  • Mistrust, broadly defined, is likely the greatest impediment to peace. International engagement that builds optimism and enthusiasm for peace among all parties is necessary and must involve security and economic guarantees and a public dialogue to guide and develop thinking about potential alternatives and their implications.
  • No alternatives to the status quo will be viable without a shift in domestic and international politics. The status quo, regardless of the potential long-term consequences, is currently the preferred option of Israeli Jews. However, there is strong support for the two-state solution among Israeli Jews. Identifying the types of incentives that can be provided, both domestically and internationally, to encourage Israelis to be willing to explore the two-state solution will likely be critical to that alternative's success.
  • International security guarantees for the Palestinians will likely be necessary for any peaceful resolution to the conflict.
  • Educating the Israelis and the Palestinians could lead to more-pragmatic decisionmaking. Some participants concluded that the rich discussion offered in focus groups allowed them to make a more informed decision about their preferred alternative and stated that they had ended up supporting a different alternative as a result. The focus group approach might be useful in shaping views if applied to thorny aspects of the conflict, including concrete areas for cooperation, such as water, power, and road networks, but a broader information campaign about the various alternatives is also likely necessary.

Research conducted by

This research was supported by a generous gift from Peter and Carol Richards and conducted within the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy, a center within International Programs at the RAND Corporation.

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