May 31, 2016

A Security System for the Two-State Solution

Confidence in the possibility of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a nadir. More than 20 years after Oslo, both sides are deeply disillusioned and trust is nonexistent. The withdrawal from Gaza and ensuing takeover by Hamas, combined with the increasing instability in Syria, Egypt’s Sinai, and across the region, have led much of the Israeli public to conclude that for security reasons, Israel cannot move forward on an agreement with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, many Palestinians have decided that Israel has no intention of ever redeploying from the West Bank. And the United States, the Arab world, and the international community in general are focused on more pressing security challenges and frustrated with the lack of progress between Israelis and Palestinians.

Nonetheless, several factors point to the need to produce a public study on security arrangements that would provide better security for both Israelis and Palestinians in a two-state solution: 

  1. The need to add legitimacy and infuse confidence in some of the key concepts underpinning the two-state solution; 
  2. The increasing importance that the Israeli public ascribes to the security challenges associated with the two-state solution; and 
  3. The centrality of security considerations in Israeli reluctance to move toward an agreement. 

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that well-thought-through security measures in the context of the two-state solution can provide Israelis and Palestinians with a degree of security equal or greater to that provided today by Israel’s deployment into the West Bank, and that such measures can be consistent with Palestinian needs for sovereignty and dignity. In the context of a two-state agreement, Israel would still have the right and ability to defend itself by itself as any sovereign state does. But the intent of this proposed security architecture is to build in a multilayered system so that the need for unilateral Israeli action is vastly reduced to rare emergency situations. 

The study also addresses security arrangements for Gaza but in less detail. Part of the challenge is that transition in Gaza would first require the Palestinian Authority to reassert governance and security control of Gaza – an issue beyond the scope of this study. More work will be required on Gaza security arrangements in the future, but many of the concepts described and applied in this study to the West Bank could also likely be adjusted and implemented in similar form in Gaza.

This paper first provides key principles and objectives of a security architecture for the two-state solution that address Israeli anxieties but are still acceptable to Palestinians. The second section describes the key elements of a proposed security architecture as it would appear at end state, after many years of planned transition. The third part of the study addresses the elements of a transition plan to move both parties safely from the current arrangement to the enduring security architecture we envision – including steps that can begin today even without an agreement. 

Finally, it is important to note that we consider this study to be a constant work in progress. The purpose is not to propose the one definitive solution to this challenge, but instead to lay out a series of solutions that should continue to be debated and refined to meet both parties’ needs.

Key Principles

The overall security system would be based on the following key principles:

  • Build a multilayered system that addresses Israel’s security concerns in which Israel retains the right of self defense as well as the capacity to defend itself by itself, but ensures this is only necessary in extremis.
  • Minimize Israeli visibility to Palestinian civilians and pursue significant early steps that signal a fundamental change on the ground to Palestinians. 
  • Plan a conditions-based, performance-dependent area-by-area phased redeployment of Israeli security forces with target timetables, benchmarks, and an effective remediation process.
  •  Conduct significant upgrades to security systems and infrastructure.
  • Build joint operations centers and data sharing mechanisms for all parties such that there is maximum situational awareness of the security environment for Israelis but minimal intrusion on Palestinian sovereignty. 
  • Employ American forces for training, equipping, evaluating, and monitoring, and for conducting highly limited operations along the Jordan River.

The Security System

The security system would include four mutually reinforcing layers: (1) internal security inside the new Palestinian state (hereafter referred to as Palestine);1 (2) border security; (3) non-ground domains, including air, maritime, and the electromagnetic spectrum; and (4) regional security.

The internal Palestinian security system would include:

  • A non-militarized Palestinian security force (PASF) whose maximum capabilities resemble a gendarmerie model. 
  • A small, highly capable Palestinian counterterrorism (CT) unit trained and equipped to a level analogous with a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit of a large American city. 
  • A full-spectrum, self-contained Palestinian counterterrorism system composed of vetted and protected personnel, including intelligence officers to detect terrorist activity, CT forces to raid sites and arrest perpetrators, forensics experts for site exploitation, pretrial detention officers to ensure prisoners do not escape, prosecutors and judges to conduct trials and issue warrants, and post-trial detention officers to ensure prisoners are not released early; and stand-alone detention facilities. 
  • Joint operations centers that include Israeli security forces (ISF) and PASF for sharing intelligence, identifying potential targets, and coordinating operations.
  • Multiple mechanisms for rapidly resolving disagreements between the parties on the merits or needs of a particular operation, including among security professionals, at the bilateral political level, and, where required, through American mediation.
  • A final option for Israel in extreme situations to act unilaterally to defend itself with the knowledge that it would receive American diplomatic support in the aftermath.

The border security system would include:

  • Crossing points between Jordan and the new Palestinian state that would be staffed by the PASF (on the Palestinian side) and Jordanian security forces (JSF) (on the Jordanian side of a crossing) but would include American monitors on the Palestinian side who are qualified to reinspect people or cargo if Israel demands it. During the transition years, Israel would remain responsible for overall security at the crossing points, though with only a low-visibility Israeli presence that over time would transition to nonvisible and, if technology allows, eventually to electronic monitoring. 
  • A state-of-the-art traveler database shared by Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians that would include watch lists, biometric data for positive identification, and other relevant information.
  • A multilayered border trace security system between Jordan and the new Palestinian state that would include aerostat-borne monitoring systems; redundant physical barriers, sensors, and monitoring systems on the border itself; and patrols conducted by Palestinian and American forces. 
  • Data from the crossing points for personnel, baggage, and cargo, and data from the border trace security system. This data would feed into a joint border control center that would have representatives from all relevant parties and into individual headquarters elements in each relevant country.
  • Many similar concepts that could also be applied to the Egyptian border with Gaza, but these would have to be specifically designed and tailored in the future once Gaza and the West Bank come under unified governance that adheres to the Quartet conditions.
  • Completion of the barrier along the agreed lines of final borders between Israel and the new Palestinian state.
  • Exceptional security zones in sensitive areas, which would require additional zoning and/or monitoring by security forces and limitations on construction to prevent possible attacks (e.g., on the pathway into Ben Gurion International Airport). These zones would be combined with anti-tunneling technology in order to prevent infiltration near the border.
  • A 2-kilometer security zone between Route 90 and the Jordan River, similar to the one that exists now on the Jordanian side of the Jordan Valley, that would be symmetrically enforced on the Palestinian side.

Non-ground domain security would include:

  • An airspace security system consisting of vetted personnel, clear air traffic procedures for normal conditions and emergency situations (in which Israeli military air traffic controllers would immediately assume control), up-to-date air traffic control facilities and equipment, and secure airport infrastructure and procedures. 
  • Sovereign Palestinian airspace above the future state of Palestine from the surface to 10,000 feet mean sea level, and airports in the Jordan Valley and Gaza. 
  • A multilayered maritime security system in which Palestinians would govern their territorial waters off Gaza, but with an external layer of an Israeli security zone, and standard procedures in international waters, where Israel is free to intercept, board, and inspect any ship (in accordance with international law). 
  • A Palestinian port either in Gaza or on a man-made island off Gaza with special security procedures analogous to all border-crossing points. 
  • Significant investments in enhancing the efficiency and use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) by Israelis and Palestinians to increase overall access to EMS for both sides.

A regional security system would include:

  • New mechanisms for Israel to work bilaterally and multilaterally with Arab states on common threats, including responding to Islamic extremism and Iranian interference.
  • Deeper intelligence cooperation and operational coordination between Israel and Arab states. 
  • New venues to discuss security-related misunderstandings and peacefully resolve conflicts. 
  • An “inside envelope” of two sets of trilateral security relationships: one made up of Israel, the future state of Palestine, and Jordan to address issues around the West Bank; and a second related to the Gaza Strip, involving Israel, the Palestinians, and Egypt. 
  • An “outer envelope” open to Saudi Arabia, its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners, and possibly other states in North Africa and elsewhere, giving Israel an opportunity to engage on broader regional challenges and opportunities.

The Transition Process

When considering how to achieve this security system, it is important to examine both what a transition process would entail after an agreement is concluded as well as important steps that could be taken today to reduce tensions and preserve the conditions for a two-state outcome.

The transition process after an agreement would include the following aspects:

  • There would be an initial phase of early steps agreed to by the Israelis to reduce visible Israeli presence and increase Palestinian sovereignty, including an end to Area A incursions; the turning over of significant portions of Area C to Palestinian civic and security control; early redeployment from the northern quarter of the West Bank where there are relatively few settlements; and rapidly reduced visible Israeli presence on the border crossings between Jordan and Palestine. 
  • A security implementation verification group (SIVG) consisting of Israeli, Palestinian, and American security professionals would be established to plan and implement the transition. 
  • The SIVG would provide training to the PASF, and a separate evaluation cell staffed by Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians would judge PASF performance in evaluations and operational tests against clear criteria agreed upon in advance. 
  • If the SIVG judged that the Palestinians had met a particular series of criteria, then an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) redeployment from a specific area would proceed as planned. If the Palestinians were judged to have not hit a specific metric, then the SIVG would develop a remediation plan to repair the deficiencies using a target timetable not more than half the length of the initial timetable.
  • If after the remediation process disagreement remained about whether criteria had been met, then the issue would be elevated to the political level for Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans to address. 

The Most Important Steps That Can Begin Today

  • Initiate greater investments and training in key elements of the stand-alone counterterrorism system that will help Israelis and Palestinians combat terrorism today and jump-start the lengthy process of completing the full counterterrorism system. 
  • Build out the infrastructure, databases, and biometric data for effective border-crossing-points systems, allowing an early handover of responsibility. This is important for Palestinians while also improving overall security at the crossings, which is important to both.
  • Initiate the planning processes associated with an airport in the Jordan Valley and a port facility in Gaza. If feasible, move beyond planning, especially if the preferred port option is a man-made island off the coast of Gaza.
  • Israel should respond in some way to the Arab Peace Initiative (API), thus beginning to set the table for a broader regional security framework.

The Toughest Questions

Traditionally there have been a number of critical sticking points in security negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. These challenges are outlined below, along with how the proposed security system addresses them.

  1. What would be the timetable for completion of Israeli redeployment?
    The system can be adapted based on an agreement between the parties, but the authors believe that 10 to 15 years is most realistic and appropriate. However, we strongly advocate a rapid reduction of visible Israeli presence very early in the transition in order to reduce friction in daily Palestinian life as rapidly as possible. 
  2. What would be the status of the Jordan River and Jordan Valley?
    The study offers a number of options, but the authors believe that, after a multiyear transition period during which Israeli forces would redeploy, the most realistic option would be for American forces to remain in a 2-kilometer security zone west of the Jordan River and east of Route 90. 
  3. Who would make the final decision on Israeli redeployment? Would Israel have a veto?
    There would be a professionalized security-criteria-based process in the SIVG that would include Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans. Israel would have a veto in the first round of an evaluation of whether a metric had been met. If after a remediation process Israel continued to object, the issue would be elevated to the political level.
  4. Would Israel have a right of re-entry into Palestine in extreme circumstances?
    The Palestinians will never agree to an Israeli right of re-entry, but there could be a side agreement between Israel and the United States on the conditions under which the United States would support Israeli unilateral action. Ultimately, Israel is a sovereign state that enjoys the right of self-defense. Thus, it can unilaterally violate the sovereignty of another state, but with the attendant risks that would have to be weighed by Israeli leadership.
  5. What about the challenges presented by rocket attacks on Ben Gurion or tunneling into Israel?
    Exceptional security zones would be set up near sensitive border areas that would limit certain types of activities that would complicate the ability to guard against these threats. These areas would be some of the last to be transitioned to the Palestinians. And even afterward, U.S. monitors would continue to accompany the PASF to these areas and make it a central benchmark of continued implementation. These zones would be complemented by anti-tunneling technology being developed by Israel with assistance from the United States to block infiltration into Israel. And the multilayered proposed security system, with its robust counterterrorism measures, comprehensive security system on the Jordanian border, and deeper security cooperation with the Arab states, would provide additional layers of defense against this threat.
  6. What about even greater regional instability that directly threatens Israel or Palestine? 
    There could be a side agreement between Israel and the United States establishing a regular consultative process and options for emergency consultations to address these issues. The United States could also provide additional security assurances to some of Israel’s neighbors. And the United States could provide necessary security enhancements to address these concerns and, in dire situations, could re-engage the Palestinians on shifting elements of the agreement. But ultimately, Israel must be militarily strong enough to defend itself by itself in these situations, and the United States must remain committed to preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge, thus ensuring Israel can withstand such scenarios.
  7. What about “game changers” regarding the governance or security situation inside the future state of Palestine that turn it into a government hostile to Israel?
    The multilayered security system, upgrades to Palestinian internal security, and a long-term American monitoring and implementation presence are meant to address this issue and reduce the likelihood of such a scenario. As with changes in the region, there could also be a side agreement between Israel and the United States establishing a regular consultative process and options for emergency consultations to address this scenario. But similar to the question of regional stability, Israel must be militarily strong enough to defend itself by itself in these scenarios. The United States must remain committed to preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge. Ensuring that a future Palestinian state remains non-militarized can also ensure that Israel can withstand such scenarios.

What the Parties Achieve From the Proposed Security System

Both PartiesIsraelisPalestinians
Upgraded internal security system to counter terrorism and maintain law and orderRetention of the right to act unilaterally in extreme cases outside the security system with U.S. diplomatic support Immediate steps that quickly reduce intrusive elements of occupation and move steadily to end the occupation
Robust border security system far superior to today’sPhased redeployment that will take place once Palestinians meet performance criteria agreed to by all sidesClear timetable for redeployment as long as criteria, agreed upon by all parties, are met
Integration into broader regional security frameworkCommitment from the United States to re-examine elements of the security system if fundamental security situation changesA clear mechanism for resolving disagreements and ensuring redeployment process does not drag on indefinitely
Long-term American commitment to the security of both states and their neighborsRefocusing of the Israeli military on its core military, defense, and combat missions

Political and Security Context

Confidence in the possibility of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a nadir. More than 20 years after Oslo, both sides are deeply disillusioned and trust is nonexistent, especially among Israeli and Palestinian leaders but also among their people. Palestinians have lost any faith in Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the West Bank and allow Palestinians to create their own state.7 This lack of hope for a political solution, coupled with harsh day-to-day socio-economic conditions, has led to several rounds of violence, including the latest “lone wolf” attacks perpetrated by Palestinian teens and young adults outside the control of the Palestinian Authority.8 Since the second intifada, the Israeli public has responded to each round with increasing disillusionment. Even left-wing Israeli politicians, typically staunch supporters of the peace process, have given up on negotiations in the near future and begun to emphasize unilateral steps to separate from the Palestinians.9

The regional upheaval of the past few years, including the challenges in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen as well as instability in Egypt’s Sinai and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has increased Israeli reluctance to make strategic decisions at a time of uncertainty and skepticism that the two-state solution could meet Israel’s security requirements. This dynamic comes on the heels of unilateral Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Southern Lebanon that led to Hamas and Hezbollah respectively seizing control of these territories and using them as bases for rocket launches against Israel. 

Concurrently, the United States, which has played the traditional role of mediator in the conflict, is deeply frustrated, having invested time, energy, and political capital with little if anything to show for it. And with all of the other challenges facing the Middle East, never has the Israeli-Palestinian issue been so low on the agenda in Washington. 

Nevertheless, there are some important bright spots that should not be overlooked. Over the past few years there has been significant improvement and professionalization of the Palestinian security forces. In spite of high social tension and strong opposition, the PASF has remained professional and persistent in its security mission. With continued training and support, and under conditions of hope associated with a negotiated solution, the PASF can be expected to play a crucial role in ensuring the security of the future state of Palestine and contribute to Israel’s security in the process. The leaders of these forces have built strong relations with leaders of their counterpart Israeli security services, and the close cooperation between the two has been a key feature of improved security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Another important development has been the quietly improving security relationship between Israel and several Arab states. This convergence has been driven primarily by common interests in countering Iran and dealing with the new wave of instability wracking the region. These common interests reinforce the potential of the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel normalization of relations with the Arab world in exchange for a final status agreement. A central issue to consider is how to convert this potential opportunity into action, and take advantage of improving relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors to improve the environment for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, starting with the foundational area of security.

Israel has also been able to increase its defensive capacity in recent years. Israel has brought online the Iron Dome rocket defense system and is near completion of the Arrow 3 and David’s Sling missile defense systems. Iron Dome performed superbly in the recent Gaza conflicts, significantly reducing the threat to Israel. Israel is also investing significant new resources into anti-tunneling technology and recently indicated that the United States has invested $120 million into this effort, which seems already to be yielding some success. Moreover, despite the chaos and upheaval that have taken place in Syria, Israel has successfully contained any spillover. This is a noteworthy achievement of the Israeli security forces that should not be overlooked. From a conventional threat perspective, Israel is stronger vis-à-vis its neighbors than it has ever been. 

Common Threats Facing a Security System

Before designing a security system and offering recommendations, it is important to understand first the major common threats the system would be designed to address. There are three types: (1) internal threats from inside the new Palestinian state; (2) threats around the borders; and (3) threats emanating from the broader region.

Internal threats

Any system must be capable of preventing the overthrow of a legitimate Palestinian government by force. There cannot be a repeat of Gaza, where Hamas violently seized control of the state. Likewise, the security system must address the possibility of terrorist attacks by spoilers or opponents of an agreement. These attacks would most likely be directed against Israel and could include bombings, rocket attacks, or infiltration via tunnel. These threats are the ones most feared by the Israeli public, but it should be noted that they could also be used against Palestinians.

Threats from border areas

This includes the border between Jordan and Palestine and between Egypt and Palestine. This threat includes infiltration of terrorists, weapons, or contraband of any sort that could be used to attack either Palestine or Israel. This would also include the use of aircraft for terrorist attacks, and it includes the use of watercraft for smuggling or conducting attacks. 

Regional instability 

The most notable threat would be an attempt by ISIS or other extremist groups to infiltrate Jordan and attempt to destabilize that kingdom from within. This could threaten not only Jordan, but also the future Palestinian state or Israel. The other possibility is a major conventional threat from the east, traditionally conceived of as an Iraqi invasion of Jordan and a march westward. This threat is much less likely since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but it should still be addressed as part of a security system that protects both Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Security Requirements

Designing a security system for the two-state solution acceptable to the Israeli public and leadership requires overcoming a number of major challenges, many of which have become even more difficult in the past 15 years. First, there is the experience of the IDF withdrawals from Southern Lebanon in 2000 and, most importantly, Gaza in 2005.18 Though the Israeli public is far from monolithic in its views, many Israelis consider the unilateral pullout from Gaza a strategic mistake.19 They see that it was very quickly followed by the collapse of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the seizure of the territory by Hamas. Loose border security between Egypt and Gaza meant that weapons were being smuggled into Gaza and rockets soon began raining down on Israeli citizens. Several major military conflicts later, a substantial portion of the Israeli public is deeply skeptical about any further withdrawals.20 Many Israelis see the same results in Southern Lebanon, where after the Israeli pullout, Hezbollah seized control and spent years arming itself and threatening Israel, eventually leading to a war in 2006 and continued conflict and threats from Israel’s north.21 The result is that more Israelis are now demanding a long, drawn-out redeployment process, if they condone redeployment at all. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s argument for a 40-year Israeli presence in the Jordan River Valley has increased in popularity and a majority of his coalition in the Knesset opposes any redeployment from the West Bank.

Proponents of future withdrawals will argue that part of the reason Gaza and Southern Lebanon failed is that those withdrawals were unilateral, and particularly in the case of Gaza, were not coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, a case can be made that the costs to Israel and to the IDF of the past 15 years of conflict are less than the costs of occupation would have been, but that is not a verifiable proposition. The bottom line is that any security proposal for the two-state solution would need to convince a very skeptical Israeli public that it would not be a repeat of the Gaza withdrawal and that the West Bank would not become a haven for launching attacks on Israel. 

Beyond the challenge posed by the previous failed withdrawals, any security proposal will also have to deal with Israeli insistence that Israel must be able to “defend itself by itself.” Given Israel’s long struggle with terrorism and its history of wars with its neighbors, this belief is deeply held by the IDF and Israeli society. This means that handing over responsibility for security to any external party conflicts with some of the very basic principles of the state of Israel.

While there is some appreciation in Israel for the close and successful security coordination with Jordan, Egypt, and the PASF, which has proved effective in countering joint threats, at the end of the day Israelis will never be willing to fully entrust key elements of their security to their Arab neighbors. Any effort by the United Nations, Europe, or even NATO to help provide security is also likely to be rejected by an Israeli public that has had negative experiences with international forces. And Israel’s isolation and often unfair treatment in international institutions only reinforce this point. The United States – Israel’s closest ally – has a long history of a deep security commitment to Israel. But while Israelis have a much deeper trust in the United States than in any other partner, persuading Israelis to entrust part of their security to the United States will be one of the most challenging hurdles to an agreement.

Finally, Israelis also have little trust for Palestinians when it comes to the question of security. Despite strong cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces and significant improvements in PASF capabilities, many Israelis consistently express skepticism about Palestinian will. They argue that even if Palestinian capabilities were upgraded to a point at which the IDF could redeploy, the Palestinians may still not have the political will to follow through and arrest or jail dangerous extremists, especially those with connections to influential Palestinian families. Recent American failures – most notably in Iraq, where the United States spent years and billions of dollars training the Iraqi security forces only to see them collapse – reinforce the Israeli argument. The story of the collapse of Iraqi security forces contains critical lessons for enduring PASF performance and involves much more than a lack of will to fight. Because of poor political leadership in Baghdad, the front-line Iraqi troop formations facing ISIS were grossly understaffed, were literally abandoned by their military leaders, and were not resupplied with ammunition or even food; in addition, the troops’ ongoing training, crucial for performance, was completely neglected. The lessons for PASF performance are clear: the PASF will need functional political governance and a long-term commitment and continuous presence of U.S. trainers, mentors, and monitors. 

Palestinian Requirements for Security, Dignity, and Sovereignty

Palestinians have a number of concerns that are crucial for designing an effective and acceptable security system. 26 First, after decades of living under occupation, Palestinians care deeply about dignity and sovereignty. They will not accept any solution that includes a visible Israeli force or one that continues to limit Palestinian mobility or conducts functions that they believe should be conducted by the sovereign state of Palestine. Obviously, this is important throughout Palestine, but especially in highly visible locations such as the official border crossings between Palestine and Jordan or Egypt. It is also highly relevant that Palestinians be able to police themselves and move freely around the West Bank. 27 While Palestinians realize that an Israeli redeployment would be phased, they insist that in any final agreement those phases would not be prolonged and the redeployment by the IDF would be from all of the territories that make up the future state of Palestine. This impulse directly contradicts Israeli caution in the aftermath of the withdrawal from Gaza.

Palestinians have also been deeply disillusioned by the incrementalism of the Oslo process over the past 20 years. They have little confidence in “confidence-building” measures, instead viewing them as opportunities for the Israelis to simply stretch out the occupation. This creates a significant challenge, as any final redeployment will need to be phased and incremental but will also have to include enough assurances and significant steps upfront to overcome Palestinian skepticism that Israel intends to complete the process. 

Finally, while Israelis do not trust Palestinian political will, Palestinians believe that Israelis will overstep at every opportunity. Palestinians believe that Israelis use security as an excuse for occupation, use too much force when conducting operations, and err on the side of arresting or harming people far more than is necessary. The PASF especially chafes when the IDF conducts unilateral operations in Area A of the West Bank, which is supposed to be under Palestinian Authority civil and security control. In those instances, the IDF forces the PASF to leave the area and enters with overwhelming force (because of force protection requirements), thus alienating the local population. This is particularly humiliating for the PASF, which is branded as a collaborator of the occupation because it is publicly shown to not be able to protect its own population from outside incursion. 

Ultimately, this frustration and distrust mean that Palestinians have little faith in Israel to restrain itself if it operates on its own and would have no tolerance for Israel taking independent action in the context of a two-state solution. This runs contrary to the Israeli desire to be able to act independently and defend itself unilaterally in any outcome.

Beyond questions of sovereignty, Palestinians also care deeply about their own security, and any security framework must be able to also meet Palestinian security needs. At the most basic level they desire effective law and order necessary to allow their society to thrive economically and socially. From that perspective, the improvement of the PASF over the past 10 years has meant less crime and more security, an improvement welcomed by the Palestinian public. Palestinians are frustrated that there are many areas where their security forces are not allowed to go because of restrictions placed on them, including parts of Areas B and C in the West Bank. These lawless areas have also been primary sources of the lone-wolf stabbing attackers. Any final agreement will need to ensure that the PASF has the freedom of movement and capacity to address these problems.

Palestinian officials also envision a role for themselves in a regional security architecture. Palestinians insist that in any two-state agreement, they will not present a security threat to Israel and have accepted that Palestine will be a non-militarized state. They will not enter treaties with any party hostile to Israel or be part of any arms race. Given their close relationships with the Israelis, in the context of a two-state agreement, the Palestinians offer to play a bridging role between Israel and many of the other Arab states and security forces. They also share a common interest in combating the threat posed by al Qaeda, ISIS, or other extremist jihadi groups. And while the Palestinian role in any such effort would be relatively small, Palestinians are eager to play it and do their part in addressing this common threat.

Most Difficult Sticking Points

The challenges, fears, and distrust on both sides described above make designing any security system that is compatible with both sides’ requirements exceedingly difficult. Specifically, they lead to four sensitive areas where balancing Israeli needs for security and Palestinian needs for sovereignty become most difficult:

  • Timetables for the redeployment of Israeli forces.
  • Residual IDF forces on the Jordan River.
  • The question of who makes the final decisions on Israeli redeployment.
  • Israeli right to re-entry in the event of an emergency.

Download the PDF to see these sticking points addressed in greater detail in Chapter 2. 

  1. While recognizing that there is currently no universally recognized Palestinian state, the study assumes that under a permanent status agreement such a state would exist. Since the study’s focus is on a post-permanent status agreement world, it refers interchangeably to “Palestine,” “the new Palestinian state,” and “the future Palestinian state.”
  2. PASF refers to all security organizations under the purview of the Palestinian Authority or, in the event of an agreement, under the authority of the future state of Palestine. To reduce confusion, the acronym PASF will be used throughout.
  3. The term “Israeli security forces” is a general one; it encompasses all security organizations within Israel, such as the Israel Defense Forces (Israel’s military), the Israel Police, the Border Police, intelligence units, and all other Israeli security organizations.
  4. The Oslo II accorded divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions. Area A includes 18% of the West Bank including most Palestinian urban areas and the large majority of the Palestinian population. The Palestinian Authority is responsible for civil administration and security in this area.
  5. IDF redeployment would entail transfer of authority for security to the PASF for a given geographical area and the physical departure of Israeli security forces from that area.
  6. The Arab Peace Initiative is a 10-point proposal endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 that outlines conditions for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Arab peace initiative: full text,” The Guardian, March 28, 2002,
  7. “82% [of Palestinians] believes that Israel’s long term aspiration is to annex the lands occupied in 1967 and expel their population or deny them their rights.” “Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (59),” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, press release, March 21, 2016, 4,
  8. William Booth, “After six months of violence, Palestinians wonder: What was gained?” The Washington Post, April 20, 2016,
  9. Ofer Zalzberg and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, “The Israeli Labor Party’s ‘Separation Plan’” (International Crisis Group, April 18, 2016),
  10. Natan Sachs, “Why Israel Waits,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 2015),
  11. Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, “Peace through Security: America’s Role in the Development of the Palestinian Authority Security Services” (Michael Stein Address on U.S. Middle East Policy Presented at The Soref Symposium, May 7, 2009),
  12. -Jim Zanotti, “U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians,” RS22967 (Congressional Research Service, March 18, 2016),; and Ghaith al-Omari, “Preserving Israeli-Palestinian Security Cooperation” (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 10, 2015),
  13. Helene Cooper, “Converging Interests May Lead to Cooperation Between Israel and Gulf States,” The New York Times, March 31, 2014,; David A. Graham, “Israel and Saudi Arabia: Togetherish at Last?” The Atlantic (June 5, 2015),; and Yoel Guzansky and Sigurd Neubauer, “Israel and Saudi Arabia: A Changing Region, a Possible Partnership?,” The National Interest (July 24, 2014),
  14. The API is stipulated on an agreement both with the Palestinians and in the Golan Heights, but given the current situation in Syria, the focus should be on the Palestinian issue.
  15. Dan Williams, “Israel says Arrow 3 missile shield aces test, hitting target in space,” Reuters, December 10, 2015,; and Barbara Opall-Rome, “David’s Sling System Shows Ability to Destroy Rockets, Missiles,” Defense News, December 21, 2015,
  16. Steven Erlanger, “A Growing Arsenal of Homegrown Rockets Encounters Israel’s Iron Dome,” The New York Times, July 9, 2014,
  17. John Reed, “Israel developing ‘underground’ Iron Dome,” Financial Times, February 3, 2016,
  18. David Horovitz, “Netanyahu finally speaks his mind,”, July 13, 2014,
  19. William Booth and Ruth Eglash, “A decade later, many Israelis see Gaza pullout as a big mistake,” The Washington Post, August 15, 2015,; and Michael J. Koplow and Jordan Chandler Hirsch, “After Gaza,” Foreign Affairs (August 11, 2014),
  20. Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull, “Israeli Public Opinion after the November 2012 Gaza War” (Program on International Policy Attitudes, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, November 30, 2012),
  21. Reuven Erlich, “Israel’s Unilateral Withdrawals from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip: A Comparative Overview,” Military and Strategic Affairs, 3 no. 1 (May 2011), 61-73,; and Horovitz, “Netanyahu finally speaks his mind.”
  22. Dan Diker, ed., “Israel’s Critical Security Requirements for Defensible Borders: The Foundation for a Viable Peace,” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011),; and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Address by PM Netanyahu at the Institute for National Security Studies” (Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, Israel, June 29, 2014),
  23. Yaakov Amidror, “The Risks of Foreign Peacekeeping Forces in the West Bank” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs),; and Patrick Clawson, Michael Eisenstadt, Matthew Levitt, David Makovsky, Dennis Ross, and Robert Satloff, “International Military Intervention: A Detour on the Road to Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” Policy Focus No. 45 (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 2003),
  24. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Major General (Res.) Uzi Dayan, Major General (Res.) Yaakov Amidror, Brigadier General (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Major General (res.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, Brigadier General (res.) Udi Dekel, Ambassador Meir Rosenne, Ambassador Dore Gold, and Dan Diker, “Israel’s Critical Requirements for Defensible Borders: The Foundation for a Secure Peace” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, June 2014),
  25. Hanan Greenberg, “Hebron: Terrorists released then asked to return to jail,”, March 18, 2008,,7340,L-3520837,00.html; and “The detention and rush release of terrorists: the revolving door policy under Arafat” (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, October 24, 2007), http://www.terrorism-
  26. Palestinian demands for greater authority over the security of a future independent Palestinian state are detailed in a collection of confidential papers released by Al Jazeera between January 23 and 26, 2011. These documents, commonly known as “The Palestine Papers,” unveiled contentious deliberations between Israeli and Palestinian officials, with a particular focus on Israeli misgivings on complete withdrawal from the West Bank and Palestinian demands for independent authority on security matters. See more at: “Proposed Measures for Security Implementation” in The Palestine Papers, Al Jazeera,; and Gregg Carlstrom, “Demanding a demilitarized state,” Al Jazeera, January 25, 2011,
  27. Ghaith al-Omari, “Limiting Incursions in Area A: The Next Step for Israeli-Palestinian Security Coordination,” PolicyWatch 2608 (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 20, 2016),
  28. Geoffrey Aronson, “Palestinian Security Forces: Living on Borrowed Time” (Middle East Institute, October 16, 2015),; and Mohammed Daraghmeh, “Israel cooperation puts Palestinian forces in a tough spot,” The Associated Press, February 25, 2016,


  • Ilan Goldenberg

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

    Ilan Goldenberg is the former Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He is a foreign policy and defense expe...

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