Prolonged diplomatic stalemate has prompted a quest for new approaches to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One proposal now gaining traction in political discourse is that of a confederation, in which Israel and Palestine both exist as separate entities that share governing responsibilities.
Sponsored by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, this Capstone team examined the feasibility of a confederal model as an alternative to the traditional negotiated two-state solution. The profound asymmetry between Israel—which has experienced sovereignty since 1948 and Palestine -- which has never existed as a sovereign entity, adds a unique challenge to applying a confederation model to this case.
The SIPA team employed qualitative analysis to investigate theories and real-life models of confederations, in which separate communities seek to achieve shared governance. Scholarly discourse, comparative case studies, and interviews with a broad range of stakeholders - including academics, policymakers, religious leaders, and local actors - informed the group’s findings.
Showcasing key conclusions, the report divides analysis of the confederal approach into five core areas: the status of Jerusalem; citizenship and residency; security requirements spanning Israeli and Palestinian aspirations; joint management of water resources; and rights and reconciliation. Each section offers key judgments, comparative studies assessing on-the-ground feasibility, and opportunities for future action. In light of the data collected, the Capstone team determined that a confederal approach is promising in some areas but highly problematic in others. Security and asymmetries of power remain fundamental stumbling blocks. Looking forward, human security may broaden possibilities for conflict resolution. Additionally, trust-building and local bottom-up initiatives are central to any future negotiated solution.