Israeli-Palestinian State-to-State Relations in Permanent Status

This paper maps various aspects which will shape the relations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, once established.

Executive Summary

Systemic understanding of future relationship between Israel and the future State of Palestine (hereinafter – Palestine) in Permanent Status is of critical value for Israel's short and middle-term policy-making.

In an attempt to analyze Israeli-Palestinian relations in Permanent Status, this document offers a possible framing of five clusters of issues that may, together, comprise these relations as follows:

  1. Historical Issues - the implementation of articles in the Permanent Status Agreement pertaining to issues that shaped the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This cluster includes issues pertaining to the resolution of the refugee issue or to arrangements in the Holy Basin of Jerusalem;
  2. Intrusive Issues - “intrusions” by Israel and Palestine of each other’s sovereign space according to the agreements that will have been signed. For example, Palestine may breach Israel’s sovereignty in the Safe Passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel may breach Palestine’s airspace;
  3. Movement and Personal Security Issues - issues relating to movement and security arrangements with regard to people and goods, border control and combating terrorism;
  4. Conventional Issues - civil aviation or intellectual property, where Israeli-Palestinian relations will be similar, in principle, to relations between Israel and other states.

These four clusters may be regularized by bilateral agreements and international standards, and characterized by Israel’s relative economic and military superiority.

The fifth cluster will comprise of Israeli-Palestinian relations with regard to the Arab constituency in Israel. Here, Israel may be subject to subversive trends endeavoring to undermine Israel’s Jewishness.

The document concludes by identifying “Arenas” where Permanent Status will be shaped. These include, for example, structure of future negotiations, 2nd phase of the Roadmap, or Israel’s policy toward its Arab constituency. These Arenas are where an organizing logic is essential for shaping Permanent Status in view of Israel’s long-term interests.


For their contribution to this document, The Re’ut Institute thanks:

Mr. Pinchas (Pini) Meidan-Shani – Former Member of the Negotiation Team with the Palestinians and Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-01).

Mr. Ari Shuali – Former head of International Sub-division for special contacts in the Muslim World in the Prime Minister’s Office.


This Analysis-Base Product focuses on the prospects of stability of the Two-State Solution once a Palestinian State will have come into being. In other words, this product focuses on state-to-state relations between Israel and the future Palestinian State (hereinafter “Palestine”) in Permanent Status.

The Concept of Analysis-Base refers to systemic and extensive mapping of issues and their interconnectedness. Hence, the purpose of this document is:

  • To present an initial systemic analysis of Israeli-Palestinian relations in Permanent Status by offering a possible framing of issues that may comprise them, mapping relevant “actors”, trends, and institutional constraints, as well as presenting the linkages among them;
  • To identify arenas in which Israel’s policy should be have an underling organizing logic in view of its long-term interests.

Background and Necessity

Future relations between Israel and Palestine will be Israel's most complex foreign relations, intertwining most aspects of state-management such as security, environment, natural resources, economics, civic and religious affairs.

Systemic understanding of future Israeli-Palestinian relations in Permanent Status may be instrumental to designing Israel’s short and middle-term policy. For example, the establishment of a Palestinian State with Provisional Borders already in the 2nd phase of the Roadmap will require Israel’s policy-makers to possess a robust understanding of Permanent Status.

Clusters of Relations

Systemic analysis of Israeli-Palestinian relations in Permanent Status leads to the conclusion that one may frame five clusters of issues that will shape this relationship: Four bilateral clusters between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine and one triangular cluster among the State of Israel, the State of Palestine and the Arab constituency in Israel. Each cluster has an intrinsic logic of its own, as well as strong linkage to the other clusters.

The Four Clusters of Bilateral Relations between Israel and Palestine

Historical Issues – This cluster will include the issues pertaining to the implementation of articles of the Permanent Status Agreement that will have been signed that resolve the historical conflict between the parties. It may comprise of issues such as the implementation of articles regarding access to and worship in the Holy Basin of Jerusalem or in Hebron, as well as to the implementation of the agreed solution to the refugee issue. This cluster may be initially characterized as follows:
  1. Volatility – The Historical Issues are politically sensitive and susceptible to rapid escalation of tension and even violence. Here, local friction and incidents on the ground may generate systemic setbacks;
  2. Rigidity – The provisions of the Permanent Status Agreement relating to the Historical Issues are likely to be rigid and very difficult to adapt to the changing reality;
  3. Systemic linkages will exist among the Historical Issues, e.g. among arrangements for access to and worship in holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron.
Intrusive Issues – In Permanent Status, following the Permanent Status Agreement, Israel and Palestine are likely to breach the other's sovereign and functional space. For example, Israel may breach Palestine's airspace and electromagnetic sphere, while Palestine will need a Safe Passage between the Gaza strip and the West Bank going through Israel. The Intrusive Issues may initially be characterized as follows:
  1. Israel and Palestine may have an interest to limit and even eliminate the other's intrusions into their sovereign space, despite the agreements that will have been signed;
  2. On-going conflict-management – It should be assumed that the "intrusions" may create friction, requiring the management of volatile and complex relationship;
  3. Systemic Linkages – The respective intrusions of Israel and Palestine may be systemically linked via explicit or implicit trade-offs. In this manner, for example, a linkage may form between the extent of Palestinian movement through the Safe Passage, on the one hand, and the Israeli freedom of movement on certain roads going through Palestine, on the other hand.

Personal Security Issues – This cluster relates to on-going security arrangements with regard to freedom of movement, access to holy sites, and combating terrorism and crime. It covers issues such as the border regime regarding the movement of goods, people, services, tourists and workers through points of entry to and exit from Palestine to third countries, on the one hand, and between Israel and Palestine, on the other.

Conventional Issues This cluster relates to all other issues where Israeli-Palestinian state-to-state relations are expected to be fundamentally similar to Israeli relations with other states. Examples include intellectual property and currency regime.

The common denominator among the Bilateral Clusters initially includes:

  • Bilateral agreements – In Permanent Status, it may be assumed that most of the “Bilateral Clusters” may and will be regulated by bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinians;
  • International law and conventions – In Permanent Status, rights and obligations under international law may regulate segments of the Bilateral Issues;
  • A-symmetrical relations – In each of the bilateral clusters, there will most likely be a-symmetry between Israel and Palestine, with Israel having the relative military and economical superiority, on the one hand, while being subject to continuous international pressure, on the other;
  • Ongoing crisis-management regarding the implementation of the Permanent Status Agreement is likely to characterize state-to-state relations in Permanent Status;
  • Different time spans – Each of the clusters has different time spans and life-cycle for their emergence and development, or their dissolution.

5th Cluster: Triangular Relations among Israel, Palestine and Israeli-Arabs

Common perception is that a Permanent Status Agreement, bringing about a declaration of End of Conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, will usher in a period of stability and co-existence.

However, for Permanent Status to be stable and for good neighborly relations to exist between Israel and Palestine, the Top Executives of both parties will have to endorse a reality where the historical compromise of dividing the land, embodied in the Permanent Status Agreement, is irreversible.

Yet, systemic analysis of Permanent Status indicates that the Arab constituency in Israel is a community which requires special attention in this context. In Permanent Status, a threefold relationship may form between Palestine, Israel and its Jewish citizens, and Israel’s Arab citizens. This triangle may be characterized by friction and tensions emanating from several trends:

  • Israeli-Arabs are citizens and residents of Israel. However, some of them view themselves as Palestinians, supporting the idea of a Bi-National State (or a State of All Its Citizens) which defies the narrative of Israel’s Jewishness; others would rather be under Palestinian sovereignty and not under the sovereignty of Israel;
  • Irredentism / The Phased Plan – Factions within Palestine, with or without explicit or implicit support by the Palestinian government, may continue the struggle against Israel’s existence, using the Arab constituency in Israel as a vehicle for their purposes;
  • The Convergence Phenomenon – In Permanent Status, international de-legitimization of Israel’s Jewishness by groups and individuals may continue, using the status of the Israeli-Arabs community within Israel as leverage;
  • At present, there is a reality and possible a trend of alienation between the State of Israel, on the one hand, and its Arab constituency, on the other. This reality has been aggravated by and since the events of October 2000;
  • 3rd parties – Radical states such as Iran and extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda may provide ideological, financial and practical support to subversive activities against the State of Israel by Israeli-Arabs, with or without Palestine’s tacit or explicit endorsement or assistance in action or inaction.
The Triangular Relationship among Israel, Palestine and Israeli-Arabs is expected to have different characteristics than those of the “Bilateral Clusters”. Initially, these characteristics may be identified as follows:
  • Israel views its relations with its Arab residents as a strictly internal matter, which should not and will not be subject to negotiations with a Palestinian party. Therefore, this triangular relationship is not expected be regulated by bilateral agreements;
  • Moreover, even an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which includes explicit articles against subversion and is implemented by both sides, may not prove effective in preventing subversive tendencies or activities. Individuals among the Israeli-Arab community, non-governmental entities on the Palestinian side and other states or organization may support and carry out acts of subversion;
  • While Israel has economic and military superiority in all four bilateral clusters, in the triangular cluster, the Palestinian party may prove stronger with regard to its capacity to motivate and control the extent of subversion against Israel;
  • Israel’s internal policy regarding Israeli-Arabs will have a significant influence in this respect. The more Israeli-Arabs feel confident with their social and political place in Israel, the less incentive there is to be associated with or support subversion against Israel’s Jewishness.
In conclusion, many in Israel believe that the issue of Israeli-Arabs is strictly an internal Israeli matter, existing in disconnect from relations and negotiations with the Palestinians. However, the analysis above indicates that the relations between Israel and its Arab citizens might transform into an acute issue of national security and foreign affairs.

The Arenas of Israeli-Palestinian State-to-State Relations

An Arena is a space, which may be diplomatic, political, legal, economic, and/or military, where the organizing logic i.e. the array of interests of the State of Israel may engage with organizing logics of other “actors”. Within this space, each “actor” attempts to act in light of its organizing logic often against those of other “actors”. Following are several arenas where the in the Permanent Status will be created and shaped:

Israel’s Policy toward the Israeli-Arab Constituency – This arena includes all aspects of Israel’s policy toward Israeli-Arabs implicating the Triangular Relationship among Israel, Palestine and Israeli-Arabs. For example, this arena includes the question: How much, if at all, is Israel willing to allow Palestine to have a say, influence, responsibility or authority with regard to Israeli-Arabs?

Issue of Palestinian Representation – This arena comprises of issues related to the Palestinian constitutional structure”, including, for example, the Palestinian Constitution, Palestinian electoral system or the manner in which the the Palestinian right of Palestinian self-determination is realized. Initially, these issues may seem primarily internal Palestinian matters. However, systemic analysis indicates that they may have far-reaching impact on the stability of Permanent Status.

Palestinian State with Provisional Borders – This arena includes all issues pertaining to the establishment of a Palestinian State with Provisional Borders, either as part of the Second Phase of the Road Map, or in other scenarios. This arena includes the circumstances of the declaration on Palestinian Statehood, the language of the recognition by Israel and other nations, as well as all state-to-state issues between Israel and Palestine.

The Palestinian Interlocutor – This arena comprises of issues relating to Palestinian capacities, such as institutions, human resources or technology, and to the Palestinian willingness in regard to areas such as security cooperation, combating terrorism, and law enforcement.

Structural Aspects of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations – This arena covers structural, institutional and procedural aspects of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, such as the Sequence of the Israeli-Palestinian Political Process (i.e. the order of milestones of the process), the Typology of Issues for the Negotiations, the mandate or the identity of the negotiating parties (that is, who represents Israel and who represents the Palestinians).

The Institutional Structure of the Israeli Side – This arena encompasses issues pertaining to the alignment of institutions and organizations on the Israeli side touching on issues such as division of authority and mechanisms of decision-making, coordination and cooperation within Israel.

The International Community – In this arena, Israel will have to bring the International Community to stabilize Permanent Status. Actors in this arena include states and non-governmental organizations hostile to Israeli-Palestinian peaceful co-existence (such as Iran and Al-Qaeda), international organizations, friendly countries and allies.