Dear Friends,

After a short hiatus, the Geneva Initiative’s Two State-Index returns. Our monthly report offers a comprehensive breakdown of political, diplomatic, legal, social, and economic developments and weighs their impact on the feasibility of achieving the two-state solution. We analyze policy fluctuations, evaluate relevant statements, monitor shifts on the ground, track trends in public opinion, present new data, and quantify the practical chances of reaching a political solution with an assigned numerical index score.
Over the past four months, our Palestinian and Israeli experts have continued to track changes in the index. Click here to read an overview of June to September.
Listen here to the GI's Israeli Director, Gadi Baltiansky offer his analysis on Israel-US relations, new settlement plans, Gantz's civil society terrorism ban and the impact on the two-state solution in an interview with Al-Monitor.

October At a Glance:

These events decreased the Two-State Index by 0.2% in October (down 0.01 points from 5.58 to 5.57).

To learn about the Geneva Initiative's TSI, visit our website.

Israel Advances Plans for 3,144 New Settler Homes Despite Sharp US Rebuke (And Questioning Israeli Coalition Coherence)

Israel’s Higher Planning Council (HPC) approved plans for the construction of 3,144 new units in 30 settlements – the first plans to be advanced by the new Israeli government. Of the new units approved, 90% are in settlements deep in the West Bank, which Israel will have to evacuate under a permanent agreement according to the Geneva Initiative model. The HPC also approved 1,303 units for Palestinians in Area C, of which only 170 houses in the village of Bart'a were given final clearance, while approval for the rest could take a number of years. This is deemed the largest overall number of Palestinian units to be approved in a decade – but an insubstantial figure due to the inclusion of already-built units requiring retroactive legalization, and also in light of ongoing demolitions and evictions which continued throughout October. 

The latest approvals follow the publication of tenders by the Housing and Construction Ministry for another 1,355 units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem initiated by the previous Israeli government, as well as tenders for 83 new units in the controversial Givat Hamatos neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Construction here will effectively isolate the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Sharafat and Beit Safafa, threatening the territorial contiguity between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

These moves flout a sharp public warning by the US and a reported heated call by Secretary Blinken to Minister Gantz urging restraint on settlement expansion. It underscores the Israeli government’s disregard for US-stated priorities and questions the effectiveness of the US’s ability to curb unilateral steps that compromise the feasibility of a two-state solution. The international community unanimously condemned the plans, with statements from the UN, US, UK, EU, Jordan, and more warning that the settlements pose a direct threat to the prospect of peace and stability. 

The move also highlighted fault lines in the Israeli governmentangering many members of the coalition including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who stated that from now on he “wants to be in the room when decisions on settlement activities are taken.” 

Meanwhile, a major spike in violent settler attacks was recorded this month coinciding with the annual olive harvest. Settler violence was already on the rise, more than doubling in the first half of 2021. Between October 5-18 alone, OCHA reported that at least seven Palestinians were injured and over 1,400 trees were either damaged or robbed of their yield. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose staff came under attack by settlers while monitoring harvest activities, warned that Palestinian olive farmers face a triple threat to their livelihoods in the form of settler attacks, restricted access to their lands by the Israeli military, and climate change.

Israel’s approval of new settlement units lowered the reverse-scale parameter on settlement expansion in built-up areas from 2 to 1 and lowered the Oslo Framework (Area C) parameter from 2 to 1, while the spike in settler violence during the olive harvest reduced the reverse-scale parameter on IDF Military actions in the West Bank from 7 to 6.
Source: Peace Now

Israel's Declaration on Palestinian NGOs Weakens Local Civil Society and Draws Criticism from International Community

On October 22, Israel designated six leading Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations”, accusing them of operating as a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The decision allows Israel to raid the groups' offices, seize their assets, arrest employees, and criminalize funding and expressions of support for the groups. The Palestinian Authority condemned the move as a “strategic assault on Palestinian civil society” while UN experts declared it “a frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement”. Both the US and EU said they were seeking “clarifications” from Israel on the matter, with the EU noting that past allegations of the misuse of EU funds “have not been substantiated.”

Palestinian analyst Nabeel Amr says that the declaration not only voids signed agreements with the Palestinians but marks a return to the application of direct Israeli military rule over the Palestinian people in all spheres: “We have seen Israel pursuing Palestinians for what they post and tweet on social media, I think we are standing before an Israeli policy of controlling our lives in a way that is even worse than the occupation and settlement building”. Though some of the impacted organizations have indicated they will challenge the Israeli designation, analysts say they are more than likely to fail, with Israel’s counter-terrorism laws allowing its security apparatus almost complete discretion on the matter with only a vestige of due-process.

The designation led to a drop in the Palestinian Civil Society parameter from 5 to 4 and decreased the Basic International Norms parameter from 7 to 6. 

New Palestinian Public Opinion Poll Shows 10% Surge in Support for Two-State Solution

A new poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) showed a substantial 10% rise in Palestinian public support for the two-state solution this month, climbing to 46% from 36% since September. The poll indicated that for the first time in the last six months, the Palestinian public is more in favor of direct negotiations as a means to changing the status quo, as opposed to waging an armed struggle or waging non-violent resistance. At the same time, however, 76% still believe that the prospect of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel in the next 5 years is slim.

The results of the poll indicate that recent developments on the ground and the gradual resumption of high-level contacts between Israeli and Palestinian leaders may have sparked renewed hope and belief in the stagnant peace process following the last Gaza war in May which added to Hamas’ popularity.

The results of the latest public opinion survey contribute to a rise in the Palestinian Public Opinion parameter from 4 to 6. 

Israel Announces Policies to Ease Conditions in West Bank and Gaza – But Impasse on Hamas Salary Payments Could Threaten Calm

Israel advanced a series of policies to ease conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip this month, initiating concrete but limited steps to enhance economic opportunity for Palestinians in exchange for security and relative calm.

On October 19th, Israel announced that it would update the residency status of some 4,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank – the first such approvals in more than a decade. Days later, Israel said that it would raise the number of permits for workers from the Gaza Strip from 7,000 to 10,000. Meanwhile, rebar was removed from Israel’s “dual-use” list and began entering the Strip outside the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), and Gazan families began receiving Qatari aid funds after Israel agreed to a new distribution mechanism involving the United Nations. No agreement has been reached, however, on a solution for transferring funds to pay Hamas salaries and the impasse could pose a threat to the relative calm between Gaza and Israel.

These latest measures follow previously-announced confidence-building steps stemming from the resumption of high-level contacts between Israeli and Palestinian officials. Israel’s policies towards Gaza are being made in close coordination with both the United States and Egypt, which are simultaneously attempting to advance reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah in order to stabilize Palestinian governance. Egypt separately hosted Israeli officials and Hamas leaders in Cairo this month, consolidating the cease-fire between the two in exchange for loosening restrictions on the Gaza border. But with no progress made on a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement, PA officials in Ramallah worry that any opening of the Gaza Strip with Egypt will weaken the enclave’s connection with the West Bank and compromise their ability to negotiate a contiguous Palestinian state encompassing both territories.

These developments led to an increase in the Gaza Humanitarian Conditions parameter (from 3 to 4), Economy parameter (2 to 3), and decreased the reverse-scale Prospects for War parameter from 7 to 6.

oTensions Mount in Jerusalem Amid Looming Eviction Decisions

Tensions flared in Jerusalem this month, with Palestinians clashing repeatedly with Israeli forces around Damascus Gate. Clashes began in early October triggered ostensibly by provocations by right-wing Jewish activists and Israeli excavations near the al-Yusufiya Cemetery near the Old City walls. Dozens of Palestinians have been injured as altercations with Israeli forces turned violent on multiple occasions, intensified by calls issued via social media for both Palestinians and right-wing Israeli youths to congregate at various East Jerusalem sites en masse. Several Israelis were also injured in clashes with Palestinian demonstrators.

Earlier in the month, a Jerusalem court quickly overturned a ruling condoning ‘quiet’ Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. This was followed by a statement by Israel’s Minister for Public Security Omer Bar-Lev (also a member of the GI’s steering committee) re-affirming Israel’s commitment to maintaining the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The latest violence comes against the backdrop of evictions facing Palestinian residents in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. On November 2nd, the families in Shiekh Jarrah rejected the Supreme Court compromise, 
which would have allowed them to stay as protected tenants for 15 years in exchange for recognizing the ownership of the Nahalat Shimon settlement organisation and paying rent. In the lead up to this, Hamas continued its efforts to capitalize on the dispute to galvanize support among the Palestinian public. This was witnessed in its calls to the residents urging them to decline the courts proposal.

We continue to monitor developments in Jerusalem, but parameters related to the status of the city remain unchanged this month.
International Visits Give Boost to Two-State Solution in Diplomatic Rhetoric

Visits by foreign officials to the region and statements issued by the international community this month gave a boost to the two-state solution in international diplomatic rhetoric and discourse. Most officials assert, however, that now is not time to initiate direct negotiations.

This month, strong statements were made by Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swiss President Guy Parmelin, Sweden’s Ann Linde (during the first visit by a Swedish Foreign Minister in 10 years), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an op-ed in Israeli media. In parallel, the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Sven Koopmans met with officials on both sides.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr visited the region, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Washington – a reciprocal meeting was not offered to the Palestinians. US engagement over the past month has focused primarily on leveraging the Abraham Accords to promote Israeli-Palestinian relations (a policy that 53% of the Israeli public supports, according to Mitvim FPI) and advancing plans to re-open the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem.

The move to re-open the consulate is a contentious issue which Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has signaled could tank Israel’s fragile coalition. The US has reportedly rejected both Ramallah and Abu Dis as alternative locations for the mission, but concedes that re-opening the Consulate will only be possible with Israel’s approval. It appears that progress on the matter will only be made, if at all, after Israel passes its state budget in November.
Despite these developments, few concrete steps have been taken by international actors over the past month and relevant parameters remain unchanged.
Pictured above: The EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Sven Koopmans (left) meets Geneva Initiative Director General Gadi Baltiansky (right) during a visit to the region.
The Two-State Index (TSI) is brought to you by the Geneva Initiative, a Palestinian-Israeli organization working to promote a negotiated peace agreement in the spirit of the two-state vision. The TSI is produced by an Israeli-Palestinian team, and reflects a unique bilateral perspective.
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