Dear Friends,

As a spree of deadly terror attacks converges with Land Day rallies, Israeli military operations in major West Bank cities, provocations and demonstrations by right-wing extremists, and the approach of the Ramadan and Passover holidays, the urgency for a just and lasting two-state solution is put sharply into focus. Click on the headlines below for our analysis on developments this month impacted the feasibility of the two-state solution.

March at a Glance:

These events increased the Two State Index by +4.2% in March (up 0.23 points from 5.33 to 5.56).

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Deadly Terror Spree, Worst Since 2016, Raises Threat of Widespread Escalation as Ramadan Approaches

A spree of terrorist attacks claimed the lives of at least 11 Israelis in just one week, significantly raising the threat of a widespread escalation between Israelis and Palestinians as the Ramadan and Passover holidays approach. The flare-up is the deadliest terror spree in Israel since 2016, and came as thousands of Palestinians rallied in the West Bank and Gaza to mark Land Day and on the heels of a number of Israeli economic and humanitarian gestures that had been intended to quell tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month. 

Deadly attacks in Hadera and
Beersheba by Arab-Israeli citizens affiliated with the Islamic State, a fatal shooting spree in Bnei Brak by a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Ya’abad, and the stabbing of an Israeli civilian in the Gush Etzion settlement, sparked a furious response in Israel. “Revenge attacks” targeting Palestinian civilians and property were reported throughout the West Bank as right-wing Israelis furiously demand an immediate response – with some even calling for a full-scale military operation.

Israeli forces launched major security operations across the West Bank, arresting at least 31 individuals suspected of involvement with recent attacks or planning future attacks. Two Palestinians were killed in Jenin as Israeli commandos exchanged fire with gunmen during a rare daytime operation in the city. Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened Israel with further escalation in response to the two deaths.

The attacks stoked political tensions in Israel as security officials decided nonetheless to ease restrictions for Palestinian entry to Israel during Ramadan. But the current wave of violence, coupled with ongoing tensions in Sheikh Jarrah and al-Walaja, the use of excessive force by police against protesters, the approval of plans for a new promenade over the remains of the al-Yusufiya cemetery, the settler occupation of a high-profile Palestinian Christian hotel, and the announcement of a government housing lottery project that includes the construction of 468 apartments in Givat Hamatos, threatens to ignite serious clashes in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and along the Gaza border in the coming weeks.

Terrorist attacks in Israel and security operations throughout the West Bank lead to a rise in the TSI’s reverse-scale Palestinian Attacks (West Bank), IDF Military Actions (West Bank), and Settler Violence parameters to 8.5, 8 and 8 respectively. This reflects that as the severity of violence increases the less tenable the status quo becomes. 


"The Outbreak That Everyone Saw Coming"

"Israeli participants of the Geneva Initiative’s young leaders’ reconciliation program are frustrated. Every week, I receive at least three texts asking when the group meeting in Ramallah will be held. “The situation is very sensitive,” I answer, echoing the words of my Palestinian colleagues. The participants roll their eyes. When is the situation not sensitive?"
Abbas Issues Rare Condemnation of Terror Attack as Officials Aim to Salvage Confidence-Building Steps

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued an exceedingly rare condemnation of the March 29th attack in Bnei Brak, saying that “the cycle of violence shows that a comprehensive, just and stable peace is the shortest, most correct path to security and stability for both peoples.”

Abbas’ statement reportedly came at the behest of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US officials, who warned that his silence would jeopardize recently announced gestures – which include easing of restrictions on movement and a freeze on home demolitions during Ramadan, as well as a significant increase the number of permits for Gazan workers from 8,000 to 20,000 (the highest number since Hamas took control of the enclave 17 years ago).

US President Joe Biden offered his condolences in a call with Israeli PM Bennett, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called recent violence “unacceptable”. The string of attacks was also condemned by French President Emmanuel Macron, diplomats from the UK, EU, and the UN, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the UAE who were present in Israel for a regional security summit during one of the attacks.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II also condemned the attacks in talks with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog in Amman. King Abdullah earlier met with Abbas in Ramallah in a show of solidarity with Palestinians who feel increasingly isolated on the world stage. “The series of Palestinian attacks in Israel reflect a growing tension in the Palestinian territories amid intense frustration resulting from the way in which regional and US-led efforts have kept the Palestinian issue off the table,” analyst Mohammed Daraghmeh says.

Gantz – who had wanted to join the Abbas-Abdullah meeting in Ramallah but was blocked by Bennett – later met the Jordanian King in Amman to discuss tensions ahead of Ramadan and outlined steps to ensure freedom of worship for Palestinians in Jerusalem during the holiday and improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Earlier, Gantz met with Jordanian FM Ayman Safadi, who also met secretly with Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Barlev to discuss efforts to maintain calm in Jerusalem during Ramadan.

The preservation of measures easing Palestinian movement during Ramadan despite recent violence leads to a rise in the TSI’s Jerusalem Holy Sites parameter from 5 to 6, while the announcement of a significant increase in Gaza worker permits raises the Gaza Humanitarian & Economic Conditions parameter from 4 to 5.
Historic Regional Summits Exclude Palestinians, But Thrust Israeli-Palestinian Peace Back into Political Consciousness

Historic regional summits bringing together leaders from Israel, Egypt, UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain this month marked a significant and positive step towards regional peace and cooperation. But the exclusion of Palestinian officials and the sidelining of discussions of Israeli-Palestinian issues did not go unnoticed nor unacknowledged by either critics nor the summit’s regional participants.

Israeli PM Bennett, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for a first-ever trilateral summit of Israeli, Egyptian, and Emirati leaders. Days later, the FMs of Israel, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco convened in Israel’s Sde Boker for the “Negev Summit”, facilitated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Though discussions at both forums focused primarily on bolstering regional unity against Iran, Arab diplomats used the summit to reiterate support for the two-state solution.

In their closing remarks, the FMs of Morocco, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain all highlighted the importance of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and ensuring the viability of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Announcing the Negev Summit as a permanent regional security forum, Israeli FM Yair Lapid invited Palestinians to join the new Middle East, while Blinken stressed that progress within the framework of the Abraham Accords is not a substitute for progress on the Palestinian front. Blinken travelled to Ramallah to meet with Abbas on the eve of the summit, vowing to continue to work to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace.
Though critics panned the Negev Summit’s lack of Palestinian representation and dismissed references to Israeli-Palestinian peace in closing remarks as little more than lip-service, the summit’s impact on local, regional, and international discourse (for better or for worse) should not be overlooked. With the eyes of the world watching, criticism of the summit and the public statements delivered by Arab ministers at its closing thrust the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and two-state solution back into political consciousness at a time when the world is largely pre-occupied with Iran, Russia, and Ukraine.

In Israel, opposition lawmakers immediately lambasted public pressure on the Palestinian conflict. The right’s disproportionate focus on Arab leaders’ statements in support of the Palestinians (which were widely anticipated) reflects a growing sense of panic in response to the Israeli government’s ongoing bi-lateral engagement with Palestinian officials and public overtures by the Arab world which invigorated an Israeli discourse that is embracing the spirit of a broad regional peace that will eventually include the Palestinians.

Diplomatic engagement renewing focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raises the TSI’s International Actors (US) parameter from 7 to 8. The TSI’s International Actors (Arab World) parameter remains unchanged at 8. The Palestinian Public Discourse parameter drops from 5 to 4.5, while the Israeli Public Discourse parameter rises from 6 to 7. The TSI’s Solvability of Core Issues – Security parameter also rises from 7 to 8 this month, with the establishment of a new regional security architecture that will enable the sides to leverage regional alliances in moving towards a just and sustainable agreement that also meets Israel’s security needs.

Ahead of Ramadan, Palestinian support for two-state solution holds stable at 40% 
A new poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) this month shows support for the two-state solution holding steady at 40% (up from 39% three months ago). At the same time, however, the poll reflects a growing sense of frustration at the current political deadlock, with support for embracing a one-state solution rising to 32% (up from 24% three months ago) and support for a return to armed confrontations and intifada as a means to end the stalemate rising to 52% (up from 50% three months ago).

Asked about Israeli measures to improve living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the absence of a political peace process, 63% of Palestinian respondents viewed them favorably. 68% of Palestinians, nonetheless, believe that the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next five years are slim or nonexistent, while 30% believe chances are medium or high. Stagnant support for the two-state solution and a pessimistic view of the prospect of statehood indicate that Palestinians are under no illusion that improvements in economic and humanitarian conditions will necessarily lead to the realization of their national ambitions.

This pessimistic outlook was reflected in Palestinian discourse this month, which largely focused on the marginalization the Palestinians in regional and international forums. Israeli public opinion reflects the opposite sentiment, however, with engagement with regional Arab leaders leading to an embrace of the prospect of a regional peace that could eventually include the Palestinians. The TSI’s Palestinian Public Opinion parameter drops from 6 to 5 this month, while the Israeli Public Opinion parameter rises from 6 to 7.
Palestinian commentators outraged by 'western hypocrisy' over support for Ukrainian resistance

Palestinians have lamented the “hypocrisy” and “double standard” in Western support for Ukraine, as compared to the issue of Israeli occupation which has not received the same attention or demands of accountability. Palestinian officials and the Palestinian public believe that the war in Ukraine will hurt their cause, leaving them searching for international attention and providing Israel a means for promoting immigration from Ukraine to West Bank settlements.

This sentiment was communicated by PA President Abbas during a meeting with US Secretary Blinken in Ramallah: "The current events in Europe have shown blatant double standards," he told Blinken. "Despite the crimes of the Israeli occupation that amounted to ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination... we find no one who is holding Israel responsible for behaving as a state above the law.”

“Palestinians feel that they have never been so alone as at this time, when the world is standing strongly against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supporting the Ukrainian people politically, militarily, financially, and with generous humanitarian aid, while leaving the Palestinians to face the same fate with little to no support,” analyst Mohammed Daraghmeh says.
At the GI’s “Between Kyiv and Ramallah” conference this month, with the participation of Israeli Minister Nachman Shai, former PA minister and GI leader Ashraf Al Arjami said: "It's important that we, Israel and Palestine, will learn that every time there is an active conflict in the world, it impacts us, one way or another. It is necessary that we do whatever we can to end our own conflict once and for all. Otherwise, we will be in an even worse situation than Russia-Ukraine.”

The firm international response to the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine signals a shift in the potential response to future Israeli-Palestinian escalations. Alongside a growing chorus applying the apartheid label against Israel, the unified use of diplomatic tools such as sanction and the massive private sector response to Russian aggression could set new precedents and international norms in response to other violations of territorial integrity and international law. The TSI’s International Decisions & Norms parameter therefore increases from 6 to 7 this month
Other Events: 

  • Israel passed a controversial amendment to its Citizenship Law making it harder for Palestinians to receive residency through marriage to Israeli citizens. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said the law aims to reduce Palestinian immigration to Israel for both security and demographic reasons, admitting it is intended to “prevent a creeping right of return”. No changes to relevant TSI parameters are recorded.
  • Palestinians held the second phase of local elections this month, boycotted by Hamas, in a rare and positive exercise in Palestinian democratic state-building. Around 52% of eligible voters cast ballots, which saw Fatah claim victory in major cities across the West Bank. Despite low voter turnout, the vote injected some blood into Palestinian political life paving the way for demanding national elections. No changes to relevant TSI parameters are recorded.
  • Israel razed 20 structures in illegal settler outposts in the West Bank. Within days, settler groups had raised significant funds and began re-construction at the demolished outposts with little interference. The operation is largely carried out for psychological impact – sending a message on the government's position on settlements. No changes to relevant TSI parameters are recorded. 
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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