The two-state impasse in Israel/Palestine: The EU caught between egalitarian norms and expansionist realpolitik

Lisa Strömbom, Anders Persson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, many academics as well as local actors have started to question the feasibility of a two-state solution for Israel
and Palestine. Increased Israeli unilateralism, expansionism as well as weak Palestinian institutions has instead pointed toward a
‘one-state-reality’ where Israel is in de facto control over all lands. This in turn reveals a paradox, where international
policymakers, most prominently in the EU and the US, and international organizations like the UN, seem determined to insist on a
two-state solution, even though all facts on the ground indicate a move away from such a vision where the egalitarian principles
inherent in the two-state solution exists in constant tension with expansionist attempts to establish Israeli sovereignty also on
Palestinian land. This article starts with unpacking various visions for the future in Israel-Palestine, based on egalitarian solutions
the one hand and expansionist ones on the other. After having pinpointed current tensions between egalitarian and expansionist
ideals, we present broader international positions on the respective solutions. Then we move to the core of our investigation, a
historical analysis on EU positions with regards to principles for solving the conflict, complemented by current developments
captured through recent speeches, documents and semi-structured interviews with centrally placed EU staff. Our main conclusion
is that even though the EU is determined to hold on to the two state-solution, it is however lacking willingness and/or power-
resources to push Israel in that direction. Our interviewees are painfully aware of the lack of viability of the two-state-solution
and hence welcomes criticism which could push egalitarian tendencies is Israel by appealing to its democratic-self-image. Here the
current spread of the apartheid narrative among international organizations and an increased international human rights
rhetoric emphasizing equal rights for two peoples seem to have left the EU balancing on a tight-rope where they have to choose
between standing by status quo, risking to support ultra-nationalist Israeli sovereignty-aspirations, or criticizing those, instead
exposing oneself to accusations of antisemitism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Political Science
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jun 26

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

Free keywords

  • The EU
  • Israel/Palestine
  • the two-state solution
  • the one-state solution
  • nationalism
  • apartheid
  • Human Rights


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