Approaching Peace: Centering Rights in Israel-Palestine Conflict Resolution

For thirty years, the United States has sent mixed messages to Israelis and Palestinians. While successive administrations have expressed support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a democratic state of Palestine, they have refrained from using the levers of U.S. power to stem the tide of Israel’s illegal settlement expansion. Meanwhile, they have used the levers regularly to constrain Palestinians’ diplomatic and legal efforts to fulfill their legitimate aspirations. The failure to hold Israel to its commitments and legal obligations during the peace process and the de-prioritization of Palestinian good governance and accountability effectively undercut the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian constituencies who supported a political agreement through negotiations.

A new approach to Israel-Palestine conflict resolution is needed to allow the United States to achieve better outcomes by doing less, including less harm. This requires prioritizing rights and human security—what is referred to here as a rights-based approach—and is all the more urgent according to a recent Human Rights Watch report that finds that Israel is committing crimes against humanity including persecution and apartheid against Palestinians. Although a shift in focus, the approach would align with President Joe Biden’s overall U.S. national security strategy, strengthen U.S. alliances with normative actors, and help to restore U.S. credibility and global standing. It would also hold the most promise for changing the political calculations currently steering Israelis and Palestinians away from a durable political solution. But what does a rights-based approach look like and how would it work?

This paper was published by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on April 29, 2021. To read the full paper click here