Can You Have it All? – Options for Readying for Both Stability and Large Scale Combat Operations

Dr. Jacob Stoil is an Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies and Fellow of the West Point Modern War Institute. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. His research and publications primarily focus on indigenous force cooperation, Israeli military history, special operations in the Second World War, peripheral campaigns in global war, and the use of the subterranean environment in warfare. Dr. Stoil is a member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare and the Second World War Research Group (North America).  He can be reached on Twitter at @JacobStoil.

Dr. Tal Misgav is a Chief Superintendent in MAGAV where he serves as the commander of the MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center. Prior to assuming his post in 2002 he served as special unites and training officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police. He holds a PhD in Military History from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and MA in History from Touro College. Tal has served as an advisor to the commander of MAGAV on MAGAV’s combat history and structuring and building the future of the force. He has authored numerous articles and several books including a forthcoming work “The Legal Framework for Security Force Activity in Judea and Samaria” and “Between the Borders in a Changing Reality: Magav in the run up to and during the Six Day War.”

The views, facts, opinions, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and neither necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies or any other U.S. government agency nor Israeli Government, Israel Police, or MAGAV. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  The U.S. military shift from stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to large scale combat operations (LSCO) requires challenging force structure decisions.

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that for the U.S. military to emerge victorious in future conflicts, it must retain the knowledge and capabilities for both large scale combat operations (LSCO) and stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and that this will require deliberate planning.

Background:  Over the last twenty years, the U.S. military has paid a heavy price to learn the lessons for fighting COIN campaigns and stability operations. As the U.S. military now focuses more exclusively on LSCO, it risks having the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The doctrine for LSCO recognizes that in the future, as in the past, stability operations and COIN will play a significant role in both the consolidation zone and the phase of consolidating gains[1]. The historical record supports this. In the Second World War and American Civil War, the U.S. Military expended significant resources on stability, security, and reconstruction[2]. There is every indication that stability and security operations will continue to play a major role in operations below the threshold of LSCO. While there are several ways the U.S. may try to address this problem, other countries, such as Israel, have come up with novel solutions.

Significance:  Historically, the U.S. military has tended to swing between focusing on COIN and stability and focusing on large scale conventional operations. As Iraq and Afghanistan showed, this swing had a cost. The U.S. can find a way to retain knowledge, expertise, and readiness to engage in stability and COIN as well as, and as part of, LSCO. It cannot rely on the experience of the officers and personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Soon there will be officers who have no experience in COIN or stability operations. Yet despite the challenge, developing and retaining expertise in COIN and stability will be critical to the success of future LSCO as well as combating hybrid threats.

Option #1:  The Israeli Option: The U.S. military models a portion of its forces on the experience of MAGAV (Israel’s Gendarme).

Among MAGAV’s responsibilities is maintaining security in the West Bank – an operation which the U.S. military would term as a COIN or stability operation[3]. In LSCO, MAGAV fulfills the same role in the consolidation area[4]. For example, in the 1982 Lebanon War, MAGAV entered Lebanon with the responsibility for security in the costal consolidation area[5]. In order to maintain its specialty for both LSCO and regular operations, MAGAV trains its personnel for operations among the civilian populations[6]. This process begins in boot camp which focuses on this mission, including instruction in how to deal with a wide range of civilian-led demonstrations and terrorist activities—among both friendly and hostile populaces[7]. This process continues in special bases known as “greenhouses” that enable service members to practice their skills in urban and open-territory scenarios as well as targeted training in dispersing demonstrations[8]. This training gives MAGAV a specialized skill set in COIN and stability operations[9].

Risk:  While soldiers from a COIN / stability centric branch like MAGAV would have the ability to conduct basic infantry tasks, they will not be interchangeable with conventional combat focused units. This may create a problem when it comes to deployments and missions as in the current strategic environment, the more stability focused branch will likely have more frequent deployments. Bureaucratically, this also means creating another career and training pipeline in which they can advance, which itself will have a budgetary effect.

Gain:  As the case of MAGAV demonstrates, having a specialty force for stability and COIN can take the pressure off the rest of the branches. This model already exists within the U.S. Army, whose various branches recognize the different skill sets and training required to conduct different types of missions and that the total force benefits from integration of the branches. The experience of MAGAV in the 1982 Lebanon War shows that a specialist branch will solve the challenge of the allocation of forces to consolidation zones in LSCO and may help prevent some the problems that plagued the Iraq War. This option will allow the Army to retain the knowledge and skills to prevail in stability and COIN operations while allowing the bulk of the Army to focus on LSCO.

Option #2:  The Generalist Option: The U.S. military tries to balance its force structure within existing concepts and constructs.

The U.S. military seeks to end the bifurcation between COIN and stability operations on one hand and LSCO on the other. In this option, the military recognizes that COIN and stability tasks are a critical facet of LSCO.  The focus on integrating the two will be in all training and professional military education (PME). While at the most basic level, the training requirements for LSCO may apply to COIN and stability tasks, at higher echelons the tasks and mindsets diverge. To compensate for this, COIN and stability will be included in training and PME for echelons above the battalion. This option would keep within the intent authored by Lieutenant General Michael D. Lundy, former Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, not to lose the lessons of COIN while pursuing LSCO[10]. However, this option differs from the tack that the U.S. military is currently taking by explicitly requiring the retention of a focus on COIN and stability operations, as well the capabilities and structures to execute them within the framework of a force preparing for LSCO.

Risk:  In a budget and time constrained environment this option can be supremely difficult to retain an integrated focus, which could leave critical aspects of COIN and LSCO uncovered. This option risks having one or the other type of operation undervalued, which will result in the continued problem of radical pendulum swings. Finally, even if it proves possible to incorporate stability and LSCO operations equally in training, education, structures, and thought, this option risks creating a force that is incapable of doing either well.

Gain:  This option will create the most agile possible force with a fungible skill set. It allows any formation to serve in either form of operation with equal efficacy, easing the job of planners and commanders. This option will create the broadest possible pool from which to draw, allowing deployments and other missions to be balanced across the force without leaving one or another formation overburdened.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1] Hernandez, R. (2019, July 2). Operations to Consolidate Gains. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from

[2] See for example: Shinn, David H. and Ofcansky, Thomas P. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia p. 309;; 

[3] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Organizational Command #11/12, June 2012, p. 2; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, MAGAV Judea and Samaria, December 2015, p. 2

[4] According to FM 3-0 the consolidation area is the portion of an “area of operations that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and support the continuous consolidation of gains.” Dept of the Army (2017) Operations (FM 3-0). 1-158

[5] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Summary of MAGAV Action in Lebanon: 1982–1985, p. 3; 

[6] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Public Disturbance Trends, 2004, p. 9

[7] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Border Patrol Unit Course”, March 2012, pp. 9–12; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6

[8] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Magav Commanders Course”, April 2014, p. 7

[9] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Magav—The Future Has Already Arrived, 2019, pp. 25–26

[10] Lundy, M. D. (2018, September). Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations… Retrieved January 13, 2021, from

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Dr. Jacob Stoil Dr. Tal Misgav Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Israel Option Papers Training U.S. Army United States

Hamas Policy Options Amidst Regional & Internal Change

Miguel Galsim is a final year student completing a double Bachelor of International Relations/Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies at the Australian National University, with an academic interest in non-state violence.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  The Hamas Organisation’s purportedly softened political principles and its reshuffling of senior leadership figures has left the group fraught between a path towards further moderation and a road of continued, even elevated, violence.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2017

Date Originally Published:  June 12, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the perspective of a senior policymaker within Hamas providing options to the political leadership of the movement.

Background:  On May 1, 2017, Hamas released a document of “General Principles and Policies[1]” that displayed an apparent toning-down of Hamas’ long criticised dogmatism, evident in its original 1988 charter.  The document is bereft of references to the Muslim Brotherhood, instead refers to Hamas’ enemies as Zionists and not Jews, and while not recognising Israel, outlines its recognition of a de-facto Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.  It is widely believed that the document is a device to bring Hamas out of the diplomatic cold.

At the same time, Hamas elected former Prime Minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh to head its political bureau on May 6, replacing the highly pragmatic and externally focused Khaled Mashal who was barred by internal regulations from running for another term.  It is also worth noting that prior to the release of the General Principles and Policies and the election of Haniyeh, in February Yahya Sinwar, a military figurehead and former Hamas counterintelligence chief, was elected to become Gaza’s Prime Minister.  Sinwar has 22 years of imprisonment experience under Israel.  Both Haniyeh and Sinwar are insiders in Hamas[2] – having extensive grassroots experience, particularly in Gaza – and have strong links with the military wing, the latter more staunchly.

Compounding Hamas’ internal shifts, regional unrest has deprived Hamas of its traditional backers in Syria and Iran[3], and the return of an anti-Islamist leadership in Egypt has imperilled Hamas supply chains into Gaza and hardened an already difficult border for civilians living under Hamas government.

Significance:  Such a complex situation, buffeted by the potentially countervailing forces of ideological moderation and an insider-oriented shift, creates an uncertain future for Hamas as Gaza’s Islamic-nationalist militant group.  With Hamas insiders now in charge, Gaza becomes a more prominent reference point for strategic thinking.  Accordingly, facing an increasingly dissatisfied populace weary from siege, attempting to preserve its popular support, and also looking to fill the cavities left by a hostile Egypt and a distracted Syria and Iran, Hamas’ next strategic choices will be crucial for its success in pursuing its goals, and at the very least, surviving as a movement.

Option #1:  Hamas allows military imperatives to drive its broader strategic thinking, resulting in a potential escalation of violent operations.

This option would be a conceivable outcome of the election of Sinwar and Haniyeh who, while following in their predecessor’s pragmatic footsteps, nonetheless have better military ties due to their experiences in Gaza.

Risk:  This option would be inflexible and incognizant of the external factors fuelling grievances within their controlled territory.  Increased attacks on Israel would invite disastrous Israeli offensives on Gaza and substantial damage to the group’s own assets, as Hamas has learned to expect.  This would result not only in an immediate danger to Gaza’s populace, but a tightened economic blockade.  A militaristic mindset would also render Hamas even more isolated from global diplomatic support and hostile to Egyptian interests – a subsequent thinning of material and financial resources into Gaza would be the likely result.  These factors would consequently worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza, withering Hamas’ popular support base.  Simultaneously, increased Hamas violence would give Fatah extended pretexts to dismantle Hamas cells in the West Bank.

Gain:  Emphasising its military needs would help Hamas retain the leadership of violent resistance against Israel and sustain its main differentiator from its rivals in Fatah who renounced armed resistance in 1993.  For certain sectors of the population, militancy would be a pull factor towards the group.  Enhanced coercive capabilities would also assist Hamas’ crackdown on hostile Salafi elements in Gaza and, if not applied haphazardly, act as deterrence against hostile manoeuvres from Fatah and Israel.  Additionally, a focus on military capacity could potentially reinvigorate Hamas’ relationship with Iran as the military wing’s traditional patron[4], as well as a provider of armaments.

Option #2:  Hamas pursues a course of broader political moderation and resorts only to limited, targeted applications of violence.

Given the publication of Hamas’ new political document, the path of moderation is also a viable option.  Haniyeh may be open to pragmatic change, despite his commitment to resistance[5], given the hard lessons he would have learnt first-hand from conflagrations in Gaza.  This should not be taken as disarmament, however – such a move would be disastrous for Hamas’ popularity, territorial control, and deterrence abilities.  Furthermore, it cannot be considered an option as heightened discontent within the military wing would simply endanger the integrity of the entire Organisation.

Risk:  Political compromise may widen rifts between the moderates and conservatives within Hamas, with champion hardliner Mahmoud al-Zahar already stating to the public that the new platform was an “extension” and not a “replacement” of the original, maximalist charter[6].  A more restrained Hamas could also result in external criticisms of Hamas’ failure to carry the banner of resistance, and may inspire a shift in some grassroots support towards more radical elements in Gaza.  Traditional partners in Syria and Iran may also become more estranged.

Gain:  The clear benefit of moderation is its potential to open regional and global diplomatic channels.  Doing so keeps Hamas open to a wider array of policy options and could lead to the future easing of terrorist classifications in some countries, thereby alleviating constraints on its financial flows.  Additionally, an eased political position may boost public appreciation for Hamas’ efforts by alleviating the blockade of Gaza from Israel and Egypt, and giving Israel fewer reasons to launch high-intensity offensives on Gaza.  Concurrently, opting for more surgical military operations – particularly given Sinwar’s sophisticated understanding of Israel, his ability to act with moderation, and the potential that he will work sanguinely with the politburo[7] – would retain Hamas’ coercive edge while not instigating another round of heavy fighting.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


[1]  The Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas”. (2017, May 1). A Document of General Principles and Policies.

[2]  See Ghassan Khatib’s comments in Mitnick, J & Abualouf, R. (2017, May 6). Hamas selects popular Gaza politician Ismail Haniyeh as its new leader. Los Angeles Times,

[3]  Uthman, T. (2013, March 4). Hamas and the Arab Spring: Arguments on gains and losses (Arabic). Namaa Center for Research and Studies,

[4]  Mounir, S. (2017, April 23). The predicament of regional options for Hamas after the victory of Yahya Sinwar (Arabic). Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies,

[5]  Author unknown. (2017, April 30). Haniyeh: Two important merits are coming (Arabic). Shasha News,

[6]  Author unknown. (2017, May 17). The new document splitting Hamas from the inside (Arabic). Al-Arab,

[7]  Caspit, B. (2017, February 15). Why some in Israel are wary of Hamas’ new Gaza boss. Al-Monitor,

Hamas Israel Miguel Galsim Option Papers Palestine

U.S. Options for Israel: Accept or Reject Settlement Activities

Brian Christopher Darling has served in the United States Army in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar.  He has master’s degrees in Liberal Studies and Public Service Leadership from Rutgers University and Thomas Edison State University, respectively.  Mr. Darling is presently employed at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey National Guard.  He can be found on twitter @briancdarling and has written for NCO Journal.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  The United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 on December 23rd, 2016.  In addition to demanding the Palestinian leadership take steps to end violence, this resolution called for an end to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Date Originally Written:  January 26, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 6, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is a member of the U.S. military.  Author believes that U.S. involvement in Israeli politics should be limited.  The U.S. and Israel have traditionally enjoyed a strong, informal alliance.  Despite the ongoing friction between the Jewish State and its Arab neighbors and the UN, there is no benefit to the U.S. to inject itself into the situation.  The author’s MA studies focused on war and politics in the Middle East and Asia and the importance of intergovernmental networking to maintain the current global balance of power.

Background:  On December 23, 2016, the UN adopted Security Council Resolution 2334.  The adoption of this resolution, and the abstention from the vote by the U.S., involves a number of operational environment variables, to include regional and global relationships, economics, information, technology, and military capabilities.

Significance:  The abstention by the U.S. during the vote broke with long-standing policy regarding support for Israel, but was in keeping with the Obama administration’s actions towards the Jewish State.  Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli politics have moved further to the right, making a two-state solution less feasible.

Option #1:  The incoming administration could reaffirm U.S. support for Israel, continuing to disregard the settlement activities that led to the adoption of the resolution.

Risk:  By continuing to accept Israeli settlement of occupied territory, the U.S. would further alienate itself from the international community, returning to the unilateral international relations policies of the Bush administration.  Option #1 would have an adverse effect on U.S. attempts at coalition building to pursue its interests in the Middle East.  The U.S. needs the support of the international community and of intergovernmental organizations like the UN, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank in order to facilitate the resolution of ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and in the Middle East.

Gain:  Under Option #1, the U.S. would, in Israel, maintain an ally in the Middle East, and demonstrate strength in the face of its adversaries.  The informal U.S.-Israeli alliance is beneficial to the U.S., as Israel is considered the only democracy in the Middle East, and economic ties between the two states run deep.  After reaffirming U.S. support for Israel, the U.S. could use this reaffirmation as leverage with Israel to request further assistance in the resolution of other conflicts in the Middle East, to include those ongoing in Syria and Iraq.

Option #2:  The U.S. accepts UN Security Council Resolution 2334, affirming that Israel has no legal basis for its ongoing settlement activity.

Risk:  The U.S. risks losing Israeli support, in the Jewish State and domestically.  Further, the abstention of the U.S. from the 2334 vote and the continued unfavorable treatment of Israel by the UN threaten to further delegitimize the UN in the eyes of the American people.

Gain:  Accepting UN 2334 without any further activity would demonstrate the U.S.’ commitment to operating as an integral part of the liberal international system.  Having abstained from the vote, the U.S. appears to support the UN.  However, in the eyes of U.S. citizens, the vote itself further discredited the UN and garnered public support for the Jewish State.  Further, regardless of UN involvement, the economic relationship between the U.S. and Israel would likely continue, regardless of the U.S. stance on the resolution.  If the U.S. does nothing, maintaining the policy of noninvolvement or abstention, Israel will remain strong, and will continue to maintain a military hedge against Iran and its proxies.

Other Comments:  Israel continues to deal with unfavorable perceptions in the UN due to its settlement activity, and with periodic harassment from a rogue’s gallery of terrorist organizations.  The only real threat to Israel comes not from Palestine, but from Iran and its proxies.  The military capability of the Jewish state keeps the Iranians at bay, and it is widely assumed that Israel has its own nuclear deterrent capability.  If the U.S. does nothing regarding the UN resolution, Israel will remain strong, and will continue to maintain a military edge against Iran and its proxies.

Although the U.S. was the first nation to recognize the Jewish State, Israel no longer needs the U.S. in order to support its activities.  The U.S. abstention from the Security Council vote demonstrates U.S. commitment to the liberal international order and to the rule of law as Israeli settlement activity is founded on claims of legitimacy that are dubious at best.  At the bottom line, the ultimate interest of the U.S. and of Israel is not the continued legitimacy of the UN, but the continued existence of their respective sovereignty, in the current climate of global politics, the U.S. and Israel will remain relevant long after the UN.

Recommendation:  None.



Brian Christopher Darling Israel Option Papers Palestine United States

Israel Options: Continue Expansion or Recognize Palestine

Adam Yefet is pursuing a Master’s degree in International of Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, based in Washington D.C.  He can be found on Twitter at @yefet4USA.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  Israel-Palestinian Conflict.

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  February 2, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is pursuing a Master’s degree in International Affairs at George Washington University and has written on Middle East affairs for Gulf State Analytics.  He writes as an international observer.

Background:  On December 23, 2016 the United Nations (UN) passed a non-binding resolution censuring Israel for activities in the Palestinian Territories, occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War.  The United States’ abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 demonstrated the rift between the current U.S. and Israeli administrations.  While the Obama administration has been a useful political foil for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, Obama’s policies allowed Netanyahu to hold back from the most egregious moves supported by his cabinet.  Netanyahu may have difficulty balancing his policy and his coalition with an ideologically friendlier U.S. administration

The Palestinian Territories are governed by the relatively secular group Fatah in the West Bank and Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.  Several attempts by the two parties to unify and collaborate in the last decade have failed.  In the meantime, Hamas in Gaza has engaged in three significant conflicts with Israel.  There are few signs of hope for united Palestinian leadership.  Israel maintains tight control over whom and what can enter and exit the territories.  There is a continued cycle of Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli reprisals.

The expansion of Israeli settlements into West Bank territory, considered to be part of the biblical Jewish state, seeks to annex the land permanently to Israel and interfere with the creation of a Palestinian state.  The settlement enterprise has yielded limited results in terms of changing the demographic landscape to prevent a two-state solution but it has incurred a high cost to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and the international community at large[1].

Meanwhile, the Arab world’s focus has shifted from Israel to the Saudi-Iran conflict.  The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API) parameters, reaffirmed in 2016, provide significant diplomatic incentives for Israeli action but Israeli leadership has largely ignored it.  Palestinian leadership rejected peace deals in the 1990s and 2000s.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalitions since 2009 have included key ministers publicly opposed to a two-state solution[2].

Significance:  Peace between Israel and Palestine, and Palestinian statehood, is a multigenerational goal for the international community.  However, the two sides have not found their way to a peace agreement for many reasons, any of which is most important depending on who you ask.  The conflict is deadly for Palestinians and Israelis and has the potential to escalate the Middle East into war or reshape the regional order with a peace deal.  The options analyzed here are along the lines of those presented by significant figures in Israeli politics.

Option #1:  Israel continues the expansion of settlements in disputed areas of the West Bank.

Risk:  If Israel pursues expansion even more aggressively with the tacit, or vocal, support from the new U.S. administration, it will further alienate the international community including Israel’s few strong allies in the West and provoke further hostility from adversaries, neutral parties, and non-state political movements.

The API and its subsequent reaffirmations, as well as covert cooperation in the Syrian theater between Israel and Saudi Arabia, suggest a growing acceptance of Israel in the region and the potential for practical alliances.  Following Option #1, Israel will risk losing the geopolitical moment of opportunity to secure diplomatic, economic, and military relationships with its neighbors.

Israel expanding settlements risks undermining and antagonizing Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, which has cooperated with Israel, and empowering Hamas in Gaza, which has actively fought Israel and won concessions.  The last year has seen dozens of individual attacks by Palestinians, mainly in the occupied territories and around settlements.

Gain:  Proponents of expanding settlements maintain that the expansion of settlements is dedicated to ensuring a secure and defensible border for Israel in the face of its international threats.  It also sends a message to Palestinian leadership that time is running out to secure a Palestinian state.  Settlement expansion seeks to ensure the establishment of the state on biblical and historical lines and there is a strong domestic constituency in Israel, and non-state foreign support, for that cause.  Prime Minister Netanyahu and others in his cabinet also find domestic support for policies in defiance of the UN and U.S. policy.  With the advent of an ideologically friendlier administration in Washington D.C., Prime Minister Netanyahu may feel fresh license to continue and expand those policies.

Option #2:  Israel unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state along 1967 lines with land swaps.

Risk:  Israel’s difficult unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was met with Hamas claiming victory and launching attacks against Fatah and against Israel.  A repeat of that scenario could plunge the conflict into disastrous war between the Palestinian groups themselves for control, and with Israel.  Unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state without a functioning, unified partner government in Palestine could be tragic for both sides.

Option #2 risks the dissolution of the governing coalition if members opposed to a two-state solution left because Netanyahu would be breaking a key election promise that there would not be a Palestinian state on his watch, though he backtracked after the election due to U.S. pressure[3].  Without enough members of Knesset (parliament) in support, the Knesset would be dissolved and require new elections, essentially a referendum on the move.  Prime Minister Netanyahu carries substantial credibility on security issues like no other Israeli politician, but elections can be unpredictable and are a significant political risk.

Another risk is physical violence and political chaos.  Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an anti-two-state solution Israeli settler upset by the progress towards a Palestinian state.

Gain:  If successful, Israel would spark a shift in the regional order in the Middle East, open relations across the Arab world, and diplomatically isolate Iran, Israel’s key adversary.  International allies would warm to Israel while seeking to support the new state.  There is a strong constituency in the Israeli security community that supports this option[4].  Palestine’s governing parties would be forced to work with the deal or deny themselves a state, a move that would result in a significant loss of diplomatic credibility and fit Israel’s claims of Palestinian intransigence.

Other Comments:  Any peace deal would require significant international financial and security support to succeed.  The withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territories and the management of security inside the territories after withdrawal would be challenging for both sides.  Non-state actors in the territories would have many opportunities to undermine peace and would quickly test both sides’ patience, but especially Israel’s.

Recommendation:  None.


[1]  Arieli, S. (2016, June 27). Look at the Figures: Israel’s Settlement Enterprise Has Failed. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

[2]  Sharon, J. (2016, December 30). Analysis: Will The Trump Era Be Bennett’s Finest Hour? Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

[3]  Lubell, M. (2015, March 16). Netanyahu Says No Palestinian State As Long As He’s Prime Minister. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from

[4]  Gross, J.A. (Jan 15, 2017). Former Defense Leaders Take Aim at Bennett’s Annexation Plan. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

Adam Yefet Israel Option Papers Palestine

One State & Two State Options in Israel & Palestine

Ted Martin has a keen interest in Arab and Israeli affairs and has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  Israeli settlement activity and United Nations (UN) resolution 2334 (2016).

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 30, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author has studied the problem of settlements since the late 1990s and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The point of view expressed is advice to an Israeli decision maker from a third-party.

Background:  The outgoing U.S. Presidential administration abstained from voting for or against UN resolution 2334(2016) that condemned Israeli settlements in the West bank.  Abstaining was unusual behavior for the U.S., as typically the U.S. votes against such resolutions[1].  The Israelis removed all settlements from Gaza before leaving in 2005 but continue to keep and expand them in the West bank and Jerusalem[2].  The last moratorium on settlement expansion was in 2010 and tied to another failed attempt at a peace deal with the Palestinians[3].

Significance:  The UN resolution has angered the Israeli government and may embolden those Palestinian elements that use violence, like Hamas, to justify attacks on Israel.  However, Hamas will likely attack Israel regardless of a UN resolution.  The incoming U.S. administration is expected to adopt a friendlier attitude towards Israel, but world opinion is not liable to change.  Continuing demographic pressure within Israel, a resurgent Iran, and threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), would argue for Israel to attempt to end the settlement dispute and focus on other issues that may be more pressing[4].  Solving this issue soon will allow Israel to focus international attention on its enemies instead of its internal problems.

Option #1:  Create a one state solution by making Arab and Palestinians living within the West bank and Jerusalem Israeli citizens.  Resume negotiations with the Palestinian authority on the basis of integration to the state of Israel.

Risk:  Israel will no longer be a state of Jewish character but rather a secular state.  The current Netanyahu government is allied with many conservative elements and would probably not survive the transition[5].  A moderate or leftist government collation is the only one that could make the proposal possible, which does not currently exist.  The Palestinian Authority government may not agree to transition from separate government to a political party and lose much of its funding and prestige.

Gain:  There is an increasing demographic tension within Israel as the Arabs and Palestinians already living within the borders of the state, 21% of the population as of 2016[6], are becoming a growing minority.  By incorporating the Arabs and Palestinians into the state of Israel the goals of the moderate majority can become mainstream and eliminate many problems currently developing between extremists elements at both ends.  The moderate Israeli parties can use the moderate Arab and Palestinian parties as a wedge against the more extreme elements.  Only 18% of the Arab population in Israel rejects the idea of integration with Israel[7].  Through Option #1, the delicate issue of allowing Palestinian refugees to return to property they once owned or be compensated for that property, known as the right of return, could potentially be addressed.  The right of return has historically been a negotiation point where both sides take intractable positions.  Palestinian Authority President Abbas has flipped on the right of return several times, which may provide room for negotiation[8].  Palestinian refugees who accept the state of Israel to return may address this issue.  Considerably more work would be required on this proposal to move it beyond a concept.  However, small amounts of returning Palestinians might be worth quite a lot of international goodwill.

Option #2:  Decide to return to the negotiating table for a two state solution for the West bank but negotiate for Jerusalem and leave Gaza for a separate deal.

Risk:  The two-state solution enjoys some support by Jewish Israelis, but is starkly divided along party lines with only a total of 43% supporting it[9].  If adopted, it would tear Netanyahu’s coalition apart.  The military is becoming more religious, and the longer this deal takes, the more likely soldiers will refuse orders to forcibly move settlements[10].  The international community may decry this solution as not complete enough.  The Palestinians may refuse to take part in meaningful negations as they did in 2009 and 2010 after the last settlement freeze[11].

Gain:  A two-state solution for the west bank recognizes the Palestinian Authority and allows the state of Israel to push problems within the Palestinian state to the Palestinian Authority to deal with and potentially to require the Palestinian Authority to “fix” Gaza.  Making a deal in the West Bank now may work, only 5% of Israel’s population lives in the West Bank and of that percentage only half live in settlements that may be affected[12].  This option also allows Israel to create a clearly defined border between the state of Palestine and itself that may help prevent illegal entry.  This option has been the “default” option for several years.

Other Comments:  There is some indication that both sides, even the entire Middle East, have given up on solving this problem for now and decided to focus on the threat of Iran and ISIS [13].  This situation leaves external policy makers precious few levers to lean on to force both sides to work together.  If the Arab world is too preoccupied to force the Palestinian Authority to deal with Israel then another power may be able to provide positive reinforcement like money or prestige to the Palestinian Authority to make a deal.  A further motivating factor would be the desire to solve this problem to focus on other problems, which may interest both parties.

Recommendations:  None.


[1]  DeYoung, K. (2016, December 28). How the U.S. came to abstain on a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The Washington Post. Retrieved from:

[2], [3], [12]  Rosen, S.J. (2012). Israeli settlements, American pressure, and peace. Jewish Political Studies Review 24(1/2) pp 32-45.

[4], [9], [10] [13]  Harel, A. (2016 July/August). Israel’s evolving military. Foreign Affairs 95(4).

[5], [6], [7]  Ghanem, A. (2016 July/August). Israeli’s second-class citizens. Foreign Affairs 95(4).

[8]  Rudoren, J. (2012, November 4). Palestinian’s remark, seen as a concession, stirs uproar. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

[9]  Lipka, M. (2016, March 9). Among Israeli Arabs and Jews, limited optimism about a two-state solution. Pew Research Center. Retrieved on January 10, 2017 from:

[11]  Kramer, M. (2016 July/August). Israel and the post American middle east. Foreign Affairs 95(4).

Israel Option Papers Palestine Ted Martin

Rapid Call For Papers: Israel & Palestine


Image from Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies

On December 23, 2016, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 2334[1].  The resolution called on Palestinian leaders to take “immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” and refrain from “incitement and inflammatory rhetoric” and also stated that Israel’s settlement project has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace[2].”

Based upon this development, Divergent Options is conducting a rapid call for papers related to national security situations surrounding the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

Prospective authors can address any national security situation related to the Israel-Palestine Conflict large or small.  We are specifically interested in options that could ensure both parties remain at the negotiation table.

Please write using our article template and take a look at our previous articles to best understand what we are looking for.

Please send your article to by January 13, 2017.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we still welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!


[1]  Welcoming Adoption of Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), Secretary-General Urges Return of Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Meaningful Negotiations | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. (2016, December 23). Retrieved December 28, 2016, from

[2] Avishai, B. (2016, December 27). A Significant Resolution on Israel. Retrieved December 28, 2016, from

Call For Papers Israel Palestine