The Two-State Index: Makeup and Methodology

Israeli and Palestinian leaders, together with the international community, have endorsed the idea that the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved by way of a two-state outcome. But such an outcome has eluded negotiators, creating the impression that it is becoming ever more distant. Pundits increasingly talk of a “closing window” and an “urgency” of achieving two states before it is “too late.” But on what basis?

The Two-State Index (TSI) assesses the state of the two-state solution. Examining more than 50 different parameters, the TSI organizes and systematizes the latest developments in your Israeli-Palestinian newsfeed, and determines whether they create progress toward or regress away from a two state outcome. Ultimately, the TSI produces a coherent assessment of the plight of the two-state option.

As we launch the index in early May 2018, its score is 5.60 on a 0-10 scale. Although not strictly-speaking a scientific tool, the TSI offers a fact-based, data-driven, wide-angle lens on the pursuit of two states: where there is greatest progress or regression, and what stakeholders should focus on. Produced by the Israeli-Palestinian teams of the Geneva Initiative, it reflects a uniquely bilateral and nuanced understanding of current political reality. The TSI relies primarily on public sources and third-party research, as well as expert analysis. At times, TSI editors will commission original research on issues that are not regularly covered.

In order to create an index, a baseline set of assumptions must be established:

I. What do we measure?

International law, the statements of global leaders and institutions, and the records of previous negotiations all reflect a significant consensus regarding the parameters of a two-state solution and therefore provide a robust yardstick against which to measure progress or regression.

The TSI does not necessarily adhere to the Geneva Initiative model peace agreement published in 2003. But the body of official and non-official work accumulated over the past two decades — UN resolutions, Quartet statements, EU decisions, US policy statements (notably the 2000 Clinton parameters and the 2014 Kerry Initiative), the records of previous negotiating rounds, and informal model agreements such as the 2003 Geneva Initiative, a set of International Crisis Group proposals, the 2010 Baker Institute territorial report, etc. — produce a clear picture on final status issues. These parameters form the basis of what the TSI is testing. Notably, the consensus on what constitutes reasonable parameters may change over time. This will be considered as the TSI progresses.

II. How do we measure?

The TSI consists of four layers:

  1. The two-state index gives an overview numerical score of the condition of the two-state solution.
  2. This overview score is based on scores in four arenas: the political and public arena, which evaluates the intentions of the relevant actors; the diplomatic and legal arena, which examines the framework of diplomacy, law, and statute in which the two-state pursuit unfolds; the reality on the ground; and finally the solvability of the core issues of the conflict.
  3. Each of the four arenas is then divided into categories that give a more contextual and nuanced breakdown.
  4. Finally, the categories are divided into 57 specific parameters which the TSI will follow on an ongoing basis.

Each arena, category, and parameter is attributed a weight and a score.

  • The weight of an arena/category/parameter is on a 1-5 scale. The weight indicates the importance — in the context of a two-state solution — of each arena, category, or parameter, in comparison to the others. For example, in the “Solvability of the Core Issues” arena, the Borders category has a maximal weight of 5, since two states by definition require borders. In contrast, the Refugees category receives a lower weight of 2, since theoretically a two-state agreement does not require full resolution of the refugee issue. Of course, this would not constitute a full, conflict-ending agreement. Although weights generally do not change, they will if relevant developments merit such an adjustment. For example, if a new third party emerges as an active and efficient player in the effort to reach a two-state solution, we will adjust its weight (and those of current third parties) accordingly.
  • The score of an arena/category/parameter is on a 0-10 scale. Each of the four arenas, the 18 categories, and the 57 parameters is assigned a score between 0 and 10 whereby 0 indicates developments that pose maximum strain and 10 indicates a maximally sustaining impact for a two-state outcome. If the overall TSI score is 0, it means the two-state solution is unachievable; if the overall TSI score is 10, it means the two-state solution is imminent. We score each parameter based on an array of factors, and changes in these scores create dynamism month-to-month. The index is then calculated ‘upward’ by averaging weighted scores: parameters are calculated to give each category a score, and categories are calculated to score arenas, which ultimately make up the overview numerical score.

For example, an uptick of 1 point, from 3 to 4, in the Israeli Prime Minister parameter — which has a maximal weight of 5 — translates into upward movement of 0.38 points in the Leadership category, which also has a maximal weight of 5. It then translates into 0.18 points in the Political and Public Arena, which has a weight of 4. Ultimately, the total TSI score moves 0.05 points for every point the important parameter of the Israeli Prime Minister gains. Consequently, should the Israeli prime minister wholeheartedly adopt the two-state solution as Israel’s existential need and pursue it vigorously, leading us to change its score, say, from 3 to 9 — the overall TSI score would jump 0.33 points.

III. What parameters are included in the TSI and why?

The starting point of the TSI is that the realization of a two-state solution depends on certain conditions. As noted above, the TSI is divided into four arenas, each of which is then divided into categories and specific parameters.

  • Solvability of the Core Issues — This arena measures the ability to solve the contentious core issues in a way that satisfies the basic interests of the sides. These core issues include the delineation of borders between Israel and Palestine, the status of Jerusalem, security arrangements, the plight of Palestinian refugees, and mutual recognition between the two peoples.
  • Reality on the Ground — This arena focuses on the social and geographical areas where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out. This is where we follow the security situation, the settlement enterprise, the effort to build Palestinian capacities, and the contentious dynamics in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.
  • Diplomatic and Legal Arena — This arena focuses on the diplomatic and legal framework in which the pursuit for two states takes place. It traces the bilateral and third-party diplomatic tracks, adherence to the Oslo framework set out in the mid-1990s, and relevant developments in local and international legal systems.
  • Political and Public Arena — This arena evaluates relevant social, political, and attitudinal trends among Israelis, Palestinians, and international actors. It examines these trends as they relate to leadership, political systems, and publics, as well as to civil society organizations that are engaged in peacemaking efforts.

Creating the index and evaluating the parameters inevitably requires judgment calls — some of which will be more controversial than others. It is, for instance, hard to argue that a reluctant leader of one or both sides does not place a strain on the prospects for two states. Other indicators required greater explanation. How are security and violence to be measured? The case can and has been made, for example, that Palestinian resistance on the ground is more effective at delivering Israeli concessions in the direction of two states. Others argue that a quieter security environment is more conducive for progress. As a matter of principle, the Geneva Initiative does not support violence. Our analysis, however, will evaluate each security development on a case-by-case basis.

The score we attribute to each parameter is ultimately a subjective decision of our editors. These scores, however, reflect their best judgment, based on numerous conversations held with an array of experts in the relevant fields. We appreciate that on many of these value judgements alternative hypotheses can be offered, and we welcome your feedback.