The Obama Parameters

Getting Israel and Palestine to a Two-State Solution

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington November 9, 2015. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

“This is not something I was able to get done,” U.S. President Barack Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “I am not that hopeful that it’s going to happen in the next nine months,” he continued, after which he reiterated his belief that “a two-state solution is the best way.” Obama also cautioned that the United States can’t pursue a two-state solution on behalf of Israel and Palestine but that both states must forge this path for themselves.

Washington, however, should not remove itself from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process entirely. In fact, there are a number of steps Washington should take to help make the two-state solution a reality. Most notably, Obama should leave both sides with one parting gift: a blueprint for what a two-state solution should look like, which will open various tracks for future progress for the parties and for the international community. 


If the White House wants to make one last attempt at forging peace, it could lay out a series of guidelines for Obama’s successor well before he leaves office on January 20. The effort, which we will call the “Obama Parameters,” would propose a permanent two-state agreement that should become a UN Security Council resolution. It would replace Resolution 242 from 1967 and other recently mentioned initiatives for a UN Security Council resolution.

Obama has a strong foundation to build on. The Obama Parameters could be based on blueprints from past negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 as well as the negotiations brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013–14. Obama could also draw on U.S. presidential statements from Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W. Bush in 2004–5, as well as his own statements from 2011. All present a clear vision of two states, and all are consistent with the “two states for two peoples” principle, which aims to resolve the four core contentious issues: territory, Jerusalem, refugees, and security.

Aside from creating a viable

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