Model of Israeli-Palestinian Partnership

This product offers criteria to examine circumstances under which an Israeli-Palestinian partnership may be formed.

Executive Summary

The issue of whether Israel has a Palestinian Partner has been a recurring theme in the past decade.A common definition of a Partner is a political entity that possesses Will and Ability. However, in the political context, this definition may not be sufficient.

The Re'ut Institute, therefore, proposes a conception of a Partner – a political entity which has Delivery Capability, Will and Legitimacy to take part in a political process.

Based on the above, the Re'ut Institute proposes a model to examine whether a Partnership exists based upon a set of questions.

The first phase of the model examines the synchronization between Israel and the Palestinians in regards to three basic questions:

  • Partnership for what?
  • What is the timeframe of the Partnership?
  • Who is the Partner, and what mandate does it have?

The second phase of the model examines the synchronization of Will between Israel and the Palestinians regarding: (A) The extent to which the Partnership can serve both sides; (B) The readiness of top executives to take political and national risks; (C) The ideological maturity of both parties to the Partnership.

The third stage of the model examines the synchronization of the components of Delivery Capability:

Carrying Capacity – a party's physical ability to implement the policies it wishes to pursue in a particular context;

Responsibility – Duties of States and political entities based on political agreements or international customs, norms or law.

The final stage of the model examines the synchronization of internal and international Legitimacy on both sides.


Throughout the past decade the question whether Israel has a Palestinian Partner has been a reoccurring question.

This document attempts to define and conceptualize this issue which has been debated since the inception of the Oslo Process, and particularly following the Camp David Summit (7/00).1

A traditional definition of a Partner is that of an entity which has the Will and ability to cooperate with another entity. However, in a political context, this definition is insufficient and requires a more robust understanding.

The underlying assumption of this document is that the issue of the existence of a Partner is contextual, and needs to be examined in light of the following questions:

  • A Partner for What? – What is the objective of the Partnership? Permanent Status Agreement, interim agreement or ad-hoc agreements.
  • What is the Perception of Time? – What is the timeframe of partnership? To what extent do the parties want to "make the deal"?
  • Who is the Partner and What Mandate Does It Have? – In the case of the Palestinians, a partnership with the PLO is distinguished from a partnership with the Palestinian Authority (hereafter the PA).2

Hence, the Re'ut Institute proposes:

  • A generic set of principles to define a partnership in the political arena;
  • Questions to examine circumstances under which an Israeli-Palestinian partnership may be formed.

Conceptual Framework

Definition: In a given context, a Partner is a political entity, which has the Delivery Capability, Will, and Legitimacy to take part in a political process.

What is Will of a Partner?

Definition: The concept of Will refers to the readiness of a political entity to take part in a political act. The Re'ut Institute identifies three components for the consolidation of Will:

Rational Calculation of Interests – Will of a political entity is affected by a cost-benefit analysis (see Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – BATNA).

Readiness to Assume Risk – We identify two forms of risks:

  • National – regarding interests of national security and foreign affairs;
  • Political – regarding political standing of the leader and leadership.
  • Ideology – The extent to which a partner is influenced by ideals of religion, national identity or other values.

When Does a Political Entity Have Delivery Capability?

Definition: For a particular objective and context, the concept of Delivery Capability refers to the combination of Carrying Capacity and/or the Responsibility according to international law.

Definition: The concept of Carrying Capacity refers to a party's physical ability to implement the policies it wishes to pursue.

  • Material – Availability of human, financial, or other physical resources, e.g. weapons or technology;
  • Political – Ability of the top executive and leadership to stay in power and execute their policies;
  • Judicial-Constitutional – The ability of the executive and legislative branches to ratify their decisions in constitutional or judicial instances;
  • Institutional – The ability of various branches of government to coordinate actions in order to implement policy and enforce relevant laws.

Definition: The concept of Responsibility refers to Duties of States and political entities based on agreements or international customs, norms or law.

Agreements – Bilateral or multilateral agreements with other actors;

Customs, Norms, and International Law – Treaties, formal international declarations and the international code of conduct based on precedents and unwritten tradition.

What is Legitimacy of a Partner?

Definition: The concept of Legitimacy refers to internal and international consent and support.

Timing and Circumstances for the Creation of a Partnership

A partnership between political entities is formed when synchronization exists in the following dimensions:

Synchronization at the Fundamental Level of Policy:

  • A Partner for What? – Synchronization in regards to the objective of the Partnership, i.e. the parties' goals. For example, if Israel seeks an Interim Agreement and the Palestinians seek a Permanent Status Agreement a partnership is not possible;
  • Perception of Time– Synchronization in regards to the timeframe of the Partnership and to the desire to "make a deal". For example, if one party perceives time to be working on each side, i.e. tomorrow's agreement is better than today's, then the prospects of getting a deal decrease.
  • Identity of the Partner – Cohesion between the identity of the Partner and the objective of the Partnership is essential. For example, according to the Interim Agreement (5/95) and the Palestinian Constitutional Structure only the PLO, and not the PA, has the mandate to negotiate on the Issue of Refugees.

Synchronization of Wills

  • Does the Partnership Serve the Parties' Interests? – The prospect of a partnership is strengthened if it serves the interests of both sides better than their alternatives;
  • Is There Readiness of Leaders to Take Risks? – Synchronization in the readiness of the leasers on both sides to take national and political risks;
  • Is There Ideological Ripeness? – For example, an Israeli goal to reach End of Claims does not fit with the Palestinian Ethos of Struggle;

Do Both Sides Currently Have Delivery Capability?

Synchronization of Carrying Capacity in terms of:

  • Material Aspects – Availability of physical, human and technological resources for both sides to live up to their obligations;
  • Political Ability – Ability of the leadership to stay in power, maintain coalitions, make decisions and legislate the required laws to effectuate the Partnership;
  • Judicial-Constitutional Viability – Ability of the parties to ratify within the judicial and constitutional institutions their executive decisions and legislation. For example, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the time span between decision to dismantle settlements and its implementation is five months. This ruling constrains future Israeli governments;
  • Institutional Viability – Ability on both sides to have coordination between their agencies in the implementation of their obligations within the Partnership. For example, can the Palestinian Authority implement the First Phase of the Roadmap that includes dismantling the terror infrastructure? 3

Synchronization of Responsibility:

Are both sides endowed with the responsibility, according to the standards of international agreements and laws, to carry out the objectives of the Partnership?

In the Israeli-Palestinian case, the issue of responsibility is especially problematic. At the heart of the matter is the ambiguity regarding the division of responsibility between the PA, the PLO and Israel:

  • The asymmetric relationship between sub-state organizations (PA and PLO) and a state (Israel) is not clearly incorporated into international law;
  • Currently, in the aftermath of the agreed upon Interim Period (5/94-99), the formal division of responsibilities between Israel, the PLO and the PA is unclear (See the agreements in the Oslo Process).

Synchronization of Legitimacy

Do the parties enjoy Internal and International Legitimacy for the Partnership?

Summary and Conclusions

In this document the Re'ut Institute proposes a model in order to evaluate the prospect for the existence of a political partnership.

In the Israeli-Palestinian case, the application of this model helps identify and frame some of the structural and organizational issues that may inhibit the formation of a Partnership.


The Re’ut Institute would like to thank Mr. Moty Cristal for his contribution to this policy-effort. Mr. Cristal is a former Deputy Head of the Negotiation Management Center in PM Barak’s office; Mr. Cristal attended the Camp David and Taba Summits (2000-2001).

1 In the Israeli press there was debate among Israeli intelligence and research institutions regarding whether the failure of the Camp David Summit (7/00) was a reflection of Arafat not being a partner. (See Eldar, Haaretz, June 17, 2004).
2 The PLO represents the entire Palestinian people, and holds the status of "The Sole Legitimate Representative of the Palestinian People". The PA formally represents the residents of the West Bank and Gaza on issues relating to their day-to-day existence. It has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.

See Re'ut Institute product Who is the Partner – the PLO or the Palestinian Authority?

3 The First Phase of the Roadmap stipulates that a "Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure." (Roadmap, Phase I, Security)