Palestinian Futures (Part II)

In Part I, four scenarios depicting possible futures for Palestine were laid out, based on two critical axes: the degree of justice in Palestine and the degree of Palestinian unity. These scenarios suggest that a wide range of alternative futures is possible in Palestine.

The typical next step in scenario analysis of listing milestones to indicate the events that would tend to confirm each of the scenarios follows, after which a new concept in scenario analysis–evolution–will be introduced.


Milestones signal which scenarios are becoming increasingly likely. A few of the milestones that could be expected if events moved in the direction of each of the four scenarios laid out in Part I are presented below. The milestones are listed roughly in the order they might logically be expected to occur.

Clash of Civilizations

  • Israel develops one policy toward the West Bank under Fatah and another toward Gaza under Hamas.
  • Hamas banned from the next Palestinian election.

Persian Empire

  • Palestinians in Lebanon attack Israel.
  • Palestine independence is recognized by Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
  • Palestinians in Lebanon coordinate anti-Israeli policy with Hezballah.
  • Military coup takes control of Israel in the name of “national security.
  • As in 1982, Israel again invades Lebanon to “remove the Palestinian threat.”
  • Palestinians move from Lebanon to Jordan.
  • Radicals overthrow government of Jordan.
  • Israel invades Jordan.

Zion Abandoned.

  • Israeli peace movement wins national election.
  • Israeli settlers begin voluntarily leaving the West Bank.
  • Israel’s security wall imprisoning the West Bank is removed.
  • Israel accepts and implements U.N. resolution 242.
  • Israel offers true “right of return.”
  • Israel gives up nuclear weapons and signs the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Two-State Solution.

  • Israel accepts an equitable water-sharing agreement with Palestine.
  • Israel’s security wall on Palestinian territory is moved to Israeli territory.
  • Jerusalem is divided.
  • Israel allows Palestinian government a military force sufficient to control its own territory.
  • Palestinian forces start to man border posts with Jordan and Egypt.
  • Israel and Palestine agree on a “right of return” in principle with financial settlements to settle Palestinian claims in practice.

Scenario Evolution.
Creating scenarios, which are after all imaginary stories highly unlikely to match the reality that will actually unfold, is just the beginning of creating a scenario analysis that will have any long-term value. If the scenarios are thought of as broad guidelines into the future, then plotting past events on the scenario grid in temporal sequence can both hint at where things are moving and, as new events are added, indicate when things take a turn. This technique can be expanded by including anticipated events that would confirm movement in the direction of each of the scenarios. The basic idea is to place dated events at points on the grid where they seem to fit, to see if the sequence of events suggests any clear trends.

The seminal 2006 Hamas electoral victory might be considered to fit fairly close to the “just” end of the Justice Axis, since the election is generally considered to have been relatively open, and somewhat closer to the “unified” end of the Unity Axis than to the “disunified” end, because, despite clear tensions, both Hamas and Fatah participated in the electoral system.

The rapid Israeli response of effectively declaring economic warfare on Hamas may not cause one to alter the position on the Unity Axis since it was an Israeli act but moves the situation dramatically toward the “unjust” end of the Justice Axis.

The outbreak of street battles between Hamas and Fatah merits positioning close to both the “unjust” and “disunified” extremes.

Finally, the emergence of Hamas control of Gaza and Fatah control of the West Bank is clearly near the “disunified” extreme, but its position on the Justice Axis seems debatable. One could argue that two opposing Palestinian governing bodies enable more just government because they will be under the spotlight and competing to show which side can do a better job. The answer is unclear, so marking this event with an ellipse is more appropriate than a dot. Size and shape suggest the nature of the uncertainty. The tool has no mathematical precision; the point is simply to provide a quick overview – like a roadmap but, unfortunately, one lacking a scale of distance.

Even such a brief scenario analysis suggests a range of alternatives much broader than that typically envisioned. If more than two axes were used, and more attention were paid to long-term evolution and possible tipping points that could rapidly propel events in a new direction, then the range of possible alternatives would be broader still. The framework laid out here facilitates conducting such an exercise. Nevertheless, it constitutes but the first step, representing a view of reality that is at the lowest level of magnification. Higher levels of magnification–using system dynamics and complexity theory–will be explored in subsequent posts on Palestinian Futures.


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