The state we’re in: What are the alternatives to conflict?

The state we’re in: What are the alternatives to conflict?

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres with John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, May 2013.
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres with John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, May 2013.
Find the article in this week’s Jewish News on P6

One year after the last Gaza war the two-state solution has been largely written off. So, what are the alternatives? Stephen Oryszczuk looks at some of the options

The two-state solution is all but dead. It doesn’t matter when it died, who killed it or how – let history take care of that.

What matters is that, for all intents and purposes, it is no more.

Time to get over it and get on with it, they say. Why live a two-state fantasy land? There’s no point crying over spilt states. Etc etc.

Those advocating other ideas say they are now “the only game in town”.

They’ve been saying as much for years, but that claim only now seems credible.

For Arabs, Jews and others living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, their ideas now matter more than at any other time since the ‘60s.

Here, we look at a selection of these ‘solutions,’ as we begin to understand what the options are.

The ‘Palestinian Emirates’

The Plan: Dr Mordechai Kedar calls it the “Eight State Solution”. It envisions a patchwork quilt of Arab and Jewish towns throughout the West Bank, trading and interacting with each other. Each Palestinian or Jewish “emirate” would govern its own city-state, protected from external threats (e.g. jihadists) by the IDF and the Israeli sovereignty this needs. The eight Palestinian “emirates” include Hebron, Gaza, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Tulkarm and Kalkiva. They already have traditional tribal structures, Kedar says, and are therefore already set up for self-government.

The Logic: It’s based on the sociology of the Middle East, with the tribe as the cornerstone of society. “We should follow this characteristic of Middle Eastern culture as the basis for the Israeli-Palestinian solution,” says Kedar. Western-style nation-states, imposed on regions inhabited by multiple tribes (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya), are failed or failing, whereas states based on homogenous tribes (United Arab Emirates) can succeed.

The Verdict: Jewish Home’s far-right leader Naftali Bennett likes it, and has incorporated much of Kedar’s plan into his own thinking. In the UK, Kedar is seen as a “racist” and banned from most places. But his idea is interesting.

The ‘One-State Bi-National’ solution

The Plan: Championed by the likes of commentator MJ Rosenberg and former CIA man Robert Grenier, it sees Israel retain sovereignty over the West Bank in a negotiated agreement, with Israelis and Palestinians sharing all land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It would be fully democratic, and its character substantially, though not exclusively, Jewish.

The Logic: Grenier states: “The settlements cannot be undone. Their existence obviates the need for formal Israeli annexation: The de-facto annexation of the West Bank has already taken place. The only remaining solution is a single, unified, bi-national state.” Rosenberg asks: “How can it be more obvious?”

The Verdict: As Rosenberg admits, almost all Arabs would accept it and almost all Jews would reject it. As interesting as it is unlikely.

The ‘Populated Area Exchange’

The Plan: Under the brainchild of the former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, Jews and Arabs “exchange populated territories” i.e. a voluntary population transfer. It means Israel annexing almost all Jewish settlements in the West Bank while transferring Arab-Israeli areas to a Palestinian state.

The Logic: Lieberman says that wherever you get two peoples with two religions in one land there is conflict, and that the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off is worse because it involves nationality too. He adds that it makes no sense to create a Palestinian state that has no Jews in it, while ‘Israel’ becomes a dual-population state.

The Verdict: Israeli Arabs hate it, as do left-wing and liberal Israeli Jews, who say it constitutes “racism”. Lawyers don’t like it either, saying any such move would be illegal under both Israeli and international law. Dead end.

The ‘Israel-Jordan Carve-Up’

The Plan: West Bank sovereignty is divided between Israel and Jordan. Arab governance is restored to the major part of the biggest Palestinian territory. Those living there would fall under Jordanian protection, with freedom of movement and citizenship rights.

The Logic: Israel and Jordan have lived peacefully since 1994 and the West Bank sits between the two, so advocates (mostly right-wing Israelis) say it makes sense that the two countries work together on this. Analyst David Singer says: “It would finalise the allocation of sovereignty of former Palestine between the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.”

The Verdict: It gets around the problem of the Palestinian Authority’s dubious credibility but there are already millions of Palestinian refugees living in the Hashemite Kingdom, and it would be political suicide for Jordan’s King Abdullah II to add two million more. Wishful.