January 12, 2009
It took Yasser Arafat 1973 to 1988 to persuade Palestinians to accept a two-state solution. 20 years later, with no solution in sight, this solution is beginning to be questioned on both sides. I have sadly come to the conclusion that a two state Israel-Palestine solution is no longer viable. This is for several reasons, including the questioning as to whether it will work, whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, each side having minorities steadfastly opposed to any settlement on mutually acceptable terms. Mutual hatred is becoming a more appropriate description than mutual distrust.
I therefore read with great interest John Bolton’s Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/04/AR2009010401434.html) article of 5 January proposing a three state solution. AriRusila wrote about this in his blog (http://arirusila.blogactiv.eu) and others are now beginning to think about this.
John Bolton’s solution is:
• to return Gaza to Egyptian control
• for the West Bank in some configuration to revert to Jordanian sovereignty.
Although Gaza is home to many Palestinians, emotional attachment to ‘Palestine’ is very limited, unlike the West Bank. Gaza was part of Egypt until it was recaptured in 1832, taken over by the British in 1917, Governed by Egypt from 1948 to 1967, then Israel, ruled by the Palestine Authority from 1994 to 2007 and is now on the hands of Hamas.
Gaza is economically unsustainable as an independent unit, even one attached to the West Bank. The only economic solution is for Egypt to govern it. This would not be welcomed by Egypt, but it could be persuaded. Egypt itself is not politically stable; a peaceful neighbourhood could change that. The West and the Arab world would sink billions of euros into Gaza so as to make it worthwhile for the Gazans and Egyptians. Gaza could be the hub of Egyptian-Israeli joint ventures. Egypt would require the support of its Arab brothers to bring security to Gaza.
Prior to the 1914-18 war, the land now known as the West Bank was ruled by the Ottomans as part of Syria. In 1920 it was included in the British mandate of Palestine. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined its interim boundary. From 1948 until 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule when it was captured by Israel.
Historical relations between Jordan and the Palestinians have been fraught and it is difficult to imagine West Bankers giving up their ‘Palestinian’ aspirations and becoming Jordanian.
However, the West Bank could have a special status within Jordan and be called ‘Palestine’.
Israel would return to the 1967 frontier with some land adjustment as already mapped out. The West and the Arab world would sink billions of euros into ‘Palestine’ so as to make it worthwhile for the Palestinians and Jordanians.
The most fervent opponents would be the two future host countries. Egypt would not appreciate having a fifth column, strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan is already suffering from the crushing power of the Palestinian minority. The kingdom may well disappear, as it is not much more than the protection of the Hashemite tribes against the more agile Palestinians. It might be preferable to begin with creating a Jordan-Palestinian Federation.
Jerusalem would remain the Israeli capital, the holy sites would be administered by religious authorities and some suburbs would be transferred to ‘Palestine’. The administration of East Jerusalem would need to be worked out.
Changing the context
Before dismissing John Bolton’s idea, it should be borne in mind that all previous bases of negotiations have proven unachievable. This idea is a new one and should encourage a rethinking and hopefully finding of an imaginative solution. It changes the context of the present problem and in so doing changes the problem.
The idea should be openly debated. Even if it seems an impossible solution now, circumstances could well change. As Jean Monnet said, “There are no premature ideas: there are only opportunities for which one must learn to wait.”Author : Stanley Crossick