Stanley's blog

Gaza: changing the context

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.
Gaza

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.

West Bank

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.

Opponents

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

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.”

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Comments

  1. Hi, Stanley, greetings from long ago.

    Amazingly I’ve not come across earlier this idea of reshipping Palestinian protectorates back to original countries, maybe I don’t read enought political comment. But if Israel carries on behaving the way it is doing at the moment, one day it will find that the famous fence constitutes the wall of its own prison once the Arab countries have turned it into an enclave.

    As a country, Israel is as old as I am – and these days I wonder if it will disappear before I do. Feel desperately sorry for the Gazans, and the helpless Palestinians in the West Bank, but those rockets …..and too many unknowns in the negotiations.

    Meanwhile am having fun managing an international translation & copywriting agency as a centre of a widespread network of specialised freelancers, living all over the planet.

  2. Hello Stanley,
    Part of the problem of Bolton idea is that it would encourage the legalization of illegal acts of 1948. Egypt invaded territory that was not hers in 1948 and took over the Gaza Strip for 19 years until 1967. Egypt then kept the Arab refugees in camps with a curfew until that time when Israel freed them from the curfew restrictions. Jordan also illegally took over the area that the United Nations had previously called Judea and Samaria (and now calls the West Bank). Its regime in this area was not recognized except by Britain and Pakistan. It destroyed Jewish property including scores of synagogues there. Neither of these examples gives one much ground for expecting future peaceful behavior. One country, Egypt, did not solve the Palestinian Arab problem when it could, the other showed that it was not fit to deal with a mixed population.
    What can be done? The Europeans had a really massive refugee problem after WW2. Some 20 million refugees were re-settled peacefully. They number from the Finns pushed out by the Soviet Union in its land-grab and the millions of Poles and Germans uprooted from homes they had lived in for generations untold. Others fled the closing of the Iron Curtain.
    In contrast many of the refugee Arabs had only been in Palestine just over two years — that is how UNRWA defines them. Europe should begin to have a full dialogue about the resettlement of the refugees. It is unheard of that there should be a refugee problem lasting 3 or 4 gnerations. Even India and Palkistan resettled their 14 muillion Moslem and Hindu refugees of 1947 in a short period.
    Palestinian Arabs are an educated and flexible people and they should not continue to be pawns in international politics by other powers. Is it a refugee problem or ideological blackmail? UN High Commission for Refuggees has done a commendable job in other areas but what has UNRWA done in its nearly 60 years of existence to find places for the dispossessed in other Arab lands? A large number of these Gaza refugees voluntarily fled before the 1948 war began following the calls and requests of the foreign invading armies. In the years after WW1 the Gaza was practically empty, according to British statistics of the time. The five invading States should shoulder a proportion of the solution of resettlement of the people they were responsible for becoming refugees.
    The EU should help if the UNRWA won’t. It should make available its positive experience and apply it in its near neighbourhood. I don’t think the increasing import of Iranian longer range missiles for Hamas in Gaza will render the situation solvable if the EU and the Arab countries do nothing.

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