Prospects for an Israel-Palestine Two-States Solution

Latest news (Mar 28, 2014) --- Israel-Palestine talks collapse once again.

Israel makes steady progress with West Bank housing projects.

Palestinians have suspended shooting those rockets they get from Iran, but they've declared that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Looks like the two-states solution is a non-starter as long as Jews are living on Palestinian land. And besides, Israel has shown no eagerness to designate any part of their occupied territory as a Palestinian State.

Is there no end to this long-running conflict? Either one side destroys the other or they stop fighting, form two-states and become prosperous neighbors. The world is sick and tired of hearing about talks collapsing.

The Palestinian State achieved some degree of recognition at the UN, but any potential territory to be associated with the State of Palestine is compromised. Israel monitors all comings and goings from Gaza. The West Bank is under Israeli occupation. Palestinians themselves aren't doing much to create a single state: the West Bank is run by a different Palestinian faction from the one running Gaza.

The two-states solution assumes peaceful coexistance of two separate national territories.

One is the present Israel, possibly less some territory gained in the wars. Israel is assumed to be majority Jewish.

The other, Palestine, wherever it is located, is assumed to be majority Arab and probably mostly Islamic. Militant Islamists may want to exert some degree of theocratic control in Palestine, just like Jewish religious authorities exert some theocratic control over the government of Israel.

Two States with Economic Ties

Israelis and Palestinians need to get used to the idea that the two states will be closely tied economically. Like it or not, economic ties means there will be Israeli Jews living and doing business in Palestine just as there will be Palestinian Arabs living in Israel. Free prosperous commerce requires this liason population; no compromise here.

The ultimate motivation for religious tolerance and keeping the peace is the reward of shared economic prosperity.

Syria is now fighting a civil war, which goes on because of a power struggle between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Should Syria adopt a two-state solution -- one state for Sunnis, the other for Shias?

Ideally, all nations in the Mideast should be like Lebanon, a secular business-friendly country in which power is shared among various types of Christians and Muslims.

If Israel must remain a "Jewish state," then must Palestine remain an "Arab state"? Is it really necessary for either country to adopt exclusionary religious and cultural practices, which create discomfort for people coming from outside to work in the country -- the way things are in Wahhabi-Islamic Saudi Arabia?

Secular States

Ideally, all the nations of the Mideast should be tolerant of the secular lifestyle of people engaged in business. Each country should be open to residents who follow Muslim, Jewish, Christian religions, or any other religion.

In each state, one religion can be dominant, but all religions are tolerated. Ideally, the religious dominance will be based on internal political negotiations and people not following the doiminant religion will have to deal with only a few minor restrictions.

This works in some countries. The President of Lebanon rotates among religions. Jewish religious authorities try to control the secular Israeli government, but have to make political compromises. Turkey has active Islamic political parties. The Arab Spring in Egypt is now stalled because the Muslim Brotherhood tried to set up an Islamic state.

Extremists Prevent Settlement

A two-states solution for Israel and Palestine has been prevented by extreme factions on both sides.

Extreme Israelis think God has given them the West Bank (which they call by the biblical names Judea and Samaria). They want to fill those territories with Jewish settlers, pushing out the Arab inhabitants. They also think it neccessary to occupy those territories in order to prevent the Palestinian inhabitants from launching terror attacks on Israel. .

Extreme Palestinians think the state of Israel is illegitimate and want the entire former British mandate of Palestine to become one Palestinian state, run by Arabs. These Palestinian extremists would like to expel all the Jews.

On top of all this, there's the problem of Jerusalem -- both states claim it as a capital city. This could probably be arranged if Jerusalem became shared territory, or had the status of an international zone, not part of either state. So-far, neither side is willing to compromise on Jerusalem.

In principle, having the Palestinians declare an independent state, with UN blessing, sounds like a fine idea. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are all independent states. The non-Muslims in Sudan got their separate state of South Sudan. So why not a state for Palestine? Well, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Sudan have been fighting wars. It's all to likely that Israel and the new Palestinian State will continue to be at way, especially if the establishment of the Palestinian State dloes not settle enough of gthe old territorial issues.

There Once was a Palestinian State

At one point, there actually was a Palestinian state.The Jews got their state of Israel in 1948. At the same time, the Palestinian Arabs could have had their state. There was, after all, a partition of Palestine, like the partition that produced India and Pakistan.

But the Palestinian Arabs wanted all of Palestine. In 1948, after the state of Israel was declared, the Palestinians and and their Arab allies fought a war to drive out the Jews. Palestine lost, and Israel captured additional territory from the Arab part of the partition.

As a result of that 1948 war, some Palestinians left or were driven from their homes. Palestinians settled in Jordan (West Bank), in Lebanon and in Syria, many still linger in refugee camps, awaiting the day when they can return to their rightful homes. Other Palestinians emigrated to countries like United Arab Emeriates, where they were in demand as technologists. A few Palestinians became citizens of Israel.

At one point, Jordan revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians to thwart any attempt to resettle West Bank residents in Jordan. Most Palestinians do not regard Jordan as their Palestinian state, because Jordan is ruled by a Hashemite king, not a fellow Palestinian.

After the 1948 war, Israel kept the Jewish part of the partition plus the territory it captured.

The Palestinians kept the part of the partition which became the Gaza strip; it was nearest thing to a Palestinian state. Some Jews created settlements in Gaza.

The territorial disparity was increased when Israel won the 1967 war and took over Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Israel has since returned some captured territory, notably Sinai, as a result of negotiations. The West Bank and Gaza are now run by (two competing) Palestinian administrations.

The West Bank remains under Israeli occupation. The Israelis call the area by its biblical names -- Judea and Samaria. Israeli settlers have been building communities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Israel did eventually evacuate the Jewish settlers from Gaza, not without pain.

Because Israel has stubbornly maintained the West Bank and Golan Heights occupation, it been accused of land-grabbing. There is some justification for this: Israel has needed extra territory to take in large numbers of Jewish immigrants. Also, occupying the Golan does ensure access to Jordan river water.

Security, Precedent

A major motivation for keeping captured territory has always been security for Israel -- buffer zones to limit infiltration and attacks by terrorists. The Golan Heights in particular are being retained because this area had been used by the Syrians as a base for firing artillery shells into Israel.

Some countries might object to a state for Palestine, because such a concession sets a bad precedent. The Kurdish nation should have a state too, but that would take territory from Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. China doesn't want to give up Tibet and China does not want the Uigurs to have a Muslim state. Serbia objects to Kosovo, where Serbs live under Albanian domination.

There is really only one serious objection to establishing a state of Palestine. It's the prospect of terrorism. There are factions among the Palestinians who still want to carve the Palestinian state out of (all of) Israel, and will continue launching rockets, blowing up buses and restaurants and carrying out other terror attacks until they get what they want.

Quite simply, Israel does not want a neighbor state that supports terror groups.

Creation of a Palestinian state won't change the results of the three major wars the Palestinians and their Arab supporters have fought against Israel -- and lost. It is unlikely that Israel will wish to "go back to the 1967 borders" if it means leaving their borders open to terrorist incursions or letting the Syrians shell Israeli settlements from the Golan Heights.

Jewish settlers in the occupied lands now form a formidable political bloc within Israel to protect what they regard as their homes.

Of course, there are the Palestinians who still regard those same lands as their homes.

It seems irresponsible for the UN to approve a Palestinian state without a clear agreement to define the new state's borders, and a credible guarantee that the Palestinian radical factions will be compelled to stop their terror attacks. Frankly, there isn't a very good track record here: every time Israel has given back occupied territory (for example Sinai, Gaza, South Lebanon), it was not long before the radicals resumed their terror attacks.

So the bottom line is that, as things stand now, declaring a Palestinian state doesn't make sense, because there is no agreement defining the new state's territorial extent, and the Palestinians are still split into two governments - Fatah and Hamas. .

The rest of the world, and especially the Palestinian state's potential neighbors, need to have some assurance that the new State of Palestine will not become a base for terror attacks, on Israel and perhaps on other countries too (Al Qaeda in Palestine?). The US and others are now fighting a war in Afghanistan to prevent just this kind of thing.

Some of the Palestinians, surely, are willing to make the difficult compromises to deal with the objections and live in peace with Israel. But it looks likely that there will always be the extreme factions who want to keep on fighting.

Fighting would have to cease if Israel and Palestine formed a profitable economic union, involving manufacturing, research and consulting. There are plenty of people of both countries with very outstanding talent. Both Israelis and Palestinians understand money and prosperity.

Unclear on the Concept

Palestinian leader Abbas is still unclear on the peace concept. He has said: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli civilian or soldier on our lands." This is unrealistic nonsense. Palestine and Israel will be neighbor countries. Some citizens of one will live in the other, conducting business, attending school, doing research. Germany and France are neighbor countries which were once at war. Now it is routine for some Germans to live in France and vice-versa.

But everyone should keep in mind that there is a strong anti-Israel faction among Palestinians. These people still want to stamp out the Jewish state and will give no legitimacy to its citizens, who will always be the enemy. Peace will come when Palestinians and Israelis become more like Americans and Canadians, American and Mexicans, doing business together across an open border.

A Starting Point

There must be a starting point. Some small, symbolic territory should be defined as soon as possible as the nucleus of the State of Palestine, with the understanding that the territory will expand, in stages, as a result of negotiations within a stable peace.

Actually, the Kurd situation is a very good example. How much territory from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey would have to be given to an independent state of Kurdistan for the Kurdish fighters to stop their attacks? Thanks to the "no fly zone" established during the war which took down Saddam Hussein, the top end of Iraq is now a de facto nucleus of the State of Kurdistan.

Will Turkey fight the Kurds forever, just like Israel fights the Palestinians?
Look at this map


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