There is a striking resemblance between Palestine and climate change. Both are heating up. Both portend increasing violence without a substantial rethinking based upon an accurate understanding of the current situation and its derivation. Both court disaster by inadequate responses and refusal to face challenging reality.
Israel is a democracy; its government must have popular support before an independent Palestinian state can be established. The Israel-Arab original borders resulted in an immediate Arab aggression in 1948, again 19 years later in 1967, and only six years later in 1973. Three wars, the second intifada violence and continuing Gaza rockets are now etched in the Israeli mind. Most Israelis are convinced Hamas would seize power upon the creation of an independent state.
In fact, a recent poll showed nearly two-thirds of Palestinians favor waging armed struggle against the Israeli occupation.
Sooner or later, all must recognize that past and continuing Arab aggression has made secure, reasonably defensible borders and demilitarization indispensable requirements for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The annexations necessary for secure borders comprise land now under Israel’s total control, acquired not by aggression, but when Israel defended itself against aggression. For Israelis, a return to the insecure 1967 borders simply portends future Arab aggression.
The “two-state solution based upon 1967 borders” is dead and can no more be revived than the state of the environment in 1967.
In the past, the Palestinian Authority had three opportunities to accept a free, independent state that nearly complied with United Nations Resolution 242’s 1967 borders. And three times they rejected it.
Today the Palestinian Authority is certain to reject any conceivable two-state solution, because the PA depends upon the occupation to prevent Hamas from taking over its power and money sources. Palestinian independence may have to wait for an “Arab Spring” in the West Bank. However, Gaza may one day trade new economic freedom and demilitarization for rockets.
Negotiating a two-state solution must begin with the existing conditions.
With outrageous provisions and borders, and lacking Palestinian input, President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, although otherwise unacceptable, still does provide significant and necessary elements: security for Israel, a free, independent demilitarized state for Palestinians, $50 billion and Israeli citizenship for Palestinians who remain in the annexed territory.
Elements of the Trump plan could provide a needed, new and different starting point for fruitful negotiation, or at least a basis predicated upon the facts on the ground.
Elements of the Trump plan merit consideration with the following modifications and conditions:
1. The Palestinian State must be contiguous and as large as possible, consistent with reasonable Israeli security. If Gaza were included, an unimpeded road or rail connection would be required.
2. All Jewish settlements within the new state’s territory (and small, contiguous settlements not necessary for Israel’s security) must be relocated and their territory transferred to the new state.
3. “Right of Return” for Palestinians must end, balanced by monetary payments and/or utilities to current homes and business districts.
4. The Palestinian capital in an expanded Jerusalem must have developed roads and utilities comparable to those existing in East Jerusalem.
5. The state must be governed by an effectively democratic constitution. It must have a bill of rights and a legal system that guarantees equality under law for all, including women and gays; separation of church and state; due process of law; and freedom of speech and press.
6. Israel must have reasonable assurance of the independent state and population continuing its demilitarization.
7. An international airport and/or access to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and unimpeded ground access with Jordan must be secured.
8. Palestinian agriculture in the Jordan Valley, where it is practical, must be allowed to contribute to the Palestinian economy.
9. No land trades, such as required by 1967-based two-state solutions, can deprive Israeli Arabs of their citizenship,
The occupation now is economically, socially and politically damaging and costly to Israel. It takes a substantial toll on Israel’s defense personnel and readiness. It was once necessary for Israel’s security, but it should not have meant prolonged years of pervasive control over the entire West Bank.
In the foreseeable future, with the additional land necessary for border protection, Israel is likely to accept a smaller, independent, demilitarized state within the remaining area (in which 95 percent or more of Palestinians already live).
Sooner or later, Palestinians must come to the realization that a successful negotiation from weakness requires painful concessions to allow its entire population to have freedom, either in a Palestinian state or Israel. There is not a viable plan for a Palestinian state offered by a creditable organization that could be reasonably acceptable as a starting point to begin negotiations for either Israelis or Palestinians, let alone both.
Palestinians, along with all organizations seeking to end the occupation, must lower their expectations, as Jews did in 1947, and accept a smaller and a demilitarized state, allowing Israel secure, defensible borders.
The only alternative is prolonged or unending misery for Palestinians, harboring the delusion of a restoration, and return to a defunct or imagined past.