The Israeli-Palestinian peace process – or lack of that – is now at the crossroads. To start or not direct negotiations, between Israel and Palestinian Authority or at regional level, with or without preconditions, with or without facilitators, with 2-State
solution as only aim or not, or would unilateral actions be the better option than keep the status quo. Is there Intifada-3 going on or not? A massive peace effort – the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords – ended the First Intifada; a massive military campaign – Operation Defensive Shield – ended the Second Intifada; how it will end the Intifada-3 if it really starts? These are some questions around the conflict. With this analysis I try to clarify main options to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relation to current situation.
Throughout two decades of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” direct negotiation with aim of ‘Two-State’ solution has been perceived as the only paradigm of international community and it has been the main option for Israeli and Palestinian authorities. To keep negotiations ongoing has came de facto as the goal in itself instead of the means to reach an agreement. The failure to reach an agreement has given excuses to the politicians on both sides, allowing them to blame the other party for failure to progress, and destroying the belief that an agreement is possible in the foreseeable future.
As possible solutions for Israeli-Palestinian conflict there has been besides 2-State solution also binational ‘One-State’ solution, partial solutions like Sinai an Jordan Options and different variations of ‘Three States’ solutions. One of course easy ‘solution’ is zero-option – ‘frozen conflict’ or ‘status quo’ scenario which can be implemented also through pseudo-talks. Today also unilateral actions – instead vain negotiations – can pave way towards some solutions.
One State scenario means “Isralestine”, a binational state to West from Jordan River or federation/confederation. Omer Bar-Lev – an MK for the Zionist Union – claims that Israel’s approach to security lacks creativity and initiative. He hits the nail on the head by concluding the one-state dilemma as follows:
If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions. (Source: Fathom)
Indeed one-state option in my opinion would destroy Israel as ‘Jewish homeland’ as both democracy and ‘Jewish Israel’ could not survive in this solution. Failure of negotiations or lack of unilateral actions is shaping Israel and West-Bank more and more towards de facto ‘1-State’.
To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them. My proposal included a solution to all outstanding issues: territorial compromise, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees.
( How to Achieve a Lasting Peace: Stop Focusing on the Settlements By Ehud Olmert Israel PM 2006-2009)
A couple of decades the international community has preached a doctrine of ‘Two states for two peoples’, without any progress for its implementation. Sure also in my opinion a two-state solution might be possible. The final status agreement – negotiated compromise – has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings / agreement / plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try (both plans can be found from my document library ). These plans have been refined many times and serious work can be seen e.g. in leaked Palestine Papers/PaliLeaks (More in ”Pali-Leaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace” ).
The endgame with 2-state solution will probably be according The Clinton Parameters . The key element with 2-State Solutions are negotiated borders based to pre-1967 armistice lines with land swaps; the state of Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people; Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram, and Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and the space sacred to Judaism; Palestine defined as a “demilitarized state”, solving the refugee question by giving limited return to Israel, return to the new State of Palestine or rehabilitation refugees in host country.
With “official” 2-State Solution there is other 2-State options such as Gaza and Palestine option (more e.g. in Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander ). With this version Israel and Hamas could negotiate a deal which could lead to Gaza State while the future of Palestine state in West-Bank would stay unclear. This (part) solution could be stronger by combining it to recently again proposed Sinai option.
According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report Egypt offers Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejects proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiatives proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to three – five times its current size (360 km2 ) and settling all the Palestinian refugees – who want to move – in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized.
There is also some versions of Sinai option created by outside NGOs such as “The Institute for the Study of Globalization and Covert Politics”, which might have conspiracy theoretical approach on issue. Anyway ISGP proposes that under United Nations and NATO supervision and with financial support of the world community, humanely transport ALL Palestinians from the West Bank to a newly-created Palestinian state consisting of the south of Israel and preferably a small part of Egypt’s largely uninhabited Sinai Desert. In order to help make Palestine a viable state, extend its borders from Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
More about ‘Sinai Option’ in my article: Sinai Option again .
I have long been advocating Three State (return) Option – described also as no-state option – as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this 3-state scenario Amman rules the Cairo West Bank and Cairo runs Gaza. This scenario includes a Jordanian option meaning recognition and development of Jordan as the Palestinian State – Israel, the United States and the international community will recognize the Kingdom of Jordan as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Jordan will once again recognize itself as the Palestinian nation-state.
For 19 years, Judea and Samaria were part of Jordan, its population Jordanian citizens, and the geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a Palestinian state that might be established in the area. If three state solution will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president as well from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas.
Related to Egypt this ‘3-State’ solution can include sc ‘Sinai Option’ and it is possible to agree some level autonomy to so formed ‘Great Gaza’.
Three-State [Return] proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. In addition two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality. The idea of 2-State solution is to create a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two; however this kind of corridor effectively cuts Israel in half; sure connecting tunnels or bridges could be a solution, but these too are a logistical challenge.
From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )
The three-state solution essentially replicates – with some minor land swaps – the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War.
Roadmaps to solution
In my opinion there is three main pathways to solution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they are following:
- (Re)starting negotiations,
- Constructive unilateralism, and
- Cold Peace
(Re)starting negotiations has two alternatives which are
- start negotiations between Israel and Palestine Authority – local approach leading possibly to 2-State solution
- restart negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan – regional approach leading to 3-State solution
Both of these alternatives can be implemented directly between shareholders or they can be implemented with help of outside facilitators (USA, Arab League, UN).
I would like to conclude that instead of rigid high-flown statements and dead road maps international community should facilitate the Middle East peace process through following three principles
- Negotiations will be restored without prior conditions.
- The talks should be implemented by local stakeholders, not under supervision of outside powers
- The international community – outside powers – should support any common agreed outcome of talks e.g. with financial aid programs
This approach means that an outcome – which I describe with term ‘quality peace’ – is not possible to achieve imposed from top to field e.g forced by international community or other outsiders; with that kind of approach one can only freeze the conflict not solve it. The only way for ‘quality peace’ is through motivation or at least commitment of individual, clan, community, ethnic groups, wider society or state to resolve conflicts through dialogue by acceptance and at least tolerance of differences. (More in my articles Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too? and Quality Peace )
Already 2012 then Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process.
The plan titled “It’s in Our Hands,” by Omer Bar-Lev – an MK for the Zionist Union – calls for Israel to unilaterally define its own borders to ensure its security, would keep control of all of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and bequeath about 60 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, evacuating 35,000 Jewish settlers — less than 10 percent of the total.
According BWF – an Israeli NGO Blue White Future – Israel should prepare for a reality of two states for two people, most notably by declaring that it does not have claims of sovereignty over most of the occupied territories, and by planning and acting accordingly, including preparing for the relocation of settlers residing east of the security fence to Israel proper. BWF proposes that the international community should adopt a paradigm that allows all stakeholders – Israel, Palestinians, the US and the other players – to take independent steps that will advance a reality of two states. (More in Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict )
A possible Hamas-Israel Deal can pave the way for Cold Peace Solution (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal ); the final outcome can be 2- or 3-State solution.
Israel could also independently implement a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states so that Israel annexes all Judea and Samaria (West-Bank) inside security fence and draws all outposts inside fence on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resettled within the state’s new borders. With this kind of unilateral “cold peace” solution Palestinians can do whatever they want in remaining territory but however this ‘Cold Peace’ in my opinion might – in the course of years – develop to permanent state of affairs and thus end Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An example could be the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979 which most Egyptians view as a cold peace; retrospectively not so bad deal anyway.
In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not now replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.
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