Israeli-Palestianian Conflict: A Three State Solution
It is often cited as the most helpless situation in the international community, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every major accord, summit, parameter, and initiative has wound up failing. Although some of the peace talks have accomplished a few notable things and served as a conduit to facilitate open discussions between the two parties, the end result has always been one of the parties walking away from the negotiating table in frustration. The question that inevitably dooms the peace talks to failure is whether or not there should be a single-state or two-state solution — the proverbial Palestinian question. Both of the proposed solutions doom every peace initiative to failure because of their inherently fallible facets.
The single-state solution proposes one unified Jewish-Arab state with Arab and Jewish inhabitants having citizenship and equal rights in the combined entity. Sadly, the single-state solution is a political non-starter. If the Palestinian states (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) were annexed into Israel the ratio of Palestinians to Jews will be nearly 1:1. The population of the Jews and Arabs would both equal roughly 5.4 million. However, one often overlooked statistic is the population growth rates. Palestinian Arabs have a growth rate of about 3% and Arab Israelis about 2.5%. The Jewish Israeli growth rate is a dismal 1.4%, when compared to that of their Arab compatriots and surrounding Arab neighbors. The notion that Jews would be outnumbered by Arabs is a frightening thought to Jewish politicians and diplomats, because it reverses years of Jewish population control. Jews will not even consider becoming a minority in Israel, a state they have fought to preserve and expand over the last 60 years. This doesn’t even account for the Palestinian Diaspora, 5 million Palestinians worldwide (another 5 million Arabs!). And with the right of return a key issue for many Palestinians, the prospect of a single, ethnically mixed state has very little, if any, chance at success.
A two-state solution sounds more workable than a one-state solution, but when it is put under any scrutiny it crumbles under political impossibility. If the Palestinians are to have their own state, it is assumed that both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be combined to form a contiguous Palestinian state. This presents a major issue. If the Gaza Strip and the West Bank merge together it will effectively create a noncontiguous Israel — Israel will be cut into two separate land masses. The prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state is, again, a political non-starter and is enough to thwart any peace deal in the making. Are you beginning to see the hopeless trend?
The single-sate and two-state solutions don’t work and the continued push for one or the other is both politically and demographically inane. The solution that I feel could provide a real groundwork to negotiate from is the Three-State Solution. An international tribunal would mediate between representatives from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israel in the creation of a Gaza and a West Bank. This solution circumvents the Jewish fears of becoming outnumbered, and the geo-political impossibility of cutting Israel into a noncontiguous state.
What this solution also does is recognize that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are two very different territories, politically speaking, an aspect almost always overlooked. The Gaza Strip is run by Hamas and politicians like Khamel Mashaal, while the West Bank is run by Fatah and leader Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas is a militant sect of the PLO. Fatah is a left-center PLO political organization. To assume that both of these groups have the same objectives in mind is to be blind of political realities.
A three-state solution also provides the international community, especially Israel, with a unique opportunity to seek negotiations to end Hama’s terrorist agenda. The Gazans elected Hamas, an organization listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel, because peaceful negotiations were failing and conditions in the Gaza Strip were only getting worse (and still are getting worse). If Hamas were given political recognition and brought to the negotiating table with the knowledge that the Gaza Strip will be a sovereign state, Hamas would be much more willing to compromise on other issues of importance. Israel and the U.S. must work with Hamas, to ignore them is politically derisive and does nothing more but to fuel further hatred and enmity between the Arabs and the Jews and the Arabs and the West.
Once the boundaries of the three states are demarcated, negotiation over issues like right of return, access to the Temple Mount, West Bank settlements, and control over Jerusalem will be politically possible. Over the last 60 years the struggle between Arab and Jew, Israel and Palestine has costs many lives and has caused great malaise to regional stability. If a more practical solution is adopted, the situation could finally begin to improve and perhaps not appear so hopeless. Give people hope and the the possibilities are endless.