In the news, on the street, at international conferences, and in classrooms galore, everyone is talking about the “two state solution” as if it signified the Second Coming. People who have never been to Israel, or to Ramallah, who own no military maps of the region, and who do not know a single Palestinian, all, every last one, monotonously intones this phrase.
President Obama, talked about the eternal, infernal two state solution or about “two states for two peoples.” Even Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, now says it favors a two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu implicitly but not explicitly supports a “two-state solution.”
I loved how Prime Minister Netanyahu stood up to President Obama when he firmly and clearly declared that the time for illusions—the kind that is always written in Jewish blood—is now officially over.
But why is everyone thinking so “small?” My colleague and friend, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar Ilan University and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, has a far more realistic and creative suggestion. When I first heard his proposal, I laughed. I thought: “Surely, this is some kind of Jewish joke.”
His suggestion is no joke. In fact, it has some serious support from both Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, things being what they are, no one will go on record supporting this idea, which is based on a sociological and historical analysis of Arab tribes and the consequent concept of Arab tribal city-states.
Dr. Kedar proposes the creation of no less than eight or nine independent and separate Arab city-states within the West Bank, in addition to Gaza. Of course, Israel would comprise the ninth or tenth state. He writes:
“There is no reason to assume that a Palestinian state will not become another failing Arab state, due to the fragmented society in the West Bank and Gaza, tribalism and lack of awareness of nationhood as demonstrated by the failing performance of the Palestinian authority since its establishment in 1994…Social stability is the key for political stability…the only successful model for an Arab state is the one which is based on a single consolidated traditional group such as each of the individual Arab Gulf Emirates.”
This actually makes sense. The Arab Gulf Emirates have been relatively successful because their inhabitants are, with some exceptions, largely homogeneous in terms of tribe, ethnicity, and religion. True, the oil wealth has also provided an incentive for unity. But in general, the Arab Middle East has always been composed of many tribes, religions, sects, and ethnic groups, all at war with each other and with the government. The colonial imposition of a central, western-style nation-state has not served the interests of the indigenous people but rather the interests of dictators and large corporations.
Thus, according to Dr. Kedar, there is essentially one tribe that “governs” (the hearts and minds in) Ramallah, another tribe entirely which does so in Nablus, yet another which presides over Jenin, etc. A small city-state might be able to become productive and join a confederation of similar city-states. After all, size alone does not determine the success or failure of a state. For example, Monaco, Lichtenstein, and Luxembourg are small states with a high quality of life, while Algeria, Libya, and Sudan are large states with poor quality of life. According to Dr. Kedar:
“The towns that will receive independence (from both the Palestinian Authority and Israel) are Hebron (the Arab part), Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tul-karem and Qalqilya…Bethlehem will require further consideration.” (In other writings, Dr. Kedar sometimes includes Bethlehem and questions Jericho).