Why the solution must be regional in nature.
The Jerusalem Post reported (4/28/2016) that “Jerusalem Rejects French Peace Initiative.” It was a reaction to France’s recent announcement that “it would hold an international summit in Paris on May 30 (2016) to discuss the parameters of a peace deal (between Israel and the Palestinians-JP). The summit would include 30 countries and international organizations, including a number of Arab nations, and the Mideast Quartet of the US, Russia, the EU, and the UN, but not Israel or the Palestinian Authority.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to respond to the misguided French initiative. Netanyahu pointed out that the only path to peace is through bilateral relations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement last week that said: “Israel adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations. Israel is ready to begin them immediately without precondition. Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from direct negotiations.”
It is quite apparent that the Palestinian leadership at this time is unwilling or perhaps unable to sign a peace treaty with Israel. There are multiple reasons for that, first and foremost, “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel (a proposition akin to Israel’s demographic suicide.) The Palestinian leadership will not survive politically or physically should they compromise on that issue. That is ostensibly why Yasser Arafat at Camp David Two in July, 2000 refused an “end of conflict” statement requested by President Bill Clinton and Israel PM Ehud Barak. For the same reason Mahmoud Abbas bolted the negotiations with PM Ehud Olmert in 2008, after receiving even more concessions than Arafat did.
The Palestinian leadership has also adamantly refused to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. There are also tangible disagreements on the future of Jerusalem. Fundamentally, however, the Palestinian leadership prefers solutions other than direct negotiations with Israel. They would prefer an outside force compelling Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria (West Bank). That is why Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and his associates have attempted to receive statehood recognition from the UN, without having to contend with direct negotiations, where they might have to compromise on a number of issues. The Palestinian leadership, in typical form, prefers to give nothing and receive all the concessions. In addition to their attempts to receive recognition from the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, the Palestinians have opted for membership in the International Court of Justice in the Haag (Netherlands) and have sought to actively encourage condemnation and de-legitimization of Israel in various forums.
Given these circumstances, and the ongoing intifada by individuals, it is clear that the French ploy of an international summit would certainly not bring about a breakthrough. What would probably be acceptable for both the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and to Israelis is a 10-year provisional agreement. The Palestinians won’t have to forgo their demand for the “right of return” or the recognition of Israel as the national state of Jews during that period. They would be required to stop incitement against Israel in the media, schools and mosques. In addition, the Palestinians would have to stop their agitation against Israel in international forums, end all terror activities and resorts to violence. In exchange, Israel will commit to refrain from construction outside the major settlement blocs, and allow for more Palestinian self-governing. Israel, with the help of the international community, could then initiate joint ventures and large business enterprises that will improve the economic situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank. Economic prosperity in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas will provide greater incentive for a subsequent stage of Peace talks.
Naturally, in 2026, new leadership would emerge among the Palestinians, hopefully with a more moderate ideology and global perspective. 2026 would witness new leadership in Israel as well. At that point, the political atmosphere will be less tense and more conducive for constructive peace talks that can bear fruit, possibly resulting in two-states for two peoples.
Let’s assume that if such a Palestinian state would arise, what kind of future could be expected from a tiny state without an outlet to sea, locked between Jordan and Israel, without natural resources or open land for development? Moreover, by all accounts the state would have to be demilitarized. Given the fact that the Palestinian Authority is already dysfunctional, a Palestinian State would also become a failed state much like many of the surrounding Arab states, dependent on international aid, jobs in Israel and in the Gulf states.
It is safe to assume that frustration will set in soon enough, as envy and resentment of the much higher living standards Israelis enjoy would result in riotous demonstrations. The Palestinian leadership, bowing to radical elements, would demand militarization of the state as a matter of national pride. The international community, which already holds the Palestinians as “victims,” would pressure Israel to accede to Palestinian demands. The same elements would also accuse the Israelis of “stealing” their land, and demand Israeli territorial concessions. The relative peace will end in the resumption of the conflict.
Therefore, the solution must be regional in nature, and must involve the moderate Arab states including Saudi Arabia, and in particular Jordan and Egypt. The only way to assuage the Palestinians, and keep the Jewish state intact is by creating a federal Jordanian-Palestinian state. It will grant the West Bank Palestinians an outlet to the sea, and huge open lands in Jordan would provide new cities for Palestinians to build and populate. In addition, Palestinian youth could serve in the federated army east of the Jordan River.
Similarly, Egypt can help defuse the “ticking bomb” called Gaza, by granting empty lands in the Northern Sinai to the Gaza Palestinians. Such a move would go a long way in pacifying the most crowded enclave in the world called Gaza. With international investments and Israeli help, the area could flourish and generate trade, offer more stability, and reduce terror threats for both Egypt and Israel.
The current Jordanian monarch is not thrilled with the idea of adding a few million Palestinians to his kingdom. He already has a majority of Palestinians in his kingdom (according to several Jordanian government bodies, the London-based Oxford Business Group stated that at least two thirds of Jordan's population were of Palestinian origin) who resent the Hashemite monarchy. A federation would give the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in Jordan, a stake in the new federal state. The federated Jordanian-Palestinian state would use rotation between the West Bank Palestinians and Jordanians, to govern and the King would still be the head-of-state. The alternative is war with Israel in the form of perpetual intifadas, and an eventual violent overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy. In such a scenario, everyone loses, and especially the Hashemite monarch.
The US administration attempts to jump start negotiations by dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to the region has been and continues to be an exercise in futility. Previous administrations tried the same or similar formulas, and they all failed. It is time to look at the bigger picture, and broaden the territorial pie by providing Egypt with financial incentives to cede a few thousand square miles of Sinai Desert to the Gaza Palestinians, and it is certainly worth trying new ideas, including the concept of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation. As to the French initiative calling for an international summit, it would mean, at best, a good time in Paris for the assembled, but no chance for better peace prospects for Israelis and Palestinians.