Before I begin to discuss the various possibilities that can reasonably be constructed about the future of Israel and Palestine, I think it would be worthwhile to talk about the ideal solution.
The Ideal Solution
Israelis and Palestinians would have to finally come to terms with the idea that they are two peoples living in one country. By accepting each other, they would also be accepting, embracing and securing a future for themselves and their children. In this future, two states would exist but the citizens of both would be free to live in each country. Palestinians could live in Israel, own property and conduct businesses just as Israelis could do in Palestine. There would be not “settlements”. I would expect that the economies of both countries would benefit especially that of Palestine. There would be no walls. There would be no check points. There would be no fear and no humiliation. Palestinians could swim in the sea of Israel. Israeli’s could walk in the historic sites of their ancestors. There would be one major international airport that would be shared between Israel and Palestine. While Israeli settlements in Palestine would remain, they would be a part of Palestine. Taxes would be paid in the state where one lived. There would be no need for a land bridge between the West Bank and Gaza since Palestinians would be free to travel through Israel. There would be no Israeli highways in Palestine because Israeli’s would be free to travel through Palestine. Israeli’s and Palestinians would agree to certain land swaps to recognize the realities on the ground. The Old City of Jerusalem would be home to the three great religions that worship the same God although in very different ways.
Lebanon and Israel would have a peace treaty. and together with Jordan and Lebanon, form an economic federation which would allow for commerce to develop between all four countries. A major focus would be on tourism. The federation would also strengthen ties with Egypt. Israel and Palestine would create a major program to develop agriculture in the West Bank and the Negev (Israeli desert) utilizing the abundant natural gas now found off the coast of Israel to power major de-salinization plants that would provide the water for such an undertaking. Israel/Palestine would become the bread basket for many Arab countries and especially for Egypt which no longer can feed itself. Israeli Universities would open branches in Palestine and Palestinian students would have the opportunity to have the same quality of education as Israelis.
I am afraid that this is a just a dream. It would require Israeli’s and Palestinians to trust each other. It would also require each side to give up some of their previous claims. Israel would have to give up things like East Jerusalem and the Settlements. Palestinians would have to give up the right of return.
It could only happen if there were the equivalent of a Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk. Sadly, Israel and Palestine are very much lacking in such leaders. So that leaves us with what is possible and then what is probable. That is now my task to explore.
The Three State Solution
The Three State Solution is what most people think of as the Two State Solution. The three states are Israel, Palestine and Jordan. This appears to be what the Palestinians are asking for. I say “appears” because it is not clear to me that the Palestinian Leadership really wants this. I doubt that the Jordanian Leadership wants it and I am pretty sure that the Israeli Leadership does not want it. In my opinion, Israel, Palestine and Jordan are just going through the motions because they know it will not happen. The leadership of all three countries derives much of their power by not having it happen. I have come to the conclusion that it will not happen any time soon if ever no matter how many times Kerry visits the region.
The Two State Solution
This was the situation before 1967. Jordan and the West Bank were one country. But rather than have Gaza as part of Egypt, it would become part of Jordan/Palestine. Such a country would really be Palestinian. I doubt that the Hashemite Kingdom would survive. Palestine would have enough critical mass that it could function as a real country. I have doubts that Palestine on its own has enough resources to be an independent country without very close ties to Israel. Such a Jordan/Palestine might be friendly to Israel as is Jordan now, or become an enemy to Israel, but it would be much easier for Israel to do with a real country – even if it was an enemy. For instance, Israel has been pretty much able to live with Syria more then 40 years.With economic help from the USA, Europe and maybe Israel, Jordan/Palestine could absorb the Palestinian refugees now in Lebanon and Syria and integrate them, as well as integrating those Palestinians still living in refugee camps after 66 years.
How could such a Two State Solution come about? I think it could only come about by starting with the Three State Solution first. In that case, the ties between Palestine and Jordan would grow stronger while the Palestinian population of Jordan (about 50%) would continue to increase as a percentage. Eventually the King of Jordan would fall and Palestinian leadership in Jordan would take over. From then it would only take a matter of years for Palestine and Jordan to become one country.
The One and a Half State Solution
Israel annexes the West Bank. Most Palestinians living in the West Bank are offered full citizenship in Israel. Israel remains with a Jewish majority but the large percentage of Palestinians give the them a great deal of influence in Israeli politics.
Gaza is not made a part of this. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that adding the one a half million Gaza Palestinians to the mix would threaten the ability of Israeli Jews to hold a majority. The second is that after living in what has been a virtual prison for 66 years, and now under the leadership of the terrorist Hamas organization, an organization that does not accept the right of Israel to exist, it would be difficult to handle the security issues. Gaza would end up as its own country, one which would be isolated from Israel and from Egypt, the two countries it borders.
The One State Solution
I am leaving Jordan out of this otherwise this could be considered another variation of the Two State Solution.
Israel would annex both Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians would be given Israeli citizenship unless they had a history of attacking Israel. Eventually, Israeli Jews would no longer have a majority. The outcome could be like South Africa where white continue to enjoy a high standard of living and have the respect of their more numerous black country-men. Or it could result in Jews being slowly or quickly forced into a second class position and eventually even forced out of the country. I suspect the later would be the case.
Israel annexes the West Bank and Gaza but does not grant Palestinians Citizenship so that the current Jewish majority can be assured that they can continue to set policy and control security. Disenfranchise Palestinians would not cooperate and there would be constant and violent confrontation. Israel would loose the support of all nations including the USA.
Blame it on the British
You are probably thinking that none of these possibilities are very likely or very good. I am afraid that is so. You might ask yourself “How did we end up with such a mess”? People all over the world are asking themselves that question about so many situation So blame it on the British.
In my next and hopefully last post on Israel/Palestine I am going to suggest what I think is the most likely scenario and how it will play out.