The current eruption of violence in Gaza has temporarily obscured some of the underlying concerns in the region. These will re-emerge now that a “ceasefire” has been declared. Primary among these issues is the question of a two-state solution, subsumed under the rubric of the “road map to peace,” to resolve the political and military impasse between Palestinians and Israelis.
Unfortunately, the road map will prove to be nothing more than a roadblock. To begin with, many Palestinians are not interested in a two-state solution to their predicament. Palestinian political behaviour and a myriad of polls and studies strongly indicate that the majority of Palestinians do not want a state of their own alongside a Jewish state. They want Israel to disappear. Hamas and Fatah have made it abundantly clear that their agenda is the complete eradication of Israel—Israel is the “occupied territories.” The Hamas charter declares that “Israel will exist only until Islam destroys it.” The Fatah charter pledges that “Our struggle will not cease until the Zionist state is entirely eliminated.”
The only difference between Hamas and Fatah is that the latter is more flexible in its strategy, pursuing not the thunderbolt policy of Hamas but the road map to serialized conquest. Hamas, like Iran, wishes to obliterate Israel militarily, Fatah to dismember it through negotiations.
For Fatah, Israel need not be reduced to ashes but annihilated bit by bit in all its aspects—economic, political, martial, demographic and cultural. This program should be seen for what it is, a rejuvenated version of Yasser Arafat’s “strategy of slices” or “phases,” originally recommended by Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba and by Mohammed Heikal, the former editor of the Eygptian newspaper Al Ahram.
This is precisely the goal that would be attained by implementing a second proposal that has been gathering momentum of late, namely the creation of a “single bilateral state.” Indeed, many prominent figures have abandoned the two-state policy. Leila Farsakh, a professor at the University of Massuchesetts, has published an article in the Palestinian advocacy site The Electronic Intifada, reprinted in Le monde diplomatique for March 7, 2007, blaming stalled negotiations on “Israeli apartheid” and opting for a “one-state solution.” Her position is by no means anomalous; it is widely shared by many of her peers and colleagues, both in the Middle East and the West. In fact, her article merely reprises PLO legal advisor Michael Tarazi’s op-ed piece in the New York Times for October 4, 2004 in which, speaking in his master’s voice, he put paid to the notion of a two-state political settlement and proposed that Israel and the Territories merge into a single state.
In an article in The New York Review of Books for October 23, 2003, entitled “Israel: The Alternative,” historian Tony Judt, by now a leading figure in the ideological constituency of the anti-Israeli Left, had already called for the dissolution of Israel, arguing for “a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs.” The recently retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, has also picked up the cudgels, objecting to Israel as a Jewish state and opting for a “political, normal state for Christians, Muslims and Jews.” Sabbah is plainly of one mind with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat who, two weeks before the Annapolis peace conference, articulated the position that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”
This, of course, is pure nonsense. The Palestinian Authority’s Basic Law declares that “Islam is the official religion in Palestine,” just as the Contitution of Pakistan establishes Islam as the State religion and Saudi Arabia requires by law that all its citizens be Muslims.
Naturally, in such a single-state scenario with its Palestinian majority, the very real likelihood that those Jews who had not been purged would be marked as dhimmis does not ruffle the single-stater’s serenity. “How anyone in their right mind,” marvels Menachem Keller in the essay collection The Jewish Divide over Israel, “could believe that…this mooted ‘state of all its citizens’ would respect the rights of minorities (or of majorities for that matter) is beyond comprehension. People who hold this view are either cynical in the extreme or naïve in the extreme. In the former case they knowingly condemn my family and me to persecution and probable death; in the latter case, they insouciantly and casually condemn us to the same fate.”
In the event, the Palestinians would then get their state ready-made, without having to endure the labour of building it for themselves. The Israelis will have done all the work, developing a nonpareil scientific and academic establishment, forging a strong industrial base, devising irrigation techniques to reclaim the desert, draining the malarial marshlands and making world-class discoveries in cybernetics, medical technology and research paradigms. The Palestinians would then inherit what they do not deserve and what they have, up to now, done everything in their power to thwart—and, if their performance in Gaza is any indication, would more than likely run into the ground in no time flat. Israeli society may be far from perfect, but Palestinian society is not even close to being far. We might put it this way: Israel is a land that looks old and works new; Palestine is a land that looks old and doesn’t work at all.
In the present context, a return to the status quo ante may be the only way to keep the lid on the boiling cauldron. The counterproductive peace sham must be put out of its misery and new and different initiatives undertaken. With regard to the “peace process,” we might reverse the old maxim: if it’s not fixable, break it—and try something more “creative.” The prolonged and anticlimactic “peace” negotiations are like a mumblecore film, improvised, scriptless, heavy on verbiage, camera-reliant, second-rate actors like Olmert, Livny, Abbas and Mashaal pretending to be stars.
Thus it may be politically expedient to apply a clause of prudential revocation to a peace process that is all process and no peace, and engage rather in a “mediatorial process” that envisages the return of the Gaza Strip to Egypt and most of the West Bank to Jordan. After all, Gaza was Egyptian territory by force majeure until 1967 and the West Bank, originally mandated as part of the Jewish “national home” by the League of Nations in 1922, was formally annexed by the Hashemite emirate of Jordan in 1950.
Threatened by a zymotic Palestinian enclave, Jordan is profoundly involved in an effort to bring political chaos under control. An independent Palestine may pose a greater threat to Jordanian security than a closely monitored internal province. Similarly Egypt, despite having walled Gaza off, is distinctly uncomfortable with the prospect of sharing a border with an expansionist Islamic state, closely allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is precisely what Hamas-controlled Gaza would become.
The only viable way of dealing with so explosive a situation is to opt for what we might call a “three-state solution”: Egypt, Jordan and Israel, bound to date by peace treaties. Forget Gaza and the West Bank. Otherwise, Gaza will remain a simmering brew of semtex and ideology, stirred by the Iranian ladle, and the West Bank will persist as a mafia of kleptocrats and terrorist cartels. Under these circumstances the day might come when there are no states at all in the region.