The so-called “two-state solution,” to subdivide the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea between independent Israel and independent Palestine, fails the tests of logic and history. And it ignores the Kingdom of Jordan – whose participation is required for any stable, long-term arrangement.
There are presently three “states,” or at least three governments, west of the Jordan: Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Gaza. Pro-Israel “two-staters” think Gaza and the West Bank territory should become one state with Israel as the other, assuming-for-no-reason that it is Hamas that will disappear. Hamas vociferously disagrees. Assuming-for-no-reason that a single PA-governed state does emerge in both places, Israel would be left divided north from south by a corridor across the country so Palestinians could access both parts of their state. Arab armies tried multiple times to sever Israel’s waist in pursuit of conquest — this would have Israel do it for them.
The Palestinians — at best — would have a split rump state squeezed between a hostile Israel and a more hostile Jordan. But the only thing Hamas and the PA appear to agree on is that the State of Israel is the one that has to do the disappearing. They believe the establishment of Israel in 1948 was a mistake by the international community that needs to be rectified. Hamas believes it should be through violence and bloodshed; the PA would negotiate Israel away through the “right of return.” A nasty Hamas-Fatah civil war in 2007 was never concluded, and the PA government rightly fears Hamas more than it does Israel — in fact, the IDF and Shabak (Israel’s internal security agency) are what keep the PA in power.
Okay, say the pro-Israel “two-staters,” then make the deal between Israel and a West Bank “Palestine” now and leave Gaza for some future time. In that case, Israel would be left with a vicious, bloody, anti-Semitic, Iranian-supported enclave on its coast, unreconciled either to Israel or “Palestine.”
This is in addition to the not-minor problem that the PA functions only as a failed state living on American, EU, and UN handouts. The January 2017 statement by countries convened in France, ostensibly to promote the “peace process,” noted that despite billions in aid and services over the past 23 years, the PA cannot deliver services, has no infrastructure or viable economy, and has no civil society. Unmentioned is the ongoing Palestinian civil war. To bestow independence on such an entity is to birth another South Sudan.
No one’s aspirations then, legitimate and peaceful or not, are met by a declaration of Palestinian independence. Currently there is a stalemate, but, in fact, there could be two routes to progress.
First, recognition that the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” is the narrowest definition of the Arab-Israel conflict that began before Israel’s independence and never has completely been concluded. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan do help, but other Arab states that declared war on Israel in 1948 and 1967 (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Algeria, and Syria) have not accepted their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 242. They are still required to provide Israel, “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
Demonstrable Arab acceptance of 242 would allow the Gulf and North African States to enter into proper relations with Israel, and give Israel more flexibility in its negotiations with the Palestinians. It would also establish the principle of Israel’s permanence and legitimacy for the Palestinians.
Second, following Arab acceptance of Israel, Jordan could be brought into the process. The kingdom conquered (1949) and illegally annexed (1950) the West Bank and the Jordanian Parliament made West Bank Palestinians citizens. But annexation was unworkable in the long run because it ignored Jordanian history and demographics. The founding of the PLO in 1964 with the intention of “liberating Palestine” was aimed as much at Jordan, ruled by a minority Hashemite King, as it was Israel — and Jordan was thought to be easier. From 1967 – 1970, Palestinian terror groups grew in Jordan, establishing their own infrastructure at the expense of the king’s rule. Bloody Black September saw the king strike back, killing thousands and expelling thousands more in a war that continued through 1973. In 1985, Jordan and the PLO signed an agreement that King Hussein repudiated in 1986, at which point he intended to create aJordanian-Palestinian-Israeli confederation that would allow a Jordan-Israel agreement and keep Israel involved in the security of the territory.
In July 1988, Hussein renounced his claim to the territory and its people under threat from the PLO. He stopped paying 20,000 West Bank civil servants and slyly called Yitzhak Rabin “Jordan’s defense minister for the West Bank,” offloading the problem.
The 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty explicitly limits Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to west of the Jordan River — erasing without penalty Jordan’s 1948 aggression, 1950 illegal annexation, and 1988 abandonment of Palestinians who had been citizens for nearly 40 years. It is time to reconsider, for Jordan’s benefit as well as others.
The arrangement that might have the best chance of working for America’s two regional allies — Israel and Jordan — is King Hussein’s old confederation. The Palestinians would have to live with something less than independence (independence is not part of the Oslo Accords), but could have political and economic benefits they do not now possess. And if Gaza has to remain on the outside, West Bank Palestinians will have more security than they now have.
It is not time to push for a confederated solution – or any solution – and it is unlikely the Arab states will soon come forward and meet their obligations under Resolution 242. But broader thinking is more likely to produce results than the illusory “two state solution,” and in fact, leaves two states – Israel and Jordan – where two were intended to be.