Two-state solution and Israeli politics.
Opinions on land exchanges, as part of a two-state solution, are behind many of the differences among Israel’s parties. The latest poll shows Likud picking up a few seats since the last poll, and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party losing strength. Lieberman is a hard right winger on the Israeli scene (and under a corruption scandal that may be politically influenced), yet his most controversial plan calls for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but with Israel exchanging Arab Israeli towns for East Jerusalem development areas. Labor is aghast at this, because it would take Israeli Arabs, many of whom work or have businesses in Israel, and “give” them over to a much more impoverished new Palestinian state—without their say-so.
Apart from the contentious religious sites in the old city of Jerusalem, the idea around all land exchange proposals is fairly simple to understand: A new Palestinian state would have to have a corridor connecting the West Bank to Gaza, land which is part of Israel, and from Israel’s point of view, 1967 boundaries are too dangerous–based on previous terrorist raids around the small “waist” of Israel. Israel is long and narrow and at the “waist” it is only 9.3 miles wide, leaving the highly populated area around Netanya vulnerable. The two biggest obstacles of any two-state solution are also simple to understand: Hamas, which controls Gaza and is influential among religious fundamentalists in the West Bank, has been unalterably opposed to any Jewish State and wants an Islamic State ruled by Sharia law in the whole of the Palestine area. It has been nearly half a century since Israel won the Six-Day War, and in that time, towns and settlements have been built that house about three-quarters of a million people, many of whom are three generations in their homes. These are nearly evenly distributed between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank areas. East Jerusalem development sites encompass only twenty-two square miles and the rest of the occupied West Bank covers more than 1000 times that area. The Golan Heights is an issue between Syria and Israel.
Arguments over the boundaries of the new Palestinian state, to be created in any two-state solution, are heavily influenced by which historical point of reference for Israel’s boundaries are employed. Most Palestinians want a status quo ante bellum, or a return to the borders that existed just before the Six-Day War in 1967. Most Israelis point out that those borders didn’t provide security for Israel as proven by both the Six-Day War and the subsequent Yom Kippur War. They note that the boundaries just prior to the Six-Day War were not those set by the United Nations when it established the Jewish State, that they represented territorial conquests made by Israel and the Arab States, mostly Jordan, who had control of the West Bank at the time, and that the Armistice that established those boundaries were never confirmed in a peace treaty because of Arab refusal to accept the existence of the State of Israel. New boundaries, they argue, must take account of existing realities and provide security for both countries. Insecure borders, they note, will just make for terrorist attacks and reprisals, which would then be tantamount to war between two nation-states, something that wouldn’t benefit either side, or for that matter anyone who is interested in peace between Israel and a new Palestine. Beyond that, there is considerable difference of opinion among Israelis on the exact nature of the borders, what to do about the new settlements, the demilitarization of the new state, and the possibility of peace realistically happening as long as a significant portion of the Palestinian population support Hamas.
This is all background information. Beginning next week, I will flesh out the modern historical background in more detail. Finally, I will present my own suggestions for a workable two-state solution.