Sunday, August 1, 2010
Mideast Peace: Time to get serious about a 3 State Solution
President Obama has threatened to downgrade relations with the Palestinian Authority unless they enter direct negotiations with Israel by mid-August.
PA President Abbas has so far refused to speak directly to the Israelis unless they commit to a total freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to direct talks with the Palestinians as long as there are no preconditions.
The pressure on the Palestinians from the US and the Arab League's acquiescence to direct negotiations are expected to give Abbas the latitude to reverse his position and join negotiations in September.
But what sort of peace will they be negotiating?
Abbas' Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza do not speak with one voice. Neither recognizes the other's legitimacy. Gaza is a disastrous, terrorist-infested mess, ruled by a fanatical theocratic party whose founding charter reads as if it were written by psychopaths suffering from paranoid delusions. It includes references to talking trees wanting to kill Jews and an international conspiracy of Zionists, Freemasons and the Rotary and Lions Clubs.
Israel will not agree to a right of passage between the two Palestinian territories while one of them is controlled by a group committed to the Jewish state's destruction. Hamas' policies have completely sidelined them from participating in the expected upcoming round of negotiations.
For the past few years, the roadmap for peace has talked about a "two-state" solution, but what is becoming increasingly apparent is that the only hope for an agreement would be the more recently proposed 3 State Solution.
With the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of achieving peace with Gaza, which has developed its own political culture, there will be a need for 2 Palestinian states, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza.
This idea was proposed, in a form, in early 2009 by John Bolton, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations.
In Bolton's scenario, Jordan would assume control of the West Bank and Egypt would assume responsibility for Gaza. While that aspect of the solution is unfeasible, since both those Arab countries have rejected that idea and the administrative quagmire that would accompany it, the idea of Israel forming a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and shelving Gaza for the time being seems the only feasible option.
A single agreement with the West Bank will be difficult enough, given Israel's disastrously inefficient system of proportional representation that allows fringe parties to have disproportionate power in government. It will be a nightmare for Israel to have to remove the fanatically orthodox settlers from the West Bank, who have a messianic commitment to their theologically-inspired vision of a Greater Israel. But sensible forces in Israel, including former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, understood there was no other way. That was part of his motivation for building the Security Barrier between Israel and the West Bank. It has served its primary purpose of virtually eliminating suicide attacks from the west bank, but it is also no great secret that the barrier is the most likely future border between Israel and the Palestinians.
While East Jerusalem would remain a point of contention, it appears that the Palestinian side has also recognized this new reality.
While the Gaza situation would remain an open wound where its intractable government, which acts as an Iranian proxy, cannot be dealt with, there is also movement in that area. There is growing support for an international solution to Gaza, which would see Israel cede authority to an international force that would provide security for Israel while assuming responsibility for that territory.
Once a democratic peaceful Palestinian state emerges on the West Bank, it would place enormous pressure on Gaza to find a means of achieving peace. It would alleviate some pressure on Israel and the US in the region, and further isolate hostile dictatorships and their operatives like Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.