Take time to ponder what a two-state solution really means
JERUSALEM — None of the proponents of a Palestinian state within the context of the two-state solution have come up with proof that such an entity is feasible — politically or economically — as far as Israel’s security is concerned.
This applies to the Americans, who own the copyright for this scheme, which dates back to the Bush administration, the Israelis, who reluctantly, but obediently went along with the idea, the Europeans, who evidently see it as a way to gain a potential sphere of influence, and the Palestinians who are supposed to make it work.
The common denominator is that sovereignty over most if not all of the West Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza Strip as well really will co-exist peacefully with adjacent Israel.
That is the objective and the rationale for the “proximity talks” that are about to get under way here and in the West Bank city of Ramallah with U.S. Presidential Envoy George Mitchell as the shuttling mediator.
However, even if the initial deadline set for the end of July coincides with a framework, or mutually accepted guidelines for an agreement do emerge from the intermittent negotiations, it would be naive to assume that the road will be open to bi-national harmony and cooperation.
Statehood means independence. It signifies an organism capable of making decisions that are in its own best interests and not necessarily those of its neighbors (in this case, Israel and Jordan). Anyone who has read Niccolo Machiavelli’s classical work, “The Prince,” knows that a state’s primary objective is its the achievement of its unique aspirations.
The overriding Palestinian goal is the so-called Right of Return, meaning the repatriation of the Arabs who fled the part of Palestine in which Israel was established nearly 62 years ago.
Even if the West Bank state is designated as the “Palestinian homeland,” in accordance with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s rhetoric, that does not mean that the two to six million refugees will abandon their lifelong dream of going back to Jaffa, Jerusalem, Tiberias and all the towns and villages in between.
On the contrary, the relative freedom of action they might gain from temporary residence in the projected Palestinian state might give them the same options they enjoy today in Lebanon, Syria and, to a certain extent, Jordan.
Would it be realistic to assume that if control over the projected Palestinian state were vested in the nascent police force armed and trained by the United States there would be no smuggling of arms into its confines or that clandestine armed groups would not be tempted to cross the border into Israel and attack civilians? And if this all-too-familiar scenario were to be played out, would the United States and European Union accept Israeli retaliation or reconquest as justifiable or unavoidable?
A Palestinian state could result in the opening of embassies close to Israeli territory representing countries that are dangerously hostile to the Jewish state — Iran, North Korea or Venezuela, for instances. It is unlikely that the bi-lateral agreement that Mitchell might produce would give Israel veto power over Palestinian foreign policy. Nor would the Palestinians welcome Israeli insistence on sole control of its borders and air space.
From the economic standpoint, the projected Palestinian state’s prospects are dim. It would have no natural resources, limited industrial capability and insufficient domestic revenue to enable it to overcome these shortcomings. Most of the financial support would have to be provided by the United States. The Arab League and its individual members do not have a history of philanthropy comparable to that of the United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds. Nor can the Palestinians anticipate monetary reparations equal to those granted Israel by the Federal Republic of Germany due to the annihilation and plunder of the European Jewish community’s economic assets. Even if Israel were to compensate the Palestinians for property left behind in 1948, as it was willing to do in the 1950s, these funds would not match those allocated by the Germans.
And if, as happens in independent states, there were to be a coup d’etat as a result of which a radical regime were to take power and challenge Israel’s right to exist (this happened in the Gaza Strip when Hamas won the 2008 election that followed the unilateral and unconditional Israeli pullout — one of the biggest strategic errors in Israel’s history) that certainly would not make the projected Palestinian state a harbinger or pursuer of peace.
Surely, there must be an alternative. It just cannot be that the two-state solution is the only solution.
(Jay Bushinsky, an Israel-based political columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)