ANATOMY OF AN ILLUSION: THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN TWO-STATE SOLUTION
posted by Eric L. Rozenman
June 10, 2003
posted by Eric L. Rozenman
June 10, 2003
The 'two-state solution' to the Arab-Israeli conflict - actually a three-state solvent in which an irredentist Palestine, unstable itself, would destabilize Jordan and Israel - was stillborn in the 1970s. Renewed advocacy of it late last year by 'the quartet' of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations prior to Palestinian reform and without realistic prospects thereof contradicted President Bush's June 24 vision of a post-Arafat, non-violent, democratic West Bank and Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's acceptance, albeit qualified, of a 23rd Arab country on soil he himself long considered Israel's strategic and national heartland confirmed a dangerous sense of inevitability for the two-state plan.
But if armies can't resist the power of an idea whose time has come, then diplomats cannot enforce a vision inherently out of focus. A fundamental flaw in the two-state plan is oscillation of Palestinian Arab politics between the thuggish corruption of Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority and the murderous bigotry of Sheik Ahmed Yassin's Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). A November 2002 public opinion poll showed that while 76 percent of West Bank and Gaza Strip residents supported a mutual cessation of hostilities between Arabs and Israelis, only eight percent supported a Palestinian school curriculum teaching that Israel was legitimate and that peace could be reached without Arab control of all the former British Mandate for Palestine (Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip). So President Bush's 'vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side and at peace' remains inapplicable. Worse, attempting to reach it via 'the road map' drawn by the United States with its other quartet partners - Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union - would prove to be a highway to hell. Like the Oslo 'peace process,' attempting actually to follow the road map and force such a state into existence during the next three years (Bush's timeline) appears likely to provoke more, not less, violence.
Short of a U.S.-led trusteeship for the territories, proposed in December by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, echoing Allied occupation of post-World War II West Germany and Japan, a peaceful Palestinian Arab democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seems improbable. Yet, an America that assures one ally, Turkey, that it will not permit an independent Kurdistan to arise from the ruins of a post-Saddam Iraq and that sent troops half-way around the world to root out Afghanistan's Taliban and their Al Qaeda guests, would endanger a second ally, Israel, with creation of an Arafatia or Hamastan.
Elements do exist for a compromise Israeli-Palestinian settlement. To recognize them one should first clarify what doomed the 'two-state' approach. As adopted implicitly by the administrations of Presidents George W. H. Bush and Bill Clinton, this 'vision' supported the 1993-2000 Oslo process. President George W. Bush's explicit endorsement is meant to resurrect that process from the ruins to which Arafat and the Palestinian leadership consigned it. But Oslo, a response to the 1987-1992 intifada, ended by encouraging the much greater violence of the Al Aqsa intifada that began in September 2000 and in its first 27 months resulted in 680 Israeli dead, mostly civilian, and 1,700 Palestinian dead, mostly combatants or violent demonstrators. Attempting to force the two-state solution now could likely transform the Palestinians' 'war of independence and return' into a regional war. The Al Aqsa intifada should have been no surprise. Endorsements of the two-state solution rewarded previous Palestinian violence and provided incentives for more. Early last June, the president and his spokesmen were still promoting such a settlement in conjunction with visits of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. That made sense, since American support for the quartet road map to a two-state solution is meant to bolster the brittle regimes in Cairo, Riyadh, and Amman. These unrepresentative governments fear popular discontent - including discontent inflamed by Israeli resistance to Palestinian aggression and a U.S.-Iraqi war. So even with suicide bombers back in action, the European Union insisted again last summer that Israel concede Palestinian demands. This reminded Israel's enemies that violence pays. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's December call for a conference of Arab officials in London to advance the two-state plan acknowledged that Palestinian reform was not a necessary condition.
Granting the Palestinian Arabs the West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for peace with an Israel back behind the pre-1967 'green line' possessed a certain logic. But logic was not reality. As Benny Morris, an Israeli historian sympathetic to the Arabs' sense of grievance, put it: 'The logical solution is partition. Unfortunately, it's a solution that the Arabs have consistently rejected. If they continue to reject a two-state solution, one people will ultimately prevail. There will be one state here. Whoever is stronger will win.'
Palestinian Arab leadership rejected partition of western Palestine, unfailingly, from the 1920s to the present. Those rejections included massacres of Jews in 1921 and 1929; the 'revolt' from 1936 to 1939 (rejecting inter alia the British Peel Commission's two-state solution); the war against the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 and 1948; terrorism against Israel from 1948 to 1967 (before Israel gained the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip); renewed terrorism after 1967 when a victorious Israel initially proposed to return most of the territories in exchange for peace; rejection of the 1979 autonomy provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; refusal to halt terrorism during the 1993-1998 Oslo process that otherwise would have yielded West Bank and Gaza self-rule after five years; and rejection of a state on 95 percent of the territories and eastern Jerusalem as well after the Camp David meeting in July 2000.
Attempts to impose peace between Jews and Palestinian Arabs by confirming the former in possession of 'Israel proper' and the latter in a sovereign Gaza Strip and West Bank state consistently ignore widespread Arab rejection of Israel in any boundaries.
After World War II, General Assembly Resolution 181 divided the remaining British Mandate for Palestine - the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea - into two statelets, one Jewish, one Arab. David Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership accepted partition; the countries of the Arab League and the Arabs of Palestine refused and invaded the new Jewish state.
This refusal to concede the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in any form remained the dominant Arab attitude. Hence the enormity of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's transgression - making peace with Israel in 1979 even while insisting that Palestinian claims would have to be met - and general Arab joy at his assassination two years later. Hence Arafat's celebration of Sadat's death then and his assertion in 2000 that he would not risk the Egyptian's fate by settling for a West Bank and Gaza Strip state without Jerusalem and without the return of Palestinian Arab refugees to Israel.
Israel's 1948 War of Independence had sparked a dual refugee problem; approximately 800,000 Jews fled Arab countries and Iran, 600,000 immigrating to Israel, and roughly 500,000 Arabs abandoned what became the Jewish state for camps in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, Jordanian-occupied West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. The 1967 Six-Day War, caused by Arab rejection of an Israel without the West Bank and Gaza Strip, ended with an additional impasse - Israeli control of those territories and eastern Jerusalem. The Arab League's Khartoum conference met Israel's offer to negotiate with the 'three nos': no recognition, no negotiations, no peace.
To cut this knot, President Richard Nixon's secretary of state, William Rogers, suggested in 1969 that peace be reached based on the pre-'67 lines 'with minor border modifications.' Israel would be recognized by its neighbors and the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be granted to Jordan - the Arab state established on three-fourths of what had been the League of Nations' British Mandate for Palestine. Jordan also would continue to oversee Jerusalem's Islamic shrines.
But King Hussein, who crushed Arafat and the PLO's 'Black September' insurrection in 1970 - killing approximately 4,000 in three weeks - lost primacy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 1974, the Arab League punished him for largely sitting out the 1973 Yom Kippur War waged by Egypt and Syria against Israel and declared the PLO 'the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.' Soon after, the 'two-state solution' in its present form took hold among self-styled progressives in Israel, Europe, and the United States. This was despite Arab support limited to the occasional, unrepresentative Palestinian interlocutor like Issam Sartawi or a distant non-Palestinian Arab leader like Tunisia's Habib Bourguiba. The two-state illusion was codified in the Palestinian autonomy provisions of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty - which were themselves understood as a preliminary stage. Yet the Palestinians under Arafat furiously rejected autonomy, not only for what it did not give them immediately, but also for what it granted Israel - recognition and legitimacy. Israel's failure, with Sharon as defense minister, to destroy the PLO in Lebanon in 1982 kept the two-state solution alive. (Proponents insisted on seeing the PLO as a Palestinian version of the Jewish Agency, a state in the making.) Eventually the two-state approach calcified into conventional wisdom. As a result, former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski could write in The Washington Post (December 24, 2001) that 'there can be only one outcome if there is to be genuine peace: the coexistence of the state of Israel with the state of Palestine in a setting in which the former is secure and the later is viable. The former means not only Palestine's unambiguous acceptance of Israel's right to exist but also special security arrangements beyond Israel's final frontiers, which ... would in the main correspond to the 1967 lines. These arrangements also should involve a prolonged U.S. security role as well as the formal demilitarization of the Palestinian state.'
The staying power of this establishment superstition was such that Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, would echo Brzezinski and plug the quartet's road map in his own Post Op-Ed piece (November 21, 2002). But Brzezinski's conditions highlight the impracticality of his proposal, itself a neat summary of two-state dogma. Arafat's Palestinian Authority bristled with militia and weaponry illegal under the Oslo accords. Neither the United Nations, the European Union, nor the United States insisted on confiscation, nor could Israel undertake it without open warfare far beyond Sharon's sweeps through Palestinian territory in March and April (Operation Defensive Shield) and in June and July (Operation Determined Path). Gal Luft, an Israeli reserve lieutenant colonel completing doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University, explained that 'all the talk about demilitarization is simply hot air.' Improbably demilitarized, 'Palestine' just as improbably would be barred from alliances with neighbors such as Syria and Iraq. In addition, Israel and its new neighbor somehow would share Jerusalem.
Likewise for 'a prolonged U.S. security role.' GIs, as either buffer targets for terrorists or as an extension of the Israeli military, might be a little more dependable than the U.N. peacekeepers who fled Egypt's remilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula before the 1967 war or the compromised U.N. troops in southern Lebanon from 1978 to the present.
Two-state assumptions also underlay the 1982 Reagan plan, itself stimulated by Saudi Crown Prince Fahd's 1981 repackaging of Rogers, echoed last year by Crown Prince Abdullah. But Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, respectively, rejected the Rogers and Reagan proposals. They conformed too closely with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's post-'67 dictum to the Arabs: 'liquidate the consequences' of the Six-Day War with no Israeli gains.
The two-state solution faced its moment of truth when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in concert with President Bill Clinton, offered Arafat 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip at Camp David in July 2000. The Palestinians refused. Throughout the Oslo process they did not negotiate, preferring to alternate violence with talks at which the Israelis outbid their own previous concessions. As Barak's dovish foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, acknowledged later, the Palestinians never made counter-offers. Criticized by both Clinton and Egyptian President Mubarak for spurning the deal at Camp David II, Arafat changed the topic by launching the violence of intifada II. Barak then conceded even more at Taba, making it nearly 98 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with unprecedented Palestinian authority in eastern Jerusalem.
Irrelevant, it turned out. The Palestinian leadership determined that its war of attrition was necessary not because Israel refused the two-state solution, but because it had insisted on it. At Camp David, Arafat refused to declare the conflict over because he refused to yield two key points. First was the 'right-of-return' of the Palestinians' self-induced, vastly inflated (ranging from three million to five million) multi-generational 'refugees.' (They are, more accurately, internees held by fellow Arabs.) Second, exclusive Arab-Islamic claims to Jerusalem, including but not limited to the Temple Mount.
After that, only denial underpinned the consensus on which the two-state solution rested. The Al Aqsa intifada and its 'good-cop, bad-cop' routine between Arafat's Palestinian Authority and the suicide bombers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad became unsustainable - from Washing-ton's viewpoint if not Brussels' - after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said of Arafat early in November, 'You cannot help us with Al Qaeda and hug Hezbollah and Hamas. That's not acceptable.'
But September 11 also was the day an editorial in Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the leading Palestinian newspaper, declared that suicide bombers in Israel were in the 'noble tradition" of those who bombed the U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. Arafat's symbiotic relationship with Hamas and Islamic Jihad became transparent with Israel's seizure of the Karine A in the Red Sea on January 3, 2002, a PA vessel loaded with 50 tons of Iranian-supplied, Palestinian-purchased weapons, all illegal under Oslo. The Palestinian leader's denial of responsibility insulted the White House and furthered speculation about the possibility of a more credible successor. By the time Powell visited the besieged Arafat in his shattered Ramallah headquarters, the latter's relationship with Hamas was not covertly symbiotic but visibly cooperative - many of the more recent homicide bombings in Israel were claimed not by Islamic fundamentalists but by the 'Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade,' an arm of Arafat's own Fatah movement. After Bush echoed Sharon's insistence on Palestinian reform, Arafat streamlined his cabinet - and offered seats to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein has covered the Palestinians for more than three decades, and not without empathy. Yet even before the Karine A, he observed that 'the widespread Israeli assumption is that there's nothing to be done with Arafat. My far more painful assumption is that we can't make an agreement with the Palestinians in general.' The reason, Rubinstein says, is rejection of Jewish national legitimacy. 'I've been reading the Palestinian papers for 30-plus years. Their approach is not necessarily incitement, but Israel is always presented as something bad ... not just. I have never read anything positive about Israel, not once in 30 years.' Not even a thank-you for caring for Arab patients at Jerusalem's famed Hadassah hospital. 'That's not by chance,' he adds. The Palestinians have perpetuated two false identities - of themselves as victims, of the Israelis as aliens. Even if Palestinian leaders accepted a West Bank and Gaza Strip state for the three million Arabs in the territories, what about all those self-perpetuated 'refugees' in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan' Says Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab journalist, "For over 50 years, they have been teaching their children, 'This is the key to your house in Jaffa. You will go home.' How can you tell them now, 'You can go to Ramallah [in the West Bank]?' They don't want that. Read the literature. Listen to the poems and the songs. Look at the documentaries on Palestinian TV and elsewhere... What do they talk about? The fig trees and olive trees in Jaffa and the Galilee."
The Palestinian Arab war of independence reaffirms that the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a shared Jerusalem, is to be a way station, a big but hardly final step in the PLO's 1974 'phased plan.' After the failure of conventional Arab armies in 1973, the Palestinians fashioned an alternate course, the classic aggressor's blend of war and diplomacy. Point eight of the phased plan, for example, declares that 'the Palestinian national authority, after its establishment, will struggle for the unity of the confrontation state for the sake of completing the liberation of all Palestinian soil....' Nothing about the Oslo process as practiced by the Palestinians contradicted the 1974 strategy, as Arafat confirmed on Jordanian television soon after signing the first accord.
For the Palestinian leadership, 'peace' also would require fulfillment of the non-negotiable right-of-return for the 'refugees,' at least tens of billions of dollars in indemnity, and Israel's relinquishing of 'other occupied Arab territories.' The latter refers not only to the Syrian Golan Heights but also to land not allotted to Israel in the '47 U.N. General Assembly partition plan, including Jaffa - now part of metropolitan Tel Aviv - the western Galilee and much of the Negev Desert. The Palestinians (and Syrians) in particular have been tenacious, if little acknowledged, in this regard. Today, as in the 1970s and 1980s, when Palestinian Arabs refer to Israel's 'international legitimacy,' they mean not only U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 - the touchstones of successful post-'67 Arab-Israeli diplomacy - but also U.N. General Assembly resolutions 181 (the '47 Partition Plan) and 194, and a host of subsequent anti-Israel international declarations.
General Assembly Resolution 194 - which would have been unnecessary, had the Arabs not violated Resolution 181 - called for the return of Arab refugees who wished to live in peace with the Jewish state or compensation. At the time, Arab spokesmen refused compensation and rejected peace. So current appeals to 194, like invocations of 181, are moot.
But tone-deaf American and Israel policy makers long heard in Palestinian references to Israel's 'international legitimacy' that a deal based on 242 (mischaracterized as 'land-for-peace' rather than territorial compromise as a component of peace) could be negotiated. References to 181 and 194 were dismissed as 'for domestic consumption' or 'opening bargaining positions.' Hence the sense of betrayal felt by the Israeli left, which long promoted a pacific interpretation of Palestinian strategy if not tactics, and befuddlement in the Clinton administration over Arafat's rejection and Palestinian irredentism as manifested in the second intifada.
The Al Aqsa intifada reaffirmed that although Arafat and the Palestinian Authority grudgingly acknowledged Israel's existence, neither Palestinian nationalists nor Islamic fundamentalists accepted its legitimacy. Peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan notwithstanding, rejection of Jewish statehood is a commonplace throughout much of the Arab-Islamic world. If not, King Abdullah II of Jordan's statement to The Times of London in November 2001 that recognition by the Arab world of Israel's right to exist 'will be necessary for the creation of a Palestinian state' would have been superfluous. That rejection, abetted by elites in Egypt and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia to deflect internal unrest onto the Jewish state and the Jews, ultimately destabilizes those governments as well as chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
By word and deed Palestinian leadership, whether that of Arafat or Sheik Yassin, made clear it cannot or will not be a partner to a settlement according to the letter and spirit of Resolution 242. The measure, adopted after the 1967 war, calls for an end to states of belligerency among the parties to the combat (including Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Israel), the right of all states to secure and recognized borders, Israeli military withdrawal from territory (not from all the territory) taken in the fighting, and, among other things, a just solution to the refugee problem (Arab and Jewish refugees).
Resolution 338, adopted after the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Egypt, Syria, and Israel, calls on the parties to begin negotiations to implement Resolution 242. Unlike non-binding General Assembly resolutions, Security Council measures carry the weight of international law.
Given that demography and geography circumscribe diplomacy, a West Bank and Gaza Strip state - even if accepted by the Palestinians - could not satisfy Israel's minimal requirements. First, it could serve as a springboard to renewed Palestinian assault, as intifada II demonstrates. Second, even with full compliance regarding limitations on police and weaponry and requirements to eradicate the terrorist infrastructure, a two-state solution would not provide Israel with the minimally necessary, defensible borders in the event of another general Arab-Israeli war.
After the fighting in 1967, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff advised President Lyndon Johnson that, absent peace, Israel would have to retain the western half of the Golan Heights, the western slopes of Samaria (the northern West Bank), much of Judea (the southern West Bank), the southwestern Gaza Strip and most of the Sinai Peninsula (returned in phases under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty). After the '73 Yom Kippur War, a U.S. Army analysis by Col. Irving Kett revisited the problem and came to a similar conclusion. As Yitzhak Rabin declared to the Knesset on June 3, 1974 during his first term as prime minister, 'It is essential that the leaders of the neighboring countries realize that Israel is entitled to defensible borders. Israel will not return - even within the context of a peace treaty - to the June 4, 1967 lines. These lines are not defensible borders, and they constitute a temptation for aggression against us, as has been proven in the past.' Rabin said the same thing 20 years later, a year after the handshake on the White House lawn, and Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky more recently made the same point: the pre-'67 lines prohibit peace based on deterrence.
Former Israeli chief of staff and foreign minister, Yigal Allon, proposed to meet Israeli security needs, to escape the demographic dangers inherent in ruling over large numbers of Arabs, and to open the way to a regional settlement (Foreign Affairs, October, 1976). Among other things, Allon recommended that, to retain minimum defensive depth, Israel (less than 10 miles wide at several points along its populous coastal strip before 1967) do the following:
- * Annex the sparsely populated Jordan Valley, a deep, narrow, natural tank trap;
- * Annex the small but strategic Etzion bloc (held by Jews before 1948) just south of Jerusalem;
- * Thicken the coastal strip north of Tel Aviv with a contiguous sliver of westernmost Samaria;
- * Annex southwestern Gaza; and,
- * Retain Jerusalem in enlarged city limits as Israel's united capital.
Since it came under Israeli control in 1967, the Arab population of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and eastern Jerusalem has surged to more than three million. Israel, with a population of five million Jews and 1.3 million Arabs, cannot annex populated portions of the territories - even if necessary for military purposes - without endangering its status as a Jewish state. Neither can it build a wall unilaterally separating itself from the territories, as now being done in fits and starts, and assure its Jewish future by huddling inside that barrier. Certainly this is not possible while a militarized Palestine rockets it from the other side and Israel itself retains a radicalized Arab population of 21 percent (up from 16 percent in 1967 and growing faster than the Jewish majority, even after the immigration influx from the former Soviet Union). As for Palestinian Arabs, much less than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip (an area a little larger than Delaware, as Israel, pre-'67, approximates Massachusetts) would yield a stunted sovereignty. Lacking a hinterland, the Palestinian state would of necessity covet both Israel and Jordan, the former with its Arabs increasingly identifying as Palestinians, the latter with Palestinians comprising nearly three-fourths of its 4.5 million population. What then is the alternative? Perhaps a real two-state solution in Mandatory Palestine, Allon-minus for the Jews, Oslo-minus for the Palestinians.
As minimal as Allon's ideas seemed to Israelis, they never came close to winning approval of even moderate Arabs. The latter's interpretation of Resolution 242 - instigated by the Soviets in contradiction to its diplomatic history - was 'all the land for any peace.' But such a settlement would then and now have contradicted 242's insistence on borders both secure and recognized.
The key, as Allon noted, is 'fair political compromise ... likely to be painful in the short term to both sides.' To both sides - Jews and Arabs, not three sides, Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians.
Anyone who has stood in Ariel, the Israeli 'settlement' (a modern town of 14,000 Jews) just before sunset and watched the Dead Sea fade into shadow below and to the east, and the lights flicker on along Tel Aviv's shoreline below and to the west, understands: There is no room, geographically, demographically, economically, militarily, or otherwise for two sovereign, equal states in the 40- to 45-mile wide, 180-mile long strip west of the Jordan River between Lebanon and the Negev Desert - and definitely not when the people of one state cheer their children's murder/suicides in the other.
But already there are, as there have been for more than half a century, two states - one Arab and one Jewish - in old Mandatory Palestine. This is not to say, as some on the Israeli right, including Prime Minister Sharon, used to, that 'Jordan is Palestine' but rather to note that not only was Jordan Palestine, but so also Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip (and, initially, the Golan Heights). To be precise, Jordan comprises 77 percent of the old mandate, Israel inside the pre-'67 'green line' 17 percent, and the West Bank and Gaza the remaining six.
The Jewish state in Palestine requires borders more expansive than those of June 4, 1967. This is especially so since a demilitarized West Bank and Gaza Arab Palestine, isolated from Syria, Iraq, and Iran, as stipulated by proponents of the two-state solution, is a fiction, as noted above. Israel's own failures and international futility regarding Hezbollah in the ostensibly U.N.-patrolled south Lebanon 'security zone,' Arafat's illegally enlarged, illegally armed 'police' and Palestinian militia, and the nearly two-and-a-half-year assault on Israeli cities and towns by gunmen, suicide bombers, mortar crews, and rocket launchers testify to that.
Meanwhile, the Arab population on the remaining West Bank and Gaza Strip will require territorial and economic depth on which meaningful sovereignty can be exercised. An arid, over-crowded entity the size of four smallish American counties cannot suffice. Therefore, the remaining unallocated portion of Mandatory Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza Strip - must be divided between two states, Jordan and Israel, Arab Palestine and Jewish Palestine. The shape of this territorial compromise also is relatively clear. Before launching intifada II, the Palestinian Authority already controlled or shared control with Israel of 54 percent of the territory (which includes the vast majority of the Palestinian population). Prior to his Camp David II proposal, fears of which sundered his own government, Barak insisted on a 'red line' minimum of 10 percent of the disputed territories. Roughly splitting the difference, one arrives an 80-20 percent compromise approximately along the lines of Professor Cohen's 1986 proposal.
This cannot be implemented, of course, so long as Arafat and Sheik Yassin represent the two poles of Palestinian Arab politics, so long as Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan believe they are 'going home' to Israel. As in post-Taliban Afghanistan, or perhaps a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, positive developments require the defeat - military and diplomatic - of rejectionist Palestinian nationalism and emboldened Islamic terrorism. Real nation building in the West Bank and Gaza Strip probably must await, as The Wall Street Journal editorialized in 'Arabs and Democracy,' April 3, 2002, the replacement of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime. 'That means,' the editorialist noted, 'not merely toppling Saddam ... but staying long enough to underwrite an election under United Nations auspices. The Iranian people, already restive under the mullahs, would then take heed and liberate themselves. Arab leaders throughout the Middle East would have to adapt to the same lesson, including the Palestinians... The violence in Palestine doesn't need another mediator; it needs an outside shock that changes Arab assumptions about what is possible. It needs a pro-Western Iraq on the road to democracy.'
A 'three-state solution' to the problem of Palestine - for that is what an arrangement of Israel, Jordan and West Bank/Gaza Strip Palestine would amount to - resembles the tinder of post-Tito Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia, waiting for a match. A real two-state solution - one Arab, one Jewish - based on changed assumptions all around about what is sustainable, would contribute to regional stability, lessen the chances of regional war, and promote U.S. interests. President Bush's June 24 'vision' shocked the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, and the Saudis. It did the same to the Europeans and the Israeli left. The quartet's road map - to be followed regardless of Palestinian reform or geographic and demographic reality - dissipates that healthful shock and returns to a deadly cul-de-sac.
Eric L. Rozenman is Camera's Washington representative. He is the former executive editor of B'nai B'rith's International Jewish Monthly, and has written for Middle East Quarterly, Policy Review, Middle East Insight, Midstream, and other publications. This article first appeared in the February-March 2003 issue of Midstream.