The Three-State Solution (GateStone Institute) by Malcolm Lowe 07/17/12)
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Gibraltar, Monaco, and Hong Kong are all, like Gaza, small heavily
populated areas with a coastline, and all are thriving. The main
obstacle to further dramatic growth is Gaza´s bad habit of shooting
missiles at Israel.
The future is already here, but people refuse to see it. Why? Because
the world´s politicians and journalists froze their minds decades ago
about how to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Every speech by
Western leaders, and every pontification by a Thomas Friedman, has as
its nucleus what I called already back in 2003 the "Dogmatic
It runs as follows: "The Palestinians must end terrorism, the
Israelis must totally freeze settlement activities, then there can
quickly arise a Palestinian state whose borders will approximate the
1967 lines and the Middle East will know peace at last!" Read any of
those speeches and pontifications and you will find that its total
thought content boils down to just this, apart from the frills.
It is a dogma, because it is impervious to any new facts, and a
chant, because so many authoritative politicians and journalists
chant it together. Its greatest flaw is that it pretends that the
biggest issue of all the Palestinian demand for the so-
called "right of return" is inessential.
Thus the PA itself maintains refugee camps where PA leaders routinely
assure the residents that there will be no peace with Israel until
they all go away to where their great-grandparents lived before 1948.
Never mind that those little lost villages in Israel would have to be
expanded ten times to accommodate them all.
We also have a second major flaw in the Dogmatic Chant: it ignores
the advantages, indeed the necessity, for Gaza and the West Bank to
be encouraged to seek independence separately. Let nobody pretend
that Gaza cannot survive alone. Gibraltar, Monaco and Hong Hong Kong
are all, like Gaza, small heavily populated areas with a coastline,
and all are thriving. So is Luxemburg.
Even Gaza is not doing so badly: it has its Olympic-size swimming
pool (2010), upmarket shopping mall (2010), beach resorts and luxury
hotels. Just look at the pictures on Internet of "A Tourist Trip to
Gaza." The main obstacle to further dramatic growth is Gaza´s bad
habit of shooting missiles at Israel.
Everyone who is anyone has declared for a two-state solution: Israel
and Palestine. Including Netanyahu and Abbas. Everyone is aware that
all attempts to reach that solution quickly collapse. And almost
everyone argues that the only alternative would be a one-state
Hardly anybody wants to know that three states have emerged, de
facto, in the area: Israel, West Bank and Gaza. Or to acknowledge the
advantages of this arrangement. Or to realize that only this if
anything offers a basis for a stable future.
Let us begin by recalling what happened after Britain´s Indian Empire
was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947. Originally, Pakistan
consisted of two parts West and East divided by 1800 km (1100 m)
of Indian territory. War quickly broke out between the two states.
The occasion was the province of Kashmir and Jammu, which Pakistan
demanded because of its Muslim majority. But its Hindu Maharajah
ruler, who was given the choice in the partition agreement, opted to
The war lasted from October 1947 to December 1948. Only a small part
of Kashmir had then fallen into Pakistani hands. The dispute provoked
another war in 1965 and threatened to go on forever. What changed the
situation was the emergence of an independence movement in East
Pakistan. In 1971 India helped East Pakistan to free itself from
Pakistani military control and turn into the independent state of
Since there is no particular friendship between Pakistan and
Bangladesh, the Kashmir dispute thereafter posed a much smaller
security threat to India. Thus when armed Pakistanis infiltrated a
part of Kashmir in 1999, a vigorous response by the Indian army put a
quick end to the affair.
In the meantime, all three countries play cricket against each other.
So also does Sri Lanka, which had its own dispute with India over its
Tamil minority. In the Middle East, for whatever reason, Britain´s
historic role did not leave behind the civilizing influence of
cricket -- a sport in which all spectators constantly applaud fine
plays by either side, including their opponents. But the other
parallels with Israel and the Palestinians are evident.
The Oslo Declaration of Principles (1993) and the Oslo Interim
Agreement (1995) took note of the problem of maintaining contact
between the two geographical areas of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The Declaration envisaged "safe passage" between them on designated
routes through the territory of the State of Israel. Annex I of the
Agreement contained an elaborate scheme of implementation: each
vehicle must have a "safe passage permit" and each Palestinian
passenger must have a "safe passage card"; joint Israeli-Palestinian
teams would make sure that only acceptable persons could use "safe
passage" and that all who left the one area duly arrived at the
other; the precise structure of the terminals and their opening hours
were defined, etc.
All this quickly came to nothing. This was among the first
provisions, and arguably the very first provision, of the Oslo
Accords to collapse in practice. Ever since, Palestinians have had to
pass through at least two Arab countries, obtaining all the necessary
permits, to get from the one area to the other. As Aaron Tuckey
recently noted (March 13, 2012): while there are several states with
an exclave (like the US´s Alaska), communication between Gaza and the
West Bank is unusually problematic.
Later proposals included a dedicated fenced highway, a railway, even
a tunnel. The problem, of course, was how to enable communication
between the two areas without creating opportunities for Palestinian
terrorism. That problem has only grown since. Letting the two areas
go their own separate ways would greatly reduce the threat to
Israel´s security in any future Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
In the meantime, the incommunicability between Gaza and the West Bank
has also become convenient to the Palestinians, at least to the two
main players Hamas and Fatah. After Hamas won the 2006 elections
for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), it briefly headed a
coalition government with Fatah. In 2007 armed clashes between the
two led to a Hamas dictatorship in Gaza and a Fatah dictatorship in
the West Bank; the PLC has not met since that year. "Dictatorship" is
the correct description: the terms of office of both the PLC and
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, have long run out. The two
areas are being ruled by unelected individuals via their respective
Various agreements have been made between Hamas and Fatah to hold
fresh elections and reunite the two areas, committees have been set
up to implement the agreements, but it all gets nowhere. Hamas
continues to detain and harass Fatah members and to punish pro-Fatah
journalists, while Fatah does the reverse in the West Bank.
One of the committees is supposed to arrange the release of the
mutual detainees. It has achieved nothing. Rather, there are
constantly new detainees. It would be simpler to transfer all the pro-
Fatah detainees and activists from Gaza to the West Bank in exchange
for a transfer of Hamas people in the opposite direction.
Another committee, also getting nowhere, was charged with creating
the apparatus for joint elections. It is still arguing about whether
and how to update the register of voters. If they need a show of
democracy, it would be simpler to elect separate governing councils
in the two areas.
The Palestinian ministries, to the extent that they do any useful
work, already operate separately in Gaza and the West Bank. After
2007, the Hamas and Fatah appointees to the coalition government
morphed into the de facto governments in the respective areas.
The only remaining connection is that the Fatah government in
Ramallah still pays salaries of its former officials in Gaza,
regardless of whether they are now doing any work there. At the same
time, the Fatah government claims that it is facing a desperate
financial crisis. If Fatah ended those useless payments to Gaza, the
crisis would be much relieved. Any shortfall in Gaza´s own budget
would doubtless be made up by its Islamist friends elsewhere.
For Gaza to go its own way is the easier part. The West Bank and
Israel are so much more closely intertwined that here the solution,
too, must be complex.
So why has nobody seen all this before, if a permanent separation
between Gaza and the West Bank is so obviously the way to go? As a
matter of fact, isolated commentators have thrown up this suggestion
in the past. Since the beginning of 2012, their number has been
growing. They have passed unnoticed for various reasons.
One reason is that the term "three-state solution" has been misused
in the past in confusing ways. Another reason is that even those who
used the term correctly often thought of it as merely a temporary
stage, imagining that Gaza and the West Bank would eventually
reunite. Thirdly, a few people did envisage this as a permanent
reality, but there were weaknesses in how they made their case.
Here credit must be given to Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, an Iranian academic
and long-term US resident. He may not be very popular, whether as an
apologist for Iranian President Ahmadinejad or because of his
unfortunate embroilment in controversies. Back in 2007, however, he
wrote a prophetic short analysis entitled "The Death of the Two-State
Solution." There he argued: "Call it a nightmare, a fiasco,
fragmentation, but not temporary, as all the vital signs indicate
that the political partition of the West Bank and Gaza is a fait
accompli, unlikely to reverse short of an all-out Israeli military
invasion and reoccupation of Gaza."
The first to speak of three states in this sense may have been Jamal
Dajani. On June 15, 2007, while Hamas was consolidating its armed
conquest of Gaza, he proclaimed on LinkTV: "The new reality on the
ground is that we have three states on historic Palestine: a Hamas-
run state in Gaza, a Fatah-run state in the West Bank and Israel in
between." Dajani was closely, but independently, followed by Charles
Levinson on June 17 in the Daily Telegraph.
More recently (March 26, 2012), the practical reality of three states
was briefly noted by Khaled Abu Toameh in Gatestone. Unlike
Afrasiabi, however, he envisages it as a temporary phenomenon: "The
three-state solution is, for now, the only, and best, option on the
table. The two-state solution should be put on hold until the
Palestinians reunite and start speaking in one voice. Meanwhile,
those who are trying to promote a one-state solution are just wasting
their time and the time of most Israelis and Palestinians." Similar
views appeared in 2010 in a blog on the Huffington Post by Chuck
Freilich and a blog on CultureFuture by Guy Yedwab. But the earliest
version of the "temporary" conception may be a brief opinion piece by
Jacob Savage that appeared on the same day in 2007 (June 20) as
Even more recently (June 27, 2012), the de facto status of Gaza as an
independent state was noted by Giora Eiland, a reserve general who
has variously served as security advisor to Israeli governments. In
an op-ed for Ynet, he argued: "Israel´s policy must be premised on
the understanding that Gaza is a de facto state in every way. It has
clear geographical boundaries, a stable regime that was elected
democratically, and an independent foreign policy."
From that premise, however, Eiland drew only limited consequences.
Mainly, he wants Israel to treat hostilities of any kind emanating
from Gaza as the responsibility of the Hamas government there and of
the citizenry that freely elected Hamas to power.
Back in 2008, Eiland propagated a different kind of three-state
solution: Israel, Jordan and Egypt. (Wikipedia currently gives a
wrong link to Eiland´s proposal, a link that has been widely copied
on Internet; the correct link to the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy is here.) He wanted Jordan and Egypt to resume the
responsibilities for the West Bank and Gaza that they had exercised
prior to the Six Day War of 1967. His proposal was echoed in 2009 by
John Bolton, A similar idea was recently floated (May 3, 2012) by
Likud Knesset member Danny Doron. It is unthinkable, however, that
either Jordan or Egypt would ever want such a headache, even if they
did not have all their current problems.
Yet another "three-state solution" was recently proposed (March 5,
2012) by Mordechai Nisan: Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. The
Palestinians, he thought, should be encouraged to migrate to Jordan
and overthrow the Hashemite monarchy there. Then the Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon could be evicted to Jordan as well. This would
suit Israel very well, of course, but the Hashemite army would combat
it with all possible means. As for Lebanon, all the factions want to
evict the Palestinians, but only if they can be sent directly to
It is unfortunate and thoroughly confusing that such versions of
wishful thinking have usurped the name "three-state solution." So
their authors have blinded both themselves and other to the arrival
of three states in reality.
Eiland, in any case, now regards the independence of Gaza from the
West Bank as a convenience for tactical purposes. But it is neither
this nor the "nightmare or fiasco" suggested by Afrasiabi. Nor should
it be regarded as a temporary phase, to be overcome sometime in the
Rather, the permanent separation between Gaza and the West Bank is a
necessary condition for both present stability and any future
settlement of Israeli-Palestinian relations. So an "all-out Israeli
military invasion and reoccupation of Gaza" would be very unwise, if
it ended Gaza´s current independence.
To give further credit, there have been some commentators who
perceived separate independence as a beneficent prospect, such as
S.C. Denney in 2008, Colin P. Clarke in 2009 and Ori Z. Soltes (who
drew attention to the parallel with Pakistan) in 2010. They proposed
this, however, as a new basis for negotiations. But just as the
Palestinians fail to negotiate unity, they will resolutely refuse to
negotiate disunity. Forget about negotiations, in this regard.
Rather, note the reality of three states and reinforce it until it
becomes irresistible. Something like this was recommended by Bruce
Bialosky in 2009.
In a 2009 blog on the Huffington Post, Cameron Sinclair listed some
advantages of creating two Palestinian states instead of one. In
particular, instead of receiving outside funds automatically, they
would have to compete for them on grounds of excellence. Only his
choice of the names for the two states, "East Palestine" and "West
Palestine," was unfortunate (yes, he placed Gaza in the East).
Just "Gaza" and "Palestine" would do better, as proposed
independently by Stephen I. Siller in 2011. Sinclair´s data also
contained some inaccuracies. Three years on, nevertheless, his
momentary bright idea is all the more justified.
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