Top Ten Reasons for Not Establishing a Palestinian State.
By Israel Zwick, CN Publications
The United Nations has identified almost 5000 distinct ethnic groups living in its 192 member countries (see World Ethnic Groups). Almost 300 of these have been identified as Minorities at Risk. There are over 100 national Liberation Movements that are struggling to develop regional autonomy. Yet almost the entire international community is united in its belief that the 3 million Palestinian Arabs should have their own sovereign state carved out of the minuscule State of Israel like a jigsaw puzzle. This solution, they believe, would relieve the “suffering of the Palestinian people” and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Ostensibly, this appears to be a sensible solution. After all, if two parties can’t manage to live together, they should live separately. One will live on one side of the border, the other will live on the other side of the border and all will be fine and well. But is that a realistic expectation? Let’s first examine some of the basic geographic and demographic statistics. If one examines the data in the CIA World Factbook, the two states, Israel and Palestine, would have the smallest areas and largest population densities in the region, except for Lebanon. This would allow little room for population expansion. Such two micro-states would not be able to survive without a great deal of mutual cooperation. Neither could be economically viable by just remaining within their own borders. There would have to be a great deal of interdependence and cooperation between the two states on issues of regional concern. These issues include: security, transportation, commerce, agriculture, tourism, natural resources, archeology, and public health. Let’s try to take a realistic view of issues that may arise with the establishment of a Palestinian state and how they may be addressed by the nascent state. There are many questions which come to mind, of which the following list is only the beginning:
Mutual Cooperation. Have any of the Palestinian groups given any indication in their words or deeds that they are ready to accept and cooperate with a Jewish State of Israel in any borders at all? Are there any indications that the establishment of a Palestinian State will be followed by the cessation of terrorist tactics against the State of Israel. Can we be confident that terrorism and conflict will replaced by an amicable atmosphere of acceptance, tolerance, and negotiated compromise? Have the Palestinians said or done anything to suggest that? So far they haven’t given any indication of accepting a Jewish State of Israel with any boundaries.
Commerce and Currency. Both Israel and a neighboring Palestinian state would depend on an exchange of goods between the two states. That includes manufactured and agricultural goods, as well as human resources. Will the checkpoints that exist now be reduced or could they even be expanded to include both Palestinian and Israeli checkpoints at the borders? Will commercial vehicles be used to smuggle contraband goods and illegal arms? Will there be free trade or a system of tariffs and taxes on the goods. What kind of security will there be at the border crossings? How easy or difficult will it be for merchants to exchange goods between the two states? What kind of currency will be used?
Passports and Visas. An independent Palestinian state will have the ability to issue passports and visas. Can we feel confident that passports won’t be issued to trained terrorists who want to export their skills to comrades in other countries? Since the Gaza Strip is so readily accessible by land, sea, and air, can we be confident that the Gaza Strip won’t be used as a safe haven for international criminals who are trying to escape from Interpol or the FBI? Today the Gaza Strip has become a haven for terrorists, kidnappers, and arms smuggling. Why should we expect anything different?
Security and Weapons. A sovereign Palestinian state would have the right to purchase weapons for security and defense. Can we be confident that the Palestinians will do that in a responsible manner so that explosive materials and sophisticated weapons don’t get into the hands of criminals and terrorists? Will the Palestinians be able to maintain a system of security and justice within their own borders? Who will security officers and judges be accountable to?
Natural Resources. Fresh water and energy sources are scarce in that part of the world. Will the Palestinians and Israelis work amicably together to conserve, develop, and distribute valuable water resources? How will they determine placement of pipelines and cables? How will they ensure that both countries get an adequate supply of water, oil, and electricity? Will they work together to utilize alternative forms of energy? What kind of security will be provided for pipelines, cables, and reservoirs?
Transportation. The Palestinians will probably want to construct airports, seaports, and highways. Can we be assured that they will do that with concern for security and environmental protection? Will the Palestinians show respect for archeological, historical, and religious sites in their construction plans? Let’s take an example of a transportation issue that could feasibly arise with the establishment of a Palestinian State. Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport is only a short distance from Palestinian areas. What would happen if an El-Al pilot has to circle over Palestinian airspace in a period of heavy air traffic or poor weather conditions? Is it possible that a surface to air missile will shoot up from Palestinian territory to destroy the plane and kill all 400 passengers? The Palestinians will immediately call a press conference and say, “We’re really sorry that we shot down the plane, we didn’t mean it. Our radar operator reported a military craft violating our airspace. We dismissed the radar operator and this will never happen again.” In the meantime, 400 Jews were killed and travel to Israel will grind to a halt. Let’s say the reverse situation occurs. The Palestinians build an airport on the Gaza Strip, a short distance from Tel Aviv. Israeli security officials will probably insist that all take-off and landing patterns be directed away from Israeli population centers. One day, Israeli radar detects a commercial jet over international waters in the Mediterranean heading straight for Tel Aviv. It is conceivable that the pilot had a legitimate need to modify his landing pattern because of air traffic, weather conditions, or a medical emergency on board. Israeli security officials will have only minutes to establish communication with the pilot to be sure that he has no malicious intent. If they can’t do that, do they shoot down a commercial jet over international waters and kill a few hundred civilians, or do they allow the plane to continue on a possible mission of enormous death and destruction? That’s a decision that not even King Solomon would want to make. Can we really trust the Palestinians to use transportation facilities in a responsible manner?
Tourism. Tourists who wish to visit the Holy Land will probably want to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nazareth, and Tiberias, all within driving distance from each other. Will Palestinians cooperate with Israelis to allow tourists of all faiths to have free access to these areas? What kind of security will be provided for tourist buses? What happens when the bus has to travel from Israeli to Palestinian areas? Will buses be able to travel directly from Jerusalem to Hebron or from Jericho to Tiberias, or will they have to take some lengthy, circuitous route for security reasons? Will it be possible to take a Jerusalem-Hebron-Massada-Dead Sea tour as it is now? Will Palestinians and Israelis work together to encourage tourism and commerce or will antagonistic policies discourage tourists from visiting holy sites?
Public Health. Can the Palestinians be trusted to address the health needs of their own population? Will children receive their inoculations? Will geriatric needs be addressed? Will Palestinian health officials cooperate with their Israeli counterparts? Suppose an atypical epidemic breaks out in Israel. It could be a tropical disease such as West Nile Fever, or it could be bio-terrorism. Will Palestinian officials provide access to Israeli health officials to investigate the source of infection or will they make it more difficult? Will Palestinains cooperate with Israelis to control the epidemic or will Israelis have to examine birds and mosquitoes at checkpoints?
Archeological, religious, and historical sites. Can we trust the Palestinians to respect and preserve the holy sites of all religions? Will there be free and secure access for all religions? Suppose the Palestinians are building new housing in Jericho and come across some artifacts from the biblical era. Will they call Israeli archeologists at Hebrew University and say, “We discovered some materials that may be of interest to you, would you like to come and examine them?” Or, will they attempt to erase any signs of Jewish history in the area?
Agricultural Methods. Both states will probably want to grow the same crops and animals for food. Will there be cooperation in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides or will there be interference? Will there be proper controls for animal-borne diseases and genetic breeding?
There are many more such questions. Yes, it’s true that most of them could be resolved through negotiation and compromise. But if the Arabs would be willing to negotiate and compromise then there wouldn’t be a conflict and there wouldn’t be any need to develop another Arab state in a region that already has 22 Arab states.
So what are the possible alternatives? A one-state solution wouldn’t work either because eventually it would result in the dissolution of the Jewish state by demography and democracy. So that suggests that the only solution for now would be a reasonable compromise between a two-state and one-state solution. That could be accomplished through a federated arrangement, similar to the arrangement between the United States and Puerto Rico. There are few Puerto Ricans that are complaining that they have been “suffering from a lengthy occupation.” That’s because they are benefiting from their relationship ship with the United States, so there is no need to make significant changes.
The same argument can be made for Palestinians and Israelis. If it can be demonstrated to the Palestinian people, not their fanatical leaders, that they will benefit from a federated connection with the State of Israel, then it could be adopted, even if only as an interim solution. There are many forms of federal government which can be considered. Almost any of them would be preferable to having two separate sovereign micro-states. That would not resolve the conflict or “alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.” It would only create more problems and conflicts.
Those that are really concerned about the “plight of the Palestinians” should abandon the fantasy of a two-state solution and work at developing a realistic federation of an autonomous Arab entity that would operate in a loose union with the State of Israel. It could be based on a model similar to Puerto Rico or other existing forms of federations. Almost any of these would be preferable to a two-state solution and would allow the Palestinian people to benefit from the technical, agricultural, and medical accomplishments of the State of Israel. The Palestinians would only suffer more if they had their own autonomous, fragmented micro-state in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. But if they can’t accept being a minority population within a Jewish federation, then they still have 20 Arab Sunni Muslim countries to go to where they can be part of the majority population.
It’s time to dismiss the fallacy of a two-state solution and promote a more realistic, sensible solution. American and European diplomats are not facilitating a peaceful resolution to the conflict by promoting deceptive solutions.