While greeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the White House steps, President Donald Trump stunned the world when, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he declared: “I can live with a two- or one-state solution.” He might have added the “no-state” solution to the list.
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His remarks brought forth a flurry of comments and interpretations around the world. Does this mean that the Palestinian state is dead, or that Israel is about to absorb a few million Palestinians and that the demographic demon is likely to kill the Zionist dream, or that Israel will become an “apartheid” state?
I would suggest that we step back a little, take a deep breath, and put our brains to work. Just what are we trying to solve here? There are actually three problems – the problem of the Palestinians, the problem of the Israelis, and the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is true that they are interrelated and Trump would like to find the “ultimate deal” that would solve all three simultaneously. It is not at all clear that this is in the realm of the possible in the foreseeable future.
What is the Palestinian problem? Are they seeking self-determination, to have a country of their own? Who would deny them that right? But everyone who knows the Middle East knows that the Palestinians already have a country of their own. It is Jordan, more than 70 percent of whose population is Palestinian. If that is not a Palestinian state then what is?
And as all know there was a time after the Jordanian conquest of the area in 1948, when Jordan annexed the area of Judea and Samaria and the Palestinian population residing there. And there was a time, in September 1970 (Black September), when Yasser Arafat at the head of the PLO tried to take over Jordan.
But since then the Jordanian rulers have become wary of the “West Bank Palestinians” who might overturn the Hashemite rule there, not to mention the “Gaza Palestinians” or the Palestinians still languishing in the refugee camps in Lebanon. They claim, though they may not mean it, that they prefer a two-state solution – an East Palestinian and a West Palestinian state. Like North and South Korea.
In the meantime the Palestinians are left with a mini-state in Gaza, and the ones in Judea and Samaria under Israeli military control. Not comfortable, and unbearable to some Israelis.
That is the Israeli problem. How does Israel rid itself of this burden without endangering the lives of Israel’s citizens, or else absorb Judea and Samaria into Israel with its Palestinian population without changing the very character of the State of Israel?
The Israeli advocates of the two-state solution do not want any more Palestinians within the borders of the State of Israel. They believe that there are already too many Palestinians in Israel. So throw caution to the winds they say, and let there be a second Palestinian state. That is their two-state solution to the Israeli problem.
Those Israelis who advocate integrating Judea and Samaria into Israel would throw demographic caution to the wind. That is their one-state solution to the Israeli problem.
And the Palestinians? Better to be part of Jordan, or part of Israel, or part of a West Palestinian state, or to continue with the status quo hoping for better times. Do they have a choice?
As for solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem, that is an entirely different kettle of fish. If by a solution we mean an accommodation that would put to rest all Palestinian claims against Israel and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that seems to be nowhere in sight. With the Palestinians divided between Fatah not prepared to make minimal concessions to Israel, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad seeking the destruction of Israel, no Palestinian leader is capable of enforcing a peace with Israel that would meet the most minimal of Israel’s requirements.
That, for the time being, leaves us with the no-state solution.