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Regional Alternatives to the Two-State Solution

Written by Major General Giora Eiland

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Former NSC Chief Calls for Establishment of the "United States of Jordan"

New Study released by the BESA CENTER
 
Policymakers need to move towards a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Arab states take responsibility for solving the conflict and invest concrete, tangible resources in the solution. Options that need to be considered are a Palestinian-Jordanian federation, or a three-way land swap including Egypt.
 
So says Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national security advisor. Eiland's new study, Regional Alternatives to the Two-State Solution, was released yesterday at a BESA Center conference that drew hundreds of diplomats and senior Israeli officials. (Hebrew version here). 

The standard two-state approach can no longer work, Eiland argues, for a number of reasons. He lists "irreconcilable narratives," failed Palestinian state-building, the power of Hamas and Iran, the growth of settlements, and weak leadership among the reasons for his pessimism regarding the two-state solution. 

"The diplomatic space for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking within the current two-state paradigm is impossibly narrow," he writes. "Alternative paradigms will widen the circle of actors taking part in a settlement and transform the current deadlock from a zero-sum situation to a win-win scenario. We need new ways of looking at possible solutions, widening the lens to come up with fresh ideas beyond the idea of a two-state solution." 

Eiland's solutions involve a Palestinian-Jordanian federation, or three-party land swaps (including Egyptian land), or, most probably, a mixture of the two paradigms. Eiland's first paradigm calls for the creation of a "United States of Jordan" that would include three states governed by a federal government in Amman: the East Bank, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. His second paradigm enlarges the territorial pie and makes the concessions required of both Israel and Palestinians more palatable, allowing both more space to flourish. 

Eiland understands that the international community is currently locked into the standard two-state paradigm. Moving beyond this, he says, will require third-party diplomatic leadership, a US mindset shift, and capitalization on the right political opportunities. "What remains certain," concludes Eiland, is that the disadvantages of the currently-envisioned two-state paradigm outweigh its advantages in the eyes of the combatants. As thus, it has run its course." 

The BESA Center convened a conference yesterday (11.01.2010) entitled "Dead End with the Palestinians?" to discuss General Eiland's new study. Eiland expanded on his proposals for a regional approach to peacemaking, while Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Rothschild (former head of the Israel Council for Peace and Security and today head of the IDC Institute for Policy and Strategy) defended the conventional two-state approach. Prof. Efraim Inbar argued for long-term conflict management as the least-worst, and most-likely, default paradigm. Aluf Benn, senior editor of Haaretz, and professors Hillel Frisch and Eytan Gilboa of the BESA Center, analyzed the diplomatic horizons of Netanyahu, Abbas and Obama. 

Regional Alternatives to the Two-State Solution by Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is available in Hebrew and English on the BESA Center website. Below are abridged and edited excerpts, and an extensive article on the study reprinted from The Jerusalem Post.
 
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EXCERPTS:
 
".... The attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is characterized by a paradox. Resolving this conflict appears important and urgent and the basic outlines of a deal - two states -- seem obvious to all. Yet this peace agreement, whose details are familiar, is not a desirable peace agreement! The two sides, aware as they are of the complex political reality, do not want it. The maximum that the Israeli government (any government) will be able to offer the Palestinians and to survive politically is much less than the minimum that a Palestinian government (any government) will be able to accept and to survive politically. In other words, neither Israelis nor the Palestinians are prepared to accept the so-called 'Clinton parameters.'
 
"Beyond a sharp clash of interests, and beyond the objective difficulty of satisfying both sides' needs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suffers from a profound contradiction between the Palestinian ethos and the Zionist ethos. Since 1993 there has been an Israeli and international tendency to belittle these differences. Yet, when arriving at the moment of truth and attempting to reach a final settlement, the gap in ethos between the two peoples emerges as an obstacle that is difficult to overcome.  
 
"Currently, there are four possible approaches to peacemaking. Approach 1 assumes that there is no way to reach a political solution in the foreseeable future, and hence conflict management is preferable to conflict resolution. Approach 2 seeks to achieve a "partial settlement;" perhaps a Palestinian state with temporary borders, while deferring the most thorny issues like refugees and Jerusalem for future consideration. Approach 3 seeks to reach a permanent settlement based on the two-states-for-two-peoples principle. Each of these approaches is problematic and, alas, unworkable.
 
"Conflict management, however realistic, is no solution. It leaves the door open for hostile actors, like Iran, to continue to stir the pot, and erode Israel's international security and legitimacy. Management of the conflict may be a reasonable policy in the short term, but in the long term it creates considerable strategic risks.
 
"Interim settlements - such as a further Israeli redeployment or an agreement on a Palestinian state with temporary borders, is an approach totally rejected by the Palestinians, and one which does not necessarily serve the Israeli interest. In the framework of such a solution Israel will pay high costs for a negligible return. Israel will be forced to uproot thousands of Israelis from their homes, and will take the security risk entailed by relinquishing control over most of the West Bank. Yet the Palestinians will go on claiming that the 'occupation' continues since the permanent borders will not yet have been determined. Hamas and part of Fatah will see no reason to stop the armed struggle.
 
"Advocates of a 'permanent solution now' ignore the zero-sum realities I described above, as well as the fact that there is no trust between the parties. Even if American pressure brought about a final status agreement (which in itself is unlikely), there is doubt as to whether the sides can carry out their commitments successfully.
 
"The current situation also suffers from a series of Israeli and American mistakes. Israel has for years made the mistake of accepting the notion that the Palestinian problem is Israel's problem alone. This policy has a grave and dual outcome. One problem is that the international community expects Israel to shoulder the burden, even though doing so is beyond its capacity. Secondly, the State of Israel cannot give up all the territory of the West Bank, economically support an Arab state that is not viable, and also bear the security consequences of the resulting instability.....
 
"Consequently, I wish to propose a new, regional approach that involves additional Arab actors in an attempt to solve the Palestinian issue. My approach questions basic assumptions and changes the cost-benefit calculus for the principal parties. The permanent solution and the interim solutions, have three basic claims in common, each of which requires re-thinking: that a solution to the problem is restricted (geographically) to the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; that the solution lies in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state; and that the West Bank and Gaza will form a single political entity in any solution. These three assertions have confined the discussion to a narrow space and prevented a real discussion that starts afresh and examines all possibilities for a solution to the conflict without preconceived notions.
 
"I believe that regional actors and the international community need to re-examine the many benefits of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation and of land swaps involving portions of the Egyptian Sinai desert. These two solutions do not have the zero-sum nature of the conventional two-state solution. They enlarge the political pie and hence make it is easier to find a way to divide it.  
 
"The two approaches - the Jordanian-Palestinian federation and the territorial exchange - do not contradict each other. They can become part of a single solution that combines the advantages of both. It is time for a new international initiative..."
 
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Eiland calls to establish 'US of Jordan'
January 10, 2010, by Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST
Forget a two-state solution, the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to create a United States of Jordan that would include three states governed by a federal government in Amman: the East Bank, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
That, at least, is one of two solutions that former National Security Adviser Giora Eiland presents in a monograph called "Regional Alternatives to the Two-State Solution," released Thursday by Bar-Ilan University's BESA Center.
In the 41-page booklet, Eiland - a former head of the IDF's Planning Department and today senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies - argues that the conventional wisdom of how to deal with the conflict is stale and mistaken.
What is needed, he argues, is a completely new way of looking at possible solutions, widening the lens to come up with fresh ideas beyond the idea of a two-state solution.
The first option is what could be called the US of Jordan, a variation on the old Palestinian-Jordanian federation theme. The second option indeed envisions a Palestinian state, but one with territory that would be enhanced by 720 km. given by Egypt, which would in turn be compensated by a similar amount of land taken from the Negev.
These new ideas are necessary, Eiland writes, because in 2010 an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, based on a two-state model, seems less likely than in 2000 at Camp David, or when the Oslo process was launched in 1993.
Among the elements making it more difficult now than in the past to solve the conflict, Eiland writes, are the ascendancy of Hamas; the complete lack of trust between the sides; the absence of a Palestinian leader like Yasser Arafat who is recognized by his people as speaking on their behalf; an Israeli leader not convinced that achieving a permanent settlement is possible; and demographics that now have 290,000 Israelis living beyond the Green Line, as opposed to 190,000 on the eve of Camp David.
"It is hard to believe that the diplomatic effort that failed in 2000 can succeed in 2010, when most of the elements in the equation have change for the worse," he states.
Eiland argues that over the years Israeli leaders have erred by creating the impression that Israel alone could take upon itself the task of solving the Palestinian issue.
For instance, at Camp David in 1979 Egyptian president Anwar Sadat wanted to hear Israel's position on the Palestinian problem. "Begin hastened to volunteer: Israel would give the Palestinians autonomy and both sides would be satisfied. This implies that the Palestinians are Israel's problem and Egypt has no reason to get involved."
Similar missteps were made all the way down to Ariel Sharon's disengagement and Ehud Olmert's convergence plan, he claims. The problem with these unilateral steps, he argues, was that they sent a message that "the Palestinian problem is Israel's problem and Israel alone will know how to solve it."
The new US administration, Eiland argues, has also made a number of errors based on misconceptions. "The Obama administration errs in believing that resolving the conflict is currently possible."
Among America's misguided assumptions, Eiland notes, are the following:
· The supreme Palestinian aspiration is to attain independence along the 1967 borders.
· The gap between the sides' positions is small and bridgeable.
· Moderate Arab states are interested in ending the conflict and therefore will assist in its solution.
· The end of the conflict will bring about stability.
· Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vital to obtaining Arab assistance on the Iranian issue.
· There is currently an opportunity to resolve the conflict and it must not be squandered.
· There is only one solution to the conflict, and that is the solution of two states with the 1967 border between them.
As an alternative to becoming locked into the two-state mindset, Eiland proposes a Jordanian-Palestinian federation whereby Gaza and the West Bank would be states in a Jordanian kingdom, much like Pennsylvania and New York are American states.
"They will have full independence on domestic issues as well as a budget, governmental institutions, laws, a police force, and symbols of independence, but similar to Pennsylvania or New Jersey they will not have responsibility for two issues: foreign policy and military forces. Those two areas, exactly as in the United States, will remain the responsibility of the 'federal' government in Amman."
Eiland says the benefits of this proposal to the Palestinians are enormous. First and foremost it would ensure that an independent Palestinian state would not be ruled by Hamas. In addition, he writes, "the Palestinians also understand that under a two-state alternative, they will become citizens of a tiny state. Such a small state is not viable and will have security limitations (for example, conceding sovereignty over its airspace). It is preferable to be equal citizens in a large, respected country where the Palestinians will form the demographic majority."
Jordan would benefit, he continues, because the way to prevent instability in Jordan, which would be fueled by a future Hamas regime in the West Bank, is through Jordanian military control over this territory.
And Israel would gain, he says, because it is more likely to get the security it desires if the territories are incorporated into a greater Jordanian state, rather than if a new - and most likely failed - mini-state is created on its doorstep.
Eiland's other model, based on territorial exchange, calls for Egypt transferring some 720 km. of land - including 24 km. along the Mediterranean coast toward El-Arish - to the Palestinians, in order to allow them to build a million-plus city and a sustainable port and airport.
Egypt would be compensated by an equal amount of land taken from the Negev, and a tunnel at Israel's southern tip from Egypt to Jordan, which would connect Egypt with the Arab countries to the east. The 720 km. are equal to 12 percent of the West Bank, which would be the percentage of West Bank territory to remain in Israel's hands.
The enlargement of Gaza is necessary if it is to be a viable entity, Eiland argues, and it could enable the region to become an international trade center, which is impossible with the current dimensions.
Egypt would benefit primarily from the 10 km. tunnel to Jordan, which would give it important physical and economic access to the main eastern part of the Middle East, and Jordan would get - via the tunnel - an important passage to the Mediterranean.
As far as Israel is concerned, this type of arrangement would give the Palestinians a much better chance of viability and, by involving Jordan and Egypt, would create "stronger guarantees for the upholding of the agreement."


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