A Paradigm Shift on the Palestinian Question
Jordan: the problem and the solution.
The Palestinian initiative to declare an independent state through United Nations authorization is a prescription for crisis, and opportunity. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, having set in motion a political campaign whose fate is hazardous, decided that diplomatic confrontation with Israel is a more effective method than political negotiations to advance Palestinian interests.
The Palestinians never really understood, and could never agree, why they should have to engage in protracted talks in order to get what they believe to be theirs by national right. That Israel should withdraw from all of the post-1967 territories was always an absolute tenet of conviction, and not just a policy demand. It was humiliating for the Palestinians to banter and barter for liberation and statehood, which Israel tenaciously blocked by military force and political resolve.
The present political course pursued by the Palestinian Authority leadership is symptomatic of an ingrained attitude of avoiding reality, while preferring drama and pathos in the global theatre. Arafat is gone but his artful legacy lives on. Those who thought Abbas and Fayyad had chosen institutional development and a responsible repertoire of politics will be disabused by the upcoming post-Arafatian antics at the UN General Assembly.
It is not the Israeli reality in Judea and Samaria which will come crashing down in late September, but rather the Palestinian myth. This is not because America will not favor or finance the statehood ‘leap of faith’, but essentially because Israeli withdrawal is not in the political cards. Withdraw to where?
It behooves those with map in hand to appreciate the claustrophobic pre-67 Israeli borders, the proximity of Kfar Saba to Kalkilya, the short distances from Shuafat to Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem, and the spread of Jewish settlements that entrench Israel’s presence in most of Judea and Samaria, and East Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Palestinian crisis of September will exacerbate the political deadlock and cause the situation on the ground to rapidly deteriorate into clashes and violence. The Oslo process since 1993, exuding enthusiasm and fanfare, Noble prizes and grand summitry, has been a failure. There is little trust on the popular level and even less political maneuverability for a resolution on the official level. Unbridgeable policy gaps have confounded agreement on the outstanding, unresolved, and permanent status issues – Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and borders - without which peace cannot be consummated.
It is high-time to draw conclusions and change political course. Oslo is dead and the Palestinians are intent on burying it.
A paradigm shift requires an intellectual release from the mental tyranny of Oslo, in order to think ‘out of the box’. Israel will be the only state west of the river, the Jewish national entity the sole collective ideological enterprise, and the Israeli Army the singular military force assuring order and stability for all. There is no room for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, beyond the fact that one virtually was installed in the Gaza Strip in 2007.
The years since 1993 have demonstrated, what logic posited as common sense, that Israel’s safety demands a permanent military presence in the territories, to combat and contend with terrorism and assure that weapons’ smuggling and other pernicious security ills do not evolve from an Israeli pullback from the river. In our precarious political environment, with players ranging from Hizbullah and Iran to Al-Qaeda and Hamas, Israel’s military alertness and security preparedness are intertwined with maintaining the geographic resources in her possession today.
The new political paradigm of ‘only Israel west of the river’ offers Palestinian inhabitants in the territories liberty and autonomy, prosperity and stability – but not independence. Would they achieve independence/statehood in the West Bank, this would whet the Palestinian appetite to launch attacks by slipping across the Green Line, joining with the Arabs in the Galilee, already in high spirits of nationalist extremism and Islamic fundamentalism, while rejecting Israel as a Jewish state. A Palestinian state in the West Bank is to invite the irredentist drive toward Nazareth, Akko, and Taibe – and Israel’s demise. This scenario rings with the authenticity of Middle Eastern turbulence, Palestinian militancy, and Islamic jihad.
Across the river in Hashemite Jordan, the Palestinians should turn their demographic majority, along with their talents and energies, into political rule and statehood. In the spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’, this would be an expression and fulfillment of democracy and self-determination.
The artificial political entity created by the British in Transjordan in 1920 was initially consigned to be a home for the Arabs of Palestine, while west of the river Zionism built a Jewish national home. No longer should the alien Hashemite family dynasty in Jordan, whose origins are from Arabia, block Palestinian aspirations. It is Jordan, in differentiating itself from ‘Palestine’, which stands in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation and settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now more than ever, under King Abdullah II, does Jordan feel the political rumblings threatening to overthrow the illegitimate monarchical regime in Amman. The King has recently adopted an antagonistic stance against Israel in order to strengthen his own standing at home, but this tactic is transparent and insufficient to sustain his regime.
The two-state solution is reasonable. It just has to move a short distance across the river. This political map will offer strategic equilibrium and deterrence between Israel and Palestine. A viable resolution of the conflict must deter and preempt its violation by removing incentives for any side to adopt a bellicose position, which is why stubbornly squeezing two competitive states in the 40-miles width of the country west of the river is an act of desperation and foolhardiness. How long will mindless folly insist on shoving a square peg into a round hole?
When a major crisis explodes, an innovative reality-based policy paradigm can offer new political direction to solve old problems. And the peace proposed by the new paradigm, in place of the imprudent Oslo plan, is a peace that Israel can live with.
Dr. Mordechai Nisan, lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University, has recently written Only Israel West of the River: A Jewish State and the Palestinian Question, available on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com.