When Thinking Outside the Box is a Terrible Idea

Not twenty minutes ago, I wrote that Israel has accepted the two-state solution and eventually will make actual peace according to this plan in order to keep the ‘Jewishness’ of Israel.  In the article I noted:

Yet the reality is that if there is peace between the two countries, it will involve a Palestinian state.  The borders of such a state are debatable, but it will surely have East Jerusalem as a capital (despite Israeli construction there no Palestinian government can afford to cave on this issue) and it will be (very) roughly based on the 1967 borders.

I wrote this with an eye on the reality of the situation (see: the situation as it stands right now).  While I knew that other outside-the-box options force themselves into consideration, I concluded that the two-state solution was the most obvious and likely outcome.  I did not anticipate how soon those outside-the-box options would reveal themselves; nor did I anticipate how seemingly unlikely they would be.  Former Israeli National Security Advisor Giora Eiland has released a new paper that outlines two new possibilities for peace between Israel and Palestine.  I give Eiland credit for coming up with something new; yet he really must be out of touch with the Palestinian desire for a home that is actually Palestinian.

[tweetmeme]  The first option outlined by Eiland proposes a United States of Jordan.  Under this option Jordan would take control of the West Bank and Gaza and govern them as part of the Jordan.  The West Bank and Gaza would retain control of domestic issues, but would concede control of the army and all international and regional decisions to Jordan.  Says Eiland (per the Haaretz article):

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.

The reasoning behind any of Jordan or Palestine accepting such a plan is just plain preposterous.  While it is true that being a citizen of Jordan instead of independent Palestine would be to be a citizen of a more powerful country, this option leaves Palestinians without a Palestinian country.  Eiland completely negates any feelings of Palestinian nationalism – something that has been growing with each passing day of Israeli occupation – while assuming that the addition of nearly 4 million Palestinians to Jordan’s citizenry would go swimmingly.  While Palestinian refugees in Jordan are treated better than in Lebanon or Syria (the refugees were given citizenship), such a shift in demographics would certainly be met with resistance, opening Jordan to probable domestic issues.  Furthermore, this solution does nothing to solve the issue of the growing number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank or the right of return.  All of the issues that hinder the two-state solution remain unresolved.

The second option calls for a land exchange between Israel and Egypt; Egypt would give land along the Mediterranean to Palestine and Israel would give Egypt the equivalent from the Negev and build a tunnel connecting Egypt to Jordan.  This option is interesting because it would give Palestine more land along the water as well as room for a city with a port and an airport.  Enlarging Gaza, as the article points out, allows the territory to become a viable economic hub on the Mediterranean while the tunnel would connect Egypt with the rest of the Middle East and Jordan with the Mediterranean.

Theoretically, this is a feasible option as it maintains the territorial integrity of Palestine and does not completely deny Palestinian nationalism.  Yet, it is still a variation of the two-state solution.  Furthermore, it assumes the peaceful reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas and does not address East Jerusalem or the right of return for refugees.

I know that the options, as laid out in the article, are bare and would require a lot of negotiation in order to fill them with details.  However, the first option would create more problems that it would solve (not to mention the likelihood of Palestinian acquiescence to the first option is pretty negligible) while the second option is simply a confusing variation of the latest peace plan that was rejected by Israel and Palestine.  Eiland was good to think of alternatives, but the options he set forth are hardly possible in this reality.  I am looking forward to reading the full report (coming out on Thursday).  Perhaps there are more details involved that will convince me that either option would come close to approaching viable, but I am skeptical.

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