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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Altered Consciousness: Two-state destruction

Published: February 11, 2011
Section: Opinions

Conventional wisdom dictates that the primary way to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict is to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. A partition that is implemented in the very near future, however, would in fact not solve this notorious dispute and perhaps only make matters worse.

Consider what would happen in the event that an agreement is reached that culminates in the creation of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. First, Israel would have to make enormous concessions, including the uprooting of tens of thousands of people from their homes and villages in the West Bank; the severing of its capital, Jerusalem; the dismantling of security measures and the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from nearly all of the West Bank except perhaps the Jordan River Valley; a return to the indefensible pre-1967 borders; and the acceptance of at least several thousand hostile Palestinian refugees.

Then, what of a putative Palestine? There is a best case and worst case scenario.

The former involves the creation of a state that resembles the status quo. In the West Bank, the economy would continue to grow; the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority (PA) would stay in power; the refugees would ultimately be integrated, though this would be a challenge; and the population there would still be hostile to Israel due to the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic messages filtered through the state-run media. Meanwhile, in the absence of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Gaza would remain as Hamastan, the mini-Islamist terror state on the Mediterranean. Therefore, Palestine would maintain a bipolar character and consist essentially of two countries wrapped into one.

In this state of affairs, there would be a cold peace between Israel and the PA, which would probably continue not to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. It is highly unlikely, however, that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Syria or Iran would in any meaningful way change their intractable ideologically-motivated stance toward the Jews.

In short, nothing significant would change except for the fact that Israel would have to make wrenching concessions in exchange for a signed piece of paper. This is not a good deal.

But the more probable scenario is far worse than what I mentioned above. If the PA were to sign a reasonable agreement with Israel and concede in a significant way on any of the core issues dividing the parties, it would lose legitimacy in the eyes of its people. A weakening in support for these ostensible moderates combined with an IDF withdrawal from the West Bank would provide the perfect opportunity for Hamas to take control of this territory just as it did with its bloody coup in Gaza in 2007. Additionally, Hamas would perceive weakness from the concession-granting Israel, and be emboldened to launch a new series of rockets, missiles and bombings into not just the Negev, as it had done before, but into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the surrounding metropolitan areas. If Hezbollah and Iran were to join in the fray, it would prove to be an existential struggle for the Jewish state.

If a partition plan cannot be implemented, then I picture five alternatives. The first and main one is to encourage the state-building efforts of Salam Fayyad while launching an international campaign to end anti-Israel incitement; convince the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; moderate their stance on issues like Jerusalem, refugees and borders; isolate and topple Hamas by exerting large amounts of economic pressure on these Islamists; and draw a clear contrast between Gaza and the West Bank. The success of these efforts can ultimately lead to the creation of a unified Palestinian state within the next few decades.

Secondly, if their present regimes survive, Jordan could take control of parts of the West Bank while Egypt could reacquire Gaza. Thirdly, in a one-state solution, Israel could provide convincing incentives for the Arabs to migrate to neighboring countries while implementing measures to further increase Jewish population growth and aliyah rates. Fourthly, Israel could deny non-Jews voting rights, though I don’t think this would go over very well with an unsympathetic international community. And fifthly, Israelis and the Palestinians could just not change anything, recognizing that the conflict is simply unsolvable.

Therefore, there are options out on the table. The creation of a Palestinian state in the very near future, however, should not be one of them.