It is taught that most conflicts can be resolved if the parties
engage in the techniques of negotiated compromise. This has not
been the case with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The massacres, pogroms,
bombings, and wars started in the 1920's and have continued since.
Since 1937, there have been numerous proposals for resolving the
conflict. There were partition plans, armistice agreements, truces,
cease-fires, Oslo Plans, Tenet plans, Wye Agreements, Geneva Initiatives,
and Roadmaps-all to no avail. The fighting and bloodshed continued,
with enormous destruction and loss of life for both sides. All that
has apparently changed now that the world's great leaders have reached
a consensus on how to resolve the conflict. Liberator George, Savvy
Condi, Orator Tony, Peacemaker Kofi, Moderate Mahmoud, and Bulldozer
Arik, have all agreed that the way to end the conflict is to create
a new Palestinian State, the 23rd Arab-Muslim state in the region.
As envisioned, the new state would consist of less than 10, 000
square kilometers of land with a population of about 3 million,
one of the highest population densities in the world. It would be
located on two disjointed pieces of land that are now called the
Gaza Strip and West Bank. Part of historic Jerusalem would become
the internationally recognized capital of this new state. The other
part of Jerusalem would finally be recognized as the capital of
the State of Israel. The logic behind this is simple: The Arabs
will live here, the Jews will live there, and each will mind their
own business. The Arab terrorists will give up their bombs and return
to driving cabs and growing olives. The Israeli soldiers will park
their tanks and return to driving cabs and studying Torah. Everyone
will be happy and content. There will be peace and tranquility throughout
the Holy Land. Tourists will flock there, businesses will sprout,
and prosperity will abound. If that sounds too good to be true,
it's because it is.
To imagine this new geography, try to imagine the states of Rhode
Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts all being independent, sovereign
states. Each would have its own military, passports, currency, transportation
facilities, and utilities. It would be utter chaos. But that would
be mild in comparison to the arrangement of the State of Israel
to the new State of Palestine. Let's take a look at some of the
regional issues that may occur on a daily basis.
1. Airspace. With two tiny countries in such close proximity,
there are bound to be incidents where aircraft will have to modify
landing patterns and violate the airspace of the other. In 99%
of the cases, these incidents will probably be innocuous. Yet
there could be an incident where one country says to the other,
"We're really sorry that we shot down that aircraft with
400 passengers. It was a computer glitch. We fixed it and it won't
2. Commerce. Both Israel and a neighboring Palestinian
state would depend on an exchange of goods between the two states.
That includes manufactured and agricultural goods, as well as
human resources. Will the checkpoints that exist now be reduced
or could they even be expanded to include both Palestinian and
Israeli checkpoints at the borders? Will there be free trade or
a system of tariffs and taxes on the goods. What kind of security
will there be at the border crossings? How easy or difficult will
it be for merchants to exchange goods between the two states?
What kind of currency will be used?
3. Passports and Visas. An independent Palestinian state
will have the ability to issue passports and visas. Can we feel
confident that passports won't be issued to trained terrorists
who want to export their skills to comrades in other countries?
Since the Gaza Strip is so readily accessible by land, sea, and
air, can we be confident that the Gaza Strip won't be used as
a safe haven for international criminals who are trying to escape
from Interpol or the FBI?
4. Security and Weapons. A sovereign Palestinian state
would have the right to purchase weapons for security and defense.
Can we be confident that the Palestinians will do that in a responsible
manner so that explosive materials and sophisticated weapons don't
get into the hands of criminals and terrorists? Will the Palestinians
be able to maintain a system of security and justice within their
own borders? What would be the nature of their military apparatus?
5. Natural Resources. Fresh water and energy sources are
scarce in that part of the world. Will the Palestinians and Israelis
work amicably together to conserve, develop, and distribute valuable
water resources? How will they determine placement of pipelines
and cables? How will they ensure that both countries get an adequate
supply of water, oil, and electricity? What kind of security will
be provided for pipelines, cables, and reservoirs?
6. Construction. The Palestinians will probably want to
construct airports, seaports, and highways. Can we be assured
that they will do that with concern for security and environmental
protection? Will the Palestinians show respect for archeological,
historical, and religious sites in their construction plans?
7. Tourism. Tourists who wish to visit the Holy Land will
probably want to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho,
Nazareth, and Tiberias, all within driving distance from each
other. Will Palestinians cooperate with Israelis to allow tourists
of all faiths to have free access to these areas? What kind of
security will be provided for tourist buses? What happens when
the bus has to travel from Israeli to Palestinian areas? Will
buses be able to travel directly from Jerusalem to Hebron or from
Jericho to Tiberias, or will they have to take some lengthy, circuitous
route for security reasons? Will Palestinians and Israelis work
together to encourage tourism and commerce or will antagonistic
policies discourage tourists from visiting holy sites?
8. Public Health. Can the Palestinians be trusted to address
the health needs of their own population? Will children receive
their inoculations? Will geriatric needs be addressed? Will Palestinian
health officials cooperate with their Israeli counterparts? Suppose
an atypical epidemic breaks out in Israel. It could be a tropical
disease such as West Nile Fever, or it could be bio-terrorism.
Will Palestinian officials provide access to Israeli health officials
to investigate the source of infection or will they make it more
difficult? Will Palestinians cooperate with Israelis to control
the epidemic or will Israelis have to examine birds and mosquitoes
9. Archeological, religious, and historical sites. Can
we trust the Palestinians to respect and preserve the holy sites
of all religions? Will there be free and secure access for all
religions? Suppose the Palestinians are building new housing in
Jericho and come across some artifacts from the biblical era.
Will they call Israeli archeologists at Hebrew University and
say, "We discovered some materials that may be of interest
to you, would you like to come and examine them?" Or, will
they attempt to erase any signs of Jewish history in the area?
10. Utilities. How will the two countries resolve issues
involving telephone cables, electricity, water pipelines, and
These are only a few of the regional issues that would arise on
a daily basis. There could probably be many more involving military
intelligence, criminal incidents, drug traffic, satellite communications,
and emergency response to disasters. How long will it take until
the two states can develop operational procedures for dealing with
these issues? How would they function and survive without close,
effective mutual cooperation to address these concerns?
The answer is that they aren't ready for it yet and probably won't
be for at least another generation. It's time to acknowledge that
an independent Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank would
not resolve problems and create peace. It would just create more
conflict. It's time to develop a creative, realistic governmental
arrangement that would give the Arabs some measure of autonomy,
while maintaining the integrity of the State of Israel. At least
for the foreseeable future, Israel should maintain control over
the disputed areas. We all wish for a time when the two nations
will be able to live together side by side, without hostility. That
time hasn't arrived yet.
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC
Israel Zwick is a commentator on the Middle East based in New York.