John Kerry used the word “apartheid” and upset a lot of people who should have been upset with him years ago. However, the focus on his use of that word has obscured the real problem with his thinking, and that of quite a few others, regarding the present and future relationship between Israel and the Arab people living in Gaza and the “West Bank” of the Jordan River.
The proponents of a “two-state” solution for the Israel-Arab “conflict,” which has existed in one form or another since the establishment of the state of Israel, have studiously ignored the reasons why a “two-state” solution is no solution at all. Yet history, since the establishment of Israel, has clearly provided the chief reason why this will not work. For a humorous but accurate quick history illustrating this point, see Andrew Klavan’s one state solution, advocating, tongue in cheek, Israeli hegemony over the whole Middle East.
Serious examination of the history of Israel will tell you the same story Klavan is telling you humorously. Israel has been regularly persuaded by its erstwhile allies to try to settle with the Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank by extending an olive branch in the form of releasing prisoners and/or and giving them something, like some land in the so called “land for peace” exercise. The problem with this is that giving either prisoners or land to the Arabs in Gaza or the West Bank has never secured any peace and the land given up has served as a new base from which to attack Israel. Giving up even more land in a “two-state solution” would just provide more bases for attacks on Israel.
As if the animosity (to put it mildly) of the Arabs for the Jews, was, itself not sufficient reason to junk the concept of a two-state solution, there are other reasons, not the least of which is economic. Neither Gaza nor the West Bank has shown any sign of developing a self-sufficient economy. The lack of economic viability would keep the people of those areas just as poor as they are now in the event of a two-state solution, and this would give rise to more animosity toward Israel with its relatively vibrant economy.
The real solution to the problem cannot be the Middle Eastern hegemony suggested, tongue in cheek by Klavan, but it could be Israeli hegemony over the area now encompassing Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, or an area approximating ancient Israel. The problem with this “Greater Israel” solution is that it would bring about 2.5 million Arabs into Israel and thereby hasten its demise via demographics because the Arab birth rate is much higher than the Israeli birth rate. Moreover, this would be the “apartheid” that Kerry was referring to, because, although the Arabs might take over the Israel democracy at some point in the future, they would not be in that position at the start. There are already Arabs living in Israel. They have full citizenship and serve in government. At some date in the future, these people may become a majority, or at least a large minority, in Israel. So the die may already be cast, even without assimilating the Arabs now living in “greater Israel.”
The better solution would be for the surrounding Arab states to assimilate the Arab populations now living in Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza is adjacent to the Sinai Peninsula, which was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in June of 1967 and returned to Egypt in 1982. Gaza was also captured during the Six-Day War and could be returned to Egypt with its population. Then activity against Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip would be the responsibility of Egypt.
The West Bank, on the other hand, was occupied by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and recaptured by Israel during the Six-Day War. This territory now contains a little over 2 million Arabs and about 500,000 Israelis in “settlements” and in East Jerusalem. As “occupied territory,” a large part of the West Bank is a source of almost continuous conflict for Israel and provides ammunition for criticism of Israel in the U.N. It is by far the most important “disputed” territory in the Arab-Israel continuing low-level conflict. The solution to this conflict, however, is not the creation of another state on the West Bank or part of it. It is the division of the West Bank and its population between Israel and Jordan, and that is where the diplomats should be concentrating their efforts.
Jordan doesn’t really want the Arab population of the West Bank and has, in 1988, even stripped the population living there of Jordanian citizenship. If pushed, Jordan will probably agree to Israeli annexation of almost all of the West Bank and its population. While this would greatly reduce the conflict, it would leave Israel with the demographic problem described above.
Realistically, this is the only solution that will lessen the conflict in the area. Its exact dimensions depend on the Jordanian government, the Egyptian government, and the Israeli government, and those of the other interested parties like the USA. However, if these parties will recognize that the two-state solution is a pipe dream that doesn’t recognize reality, we might actually get somewhere.
Jeff Scribner is president of ASI Enterprises, Inc., an investment bank serving small and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.