Palestine: Creative Compromises Can Conquer Conflict
By: David Coughlin
It has taken less than a month for the euphoria generated by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution conferring non-member observer status on the “State of Palestine” to dissolve into a farcical denouement.
Mahmoud Abbas’s folly in unilaterally approaching the United Nations in breach of the Oslo Accords has been neatly summed up by CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk in her article “Is Palestine now a State?”
“In the end, the Resolution does not change the Palestinians lives on the ground, and it does not “recognize” Palestine as a state.”
UN Special Rapporteur for the West Bank – Professor Richard Falk – offered his own prognosis on 2 January on his blog page:
“ At this point, I do not believe that the two-state consensus can be implemented, nor is the one-state alternative politically feasible.”
Demise of the two-state solution is confirmed by the following recent developments:
Firstly - Jamal Muheisen, a member of the Fatah Central Council, has reportedly told the Jerusalem Post that Hamas is conducting secret negotiations in an Arab country to reach agreement with Israel over the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
Muheisen has claimed that the negotiations were being held under the auspices of the US claiming that:
“Hamas is seeking to establish its own emirate while leaving the West Bank as cantons that are separated by settlements. Hamas’s goal is to foil the establishment of a Palestinian state on all the territories that were occupied in 1967.”
Secondly - The 2003 United States Roadmap proposing a two- state solution has disappeared off the radar with State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland only being able to offer this vision:
“As we turn the calendar to 2013… now is the time for leaders on both sides to display real leadership, to focus on the work that’s necessary to return to direct negotiations,”
That option is unlikely to happen.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have not held direct high level talks since September 2010 – at the tail end of a 10- month Israeli settlement freeze to which Abbas failed to respond until rhe freeze had mearly expired.
The Palestinian Authority still demands that settlement construction stop once again before they engage in talks – which they have said should pick up where they left off with Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.
These demands will certainly not be met by Israel in the aftermath of November’s General Assembly Resolution.
Abbas has now become firmly stuck on his high horse with no way to get down without considerable loss of face and prestige.
Thirdly - Attempting to salvage something from the wreck - Abbas has let it be known that he would be prepared to consider a confederation with Jordan once a Palestinian State was recognised in the territory lost by Jordan to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
If the creation of such a state has not reached first base after twenty years of tortuous negotiations – then it certainly will not do so after Abbas’s foray at the United Nations.
Creative compromises are now urgently needed to determine the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza that do not involve the creation of a State between Jordan, Israel and Egypt for the first time in recorded history.
Seeds for some such compromises appear to be sprouting from two different sources.
Firstly - Reports emanating from Gaza suggest that discussions are underway with Egypt to supply electricity and natural gas to Gaza to reduce its dependency on Israel.
Egypt has also been permitting freer access and egress to and from the Gaza Strip.
Such moves would materially assist in restoring the close relationship Egypt had with Gaza when it occupied and administered Gaza from 1948-1967.
If this relationship can be creatively nurtured to enable Egypt to provide a sphere of influence that persuades Gaza to look to Egypt for its salvation – rather than targeting Israel in continuing conflict – then the prospects for an improved relationship between Israel and Gaza could well be the end result.
Secondly - Reunification of the West Bank with Jordan as existed between 1950-1967 has now been raised as a possibility by the well respected and well connected Palestinian Arab commentator Daoud Kuttab in his article published in the Atlantic on 26 December – “Are the Palestinians ready to share a State with Jordan?”
Kuttab recalls his exclusive interview in 1993 with Israel’s then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin – the first ever given to a reporter working for a leading Palestinian newspaper.
“I asked Rabin for his vision as to the ultimate political status of the West Bank and Gaza in 15 or 20 years. Rabin, who at the time, we later discovered, had approved the Oslo back-channel, took a puff at a cigarette given to him by one of his aides, and answered that he envisionsit being part of an entity with Jordan.”
Kuttab has also dismissed the confederation idea proposed by Abbas:
“Confederations are political systems that include two independent countries. For some time in the 1980s, this was the most talked-about term in the region. The late Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyyad), the former head of intelligence for the PLO, was quoted as saying that what Palestinians wanted was five minutes of independence and then they would happily agree to a confederation with Jordan. However, the issue became politically poisonous as soon as the late King Hussein of Jordan said publicly that he doesn’t want anyone to ever utter the term “confederation.” And so it has been for the past two decades.”
And so it will apparently continue – no matter what Abbas says.
“While it is unclear if Jordan will ever end up having any sovereign role in the West Bank, support for a greater role for Jordan in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will no doubt increase in the coming months and years if the current decline of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority continues. The one determining factor in all of the discussions will have to come from the Israeli side, which has yet to decide whether it will relinquish sovereignty over the areas occupied in 1967 to any Arab party, whether it be Palestinian or Jordanian.”
Israel has already agreed to cede its claims to sovereignty in more than 90% of those areas in 2000 and 2008 and only needs a willing Arab partner to close the deal.
Jordan is rapidly readying itself to fill that role.
Creative compromises can indeed conquer conflict as a means of resolving even the most intractable and long running disputes.
David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site “Return to Common Sense,” and an active member of the White Plains Tea Party. He retired from IBM after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 40 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Masters, Administrative Science, 1976).