Two States, or What?

05.03.12

A Three State Solution

This is the first in a series of answers to the question of whether or not a two-state solution is dead.

The time has come to state the obvious. The attempt to reach an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians via a so-called “two-state solution” has failed. Since the early 1990s, Israeli leaders have tried every possible way to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians based on this formula. There have been direct and indirect negotiations, public peace conferences and discreet backchannel communication, and even unilateral pullbacks that were based on the false assumption that they would eventually lead to the states of Israel and Palestine living side by side.

Instead, we must realize that for the foreseeable future, this conflict must be managed, not resolved. At a later point—if and when the Palestinians are truly serious about living with us in peace and harmony—then a “three-state” solution must be achieved based on trilateral agreements between Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

It is time that our leaders rectify the mistake of the past nineteen years and cease the unnecessary and harmful discourse about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Instead, we should work towards the eventual goal of extending full Israeli sovereignty to the majority of Judea and Samaria which is mostly made up of Jewish communities and empty land. We would not annex areas that are currently heavily populated with Palestinians.

At the same time, we would offer the Palestinians physical linkage between the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas where they currently enjoy full self-rule. Finally, we would ensure the further removal of roadblocks so that Palestinians may travel freely from town to town without being hindered by multiple security checks.

While the extension of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria may not yet be the official platform of my Likud Party, I am confident that it will soon be. Last September when the Palestinians were threatening a UN vote on their statehood, I began to caucus my fellow Likud Members of Knesset. A large majority of them were in favor of annexing the Jewish communities of the West Bank if the General Assembly approved the Palestinian request. 

Once this extended version of Palestinian autonomy is achieved—and if the Palestinians have begun to honor their previous commitments including continuing to operate against terrorist elements in the PA and curbing the non-stop anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society—we can begin negotiations on a final-status agreement. These negotiations eventually should lead to a regional pact together with Jordan and Egypt that will provide the Palestinians with land and other political rights across these three entities, but not a distinct Palestinian state. 

This solution makes sense due to the roles that both Jordan and Egypt play in our region.  It is well known that Palestinians constitute 70 percent of the Jordanian population. Egypt too has played a crucial role in Palestinian political society.   The country has often served as political mentor to the Palestinian leadership and since the opening of the Rafah crossing, trade between the Gaza Strip and Egypt have brought these two societies even closer together.  In fact, many Palestinians already enjoy residency in Egypt that permits them to work and travel in the country. Most importantly, many elements in Jordan and Egypt often tell foreign visitors in confidence that a completely independent Palestinian state is not in their national interests either. 

Once Israel annexes the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, the remaining Palestinian towns and cities will be incorporated either under PA self-rule or officially as part of Jordan and Egypt—whichever the three sides prefer. Of paramount importance, however, is that there will be no intervention by Israel in the daily lives of Palestinians.

The PA will instead enjoy links to Jordan and Egypt that will allow them to further develop their nascent economy. It is my hope that such an agreement will allow the Palestinian economy to continue to grow in the unprecedented manner that has resulted from Israeli policies in Judea and Samaria over the past few years. It is in the best interest of all the regional partners that the Palestinians continue to enjoy more freedom and prosperity. 

I realize that there are many important details about this plan that will eventually need to be explored and resolved between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians. This is why all the parties will have to commit to serious negotiations when the time is right. We cannot, however, begin such negotiations until we fully defeat the terrorists who constantly attack our citizens, ensure that regional powers such as Iran no longer are in a position to wipe us “off the map,” and, most importantly, when our adversaries fully accept our right to exist here in our historic homeland. 

If we are realistic, this formulation probably will not happen in the next few years. While this reality may not please American presidents who prefer quick negotiations that culminate with great fanfare in a signing ceremony at the White House, we must be grounded in the true nature of being citizens of the Middle East. 

Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope that the day will come when Israel will no longer have to be responsible for the lives of the Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria, and when an enhanced relationship with our neighbors will allow for a fair agreement that safeguards Israel’s borders and protects our citizens. Until that day arrives, our neighbors and friends around the world must realize that the period of Israel naively advocating a fully independent Palestinian State has forever passed.