Operation Cast Lead caused many people to reassess the viability of the sacrosanct "two-state solution." A growing number of observers have pointed out that Hamas's Iranian-sponsored jihadist regime in Gaza is proof that Israel has no way to ensure that land it transfers to the PLO-Fatah will remain under PLO-Fatah control.
This reassessment has also provoked a discussion of the PLO-Fatah's own failures since it formed the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Despite the billions of dollars it received from Israel and the West, its Western trained armed forces numbering more than 75,000 and the bottomless reserve of international political support it enjoys, the PLO-Fatah regime did not build a state, but a kleptocratic thugocracy where the rule of law was replaced by the rule of the jackboot. Instead of teaching its people to embrace peace, freedom and democracy, the PLO-Fatah-led PA indoctrinated them to wage jihad against Israel in a never-ending war.
These reassessments have led three leading conservative thinkers – former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes, and Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies – to all publish articles over the past month rejecting the two-state solution.
Bolton, Pipes and Inbar not only agree that the two-state paradigm has failed, they also agree on what must be done now to "solve" the Palestinian conflict. In their view the failed "two-state solution" should be replaced with what Bolton refers to as the "three-state solution." All three analysts begin their analyses with the assertion that Israel is uninterested in controlling Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Since the Palestinians have shown they cannot be trusted with sovereignty, the three argue that the best thing to do is to return the situation to what it was from 1949 to 1967: Egypt should reassert its control over Gaza and Jordan should reassert its control over Judea and Samaria.
Bolton, Pipes and Inbar acknowledge that Egypt and Jordan have both rejected the idea but argue that they should be pressured to reconsider. They explain that Egypt fears that Hamas – a sister organization of its own Muslim Brotherhood – will destabilize it. Jordan for its part has two reasons for refusing their plan. The Hashemite kingdom is a minority regime. A large majority of Jordanians are ethnic Palestinians. Adding another 1.2 million from Judea and Samaria could destabilize the kingdom. Then too, both the PLO and Hamas are themselves threats to the regime. The Hashemites still remember how with Syrian support, the PLO in 1970 attempted to overthrow them.
As for Hamas, its popularity has grown in Jordan in tandem with its empowerment in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. By integrating the west and east banks of the Jordan River, the chance that Hamas would challenge the regime increases dramatically. If we add to the mix Syrian subversion and sponsorship of Hamas, and al-Qaida penetration of Jordan through Iraq – particularly in the event of a US withdrawal – the danger that merging the west and east bank populations would manifest to the Hashemite regime becomes apparent.
IT IS OFTEN NOTED that Hamas's popularity among Palestinians owes in part to the corruption of the PLO-Fatah-controlled PA. It has also been noted that due to the PLO-Fatah-controlled PA's jihadist indoctrination of Palestinian society, the population's transfer of political loyalty from PLO-Fatah to Hamas was ideologically seamless.
What has been little noted is the strategic significance of the nature of Hamas's relations with the PLO-Fatah from the establishment of the PA in 1994 until Hamas ousted it from Gaza in 2007. When the PA was established in 1994, then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin argued that the PLO-Fatah shared Israel's interest in fighting Hamas because Hamas constituted a threat to its authority.
What Rabin failed to recognize was that Hamas's threat to PLO-Fatah was and remains qualitatively different from the threat it poses to Israel. PLO-Fatah never had a problem with Hamas attacks against Israel, or with its annihilationist ideology as regards Israel. This ideology is shared by PLO-Fatah and is widely popular among the Palestinians. Consequently not only did the PLO-Fatah never prevent Hamas from attacking Israel, it collaborated with Hamas in attacking Israel and did so while disseminating Hamas's genocidal ideology throughout the PA. PLO-Fatah did crack down on Hamas when it felt that Hamas was threatening its grip on power, but in all other respects, it supported Hamas – and continues to do so.
THE SAME UNFORTUNATELY is the situation in both Egypt and Jordan. Hamas's Nazi-like Jew hatred is shared by the vast majority of Jordanians and Egyptians. Islamist calls for the extermination of the Jewish people and the destruction of Israel dominate the mosques, seminaries, universities and media outlets in both countries. Popular opposition to the peace treaties that Egypt and Jordan signed with Israel stands consistently at more than 90 percent in both countries.
In spite of repeated Israeli demands for action, PLO-Fatah never ended its support for jihadist anti-Semitism. The PLO-Fatah never believed – as Israel hoped it would – that its best chance for remaining in power was by teaching Palestinians to reject hatred, embrace freedom, democracy and the blessings that peace would afford them. So too, neither the Hashemites in Jordan nor President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt have ever believed that the best way to stabilize or strengthen their own regimes is by preaching openness and peace and rejecting jihadist anti-Semitism. To the contrary, in recent years, Egypt has become the center for jihadist anti-Semitism in the Arab world and Jordan has one of the highest rates of Jew hatred in the world.
The situation on the ground in Jordan, Egypt, Gaza and Judea and Samaria make two things clear. First, a Jordanian reassertion of control over Judea and Samaria and an Egyptian reassertion of control over Gaza would likely increase the chances that the moderate regimes in both countries would be weakened and perhaps overthrown. Second, like Fatah-PLO, neither Egypt nor Jordan would have any interest in protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorists.
Bolton, Inbar and Pipes take for granted that Israel is uninterested in asserting or retaining control over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. This is reasonable given the positions of recent governments on the issue. However, the question is not whether Israel is interested or uninterested in asserting control over the areas – and most Israelis are uninterested in giving up control over Judea and Samaria in light of what happened after Israel withdrew its forces and civilians from Gaza.
THE SALIENT QUESTION is now that it is clear that the two-state solution has failed, what is the best option for managing the conflict? Not only would Israel be unable to trust that its security situation would improve if the areas were to revert to Jordanian and Egyptian control, Israel could trust that its security situation would rapidly deteriorate as the prospect of regional war increased. With a retrocession of Gaza, Judea and Samaria to Egyptian and Jordanian rule, Israel would find itself situated within indefensible borders, and facing the likely prospect that the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes would be destabilized.
Today Israel has the ability to enter Gaza without concern that doing so would provoke war with Egypt. It has minimized the terror threat from Judea and Samaria by controlling the areas with the massive help of the strong Israeli civilian presence in the areas which ensures control over the roads and the heights. IDF forces can operate freely within the areas without risking war with Jordan. The IDF controls the long border with Jordan and can prevent terrorist infiltration from the east.
If the current situation is preferable to the "three-state solution" and if
the current situation itself is unsustainable, the question again arises, what should be done? What new policy paradigm should replace the failed two-state solution?
The best way to move forward is to reject the calls for a solution and concentrate instead on stabilization. With rockets and mortars launched from Gaza continuing to pummel the South despite Operation Cast Lead, and with the international community's refusal to enforce UN Security Council resolutions barring Iran from exporting weapons, it is clear that Gaza will remain an Iranian-sponsored, Hamas-controlled area for as long as Hamas retains control over the international border with Egypt.
So Israel must reassert control over the border.
It is also clear that Hamas and its terrorist partners in Fatah and Islamic Jihad will continue to target the South for as long as they can.
So Israel needs to establish a security zone inside of Gaza wide enough to remove the South from rocket and mortar range.
From an economic perspective, it is clear that in the long run, Gaza's only prospect for development is an economic union of sorts with the largely depopulated northern Sinai. For years, Egypt has rejected calls for economic integration with Gaza. Cairo should be pressured to reassess its position as Israel stabilizes the security situation in Gaza itself.
AS FOR JUDEA and Samaria, Israel should continue its military control over the areas in order to ensure its national security. It should also apply its law to the areas of Judea and Samaria that are within the domestic consensus. These areas include the Etzion, Adumim, Adam, Ofra and Ariel settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley.
Israel should end its support for the PLO-Fatah-led PA, and support the empowerment of non-jihadist elements of Palestinian society to lead a new autonomous authority in the areas. These new leaders, who may be the traditional leaders of local clans, should be encouraged to either integrate within Israel or seek civil confederation with Jordan. Jordan could take a larger role in the civil affairs of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, by for instance reinstating their Jordanian citizenship which it illegally revoked in 1988. At the same time, Israel should end its freeze on building for Israeli communities in the areas.
It is obvious today that for the Palestinians to develop into a society that may be capable of statehood in the long term, they require a period of a generation or two to rebuild their society in a peaceful way. They will not do this in environments where terrorists are ideologically aligned with unpopular, repressive regimes.
The option of continued and enhanced Israeli control is unattractive to many. But it is the only option that will provide an environment conducive to such a long-term reorganization of Palestinian society that will also safeguard Israel's own security and national well-being.
While it is vital to recognize that the failed two-state solution must be abandoned, it is equally important that it not be replaced with another failed proposition. The best way to move forward is by adopting a stabilization policy that enables Israel to secure itself while providing an opportunity for Palestinians to integrate gradually and peacefully with their Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.