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New Peace Proposal

Faced with the Road Map, which threatens us with “Continuous Palestinian Territory”, a revolutionary alternative must be presented, which is still in line with Bush’s vision.

By Menachem Ben

One of the most disturbing terms in the Road Map is the “Territorial Continuity” proposed for the Palestinian state. Obviously, it may mean the dismantling of Israeli settlements that upset that continuity. However, one should immediately ask: Excuse me, but does Israel have a territorial continuity? Is the Israeli territorial continuity not blemished somewhat by the presence of hundreds of Arab settlements inside the 1967 boundaries, from Nazareth to Taybeh, most of which carry a distinct nationalist Palestinian identity? And if they do not disturb our territorial integrity, why should Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza be considered as disrupting the Palestinian continuity?

We need, therefore, a new mode of thinking about this major issue. There is nothing more dangerous than the simplistic model of partitioning this country into two political units, more or less along the 1967 lines, following the evacuation of more or less all the settlements. This may mean that we would give the other side, the Palestinians, a “pure” Palestinian state, cleansed of any Israeli presence - a new, horrific version of the “Judenrhein” concept - while we stay in a dwindled State of Israel, within the lines which were once described as the “Auschwitz Borders”, hosting over a million Arabs, many of whom oppose our state’s Jewish-Israeli identity.

This would happen after a horrible internal chaos, tormented by hatred between Israeli brothers, which would inevitably follow the disastrous attempt of deporting 250,000 Israelis from their settlements, or even “only several dozens of thousands” of civilians.

Thus, if there is a possibility of achieving a true, symmetrical peace between the two national populations that inhabit this land - Israelis and Palestinians - it has to emerge from a totally different political division: a distribution of sovereignties according to the plan proposed for Jerusalem. Whatever is inhabited by Israelis (including all the settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza) - will be under Israeli sovereignty, while all that is Palestinian (including all the Arab communities inside Israel that will prefer to express their Palestinian identity within the Palestinian Authority) - will belong to the Palestinian sovereignty in a full civilian manner.

This will create two national sovereignties in the Holy Land, each delegating their powers to all civilian systems that concern their citizens, while the natural borders will run along the current municipal limits. In addition, all uninhabited lands will be divided according to the 1967 boundaries. Vacant areas within the 1967 borders will remain Israeli (we must not hand over even a yard of the Halutza dunes). All the uninhabited, state-owned property beyond the 1967 lines will naturally be included in the Palestinian sovereignty.

It is important to stress four points in this proposal. First: Since “moderate” Palestinians, including Arafat, repeatedly express their so-called agreement to settle for 22% of the land, there should be no rational reason for them to oppose such a division of sovereignty, which offers them much more than 22%. The nationalistic Arab settlements in Israel, that are designed to be annexed to the Palestinian state, occupy far more territory than the areas inhabited by Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which would become part of Israel.

Second: Since the Palestinians have supposedly agreed to demilitarize their future state, there should be no real problem for them to agree that common life in the two sovereign entities would be regulated under one security authority. Responsibility for keeping the peace throughout the country may be given to the Israel Defense Forces, or to a new international body, something like “The Holy Land Army” appointed by the nations of the world. The main security task will be to guard the peace along the lines between Israeli and Palestinian settlements.

Third: This will end the “demographic problem”. Palestinians will vote for the Palestinian parliament, not to the Israeli Knesset (except those who consciously prefer Israeli citizenship, including all its meanings and obligations). Israeli majority in Israel will thus be secured. At the same time, Palestinian citizens in the pre-67 areas will still be considered Israeli residents, with a permanent residents’ status. The same will apply to Israeli settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, who will be regarded as Israeli citizens as well as permanent residents in the Palestinian state.

Fourth: This will also provide a partial answer, at least morally and symbolically, to the problem of the Arab refugees. They would be allowed to return, not only to Gaza and the West Bank, but also to the sovereign Palestinian settlements inside Israel, providing, of course, that the local Palestinian authorities - such as the municipality of Um-El-Fahm - can find suitable arrangements within their current municipal limits. By the way, one can rely on the Arab local authorities to be less than happy with accepting new refugees in their midst, but that’s really their own affair.

This is the only comprehensive and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will also remove from the agenda any threat of a “Palestinian Territorial Continuity”. If we are stupid enough to allow this to happen, it may swallow in the future our little “Israeli Territorial Continuity”, which is dotted with Palestinian settlements and Palestinian inhabitants, who yearn for “a state of all its citizens”.

Therefore, this is the speckled map that should be presented to President Bush: Not two states, where we remain with all the radical Arab nationalists and the Palestinians get rid of all the Israelis - but rather - two national sovereignties which spread across the entire land, each sprinkled with settlements of the other sovereignty. This will bring a just peace for generations.

About Menachem Ben

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