The failure of the Palestinian Arabs to grab the opportunity of statehood offered to them in 1937, 1947, and between 1948 - 1967 and 1993 - 2008 must surely now be testing the international community’s patience.
A lot of prestige, time, effort and billions of dollars has been spent by the international community over the last 15 years trying to successfully achieve the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
Such a State – if created - would have come into existence for the first time ever in recorded history.
It would have been located in the West Bank and Gaza - territory actually promised to the Jewish people as part of the site for the reconstitution of their national home by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1922 and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Israel has reportedly now agreed to end the 130 years old conflict between the Arabs and the Jews by evacuating 70000 Jews from the West Bank, relinquishing any claim to 93.5% of the West Bank and all of Gaza and by excising from the sovereign territory of Israel an area equivalent to the remaining 6.5% of the West Bank..
This compromise ensured:
1, Israel procured secure and recognized boundaries as prescribed by Security Council Resolution 242 and
2. 430000 of the 500000 Jews currently living in the West Bank would be allowed to continue to live where they presently resided as Israeli citizens within the expanded boundaries of the State of Israel.
These proposals have been rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the negotiating arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - which demands 100% of the West Bank and Gaza and the ouster of its 500000 Jewish residents – Arab demands that have indeed been pressed without modification since 1967.
To all intents and purposes the current negotiations have come to an irreconcilable end and what purports to constitute ongoing negotiations is simply empty and meaningless talk leading to nowhere.
How then should the international community now respond to this stalemate?
For the answer one first needs to go back to the years between 1948-1967 when not one Jew lived in the West Bank or Gaza and these areas - constituting about 6% of former Palestine – were then respectively under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation.
A separate and independent Arab State could have then been established in the entirety of these territories at any time within those 19 years by the stroke of a pen and with the consent and blessing of the Arab League.
The reason why what is being strenuously sought now was not demanded or created then can be gleaned from perusing Article 24 of the founding Charter of the PLO in 1964 which stated:
“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.”
Regional sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza was therefore clearly never contemplated by the PLO or the Arab League in 1964. Another independent Arab State in these areas was never sought nor demanded by the Palestinian Arabs from its Arab occupiers – Jordan and Egypt.
The international community needs to take note of that Arab position, the subsequent loss to Israel of the West Bank and Gaza by Jordan and Egypt respectively in the Six Days War in 1967 and the total failure of negotiations between Israel and the PLO over the last 15 years.
The international community needs to conclude and require that regional sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza now be allocated between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in direct face to face trilateral negotiations.
Jordan only abandoned its claims to the West Bank in 1988 in favour of the PLO. The PA was created by the PLO in 1993 to negotiate the future of the West Bank and Gaza after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO.
There appears to be no impediment to Jordan and Egypt once again assuming the mantle to negotiate the issue of regional sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza with Israel now that the PA has proved itself totally incapable of ever reaching any settlement with Israel and has been reduced to a completely ineffectual and spent force since its split with Hamas in 2007.
Should Jordan and Egypt both refuse to accept this negotiating role then the international community should indicate it is not prepared to invest any further time, effort and money in trying to resolve the issue of regional sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza.
There are too many other pressing problems in the world where such time, effort and money can be better directed in the hope of achieving satisfactory outcomes that have eluded the West Bank and Gaza for 40 years.
Bringing the issue to a head – rather than allowing it to meander aimlessly nowhere – is urgently required to end the daily suffering of both Jews and Arabs as any breakthrough in the Roadmap negotiations fails to materialise.
The Palestinian Arabs will receive a consolation prize – seeing the status quo existing in 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza being restored in a substantial majority of those territories as they are consolidated within either Jordan or Egypt.
Those Arab residents coming under Egyptian or Jordanian sovereignty will attain Egyptian or Jordanian nationality and freedom of unimpeded movement within the expanded boundaries of Egypt and Jordan.
Those residents have always considered themselves as a part of the Arab nation and will be reunited with their fellow Arabs in one of the 21 existing Arab States that comprise the territorial area of that nation.
The international community or Israel should not expect to receive any iron clad guarantee that the PLO and Hamas would abandon their common objective of destroying the state of Israel.
But finality would hopefully be brought to the issue of regional sovereignty in the whole of former Palestine – an unfinished piece of business that has festered with disastrous consequences since 1967.