[Published 21 September 2010]
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly canvassed the possibility of considering alternative solutions on the future sovereignty of the West Bank as the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to create a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan - the so called “two-state solution” - continue to go nowhere.
In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem this week the following interesting exchange took place:
QUESTION: Do you believe you’ve convinced some of the skeptics - for instance, the [Israeli] Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who you also spoke to - have you convinced him that this two-state solution, this process, is the right one?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t claim to convince someone whose views are very different from that position. I think that he and many Israelis are quite skeptical, just as many Palestinians are quite skeptical. But I’d ask them, what’s the alternative; I mean, what is the alternative? You need, if you are worried about Israel’s future and security, to be living peacefully with a neighbor who has the same aspirations for normal life.
Many commentators such as MJ Rosenberg and Robert Grenier have suggested that the only alternative solution is the “one state bi-national solution” which would see Israel securing sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank in some negotiated bi-national agreement with its West Bank Arab population.
Both Rosenberg and Grenier are equally firm in their prognosis.
“The alternative, looming just beyond the horizon, is the so-called one state—or bi-national—solution in which Israelis and Palestinians share all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. How can it be more obvious? The alternative to two states is one state, which virtually all Palestinians would accept and virtually all Israelis reject”
Rosenberg’s own conclusion - that the Arabs would accept it and the Jews reject it - guarantees that such an alternative solution is dead in the water before it is even proposed.
Rosenberg offers no evidence to support his claim that virtually all the Palestinian Arabs will accept the one state bi-national alternative and so agree to abandon their 43 years old demand that a sovereign Palestinian Arab State be created for the first time ever in recorded history.
Rosenberg is on a trip to fantasyland.
Grenier’s pessimism in achieving the two state solution is succinctly expressed as follows:
“That the Israelis and Palestinians could reach agreement on a comprehensive two-state settlement under the current circumstances is hard to imagine. That they could actually implement such an agreement is impossible."
Grenier’s only alternative is also the one-state bi-national solution as he continues:
“The fact of the matter, however, is that the idea of a two-state solution in Palestine is finished. Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their attendant infrastructure have made a viable and independent Palestinian state impossible. The settlements, moreover, cannot be undone. Their existence obviates the need for formal Israeli annexation: The de-facto annexation of the West Bank has already taken place. The only remaining solution is a single, unified, bi-national state.”
The one-state bi-national alternative certainly will not dispel Clinton’s expressed concern for Israel’s future and security. It will become a demographic time bomb, a recipe for future conflict and an even more hopeless exercise to bring to fruition than the discredited two-state solution.
There is however another far more practical and readily achievable alternative solution to that suggested by Rosenberg and Grenier.
That solution involves the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan.
Separation of Arabs and Jews in Palestine - as far as is possible - has been the policy that has guided international diplomacy in the region since 1920. It has been sponsored by the League of Nations, the United Nations and several Commissions of Inquiry. It remains the policy currently favoured and supported by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
This policy - with one notable exception - has failed for one reason - Arab refusal to accept anything less than sovereignty in 100% of the territory available for allocation between Jews and Arabs.
That one exception was Arab acceptance of the League of Nations decision on 23 September 1922 denying the Jews any entitlement to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in 77% of Palestine - laying the groundwork for the creation of an exclusively Arab State there in 1946 that is today called Jordan.
It was not until 1948 that the Jews were able to create their own State in 17% of Palestine.
Sovereignty in the remaining 6% of Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - is still up for grabs.
Although Jordan and Israel have fought several wars following the War of Independence in 1948 they have enjoyed a signed and sealed peace treaty between their respective states since 1994 - which has withstood many political and diplomatic pressures that could have heralded its demise.
Jordan indeed fits the Clinton mould of Israel “living peacefully with a neighbor who has the same aspirations for normal life.”
Presently stuck between their two respective States is the West Bank with a population of 2 million Arabs and 500000 Jews - whose territorial sovereignty remains undetermined.
Division of that sovereignty between Israel and Jordan resonates as a just and fair solution for the following reasons:
(i) It will restore Jordanian governance to the major part of the West Bank as existed from 1950 up to its loss to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.
(ii) It will bring the overwhelming majority of its 2 million West Bank Arabs under Jordanian protection, free them from Israeli control and restore the freedom of movement and citizenship rights enjoyed by them between 1948 - 1967
(iii) Not one Jew or Arab will have to leave his present home or business in the West Bank
(iv) Issues presently seen as contentious such as water, refugees and Jerusalem have already been identified and proposed solutions flagged in the 1994 Treaty.
(v) Drawing the new international boundary between Israel and Jordan to end sovereignty claims by Jews and Arabs in the West Bank should be capable of being achieved within three months.
(vi) There will be a dramatic and immediate change in the current status quo which most agree is dangerous and untenable
(vii) Jordan is the only Arab partner that can honour and enforce any agreement on the West Bank that Israel is prepared to sign.
(viii) It will finalize the allocation of sovereignty of former Palestine between the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.
Jordan cannot be allowed to simply reject such an alternative out of hand and seek to walk away from the looming conflict that must inevitably fill the void after the collapse of the two-state solution.
Jordan has been part of the problem surrounding the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank since 1920. It now is time for Jordan to step up to the plate and take responsibility for being part of the solution in 2010.