[Published 1 July 2013]
It is a pity that US Secretary for State John Kerry still believes that a two-state solution is possible after 20 years of failed negotiations between Israel and the PLO to achieve such a result under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap.
While in Kuwait on 26 June - Kerry called on Israel and PLO to renew talks to advance such an outcome before it was too late:
“The time is getting near where we need to make some judgments. Last time I was here, I said it’s time for leaders to make some hard decisions. That stands. It is time. Why is it urgent? It’s urgent because time is the enemy of a peace process.”
This fatuous statement sounds very hollow when considering virtually the same pronouncement made in 2007 by Jordan’s King Abdullah:
“We have a finite amount of time. Physically, there may not be a chance for a future Palestinian state. This is why the urgency is now. Is the situation ideal? Far from it. But we have our backs against the wall and I believe that time is running out. Arabs and Muslims realised that this is our last chance. I think it is beginning to dawn on Israelis and Palestinians. They need to reach out to their brothers and sisters and say, ‘We need to take one step back because if this continues we may lose our final opportunity.’”
Rather than repeating these pointless prognostications of imminent doom - surely it would be better to examine alternatives to the failed two-state solution - which cannot possibly happen because of the entrenched positions of the protagonists to the 130 years old long running Jewish-Arab conflict.
One alternative proposed by the Arabs is the “bi-national State” - one in which the West Bank and Israel are merged into one territorial unit where all its citizens - Jews and Arabs - enjoy equal rights within the one State and rights of each national group are respected and protected.
Such a proposal was rejected this week by Israel’s President - Shimon Peres:
“Peace is a moral foundation of Judaism; it is an existential need of the Jewish state. A binational state contradicts the vision of Herzl; it endangers the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.”
President Peres’s rejection is understandable - given that it would signal the inevitable end of the Jewish National Home prescribed in 1922 by the Mandate for Palestine and preserved in 1945 by article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Indeed it would mean a return to the pre-1948 days of violent confrontation between Arabs and Jews that had led to the Peel Commission in 1937 and the United Nations in 1947 recommending partition of Palestine into one Jewish State and one Arab state - proposals rejected on both occasions by the Arabs.
Anyone believing this proposal to restore the territorial status quo existing before 1948 can happen again in 2013 must have rocks in his head.
There is however a different bi-national state that could work - one in which the West Bank and Jordan are merged into one territorial unit where all its citizens - Jordanians and Palestinians - enjoy equal rights within one State and the national rights of each other are respected and protected.
Such arrangement actually existed successfully between 1948-1967 when the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Transjordan were unified into one territorial unit and renamed Jordan in 1950. During this period not one Jew lived there - all having been driven out by the invading Transjordanian army in 1948.
Now 500,000 Jews live in about 5% of this territory - and therefore a complete return to the status quo existing at 1967 is not possible. Negotiations will need to be undertaken to redraw the international border between Israel and the newly created bi-national state of Jordan.
Will these negotiations succeed?
Certainly the prospects of success are far greater than could ever have been expected for the two- state solution for the following reasons:
1. This territorial structure has already successfully operated between 1948-1967.
2. Both national groups - identifying themselves now as Jordanians and Palestinians - are Arab and overwhelmingly Moslem - sharing a common history and a common heritage.
3. This bi-national Arab state would comprise about 80% of the territorial area of the Mandate for Palestine - whilst its neighbour - Israel - would comprise about 20% of the Mandate.
4. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 containing within it agreed negotiating parameters to resolve outstanding contentious issues such as refugees, water and Jerusalem.
5. Evidence has already emerged of very close co-operation between the PLO and Jordan culminating in the signing of an agreement on 31 March 2013 recognizing Jordan’s custodianship over Jerusalem’s Holy Places.
6. Not one Jew or Arab would have to leave his current home or existing business.
7. 99% of the entire territory of the Mandate would have been allocated between Arabs and Jews with sovereignty in the remaining 1% - the Gaza district - to be finally determined.
Instead of trying to flog a dead horse to the winning post before the outbreak of another war - wouldn’t it be more prudent for US Secretary of State Kerry, King Abdullah of Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas of the PLO and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making judgements and hard decisions that could result in their backing a potential winner that could lead to an end to the Jewish-Arab conflict and their possibly sharing the Nobel Peace Prize?