For generations, the failed concept of the “two-state solution” has led to intransigence among politicians, think tanks, negotiators and everyone else seeking peace in the Middle East. To abandon this once-revolutionary idea, we must confront its limitations and think again with greater creativity.
The primary logistical problem affecting all parties is that the land in which we supposedly want to divide is a small parcel. The size of Israel is too small to adequately address the needs of the Israeli and Palestinian populations.
The primary question is, why do the politicians harp on a two-state solution? What is so special about the idea of two? After all, Gaza is an independent territory and already noncontiguous with the West Bank. And Israel proper and the West Bank are independent territories too. Why not have three states? But more practically, why take away land from Israel, which won it in a bloody war and would be only nine miles wide at its narrowest? Relinquishment of the West Bank leaves Israel too vulnerable and too limited to support its growing population.
Both Israeli and Palestinian needs will be greater as both populations expand. They both need more land not only to exist but to develop. The solution should mirror those who contributed to the problem. Historically, the original conflict occurred when Israel earned its independence in 1948, with the participation of invading Arab communities surrounding the nation state. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all had a part in creating and sustaining Palestinian diaspora and poverty. Now, after 70 years, shouldn’t all of these countries participate in a more humane solution that is viable for both Israelis and Palestinians?
All of the Arab countries have much more land than the Israelis. Shouldn’t discussions about a Palestinian state or multiple states include land offerings from some or all of these nations? Certainly Egypt could sacrifice some portion of the Sinai Peninsula. Certainly Saudi Arabia has land to offer adjacent to Israel. Perhaps a portion of land from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan could be offered for a solution that could resolve the conflict. Israel could not only sacrifice Gaza and part of the West Bank, but maybe create a multiethnic sister state in the West Bank where Palestinians, Christians, Jews and others would be welcomed and have access to East Jerusalem as their capital.
As a result, Israel proper would remain a majority Jewish state with room to grow into most of the West Bank. The Palestinians could have several states: Gaza/Sinai; Saudi Arabia/Palestine; and a northern state across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and part of the West Bank. All of the inhabitants of the region could reside in internationally recognized nations with a noncontiguous multistate solution.
Cory Schulman is a Germantown-based book publisher.