Saturday, June 5, 2010

Israel's Three State Solution II

A while back, I proposed that Israel's best chance for security peace would be a three-state solution; separating Hamas' Gaza and Fatah's West Bank in terms of the peace process, so that Qassams from Hamas won't be a deterrent to Fatah's peace process with Israel.

Since then, of course, it has been clear that Netenyahu doesn't particularly care to make peace with Fatah. Still, if some electoral miracle brings someone genuinely interested in peace around, the three-state solution will still be the best way forward. And it doesn't seem so preposterous to me as it once seemed, especially once I saw this in the BBC:
What could be the impact [of the Aid ship events] on the peace talks?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said peace talks with Israel will continue. Proximity talks, mediated by the US, resumed in May after a two-year break.

At least from the perspective of the Palestinians, who I presumed would be the harder sell on the "three-state solution" idea, they're effectively acting separately from Gaza. If Abbas wanted to link their fates to the Gaza Strip, now would be the time to press forward, on their advantage -- maybe meet with Turkey, maybe withhold further talks until aid ships are allowed to progress.

Instead, Abbas is looking after his own people in the West Bank. His own incentive structure is to continue to serve his constituents, which are the people of the West Bank and it appears he's already making decisions with regards to them.


Ian Thal said...

I know I was somewhat skeptical of this idea the last time you proposed it. That said, the fact that Fatah has been delivering economic growth and increased security to its people on the West Bank, combined with the possibility that maybe they can negotiate a lasting peace, might be the best way to kill Hamas-- and pretty much force Gaza to rejoin the West Bank in order to enjoy these gains.

CultureFuture said...

Right. Or it could force Gaza to try and reform itself and remain independent -- it's hard to think of another independent, non-contiguous nation. Pakistan tried it, but wound up splitting into Pakistan/Bangladesh.

Either way, the important point is that the increased peace and economic growth in the West Bank be rewarded, to show Palestinians in Gaza that there is something they can do to improve their lot.

Ian Thal said...

Keep in mind that with the split between Pakistan and Bangladesh that besides geographical difference (994 miles!), the Bangladeshi are also ethnically, culturally, and linguistically different from Pakistan. So ultimately, Pakistan did not see the Bangladeshi as their fellow Pakistani, and the Bangladeshi did not see themselves as Pakistani.

Nonetheless, you are hitting on a point that has long frustrated me regarding discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process: most notably that in discussions from left to right, Hamas is constantly presented as representing Palestine, when the greatest number of Palestinians live in the West Bank, and their Fatah-led government has been keeping the peace and increasing the economic opportunities for its citizens.

So yes, Fatah should be "rewarded." But the sort of responsibility that Fatah is engaged in is not "sexy" to foreign activists and pundits.

There's been a lot of political grandstanding by top leaders in both the PA and Israel keeping them from meeting, but on the day-to-day basis, there's plenty of low-level (frequently non-governmental) cooperation.

CultureFuture said...

To the Pakistan/Bangladesh point: agreed. I wonder, though, how long it will take for the West Bank and Gazan residents to diverge in identities. After all, with separate governments, separate beliefs about relationships with Israel, and distinct regions, it doesn't seem to me impossible to see a generation from now them having separate self-identities. A child born in Ramallah now will never have seen the Gaza Strip, and will have no idea who those people are.

For instance, one of the things that struck out to me about 1948 was that before the state of Israel, "Palestine" incorporated modern-day Israel and Jordan. When Israel was founded and the Palestinians fled Palestine, many, many of them settled into Jordan. But the Jordanians consider themselves very distinct from Palestinians -- even early in this situation.

Obviously tribal history and pre-British history has a lot to do with it, but since nationalism is a pretty European idea and people in the region seem more invested in their differences than their sameness in general (for instance, if the Ashkenazi Jews and the Sephardic Jews had two separate regions, I have no doubt they'd form separate countries and hate each other) I think the identity in the region could shift over fairly quick time.

Agreed about Fatah not being "sexy"; one of the things they do to assert their capacity to police their own region is arrest the peaceful protesters too, to show Israel that if Hamas did make a strong showing again in the West Bank they'd be ready to take them. Meanwhile, they formally protest the "security fence" that's penetrating their own land, but they don't take any measures against it. This helps peace, but it also damages their legitimacy amongst their people. If they catered too strongly to their own independency and sovreignity, they would hamper peace and come to blows with Israel. I don't envy their position -- trying to balance both.

This economist article about the peace movement captures it well:

Ian Thal said...

Does anyone still call it the "security fence?" I almost always hear it referred to as a "wall" or 'barrier." Still, it has arguably saved lives (in that it has blocked suicide bombers and eliminated needs for IDF reprisals) and allowed for the rebuilding of the West Bank economy after the second intifada. The long term goals have to be either moving that wall to the '67 borders or to provide the PA with a land exchange. The West Bank settlements are a major obstacle to long term peace-- if they can't be removed, some sort of arrangement needs to be made where they pay taxes to the PA.

Given the numbers of Gazans tortured and killed by Hamas death-squads, I'm inclined to wonder whether Hamas really still has a hold on the cultural identity of Gaza or if they are really holding on more by intimidation and fear. A three-state solution, to my mind is more a prelude to a two-state solution.

Still, I think everyone would benefit if the Western "pro-Palestinian" activists would get it that it's the PA, and not Hamas that are doing the real work of improving the lot of the Palestinians, but as I note, building roads, and making sure that non-violent protest stays non-violent, and winning cases in Israeli courts is simply not as "sexy" as shooting rockets, but I think this has a lot to do with the Western European predilection for street-level political violence as a way of solving their problems.

CultureFuture said...

I call it a security fence ironically -- the Israeli government still does refer to it as that. It reminds me of The Great Hedge sometimes.

I agree that the barrier has decreased violence in the West Bank, but it is by no means impermeable, and therefore I don't think it contributes as much to the current era of safety as the PA's assertion of power over Hamas, and its growing ability to actually enforce order in its own territory. Either way, putting a wall on the 1967 border would be defensible -- I may not think it's as necessary as my fellow Israelis believe, but at least it falls under a country's right to police its own borders rather than thrusting through current communities.

I don't think Hamas has a hold on the Gazan cultural identity, but I think they are developing their own identity regardless. Even if they turned wholesale against Hamas, I still think they have very negative views of Fatah and the PA as having sold them out, stolen their money, and ignored the fact that they elected Hamas into power. Whether or not Gazans continue to back Hamas, I don't think they're going to develop along the same identity lines.

Ian Thal said...

The wall likely bought the PA time to start policing it's own territory. Hopefully, we will be seeing more territory under effective PA policing in the near future. That might have more to do with securing a lasting peace than the interpersonal skills of the two heads of state.

Interesting bit about the Great Hedge. I was not aware of that piece of history.