Which solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict works best…or works at all?
Trump’s No-State Solution
By the Jewish Ledger Editorial Board
Early on in Michael Wolff’s controversial but totally plausible tell-all book Fire and Fury, there appears a conversation from January of last year between Roger Ailes, lately head of Fox News, and Steve Bannon, newly named White House strategist.
“Does he get it?” asked Ailes suddenly, pausing and looking intently at Bannon.
He meant did Trump get it…Did the playboy billionaire really get the workingman populist cause? But it was possibly a point-blank question about the nature of power itself. Did Trump get where history had put him?
Bannon took a sip of water. “He gets it,” said Bannon, after hesitating for perhaps a beat too long. “Or he gets what he gets.”
With a sideways look, Ailes continued to stare him down, as though waiting for Bannon to show more of his cards.
“Really,” Bannon said. “He’s on the program. It’s his program.” Pivoting from Trump himself, Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all in. Sheldon” – Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire, far-right Israel defender, and Trump supporter — “is all in. We know where we’re heading on this.”
“Does Donald know?” asked a skeptical Ailes.
Bannon smiled — as though almost with a wink — and continued:
“Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it.
Or sink trying…”
And there you have it, clear as daylight – how the Trump team of amateur diplomats plans to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. This alternative to what Trump sycophants call “the two-state delusion” is really very simple.
• Move the US embassy to Jerusalem — or as President Trump put it in Davos two weeks ago — “take Jerusalem off the table”;
• Let the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan have the West Bank (one assumes without the 650,000 Israeli citizens living within it — a significant detail)
• Let Egypt take Gaza; and
• Let the Arabs deal with the Palestinians.
This isn’t the two-state solution of Jewish and Palestinian countries peacefully living side by side. Neither is it a one-state solution, wherein the territory “between the [Jordan] river and the [Mediterranean] sea” becomes one sovereign territory. Which is to say it becomes either a Jewish state with 2.5 million Palestinians permanently occupied against their collective, if fractured, will; or it becomes a “secular, democratic” Middle Eastern multi-confessional state, i.e. no longer a Jewish one.
Instead, it’s a fantasy rooted in the status quo of 60 years ago, when Gaza was an unwanted extension of an uninterested, fumbling Egypt, and the West Bank was the Palestinian hinterland of a Bedouin, non-Palestinian monarchy.
Those Trump-loving American Jews who pronounce visionary the chaos being planned by two inexperienced New York lawyers and a son-in-law real estate baron should think again.
The no-state (for Palestinians) solution is nothing but a permanent trap for Israel. While it would end Israeli occupation over 2.5 million Palestinians, as certain as the sun rises in the east, it would consign the Jewish State to perpetual hostility and paroxysms of warfare from its neighbors.
It would make insecurity and hostility for all involved permanent. It would return Israel to the world as it was in the 1950s, with no prospect for solving the conundrum of Arabs and Jews living on the same land. Of all the available options for ending this mayhem, it is the worst.
The two-state solution cannot be called a “delusion” because no one knows how it would work in practice. There are plans for sharing Jerusalem, there are plans for connecting the West Bank to Gaza, there are plans for adjudicating the refugee issue created on both sides without a wholesale “right of return.”
The United States could open two embassies on real estate it already leases in both sides of the City of David. East Jerusalem would house one US ambassador for Palestine; and West Jerusalem, another for Israel. Rather than being inconceivable, the two-state solution is easily imagined.
What has turned the two-state solution into a delusion is a collective failure of leadership from the four parties enmeshed in this conflict. Four pathetic “leaderships.” Four money-obsessed autocracies.
The Palestinians are currently torn from within by two horrific alternatives. On one side stands Mahmoud Abbas — an 82-year-old terrorist-turned-kleptocrat, corrupt up to his neck, now in the 10th year of a four-year term without an election in sight. As Grant Rumley and Amr Tibon have written in their biography The Last Palestinian, Abbas “has morphed into another garden-variety regional autocrat.” He is interested not in the fate of the Palestinian people but in clinging to power in Ramallah.
On the other side stands the Islamist mutation of Palestinian identity known as Hamas. Ever since Hamas ran Abbas out of Gaza in 2006, the slums of Gaza City have become a petri dish of seething hatred and enforced poverty. Hamas may have started as an incorruptible terrorist movement, but it is now squirreling away money for its own aggrandizement, brutally repressing even a hint of dissent. It is interested not in the fate of the Palestinian people but in clinging to power in Gaza.
Until the people of Palestine can choose between these two mutually hate-filled rivals, there has been and is today simply no one for Israel to talk to who can deliver.
But that’s only half the story.
While past Israeli governments have looked towards peaceful solutions, the current iteration is concerned with one thing only — ensuring the continued rule of Benjamin Netanyahu. With two simultaneous corruption inquiries breathing down his neck, Netanyahu is only a bit less damaged than his counterpart Abbas.
By now it is clear that this brilliant man is doing little more than lining his pockets. He is yet another garden-variety regional autocrat, but because he exists within a more or less functional democracy, he waits for the police to knock on his door. He will probably end up like his corrupt predecessor Ehud Olmert — in prison and an outcast from Israeli civic life.
He is not interested in his people’s fate — he is interested in clinging to power.
And then there’s the administration in Washington. Once regarded by all sides as the only plausible mediator in the quixotic pursuit of a just and lasting peace, it is now focused on one thing and one thing only — preserving the brand name TRUMP. Because he emerged in a great democracy, this national leader too awaits a prosecutor’s knock at the door. Corrupt in ways that Abbas and Netanyahu couldn’t imagine, this White House cares nothing for Israelis or Palestinians.
Two states, one state, no state. The message from Donald Trump and his supporters to the peoples of this conflict couldn’t be more clear:
“Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”
The two-state delusion is the greatest obstacle to peace
By Jeff Ballabon and Bruce Abramson
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Arab-Israeli conflict is entering a phase more likely to lead to resolution than any that preceded it. The mindless mantra “there is no alternative to the two-state solution” is giving way to reality. The Palestinian Authority has never been a partner for peace. A 23rd Arab state shoehorned into Israel would solve nothing. And plenty of superior, principled alternatives exist.
The two-state solution is a proven failure. A bad idea, derived from a lie, perpetuating instability and suffering. It is, in fact, a relabeling of the PLO’s 1974 Phased Plan: the PLO announcement that it would “liberate” territory piecemeal and wage its genocidal war from each new parcel.
The relabeling was designed to give plausible deniability to those who regret allowing the long-suffering Jews to exercise self-determination. That it sucked in Israelis tired of policing hostile Arab towns and Diaspora Jews chasing approval and acceptance was an added bonus. Tragically, the scheme achieved its primary goal: It recast one of the world’s most tolerant, multi-ethnic, peace-loving, life-affirming bastions of human rights as an illegitimate oppressor.
How did this defamatory campaign deceive so many into believing such an obvious absurdity? Particularly when, for decades, no decent person supported a terrorist PLO state? When as late as 1980, even anti-Israel Jimmy Carter said he was “opposed to an independent Palestinian state” because it would be a “destabilizing factor” in the region?
It began in the early 1990s, when elements of the Israeli far left and the PLO — in clear violation of Israeli law — hatched a “peace” plan: The Arabs would concede the legitimacy of Jewish self-determination in the historic Jewish homeland and, in return, Israel would accept the lie of a distinct “Palestinian” people, partition the homeland (yet again) and create a quasi-governmental Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin agreed — with the caveats that Israel would never concede any part of Jerusalem and never accept a new Arab state. Pocketing these enormous concessions, the PLO dug in.
President Bill Clinton injected the U.S. to finalize the Oslo Accord of 1993. Suddenly, terrorist Arafat was a statesman and the terrorist PLO a government. In 1998, with PLO terrorism still active, first lady Hillary Clinton sent shock waves when she implied support for an independent Palestine; the White House’s repudiation was immediate and unequivocal.
In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak broke the final taboos, offering the PLO a state and parts of Jerusalem. Arafat responded by launching a terror war. Barak and Clinton sweetened the offer. Arafat was clear: He preferred war.
Arafat’s rejection should have ended the charade. But as Arafat foresaw, Oslo’s inversion of oppressed and oppressor hopelessly warped global public opinion. The 21st century has enshrined Arafat’s fabrications while challenging Jewish history. It ignores the character of leadership and culture, bestowing honors upon Arab terror movements while defaming Israel’s liberal democracy. It vilifies those — like George W. Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu — who would condition statehood on evidence of a willingness to coexist. No longer a stratagem for peace, “Palestinian” statehood has become an entitlement.
But 21st-century events have demolished the broader myth system on which “Palestinian” peoplehood rests. Iraq and Syria have followed the Lebanese path. As those multi-ethnic European constructs collapsed, their citizens quickly shed the state-based identities they had been assigned in favor of the ethnic- or faith-based identities that had defined their families for centuries. They fight — and die — as Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Alawites, Druze and Christians.
That collapse is hardly coincidental — and it is highly relevant. There have never been distinct Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese — or Palestinian — nations. Having all but purged their once-vibrant Christian minority, today’s “Palestinians” are merely Sunni Arabs whose patrilineal ancestors resided west of the Jordan River during the final two years of the Mandate for Palestine. A new state affirming misguided labels that European imperialists imposed upon the indigenous peoples of the Middle East cannot possibly help stabilize the troubled region.
The clear alternative is a return to the pre-Oslo reliance on responsible state actors —i.e., Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel — to provide citizenship and opportunity to the stateless Arabs. The sooner Israel stops paying lip service to the “two-state” lie, the sooner it can leave behind its self-inflicted wounds. The primary objections to this have always been that a, the world will condemn Israel, and b, those countries won’t comply. Both are absurd. The world condemns Israel freely already, and the United States can ensure those countries are incentivized to comply.
To achieve the stability the region so desperately needs, the Arab states must reintegrate nearly 20 million displaced or stateless Arabs chafing beneath artificial Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese or Palestinian labels. Far from laying this issue at Israel’s feet, any “solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict must arise within that regional context. The international community should treat Arab refugees like it treats other refugees — humanely rather than as political pawns and cannon fodder. Integrating them into communities with whom they claim ethnic and cultural kinship is the best way to help refugees build new lives.
The myths of “Palestinian peoplehood” and a “two-state solution” have impeded peace, stability, security, development, regional integration and justice. Arab terrorists lauded as martyrs and freedom fighters murder and maim Jews. Jew-haters treating Arabs as expendable rob millions of educational and economic opportunities, basic dignity and decent lives. The American Jewish community tears itself apart. College students from Christian and Jewish Zionist homes find themselves supporting an Israel defamed across campus as an oppressor. And in living memory of the Holocaust and of the miraculous return of Jews to their indigenous homeland, the United Nations — supported by an outgoing American president — denies the Jews’ connection to Judea and demands their ethnic cleansing. All in the service of a lie.
Reality-based plans have languished in the face of Oslo’s persistent myths. All start from two key principles: Israeli sovereignty must continue within secure borders, and the Arab states must assume primary responsibility for the welfare of Arab refugees. These principles are grounded in history, morality and law, in Jewish security and Arab development, and in the critical goal of regional stability.
What has worked around the world will work in the Middle East if the Arabs allow it to work. The Arabs will allow it only if pushed. President Donald Trump, for the first time in history, has begun to push in the right direction.
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic, a senior fellow at the American Conservative Union’s Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy, and an adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Bruce Abramson is the president of Informationism, Inc., vice president and director of policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.