The future is already here, but people refuse to see it. Why? Because the world’s politicians and journalists froze their minds decades ago about how to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Every speech by Western leaders and every pontification by a Thomas Friedman has as its nucleus what I called – already back in 2003 – the “Dogmatic Chant.”
It runs as follows: “The Palestinians must end terrorism, the Israelis must totally freeze settlement activities, then there can quickly arise a Palestinian state whose borders will approximate the 1967 lines and the Middle East will know peace at last!” Read any of those speeches and pontifications and you will find that its total thought content boils down to just this, apart from the frills.
It is a dogma, because it is impervious to any new facts, and a chant, because so many authoritative politicians and journalists chant it together. Its greatest flaw is that it pretends that the biggest issue of all – the Palestinian demand for the so-called “right of return” – is inessential.
Thus the PA itself maintains refugee camps where PA leaders routinely assure the residents that there will be no peace with Israel until they all go away to where their great-grandparents lived before 1948. Never mind that those little lost villages in Israel would have to be expanded ten times to accommodate them all.
We also have a second major flaw in the Dogmatic Chant: it ignores the advantages, indeed the necessity, for Gaza and the West Bank to be encouraged to seek independence separately. Let nobody pretend that Gaza cannot survive alone. Gibraltar, Monaco and Hong Hong Kong are all, like Gaza, small heavily populated areas with a coastline, and all are thriving. So is Luxembourg.
Even Gaza is not doing so badly: it has its Olympic-size swimming pool (2010), upmarket shopping mall (2010), beach resorts and luxury hotels. Just look at the pictures on Internet of “A Tourist Trip to Gaza.” The main obstacle to further dramatic growth is Gaza’s bad habit of shooting missiles at Israel.
Everyone who is anyone has declared for a two-state solution: Israel and Palestine. Including Netanyahu and Abbas. Everyone is aware that all attempts to reach that solution quickly collapse. And almost everyone argues that the only alternative would be a one-state solution.
Hardly anybody wants to know that three states have emerged, de facto, in the area: Israel, West Bank, and Gaza. Or to acknowledge the advantages of this arrangement. Or to realize that only this – if anything – offers a basis for a stable future.
Let us begin by recalling what happened after Britain’s Indian Empire was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947. Originally, Pakistan consisted of two parts – West and East – divided by 1800 km (1100 m) of Indian territory. War quickly broke out between the two states. The occasion was the province of Kashmir and Jammu, which Pakistan demanded because of its Muslim majority. But its Hindu Maharajah ruler, who was given the choice in the partition agreement, opted to join India.
The war lasted from October 1947 to December 1948. Only a small part of Kashmir had then fallen into Pakistani hands. The dispute provoked another war in 1965 and threatened to go on forever. What changed the situation was the emergence of an independence movement in East Pakistan. In 1971 India helped East Pakistan to free itself from Pakistani military control and turn into the independent state of Bangladesh.
Since there is no particular friendship between Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Kashmir dispute thereafter posed a much smaller security threat to India. Thus when armed Pakistanis infiltrated a part of Kashmir in 1999, a vigorous response by the Indian army put a quick end to the affair.
In the meantime, all three countries play cricket against each other. So also does Sri Lanka, which had its own dispute with India over its Tamil minority. In the Middle East, for whatever reason, Britain’s historic role did not leave behind the civilizing influence of cricket — a sport in which all spectators constantly applaud fine plays by either side, including their opponents. But the other parallels with Israel and the Palestinians are evident.