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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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The Three-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

One reason is that the term “three-state solution” has been misused in the past in confusing ways. Another reason is that even those who used the term correctly often thought of it as merely a temporary stage, imagining that Gaza and the West Bank would eventually reunite. Thirdly, a few people did envisage this as a permanent reality, but there were weaknesses in how they made their case.

Here credit must be given to Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, an Iranian academic and long-term US resident. He may not be very popular, whether as an apologist for Iranian President Ahmadinejad or because of his unfortunate embroilment in controversies. Back in 2007, however, he wrote a prophetic short analysis entitled “The Death of the Two-State Solution.” There he argued: “Call it a nightmare, a fiasco, fragmentation, but not temporary, as all the vital signs indicate that the political partition of the West Bank and Gaza is a fait accompli, unlikely to reverse short of an all-out Israeli military invasion and reoccupation of Gaza.”

The first to speak of three states in this sense may have been Jamal Dajani. On June 15, 2007, while Hamas was consolidating its armed conquest of Gaza, he proclaimed on LinkTV: “The new reality on the ground is that we have three states on historic Palestine: a Hamas-run state in Gaza, a Fatah-run state in the West Bank and Israel in between.” Dajani was closely, but independently, followed by Charles Levinson on June 17 in the Daily Telegraph.

More recently (March 26, 2012), the practical reality of three states was briefly noted by Khaled Abu Toameh in Gatestone. Unlike Afrasiabi, however, he envisages it as a temporary phenomenon: “The three-state solution is, for now, the only, and best, option on the table. The two-state solution should be put on hold until the Palestinians reunite and start speaking in one voice. Meanwhile, those who are trying to promote a one-state solution are just wasting their time and the time of most Israelis and Palestinians.” Similar views appeared in 2010 in a blog on the Huffington Post by Chuck Freilich and a blog on CultureFuture by Guy Yedwab. But the earliest version of the “temporary” conception may be a brief opinion piece by Jacob Savage that appeared on the same day in 2007 (June 20) as Afrasiabi’s article.

Even more recently (June 27, 2012), the de facto status of Gaza as an independent state was noted by Giora Eiland, a reserve general who has variously served as security advisor to Israeli governments. In an op-ed for Ynet, he argued: “Israel’s policy must be premised on the understanding that Gaza is a de facto state in every way. It has clear geographical boundaries, a stable regime that was elected democratically, and an independent foreign policy.”

From that premise, however, Eiland drew only limited consequences. Mainly, he wants Israel to treat hostilities of any kind emanating from Gaza as the responsibility of the Hamas government there and of the citizenry that freely elected Hamas to power.

Back in 2008, Eiland propagated a different kind of three-state solution: Israel, Jordan and Egypt. (Wikipedia currently gives a wrong link to Eiland’s proposal, a link that has been widely copied on Internet; the correct link to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is here.) He wanted Jordan and Egypt to resume the responsibilities for the West Bank and Gaza that they had exercised prior to the Six Day War of 1967. His proposal was echoed in 2009 by John Bolton, A similar idea was recently floated (May 3, 2012) by Likud Knesset member Danny Danon. It is unthinkable, however, that either Jordan or Egypt would ever want such a headache, even if they did not have all their current problems.

Yet another “three-state solution” was recently proposed (March 5, 2012) by Mordechai Nisan: Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. The Palestinians, he thought, should be encouraged to migrate to Jordan and overthrow the Hashemite monarchy there. Then the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon could be evicted to Jordan as well. This would suit Israel very well, of course, but the Hashemite army would combat it with all possible means. As for Lebanon, all the factions want to evict the Palestinians, but only if they can be sent directly to Israel.

About the Author: Malcolm Lowe is a regular contributor to the Gatestone Institute.

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