Towards the end of the election campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would not be established while he was Prime Minister. After winning the election, however, Netanyahu said that he was still committed to the two-state solution. So the question is, does the Israeli Prime Minister believe in a two-state solution or not? I can’t read Bibi’s mind, but something tells me that he would prefer that the two-state solution not be allowed to happen. My guess is that he accepts the two-state solution in theory, but not in practice, because he knows that the Palestinians will never agree to the conditions that every Israeli government, both left wing and right wing, has always insisted upon: demilitarization, security arrangements to protect Israel’s borders, the negation of the Palestinians’ so-called “Right of Return” that would compromise Jewish independence, and so forth. If this is the case, then I think we should all assume that as long as Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of Israel, there will be no Palestinian state. Okay, so if a Palestinian state is not in the offing, what should we expect as Netanyahu begins a new mandate?
I would say that the future looks pretty bleak. Recently, for example, the IDF has warned that continuing to freeze funds destined for the Palestinian Authority could lead to more violence (see: IDF Warns: Freeze in Palestinian Funds Could Fuel West Bank Unrest). The fact of the matter is that if Palestinians don’t see an improvement in their lives soon, they’re going to get a lot nastier than the already are. But of course, if there’s no two-state solution in site, what hope do Palestinians have of a better life? Moreover, what hope to Israelis have that they won’t have to continue putting up with Palestinian terrorism? These questions need answers, but so far, Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t providing any, and this has to change. Okay, so Bibi doesn’t want a Palestinian state. On this, I agree with him, but at the same time, if he’s not going to accept the solution put forth by the international community, as bad as it may be, then he needs to provide an alternative.
So what alternative is there? Actually, there have always been alternative solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by various sources. Even I put out my own idea for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement (see: My Own Personal Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan). The problem is that I don’t see Israel and the Palestinians agreeing to anything substantial in the near future. Hence, the best we can hope for is temporary measures – measures that will not resolve the conflict, but will at least make it more bearable for both sides. One idea, espoused by Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Beit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party involves annexing the territory in Area C, a term dating back to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which refers to territory in Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank, that is under full Israeli control. Bennett has proposed giving full Israeli citizenship to Palestinians residing in this territory and allowing them the same freedom of movement that other Israelis have. I like this idea because it would dramatically improve the lives of many Palestinians. They would have much better economic prospects without the bother of checkpoints and other military restrictions. I would tweak Bennett’s proposal a bit, however, so that we do not formally annex Area C, but simply apply Israeli law to the territory. I would also argue against giving the Palestinians in Area C full Israeli citizenship. After all, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan already gave all the Palestinians in the so-called West Bank citizenship, so why should Israel have to? As far as I’m concerned, the Hashemites dug the hole for themselves, so let them live in it!
Overall, I would say that if anything is to be done to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more manageable, Israel is going to have to take unilateral actions. Yes, that’s right, unilateral. I know that this is a bad word amongst the leaders of the international community, especially Neville Chamberlain wannabes like U.S. President Barack Obama, but the reality is that unless Israel takes action by itself, nothing on the ground will change.