Two weeks ago the headlines of newspapers and social media were busy dealing with, of all things, Halva. The Belgian carrier Brussels Airlines had decided to remove Halva (made by Israeli manufacturer Achva) from their menu because the sweet is made in the Barkan industrial area in Samaria on the West Bank. Government ministers and members of the Knesset called for a boycott of Brussels Airllines, demanded to “wipe them of the flight schedules” and thousands of “talkback” activists in Israel and abroad exchanged verbal blows of “anti-Semites”, “terrorists”, “apartheid” and “fascism”.
It turns out that the minor crisis was easily resolved within a few days and passengers can now go back and savor Israeli Vanilla Halva after the company’s CEO and the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem explained to the Belgians what the reality on the ground looks like: The workers in the Israeli factories in the Barkan industrial area who make the Halva are Palestinian residents of Samaria. They are making a living and any kind of boycott of the factories where they work or their products would immediately harm their livelihood.
The failure of the Halva boycott, in a nutshell, shows the failure of the settlement enterprise and the failure of the “2 State Solution” that calls for a Palestinian State next to Israel. Like it or not, Israeli governments over time, often in cahoots with right wing movements, succeeded to build self-sustaining Jewish settlements in the West Bank that turned into an integral part of the local fabric of life and economy. The second generation of settlers is already raising the third generation , the settlements have spread all over the land, and despite the discrimination, the occasional violence and the problematic relations with the Palestinian neighbors, they all work and make a living together. 80% of the Palestinian economy is linked to Israel and the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority is a subcontractor to the IDF and Israeli security services, cooperating fully 24/7.
The concept of the 2 State Solution is based on the following assumptions:
- Many of the Jewish settlements can be removed and their inhabitants expelled back to within the Green Line. The minimum number necessary in a reasonable agreement is about 120,000 settlers (!).
- Local Palestinians who work in Israel, for Israeli businesses in the WB or for Palestinian businesses supplying the Israeli economy can be separated from Israel and their sources of livelihood. The premise is that they can be locked away behind a separation wall within a small and impoverished state of their own that has no real chance to find alternatives to the 5 BUSD bilateral trade with the Jewish State much of which will dissipate once the separation goes into effect.
Actually implementing this concept would be a way of repeating the “success” with Gaza… And just like in Gaza, the Palestinians are likely to respond like any impoverished population that is imprisoned and without hope would: with violence.
A weak Palestinian state in the West Bank is likely to become a victim of Islamic terror organizations and may well be a lot more dangerous than the Hamas regime in Gaza. No wonder then that the Israeli public and apparently the Palestinian public as well , are apprehensive about the 2 State Solution and that the political side supporting it, the left, has essentially collapsed rendering the solution politically implausible.
When one solution becomes impossible to implement other options crop up. The policy of the present government, maintaining the status quo, is almost as mistaken as the 2 State Solution that is called for so vocally by the opposition. A state without fixed borders is an entity subject to constant international criticism and violence. A situation where the Palestinians are de-facto residents and subjects of the State of Israel but do not elect its government is not just and not sustainable. From my conversations with many settlers I gather that they too are concerned about this injustice.
Even today, Palestinians are imprisoned behind fences and walls. No surprise then that they are frustrated and can be swayed to commit acts of terror and violence. While the number of terrorists among Israeli Arabs remains minuscule it is much higher among Palestinians in the territories. The Palestinian Authority is not functioning and does not provide basic services, nor does it ultimately succeed in preventing terror. Most of its subjects had enough but don’t, at this time, have a better alternative.
When there is no widely acceptable solution, unorthodox alternatives become relevant. A better approach is the direct opposite of what Herzog and Lapid from the opposition insist on: Instead of removing the Halva from the airline’s menu and by doing so harming the livelihood of production workers, let’s make the workers part of the enterprise. Instead of separating from the West Bank and fencing it off, Israeli law should be extended over Judaea and Samaria and all Palestinian residents should be entitled to full Israeli citizenship. Jewish settlements should be left in place and their status should be equal to that of their Palestinian neighbors. West Bank Palestinians should be part of Israel’s society and economy, like Israeli Arabs within the Green Line whose situation still calls for improvement but is way better than that of any Arab population in the Middle East.
It should be pointed out that contrary to all the fear mongering, Arabs and Palestinians are not a majority between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. Without the Gaza Strip, Jews are more than 60% of the population and the 3.5M Arabs are roughly one third while natural growth of both segments is roughly equal.
The approach I am talking about doesn’t presently have a political home but it is a lot more implementable than the 2 State Solution. It has supporters both on the right and the left, in the settlements, among the Arabs and Palestinians and in the Arab world.
This approach is not easy to implement and calls for major changes in the structure of government in Israel which has to decentralize to enable our large variety of Arab and Jewish tribes to run their lives in a more independent fashion. Nevertheless, a complex approach is certainly better than one that is dangerous and not implementable politically and would leave the problem simmering for another 50 years.