Once again, the United Nations calls on Israel to “halt and reverse” its decision this week to approve almost 800 new homes in West Bank settlements. (The Times of Israel, January 19, 2021).
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “Settlement expansion… further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines.”
But no one ever questions the need for a “contiguous Palestinian State.”
As in many other places, Palestine could be a State without fully contiguous territory. For example, Kaliningrad is the Russian exclave located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. The territory, the northern part of the former East Prussia is geographically separated from the rest of Russia. And the United States of America includes Alaska, geographically separated from the lower 48 states by Canada.
Perhaps the most creative solution to the issue of non-contiguous territory is found in the areas between Belgium and the Netherlands known as Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau. Baarle-Hertog is part of Belgium, but fully within the Netherlands. Baarle-Nassau belongs to the Netherlands. And there are Dutch enclaves within the Belgian exclave.
Ownership of land is not the same as the use of land. All over the world, nations maintain extra-territorial lands — for embassies and military bases. Under a permanent peace agreement, Palestinians could lease some land to Israel, perhaps for a security zone along the border with Jordan. Or Palestine could lease the land under outlying settlements to Israel so that these communities do not need to be dismantled.
And under a permanent peace agreement, it wouldn’t matter that parts of Palestine would surround parts of Israel.
It is time for creative thinking to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
And without creative thinking the two-state solution to the conflict would produce a fortress Palestinian State, with fences, barriers, walls, and checkpoints between Palestine and Israel. How is that any different from the current situation?