Recent events have again demonstrated that the Gaza Strip, not the West Bank, constitutes the most serious, pressing, and strategic challenge to Israel and regional stability. Yet a strategy that resolves the situation in Gaza also constitutes the richest opportunity to end the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict. With the right recalibration, the Gaza Strip can become nothing less than the linchpin for regional security and prosperity.
That recalibration in Gaza has a name. It is called the New State Solution.
It calls for the creation of the state for the Palestinian people, located in Gaza and a coastal section of the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
Currently, the Hamas regime rules over two million Gazans, who are trapped in a small land area, absent any promise of a brighter future. Today’s Gaza has limited space for economic development, and Hamas continues to pose a threat not only to the State of Israel, but to the citizens of Gaza as well.
The New State Solution provides relief to these problems. It champions a relatively large state, delivering to Gazans a dramatically widened territory. It opens the door to economic development, which Gazans desperately need, including a seaport, airport, new cities in the Sinai, water desalination plants, and a new economic market.
ISIS’s stubborn, sustained, and bloody presence in northern Sinai would also be neutralized by the advent of the New State, backed by major international investment and military collaboration.
With the arrival of a Gazan population to the Sinai coastline, where new cities would begin to be constructed, ISIS’s presence would be dealt a severe blow. Perhaps even more critically, Egypt’s role in facilitating the New State would grant it significant international support, boosting Egypt’s economy, improving security, and reconstituting Egypt as the leading Sunni Arab state in the region.
Hamas, for its part, would face a major crossroads under such an arrangement. If confronted with a credible threat of military force, and if it believed that it was facing an existential threat, Hamas could morph itself into a tenable player within the New State. In theory, it could become a partner in this process.
This does not mean Hamas would change its basic ideology. Rather, that it could accommodate such an arrangement as part of its own strategy for survival. In the event that Hamas refuses to do so it would face the prospect of a military operation to topple its rule, clearing the path for Fatah, or new leadership, to take the helm.
From Israel’s perspective, a Palestinian state in northern Sinai and Gaza represents a more defensible security option compared to other options on the table.
One solution to multiple problems
The New State would require the international community to unite around a common understanding of the Gazan problem. That understanding should be based on the twin challenges facing Gaza: Regime – Hamas’s rule; and territory – the limited space available for growth and development.
Under the current reality, foreign donors have all but given up on injecting further funds into Gaza. Few donors want to provide funding that ends up being used to construct terror tunnels and manufacture rockets.
A viable Palestinian state in Sinai and Gaza, on the other hand, would see economic projects administered by Egypt and the international community during the initial stages. Investors and donors would have credible assurances that the funds would go towards the civilian economy, not terrorist activity.
Under such an arrangement, Gaza would become an opportunity for creating a new basis for Israeli–Palestinian peace, and for unifying Israel with the Sunni-Arab bloc, with US, EU, and Quartet support. Such a resolution would enable the Sunni-Arab axis to focus upon the issue that truly threatens it: Iran.
During extensive international lecture tours, I, along with several colleagues of similar standing and varied expertise, have introduced the New State to key members of the United States Senate and Congress, as well as to members of the British Parliament. I have also lectured at leading campuses throughout the US, UK, and Europe. Across this span of audiences, great enthusiasm for this vision was forthcoming. That enthusiasm stems from the fact that this vision is sustainable.
The Oslo Accords, while well intentioned, ultimately failed due to offering nothing more than two non-viable states—one living inside the other. The New State Solution realizes the two-state vision in a realistic manner; creating a sovereign, free Palestinian state, spanning a significant amount of territory, with access to a Mediterranean coastline, alongside the State of Israel.
With regard to the future of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank, there are many possible scenarios which have been put forth by proponents of the New State.
My personal view is that the current autonomy in Areas A and B would remain unchanged, except for a significant upgrade of the status of the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, who could immediately, finally claim citizenship in the New State. They could also become residents of the State of Israel if they so chose.
All parties stand to gain under this vision. It is for this reason that the world should now consider the New State Solution as the most practical resolution for this century-old conflict.
The Gaza Strip does constitute the most serious, strategic challenge today – but only if ignored or overlooked. If this challenge is viewed through the lens of opportunity instead of despair, Gaza can swiftly be converted into the key to regional, mutual victory for all parties and peoples concerned.
Edited By Sim Herring
Co-Edited By Benjamin Anthony
Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF or the Foreign Ministry. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.