Not One State, Not Two States, But a Three State Solution
The history of Gaza spans 4,000 years. Gaza was ruled, destroyed and repopulated by various dynasties, empires, and peoples. Originally a Canaanite settlement, it came under the control of the ancient Egyptians for roughly 350 years before being conquered and becoming one of the Philistines‘ principal cities. Gaza became part of the Assyrian Empire around 730 BCE. Alexander the Great besieged and captured the city in 332 BCE. Most of the inhabitants were killed during the assault, and the city, which became a center for Hellenistic learning and philosophy, was resettled by nearby Bedouins. The area changed hands regularly between two Greek successor-kingdoms, the Seleucids of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt, until it was besieged and taken by the Hasmoneans in 96 BCE.
Gaza was rebuilt by the Romans and was granted to Herod the Great. Throughout the Roman period, Gaza maintained its prosperity. A 500-member senate governed the city, which had a diverse population of Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians, Persians and Nabateans.
Gaza was conquered by the Muslims in 637 CE and most Gazans adopted Islam during early Muslim rule. Thereafter, the city went through periods of prosperity and decline. The Crusaders wrested control of Gaza from the Muslims in 1100, but were driven out by Saladin. Gaza was in Mamluk hands by the late 13th century, and became the capital of a province that stretched from the Sinai Peninsula to Caesarea. It witnessed a golden age under the Ottomans in the 16th century.
After the First World War, the League of Nations granted quasi-colonial authority over former Ottoman territories to Great Britain and France, with Gaza becoming part of the British Mandate of Palestine.
During the 1929 Palestine riots, the Jewish Quarter of Gaza was destroyed and most of Gaza’s Jewish families fled the city. In the 1930s and 1940s, Gaza underwent major expansion, with new neighborhoods, such as Rimal and Zeitoun being built along the coast, and the southern and eastern plains. Areas damaged in the riots underwent reconstruction. Most of the funding for these developments came from international organizations and missionary groups
At the conclusion of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Egypt was in control of Gaza and the surrounding area, that came to be called the Gaza Strip. Gaza’s population was augmented by an influx of refugees fleeing nearby cities, towns and villages that were captured by Israel. From 1948 until 1959, Gaza was nominally under the jurisdiction of the All-Palestine Government, an entity established by the Arab League during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, purportedly as the government for a liberated Palestine. However, the government was ineffective with little or no influence over events in Gaza and was dissolved by Cairo in 1959.
Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser issued several reforms in Gaza, including the expansion of educational opportunities and civil services, provision of housing and the establishment of local security forces. As in Egypt, political activity in Gaza was severely curtailed, but the government-sponsored Arab National Union was established in place of the All-Palestine Government that Nasser abolished in 1959, which gave the city’s citizens a greater voice in national politics.
In 1959, with the abolishment of the All-Palestine Government, Gaza officially became a part of the United Arab Republic, a union of Syria and Egypt, under the pan-Arab policy of Nasser. In reality, however, Gaza was under direct Egyptian military governorship. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, Nasser formally, but not practically, proclaimed that it would hold authority over Gaza.
Gaza was conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Under Israeli control, existing structures of administration in Gaza would be maintained and administrative tasks would continue to be executed by Palestinian civil servants. Although this policy of “government but not administration” was declared, some felt that the Israeli military frequently interfered in the city’s administration in order to control local violent incidents.
In September 1993, leaders of Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords calling for Palestinian administration of the Gaza Strip which was implemented in May 1994. Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza, leaving a new Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to administer and police the city. Led by Yasser Arafat, the PNA chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. The newly established Palestinian National Council held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.
In 2005, Israel implemented its unilateral disengagement plan under which it unilaterally withdrew Israeli armed forces and settlements from the Gaza Strip, including the Philadelphi Route, a narrow strip adjacent to the Gaza border with Egypt. Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian elections of 2006, staged a violent coup in June 2007 and has been in control of Gaza since then.
Today, Israel is determined to totally defeat Hamas and drive it out of Gaza, Southern Lebanon and Judea and Samaria. This war, as well as Israel’s desired outcome, represents a complete paradigm shift in the geopolitical situation as it affects the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
Perhaps it is time to think outside of the box or to shake the dust off previous attempts at a solution. Perhaps it is time to rethink “The Three State Solution”.
The original three-state solution, also called the Egyptian–Jordanian solution or the Jordan–Egypt option, is an approach to peace in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict by returning control of the West Bank to Jordan and control of the Gaza Strip to Egypt. I am proposing something a bit different. Instead of giving “control” of the Gaza Strip to Egypt, Gaza becomes a demilitarized state with security and guarantees administered by Egypt. The “West Bank” becomes a demilitarized Palestinian State with security and guarantees administered by Jordan. Both Egypt and Jordan would have additional support from the UAE, Qatar, Saudi, the EU and the US. This would bring the Abraham Accords to a brand new level.
Gaza would be able to thrive under this proposal. Because it is on the sea, it could have a harbor and a sea-coast airport. In a letter to the editor of The Jerusalem Post, a suggestion was made that Gaza could become “the Riviera of the Eastern Mediterranean”. It could become a tourist haven with its beautiful seacoast and beaches to rival Monaco.
The “West Bank” could finally stop fighting and flourish under a new and younger political leadership. As an added incentive, residents of “West Bank Palestine” would be allowed to work in both Israel and Jordan. Goods, services and people from “West Bank Palestine” would be able to travel from Israel, Jordan or a new airport to be built near Ramallah.
By granting state status to the State of Gaza and to the State of West Bank Palestine, these states take on all the responsibilities of statehood. From Israel’s perspective, Israel no longer has a terrorist threat on its border. If a conflict arises, the two new states will be bound by the same rules and international laws as other states. If a war should convene then Israel is no longer fighting terrorists but a legitimate country.
The history of Gaza shows that a historical, geographical and unique social entity exists in Gaza, separate from the West Bank. The refugees in Gaza have been living there for 75 years. The result is that there are three to four generations of Gazans who have a unique de-facto Gazan culture and reality. We have learned from past immigration experiences that an immigrant and a refugee becomes part of the new entity within just a few generations. After 3 generations it is clear that a resident of Gaza is not the same as a resident of Judea and Samaria.
It is time to throw out the old concepts and push forward with a more creative push for peace. Make the day after something to look forward to.