Robert Stark

Without Either Gaza or Jordan There is no Two State Solution

As a Zionist, I unreservedly support peace through a just and fair agreement with the Palestinian Arabs, and with Israel’s neighbors. Therefore, like most Israelis and like every Prime Minister since Ehud Barak, I unabashedly support a two state solution. I also support a peace based on the vision of Prime Minister Rabin, which allows for autonomy but stops short of creation of a new State on Israel’s borders. In any case, any final arrangement must take into account not only the political needs of a future Palestinian State but the security needs of Israel as well. After all, it is not unreasonable for a peace agreement to accommodate the basic needs of both sides to an international conflict. So lets familiarize with the needs of both parties, and then see how best we can accommodate them in pursuit of peace.

A Palestinian State will require ease of access to its various corners and center, which means it must consist of contiguous territory with defined borders. A Palestinian State will require the independence to make its own international agreements, to implement them, to form and sustain its own military, to rely on its own international and domestic air ports, to a large living space for an agricultural base and for industrialization. Israel needs geographic deterrence against future invasion and the ability to appropriately stop aggression from any territory adjacent to its borders.

Undoubtedly, there are other details to work out. Most notable is how to share the scarce water supplies in the arid region. But such issues remain second to the needs described above. Mostly because in countless talks between the parties, things like water rights and how to share the essentials were areas of agreement. Hence, a viable two state solution means that a Palestinian State may exist only if Israel’s borders are secure enough to continue to significantly deter aggression and invasion.

The hills and mountains of Judea/Samaria over look all of Israel’s coast line cities, and the country’s center. The distance from it to Israel’s international airport would be only 2 miles. The distance between it and Tel Aviv and most of the coastal cities would be 9-11 miles. And much of these targets would be clearly visible from those slopes, even without the use of binoculars. This vulnerability is so great, that a Palestinian State on those slopes would resemble a hand poised around Israel’s throat. Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, sits on a mountain of Judea itself. Thus it is only a few yards from what could one day be a new Arab State with a new Arab army.

Hence, if terrorists or soldiers would fire from those slopes, they would have far greater precision than terrorists currently have in Gaza. From those slopes, even crude rockets or mortars would be able to shut down Israel’s main highways, industrial centers, city centers, and military bases. This would mean that in the event of a call up of Israel’s reserves, the mobilization would not only be dangerous but also it could take too long for reservists to reach the front before the front line is no longer in existence.  Furthermore, Israel would be unable to do anything about rocket fire from those slopes, for any military campaign against terrorists would entail an incursion over foreign borders and amount to a military invasion of an Arab state! Just imagine the reaction of the Arab League and the Islamic Conference, and possibly the condemnations from the UN and EU.

The distances involved can be unnerving for any security minded individual. For comparison, the Syrians were ready to discuss peace in 1973 when Israel came within 25 miles of Damascus and the Egyptians were ready to discuss peace when Israel was only 60 miles from Cairo! Yet, any invasion from that territory would leave Israel with a strategic depth of 10 miles! Any invasion would have more than a good chance of splitting Israel into North and South.

On the other hand, if you include Judea/Samaria into Israel’s width then Israel is 40 miles wide. A small, but much more reasonable span of space for Israel to mobilize and respond to threats. Furthermore, the Judea/Samaria slopes over look the lowest point on Earth along the Jordan river ridge. This steep mountainous slope prevents any military strategist standing at the bottom of this vantage point from seriously considering an attack on Israel through any part of its Eastern borders. The difficulty any armor vehicles, artillery, or mechanized units (without which a successful invasion is nearly impossible) would have in navigating this terrain would be so great as to render the idea totally impractical, certainly under combat conditions. And of course, with the Israeli presence at the top of this terrain, any hostile activity would be seen from far away and provide Israel with ample time to mobilize its reserves to avert disaster. These factors are the reason that Jordan attacked Israel in 1967, when Israel did not have this defensive wall, but not in 1973 when Israel did possess this vital piece of geography. The whole decision was simply a matter over whether Jordanian troops were standing West or East of this terrain.

My attempt was to summarize the issue of security, and I hope that I painted it sufficiently for any reader to understand the precarious situation of an Israel sans Judea/Samaria. Still, as I said above, peace is possible. Israel can make significant concessions for peace, but the Palestinian leadership must make some concessions as well. The strategic concessions for each side would be as follows: To prevent the easily successful invasion of Israel, any Palestinian Sovereignty on the West Bank must be demilitarized. However, this would not be the unprecedented situation of a whole state that is demilitarized. After all, Gaza would be the greater half of any Palestinian State and that part of a future Palestinian State can be militarized. Indeed Gaza already is militarized. Hence, any future Palestinian State would be only partially demilitarized. Plenty of examples of a partially demilitarized State exist in history including Germany and Japan after World War II and, more related to the topic, Egypt in the Sinai desert region.

To prevent terrorists from firing mortars or rockets into Israel with all the protection a sovereign and independent state can provide them, Israel would at the very least retain the Settlement blocs of Judea/Samaria (3-5% of the total territory). Their geography is such that they provide cover for the center and coast of Israel from otherwise easily precise rocket attacks.

To prevent the easily successful invasion of Israel by forces other than Palestinian, Israeli troops must remain present on the Jordan River Ridge as an early warning mechanism. For without this mechanism, it is reasonable for ground troops and armor vehicles to be air lifted under cover of darkness and in complete radio silence into a future Palestinian State overlooking Israel’s cities below. At that point, a defense of Israel would be bleak at best.

The Palestinians would have a recognized Palestinian State in Gaza and the currently autonomous areas of the West Bank. Though, it would be ideal for the current PA areas to continue as a part of Israel and enjoy full civil rights as residents of Israel but still be Palestinian nationals who will vote in Palestinian elections in Gaza.

However, all of this may be a pointless exercise. The Two State Solution already exists. Jordan was created entirely out of land that was part of the Palestine Mandate and of course it was always part of geographic Palestine. Jordan has always had a Palestinian Arab majority, its Parliament has long had a Palestinian-Arab majority of legislators, and Jordan has had several Palestinian Arab Prime Ministers. The Queen of Jordan is a Palestinian Arab woman, and this makes the King’s son half Palestinian. So whether an Arab Spring topples Jordan’s throne, or whether the King’s son eventually ascends as first in line to the throne, Jordan is a Palestinian State.

Throughout the decades since its establishment, Jordan’s Kings and other leaders have declared it to be the Palestinian State. They have proved as much by making Jordan behave as the Palestinian national home, such as when Jordan took in and granted citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian-Arab refugees from Iraq during the first gulf war. Today, the PA and Hamas still bring up the ultimate question of whether a merger will occur between any new Palestinian State in the West Bank and Jordan. Truthfully, the ideal situation for both sides’ needs, would be for the Arabs of the West Bank to be represented politically in Jordan. At the same time they would enjoy full and equal civil rights as residents of Israel. This would be the best of both worlds for all sides.

It is apparent based on the needs of the two sides that without a political solution that involves either Gaza or Jordan, there can be no just resolution of this conflict.

About the Author
Robert Stark is a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, an advocate for Israel, and an attorney in New York City.