Monday, February 23, 2009

A Reasonable Yet Completely Unworkable Solution for Israel and Palestine

The Land of Milk, Honey, and Political Parties recently held its parliamentary elections, which doesn't really decide the prime minister because no one ever gets a majority. Instead, the president (currently the ubiquitous Shimon Peres) gets to decide who gets first crack at putting together a workable coalition. The full results are here, but the major parties will be given seats as follows (there are 120):

- Kadima (center): 27
- Likud (righties): 26
- Yisrael Beiteinu (think Jewish Pat Buchanan): 15
- Labor (lefties): 13
- Shas (Jewish Pat Robertson in party form): 11

Assorted small parties, often single-issue types, make up the balance.

Technically, that means that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni should get first crack at the government. However, the only natural major ally for Kadima is Labor - there are more right-wingers total there than left-wingers and centrists. As a result, Peres is letting Likud chief Binyamin Netanyahu (a former PM - Israeli political power is passed around between approximately six people) form the government. However, Netanyahu will probably bring Kadima into the coalition so he doesn't have to rely on crazy people like the National Union (4 seats).

Anyway, it's probably unlikely that any steps towards peace over there are going to come out of this mess. Before the election, Livni made waves by stating plainly that Israel is going to have to give the Palestinians a state, and that's just the way it is. Netanyahu responded by saying that he'd rather focus on economic development and to hell with a second state. The sad part is, they both have a point. A single state is simply a non-starter with too many people, and the PA is currently nowhere near economically viable as a separate unit.

So here's my idea. It's loosely based on Britain's arrangement with China over Hong Kong. What should happen is this: the PA should submit itself fully to Israeli authority. Israelis would be in charge of policing the West Bank and Gaza and ensuring that nobody blows anything up. In return, Israel should:

- Remove all internal roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza
- Freeze all Israeli settlement in the West Bank and continue the settlement ban on Gaza
- Remove the economic blockade on Palestinian goods; allow PA residents to trade freely with other states
- Guarantee property rights of Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza, and issue Arab landowners deeds for their land
- Implement programs encouraging entrepreneurship among Arabs in the WB and Gaza
- Most importantly, guarantee the creation of a Palestinian state on land consisting of 90% of the land area occupied by Israel in 1967 on a set date, say, 20 years from now.

The advantages of this are obvious. Palestinians need economic development to be a viable state, but there's not enough resources to keep things stable and they can't agree on a leadership. And because there's no political stability, there's no economic development. It's clear that Palestinians are in a vicious cycle that they can't get out of on their own - statecraft requires money, and there's no money there because there's no state. What this plan does is give the PA territories the political stability necessary to form a reasonable economy, along with giving them the tools needed to start an economy (property rights and capital). PA nationalists ought to be mollified by the promise - hopefully backed by American administrations - to grant independence to Palestine on a set date, and the PA can improve its governing ability as the economy grows. That way, an end to the occupation is in sight, and that would only encourage the Palestinians to take control of their own affairs. And when the occupation does end, the West Bank and Gaza will have an economy that will leave them able to survive as an independent state.

Of course, nationalists on either side are too strong to allow this plan to occur. Oh well. I think it's a good idea, anyway.

No comments: