Changing the Paradigm

The time has come to reexamine the paradigm of ‘two states for two peoples’ – Israel, and a Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on July 5, 2007.)

Changing a paradigm may be as difficult as abandoning a deeply ingrained conception, but sometimes that is just what is needed. The time has come to reexamine the paradigm of “two states for two peoples” – Israel, and a Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

This model for the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, first promoted by the far left, the admirers of Yasser Arafat and the advocates of “peace now,” has made gradual inroads into the minds of most Israelis, and has been embraced by those who in the past were its most vocal opponents, like Ariel Sharon. It is now looked upon as axiomatic by Israelis, as well as by most foreign observers. U.S. President George Bush’s road map, enthusiastically accepted by Sharon’s government, and now religiously followed by Tzipi Livni, is an elaboration of this paradigm. By now it has become a holy cow that you touch at your peril.

Underlying the paradigm is the assumption that in what used to be the British Mandatory territory west of the Jordan river live two nations – Jews and Palestinians – each entitled to establish a nation-state in order to attain self-determination in part of this territory. The Jews having already done so, it is now only proper that the Palestinians will do the same. If this has not occurred as yet, it nevertheless is bound to happen sooner or later, and there is no use resisting the inevitable. On the contrary, every effort must be made to further this process. According to Livni, the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state west of the Jordan River has become one of Israel’s national goals.

It is convenient to assume that within the boundaries drawn by Messrs. Sykes and Picot during World War I, live different nations – the Iraqi nation, the Syrian nation, the Jordanian nation and, of course, the Palestinian nation since Churchill separated what used to be Transjordan from the rest of Mandatory Palestine in 1922. These nations certainly did not come into being instantaneously at the conclusion of World War I, but are assumed to have developed a national identity in the intervening close to 90 years. As for the Iraqi nation, this has been called into question by recent events there. Who knows about the Syrian nation, and the Jordanian nation, composed of more than 60 percent Palestinians? It is just the Palestinians that more than the others seem to have developed a national identity since 1948, displaced by the creation of Israel from a good part of their natural habitat, abandoned by their Arab allies, having to rely on themselves for the achievement of their goals.

Did the Palestinians west of the Jordan river see themselves as part of the Jordanian nation while Judea and Samaria were annexed to Jordan and awarded Jordanian citizenship during the period 1949-1967? Would return of Jordanian sovereignty to Judea and Samaria satisfy their feelings of national identity? At the present these are strictly hypothetical questions, because the rulers of Jordan simply do not want that headache; they made that clear 20-plus years ago. For that matter, it is clear that the Egyptians, who invaded Gaza in 1948, stayed there until 1956, and returned after the Israeli withdrawal in 1957, see no reason to take responsibility for Gaza. None of the Arab states are prepared to integrate the Palestinian refugees in their midst. And Israel, which has integrated the Palestinians living in Israel as equal citizens, does not want to integrate additional Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza as citizens of Israel. The sad fact is that nobody wants the Palestinians.

Does that mean that the establishment of a Palestinian state is the only solution? That Gaza must be linked to Judea and Samaria? What may have seemed obvious until recently has been called into question by the recent violence in Gaza. Had the Palestinians only shown that they are capable of governing themselves, of suppressing terrorism, so essential an element of national governance in the Middle East, of abiding by agreements signed by their leaders, the paradigm of two states for two nations might have seemed the appropriate one. But who wishes for a state where violence reigns, and acts of terrorism are encouraged? And who wants such a state as a neighbor? It is all very well to talk of strengthening Mahmoud Abbas in the hope that he well bring stability to the Palestinian territories and suppress terrorism, but is this a realistic outlook? Can he really be expected to take control of Judea and Samaria, and more challenging yet, to wrest control of Gaza from Hamas? As things stand now, it looks like we better start looking for another paradigm.

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