Eyes Wide Shut

This is another way of describing denial, a common human phenomenon – preferring the figment of one’s imagination to a view of reality.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on May 5, 2009.)

Eyes wide open, but actually shut tight. This is another way of describing denial, a common human phenomenon – preferring the figment of one’s imagination to a view of reality. Those who keep repeating the mantra of “two states for two peoples” as if it were a magic formula that could cure all the ills of all the people in the Middle East suffer from this type of obsessive behavior – behavior that leads nowhere and diverts attention from a rational analysis of the real problems.

Those of courageous spirit, who dare to free themselves of this obsession and step back in an attempt to see clearly the problems facing Israel and the Palestinians, will find the following picture:

1. The State of Israel has a population that is about 20 percent Palestinian.

2. The Kingdom of Jordan has a population that is 70 percent Palestinian – and if the Bedouin population is included in that category, as it is in Israel, the figure rises to 100 percent Palestinian.

3. The Gaza Strip has a population that is 100 percent Palestinian, ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization supported by Iran that views the destruction of Israel as the only solution to the Palestinians’ problems.

4. Judea and Samaria, usually misnamed the West Bank, has a population that is 90 percent Palestinian and 10 percent Jewish. It is essentially controlled by the Israel Defense Forces in cooperation with a dysfunctional layer of Palestinian Authority bureaucracy.

5. The “Palestinian” territories, the West Bank and Gaza, are not contiguous.

6. There is at this time no Palestinian authority capable of implementing any agreement it might sign with Israel.

The origins of this situation can be traced back to the British government’s decision in 1922 to separate Transjordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan) from the territories that the League of Nations mandated to Britain for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, as well as the invasion of western Palestine by the Egyptian and Jordanian armies in 1948, which left them in control of Gaza and the West Bank, respectively, after the armistice agreements with Israel in 1949. The origins can also be traced back to the aggression against Israel in 1967, which resulted in these areas coming under Israeli control; and Israel’s unilateral evacuation of the Gaza Strip and its uprooting of Gaza’s Jewish population in 2005.

After the 1949 armistice agreements, Jordan annexed the West Bank and awarded Jordanian citizenship to its Palestinian population, seeing no need to establish an additional Palestinian state. The Egyptians seemed satisfied with their control of the Gaza Strip and made no move to establish a Palestinian state there. Egyptian and Jordanian aggression against Israel in 1967 brought about the present situation.

Why is a return to the situation that existed before the Six-Day War – the West Bank under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip under Egyptian control – not being considered as a natural step toward normalizing of the situation of these areas’ Palestinian residents? The reason, as everyone knows, is that neither the Jordanians nor the Egyptians currently want control over this population. They consider the Palestinian population of these areas a breeding ground for terrorism that might endanger the stability of the Jordanian and Egyptian regimes were they to be put under Jordanian or Egyptian sovereignty.

The present Jordanian and Egyptian regimes are, aside from Israel, the only ones in the Middle East that have proven themselves capable of effectively combating terrorism. Nevertheless, they do not want to overload the system. And for the very same reason, the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories, which would be Israel’s next-door neighbor, currently represents a serious threat to the State of Israel.

If Palestinian terrorism were to be eliminated, the attitude of the key players – Israel, Jordan and Egypt – would most likely change, and options that are not realistic at this time might become acceptable. The obvious implication of this analysis is that the immediate goal of those who seek to improve the situation should be eliminating Palestinian terrorism, and that no substantial political progress is likely to be achieved until that mission is accomplished. And as the IDF’s success in combating terrorism in the West Bank in recent years has shown, this is not an impossible mission.

Imposing a “two-state” solution at this time is not feasible, and stubbornly insisting that it is the only future solution, to the exclusion of all others, could very well be counterproductive. It is time to look at some other paradigms.

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