Leaving aside the historical, religious, economic and political objections to an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, there is one issue that can’t be ignored: security. Israel has always insisted that security issues be settled before such things as borders, refugees, etc. Which of course makes sense, to a degree: no security means no Israel.
The US has made a proposal which is intended to allay Israeli concerns. It calls for an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley for a limited time (3 or 4 years) and for ‘Palestine’ to be “demilitarized of heavy weaponry” but with a “strong security force for internal security and fighting terrorism.” There are more details, including surveillance by US drones, etc. Apparently the — beyond ludicrous — idea of replacing the IDF with international peacekeepers has fallen by the wayside.
One problem is that no effective plan can possibly be accepted by the Palestinians, because it would have to allow the IDF freedom of action in the territories similar to what it has today. As everyone knows, the most heavily populated areas of Israel, as well as its international airport, are in easy rocket range of terrorists operating from the territories. If you wanted a sovereign state, would you agree to the presence of enemy troops in it? Why would they?
There is also the need to control the borders of the new state. If it is to be demilitarized to any degree, someone has to ensure that weapons are not imported. How sovereign is that? And will the ‘sovereign’ state be allowed to invite, say, Iranian troops if it wants?
Then there is the question of the ‘refugees’. There are millions of individuals claiming refugee status according to the special rules for Palestinians created by the UN. The PLO position has always been that they have a right to return to “their homes” in Israel, but that they will not be given citizenship in the new ‘Palestine’. So what will happen to them? Israel won’t take them, so they will either have to stay where they are forever, or be taken into ‘Palestine’, which can’t even support its present population.
Finally, and most importantly, even if — a big if — the PLO were sincere, what would a deal with it be worth? How will it defend itself against Hamas when the IDF isn’t around? And Hamas isn’t even the biggest problem anymore. Guy Bechor writes,
A new force is growing in the territories: The Salafi movement, part of which is called the Party of Liberation (“Hizb ut-Tahrir”) and whose center of activity is in Hebron. Two huge demonstrations of force held by the movement in central cities in Judea and Samaria were attended by tens of thousands, carrying the black al-Qaeda flags. They hate “the Authority” more than they hate Israel, and they hate Hamas too. They reject a Palestinian state and refuse to recognize any borders or negotiations. Their proclaimed aspiration is to establish Islamic caliphates all across the Middle East, and their point of solidarity is the Salafis in Syria, Lebanon and the rest of the Arab countries.
This week the al-Qaeda movement announced the establishment of its first branch in the Judea and Samaria territories, and the IDF has already killed three activists of this Salafi organization. The Salafis accused the Palestinian Authority of passing on the intelligence on their location to the IDF. Al-Qaeda admitted that the terrorists killed belonged to the movement and vowed to carry out additional acts of terror.
Let’s just imagine a reality in Judea and Samaria without the permanent presence of the IDF and the defense establishment. Why, within several days the territory will turn into Salafland. Will Secretary of State John Kerry rush to defend Israel with the “security arrangements” his experts suggest? Not to mention the fact that the Palestinian leadership has announced that it plans to import to the independent territory hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of “Palestinians” from Syria and Lebanon – in other words, trained Salafis with their weapons. What will the reality of life in Israel look like then, if there even is a life?
The trouble is not that it is difficult to ensure Israel’s security next to a Palestinian state. It is that a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is incompatible with the continued existence of Israel. All of the effort being expended to this end is being wasted (unless the goal is the elimination of the Jewish state).
What the US and Europeans should be doing if they are interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict is to explore arrangements to provide autonomy and self-government for the Arabs of the territories within Israeli and perhaps Jordanian sovereignty.
At the same time, states such as Lebanon, Jordan and (some day) Syria should grant full citizenship to ‘Palestinian refugees’. UNRWA should be abolished, and the funds it receives should be used to integrate these Arabs into their countries of residence.
The idea, expressed by President Obama, that the Palestinian Arabs “deserve” a sovereign state is nonsense, and continuing to push it against the constraints of reality is not doing anyone — including these Arabs — a favor.