How-many-state solution?

When US President Donald Trump began his term almost two years ago, he surprised the Middle East by announcing his determination to allow Israel and the Palestinians to determine their own fates in the outcome of the peace process and not impose the historical stance of a two-state solution.

Media outlets throughout the world were shocked to hear the American president state in last September of 2017:“I am looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Be the first to know –

The reactions captured around the world displayed a poor understanding of the realities in the Middle East and of the inherent political dissonance within the Palestinian leadership. From Oslo to the Clinton Parameters and Road Map peace plans, there was an assumption that Gaza and a future Palestinian West Bank would be connected and would inevitably begin to function as the “nation-state” envisioned by the West.

While Gaza has established relative autonomy under the oppressive hand of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank continues to lack the strength and legitimacy to unite these prominent Palestinian families or “clans” with the Arafat- style maneuvering as he had done. Whenever the peace process broke down, these clans gained legitimacy as Palestinian institutions proved inefficient and corrupt. Nothing has changed. The financing of terror and the indoctrination of anti-Zionist principles continue to be the main concern of the Palestinian leadership – and the clans are forced to provide for their own.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam, explains the demographic reality of the region: “They don’t share almost anything. Even the language is different from city to city. They have a different culture. Hebron is different from other places in the West Bank. They are much more traditional. The same is true in Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc. These states never succeeded to be based on the collective loyalty to the state over the tribe.”

BY THE SAME logic, a future Palestinian state would not differ from the realities seen in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, where sovereignty only existed through the iron fists of dictators such as Qaddafi, Hussein and Assad. But the question remains: once an opposition to Israel no longer exists, what will be the uniting factors among these clans? What will bring them together? Dr. Kedar also explains the relative stability found in Gulf states: “They are not stable because of the oil. Oil doesn’t contribute to stability. Iraq has oil and it isn’t stable. Dubai has no oil and it is stable – for it is populated by one tribe.”

But this poses a moral dilemma for the stakeholders in the peace process. To advocate for a two-state solution would inherently necessitate placing an iron-fisted dictator who would unite these families together with a national principle not driven by anti-Zionism. It seems rather hypocritical to repeat the mistakes of Sykes-Picot and attempt to end a conflict (in this case, the Israeli- Palestinian one) only to create another oppressive regime in an already volatile region.

The other option is to consider Dr. Kedar’s “Eight-State Solution”, one which consists of granting autonomy to eight different city-states which would be based on tribal affiliations.

Given, however, the beliefs of the international community and the historical favoritism leaning towards a two-state solution, this seems rather impossible to achieve.

One thing is certain: in any future peace agreement, the first “phase” must concern the restructuring of a future Palestinian state. Israel should not be expected to rush to a negotiating table if the other party is constantly breaking down.

AS PRESIDENT Trump prepares to unveil the “ultimate” deal, a few speculations can be made as to what the first phase of the plan might look like:

1) The Palestinian Authority must find a way to reconcile with Hamas (who would renounce all violence against the State of Israel) or reach terms with Israel as a separate entity.

2) A strong central government must be formed.

One which can uphold Israel’s security concerns and unite the Palestinians without the anti-Zionist banner.

3) Israel’s settlement policy will be reviewed only after the Palestinian Authority demonstrates a credible intent to make peace.

4) A Palestinian constitution must be drafted, and elections must be held. The Palestinian people have been subjugated to leaders who have only perpetuated the conflict and have refused to represent the true interests of the general Palestinian population.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no political fool. He understands that Trump is strengthening his coalition so as to have the popular support to withstand the concessions that Israel will have to make in any future deal. The acts of moving the embassy, the reduction of funds to UNWRA and the withholding of funds to the Palestinian Authority were not a reflection of Trump’s inherent Zionist identity. Trump is a businessman; he understands that Israel must receive before it is asked to concede.

When the time comes, Israel will make the necessary concessions for peace, as she has historically done. This time, however, the Palestinians will need to make the first move toward peace. This is the only way to restore faith and engage in meaningful negotiations.

The author is a former IDF Paratrooper and has an MA in Diplomacy and International Security from IDC Herzliya. He is an Israel advocate, public speaker and Middle East analyst.