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10 Mar, 2009 12:53

Israeli strategists’ two-state solution suggestion doesn’t include Palestine

Israeli strategists’ two-state solution suggestion doesn’t include Palestine

Amidst widespread calls for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, leading Israeli strategic thinkers are suggesting that one of those two states need not be Palestine.

“I don’t dismiss the two-state idea,” says Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former foreign minister, “but the idea (of Palestinian and Israeli states) is near its end. Instead, I see a Jewish state and a Jordanian state.”

A similar idea was expressed last week by Maj. Gen. (retired) Giora Eiland, a former head of the Israeli National Security Council, in reply to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for a two-state solution during her visit to the Middle East. “The two-state formula is not the only solution. In fact it’s a bad solution, and unlikely ever to be implemented.”

Eiland proposes the creation of a Palestinian political entity on the West Bank that would be the junior partner in a confederation with Jordan. “It may sound surprising, but more and more voices in Jordan and on the West Bank are supporting this idea.” If an independent Palestinian state were to rise on the West Bank, he says, it would inevitably be taken over by Hamas, which is not only dedicated to Israel’s destruction, but would also be an existential threat to Jordan as well.

“A Hamas state on Jordan’s border would be the beginning of the end of the Hashemite Kingdom.” Jordan's large Islamic sector, mostly of Palestinian origin, would be easily subverted by Hamas agents, says Eiland. As for the largely secular Palestinian population on the West Bank, many would prefer Jordanian rule to Hamas rule, wrote Eiland in the newspaper Yediot Achronot. West Bankers would also see a Jordanian confederation likely to receive Israel’s support and thus be the quickest way to end the Israeli occupation.

As for the Gaza Strip, Eiland has a far-reaching proposal that would see the strip tripled in size by a land swap in which Egypt gives up a tract of land in northeast Sinai in order to create a viable territorial enclave for Gaza’s fast-growing population. Israel, in turn, would compensate Egypt with a land corridor to Jordan through Israeli territory north of Eilat. Israel would keep for itself the West Bank territory, which has already been taken for settlements. This part of Eiland’s plan was rejected by Egypt when voiced last year but the confederation idea may well find resonance among the relevant players.

Eiland believes the Palestinians are more interested in seeing Israel disappear than in having an independent state of their own. “The Palestinian ethos is based on values like justice, recognition of their victimization and, above all, the right of the refugees to return. If Israel disappeared, the territory would be divided between Syria, Jordan and Egypt.”

Professor Ben-Ami, who served as foreign minister when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak attempted to reach a peace agreement with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2000, sees bi-lateral talks as a futile exercise. “The differences between Israel and the Palestinians are not soluble by direct negotiations,” he said in an interview last month on Israel Radio. “If there is a chance it is only through outside intervention led by the US but including Arab countries and other parties as well.“ In such negotiations, Israel and the Palestinians would get as close as they could to a compromise at which point the intermediaries would present ”bridging recommendations” to close the gaps. These recommendations would be non-negotiable," said Ben-Ami. “President Clinton did that [in the talks between Barak and Arafat]. We accepted. Arafat didn’t. You need such outside intervention to help sides who don’t have the political strength to reach an historic settlement.”

Ben-Ami, who is now with a think tank in Madrid where he once served as Israel’s ambassador, is dubious about the chances of even such a process succeeding. If it doesn’t, he said, “We would need a new and daring solution.” This, he said, would be to return the West Bank to Jordan which ruled it before the Six Day War. Important Jordanian figures like former Prime Minister Abdul Salam Majali support such a move, said Ben-Ami. Although the late Jordanian monarch King Hussein relinquished his claim to the West Bank in 1988 in favor of the PLO, said Ben-Ami, he did so only because of pressure from Arab states.

“Our problem is that the Palestinian national movement is a dangerous volcano.” Better, he says, to have a neighbor on the other side of the border that can ensure order.

Abraham Rabinovich for RT