The Case For Israeli-Palestinian Confederation
I maintain that after 73 years of conflict, regardless of the many changes on the ground, and irrespective of the political wind that swept the region and the intermittent violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinians will never give up on their aspiration to establish a state of their own. Ultimately a two-state solution remains the only viable option to end their conflict. The difference however between the framework for peace that had been discussed in the 1980s and 1990s where the focus was on establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with no formal connection with Israel versus the present time is that many new irreversible facts have been created: in particular the interdispersement of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, national security concerns, and the Palestinian refugees.
This leads me to believe that independent Israeli and Palestinian states can peacefully coexist and be sustained only through the establishment of a confederation. To that end, both sides will have to fully and permanently collaborate on many levels, especially economic and national security, regardless of the fact that some Palestinian extremists continue to call for Israel’s destruction, as eventually this resistance will subside.
There are three critical reasons that provide the rationale behind this proposal. First, the current status is not sustainable and could only make the conflict increasingly intractable with a diminishing return. Second, the changing geostrategic interests of a growing number of Arab states led to their decision to normalize relations with Israel, which prompted them to exert tremendous pressure on the Palestinians to compromise, playing on the Palestinians’ fears that they could further lose the support of the Arab states and be left to fend for themselves. Third, the US and the EU in particular feel that the continuing conflict fuels extremism, destabilizes the region, and gravely undermines their geostrategic interests.
This may well be the most opportune time since the 1993 Oslo Accords to reach a peace agreement. No agreement, however, can be achieved and sustained unless it is preceded by a process of reconciliation of 5-7 years, which would involve comprehensive government-to-government and people-to-people interactions as prerequisites to mitigate the deeply imbedded distrust and hatred.
Confederations are defined as “voluntary associations of independent states that, to secure some common purpose, agree to certain limitations on their freedom of action and establish some joint machinery of consultation or deliberation.” [emphasis added]
Such a confederation would join independent Israeli and Palestinian states together on issues of common interest that cannot be addressed but in full collaboration under the framework of confederation, regardless of their mutual hatred toward one another. This includes: the interdispersement of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, the future of Jerusalem, national security, the fate of the settlements, and the Palestinian refugees. Their previous failure to come to an agreement on these issues explains why the conflict became increasingly intractable: new conditions have been created on the ground, and both sides sought concessions to which the other could not acquiesce. An agreement in principle on the establishment of a confederation from the onset as the ultimate goal could allow both sides to jointly resolve and manage the following common issues which are not subject to dramatic shift and are central to reaching a sustainable peace agreement.
To reach that ultimate goal, a process of reconciliation for a period of 5-7 years will be required to mitigate the deeply entrenched distrust between the two sides and create a new atmosphere conducive to peaceful coexistence. Although some Palestinian extremists continue to call for the destruction of Israel, the Palestinians in general know only too well that they will never realize a state of their own unless they accept Israel as an independent state with which they must coexist. Such a process would involve government-to-government and people-to-people interactions (confidence-building measures) on socio, political, economic, cultural, and any other level that would also mitigate the emotional and psychological barriers that have been haunting them for too long.
Such government-to-government confidence-building measures include halting acrimonious public narratives, developing a strong economic relationship, maintaining a comprehensive security cooperation, allowing for mutual visitation, and promoting public statements by officials about the inevitability of coexistence and ensuring that the Palestinian public narrative in Arabic is consistent with its English statements. On the people-to people side, such activities include Israeli and Palestinian women activism, joint sporting events, Israeli investment in sustainable development projects in the West Bank, exchanges of art exhibitions, debates between Israeli and Palestinian academics on a host of issues, and open forum discussions by religious scholars with an emphasis on the interconnectedness of the three major Abrahamic religions, and more.
Interdispersement of the population
The fact that the Israelis and Palestinians are interspersed and anchored in their current places of residence makes it simply impossible to physically separate them. The notion that the occupation and settlements prevent Israel’s destruction is misguided at best as the current conditions only intensify the Palestinians’ resistance and resentment and compromise Israel’s national security. There are an estimated 2.77 million Palestinians and 400,000 Israelis in the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem, there are nearly 330,000 Palestinians and 215,000 Israelis who mostly live in the post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods surrounding East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider settlements.
Although some Israelis living in small settlements scattered throughout the West Bank can be relocated to larger ones, the vast majority of settlers will stay in place because no Israeli government, regardless of its political leaning, will agree to remove such settlements. As was agreed in previous negotiations, the Palestinians will be compensated through land swaps (constituting approximately four to six percent of territory) to make up for land used, especially the three large settlement blocs along the 1967 border (commonly acknowledged as Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, and Betar Illit, although the exact configuration is still open for debate). All in all, these settlements included in land swaps will encompass approximately 80 percent of all Israeli settlers.
There will still be other settlements, such as Ariel, which will undoubtedly remain on Palestinian controlled land. The Palestinians have no choice but to accept that hundreds of thousands of Israelis will continue to live in settlements in the West Bank, and the Palestinians’ demand to remove all settlements outside the three blocs is a non-starter.1 However, some small settlements will have to be removed or relocated in order to create land contiguity for the future Palestinian state.
There are also roughly 1.7 million Israeli Arab citizens, and while their status is dissimilar to the settlers living in the West Bank, the fact that they live in their country—Israel—as full-fledged citizens suggests that cohabitation of Israelis and Palestinians is inescapable. It should be noted that notwithstanding the fact that Israeli Arabs are citizens of Israel, they certainly have an affinity toward their brethren in the territories, which adds a social and cultural component to the interdispersement of the two populations. The Palestinians in the West Bank are gradually coming to terms with the fact that Israeli Jews living in their midst is an irreversible reality.
Although the Palestinians in Gaza are completely separated from the Israelis, they depend on Israel for supplies – especially medicine, building materials, electricity, gas, and oil – a reality that is not subject to dramatic change even once the blockade is lifted under conditions of peace. The interaction between the two sides will only increase by virtue of Gaza’s location and the need of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to connect and transact with one another, which can be done largely through Israel on land.
Those who advocate that the current state of affairs between Israel and Hamas serves Israel’s best interests are dead wrong. Israel needs not reoccupy Gaza or open the border for Hamas to import what they wish with no restriction to solve the conflict with Hamas. After four major Israel-Hamas conflagrations and Hamas’ constant threat of launching tens of thousands of rockets that terrifies the Israelis (as we have seen only a few months ago during which Hamas fired over 4,300 rockets), most Israelis realize that the current status quo is not sustainable. Hamas will not go away and Israel will not allow them to have free reign, and the only way they can peacefully coexist is by recognizing the reality of each other. An agreement on a long-term ceasefire cushioned by a process of reconciliation will change the dynamic of their conflict. Israel is just as responsible as Hamas to find a long-term solution, which will be dictated by the reality on the ground that neither can change by force.
The interdispersement of Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem in particular is a permanent factor that has three dimensions. First, it will be impossible to erect a hard border between the two sides, as there will always be Israelis and Palestinians living in each other’s territory who will want to travel across the border. Jerusalem offers a good example where Israelis and Palestinians mingle and move freely between the East and West sides of the city.
Second, since uprooting Israelis or Palestinians in the hundreds of thousands from their current places of residence is impossible, there will be a need for extensive collaboration in relation to security and economic development, which will render the border over time simply a political line.
Third, people and goods will move freely in both directions, which in any case is necessitated by their respective populations’ close proximity. However, this free movement does not infringe on their mutual independence, but will simply expand the level of cooperation on many other levels.
Under such a scenario, there will be a need to differentiate between citizenship and permanent residency. Israelis living in the West Bank such as those who live in Ariel can vote or be elected in Israel while maintaining permanent residency in the West Bank, provided they adhere to local laws and ordinance; the same is applicable to Palestinians especially those living in East Jerusalem. (This is not applicable to Israeli Arabs, who are Israeli citizens who can vote and be elected in the State of Israel). To maintain the Jewish national identity of Israel and that of Palestine, relinquishing citizenship for the other will be allowed only on rare occasions, such as when intermarriage occurs.
To be sure, the interspersing of Israelis and Palestinians is a reality that cannot be wished away. Since uprooting any significant number of Israelis or Palestinians from their current places of residence is nearly impossible short of catastrophic events, only a confederation would allow for continuing the current situation while preserving the independence of Israeli and Palestinian states.
Jerusalem is unique in that both Israelis and Palestinians—and many Jews, Muslims, and Christians around the world—have a special affinity to the city. There are four major factors that attest to the city’s uniqueness. First, East Jerusalem houses the largest mixed Jewish-Arab community anywhere in the world, with roughly 328,000 Arabs and 215,000 Israelis. Although the majority of Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, they move freely across the city east and west and throughout Israel.
Second, the city’s infrastructure and services—roads, electrical grid, communication, and maintenance—are all fully integrated, and there is simply no way that they can be divided. In fact, neither Israel nor the Palestinians want to physically divide the city, regardless of its final political status.
Third, Jerusalem is home to the Jews’ holiest shrine, the Western Wall, (the outer wall of the Second Temple), the third-holiest Muslim shrines, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and the holiest sites in Christianity within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All three religions respect each other’s religious affinity to the city. The fact that the Jewish and Arab holy shrines are adjacent to one another suggests that there will always be the need to fully collaborate on security, tourism, access, and improvements.
Fourth, the main contentious issue between the two sides is the political status of the city. Whereas Israel claims that all of Jerusalem, East and West, is the capital of Israel, the Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem must be the capital of their future state. However, given that the city under any circumstances will remain united physically, and that the majority of the population in the old section of East Jerusalem is Palestinian, it stands to reason that the city’s administration must be multifaceted. While East and West Jerusalem would be independent municipalities with their own laws and administrations—East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state—a joint Israeli-Palestinian commission covering the entirety of Jerusalem must be established to handle any issues or services that have an impact across the two sections of the city. Such issues include electricity, water, and other municipal services that cannot be divided, cross-border crimes, and development projects which affect both sides of the city, to name a few examples.
The nationality of the chairman of the commission should alternate between Israeli and Palestinian for a period to be mutually determined along with the number of commissioners. Such commissioners should have special expertise in an issue of importance to the city, including law enforcement, civil engineering, and public health, to name a few potential examples. The commission will have a clear and well-defined mandate to ensure that neither side can infringe on the other’s separate municipal responsibilities.
In this regard, since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has and continues to maintain the custodianship and the administration over the Muslim holy shrines, Haram al-Sharif. Regardless of the final negotiated agreement over the future of East Jerusalem, Jordan will continue to control the Muslim holy shrines and Israel will certainly maintain its control over the Western Wall. That is, under any circumstances the two sides will have to cooperate and work closely to ensure the security and future development of these sites, including excavation without prejudice of their respective holy shrines. As part of this, a religious council encompassing Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would be established to deal with various issues related to such development and excavations.
In the final analysis, Israel will have to accept that the Palestinians will establish their capital in East Jerusalem, while all Israeli Jews living on the east side of the city will remain where they are. In fact, the Trump administration’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital clearly states that “We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
There are many Israelis, perhaps a majority, who insist that Israel will never give up its sovereignty over East Jerusalem. They suggest that the Palestinians’ future capital can be established in either Abu Dis or Silwan, which would be incorporated into Greater Jerusalem. The Palestinians will not go along with that, especially because they have the backing of the Arab states, which despite any normalization agreements with Israel still uphold the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem as an important symbol to the Arab world as a whole.
Finally, given the fact that Jerusalem is the home of the largest mixed Jewish-Palestinian community, and since the city will remain united under any circumstances, Jerusalem will become a microcosm of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Thus, if peaceful coexistence is inescapable in Jerusalem, it can certainly be applicable in the West Bank, even in in the case of Hebron where settlers (like all others that will not be transferred to Israel proper) will abide under local laws, albeit with some tension, which will certainly be overcome under conditions of peace and the umbrella of confederation.
For obvious reasons, Israel’s national security and the Palestinians’ sense of insecurity are sources of great concern to both sides, particularly as they are directly connected. Therefore, security collaboration is central to any peace agreement. Even now, there is extensive security collaboration (such as intelligence sharing, apprehending would-be terrorists, and coordination between security forces) which must be further expanded under the canopy of a confederation.
It is critically important for the Palestinians to understand that notwithstanding the fact that Israel is the most powerful country in the region by virtue of its formidable military strength and operational nuclear capability (thus with an ability to confront any threat), the Israelis still experience a sense of existential vulnerability. This is traceable to the Jews’ historical experiences as a scapegoat and persecuted minority throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The systematic persecution of the Jews, especially in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust where six million Jews were murdered, left an indelible mark on every Jew, and they are still haunted by that unimaginable calamity to this day.
Thus, the concern over Israel’s national security is psychologically ingrained, and neither its own military prowess nor external assurances to protect its security, including from the US, completely assuage those concerns. For this reason, Israel takes very seriously the fact that there is a considerable segment of the Palestinian population, in particular Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which still threaten Israel’s very existence. Regardless of how real or exaggerated such threats may be makes little difference because Israel takes no risk, however small, when its national security is concerned.
Whereas the Palestinians are not responsible for the Holocaust, their initial rejection along with the Arab states of the establishment of a Jewish state and extremist Palestinians’ continuing existential threats reinforced Israel’s national security concerns. In many ways, the Second Intifada in 2000 was a turning point for most Israelis as it erupted immediately following the failed peace negotiations at Camp David, which Israel conducted in good faith, and where the establishment of a Palestinian state was considered a given. This gave rise to the notion among a multitude of Israelis that the Palestinians can never be trusted and hence they ought to be subjugated and treated with an iron fist.
What the Israelis fail to understand, however, is that their drive to achieve absolute security rendered the Palestinians absolutely insecure. In the wake of the First Intifada beginning in 1987, Israel pursued harsh policies toward the Palestinians prompted by their own sense of insecurity, which intensified greatly after the Second Intifada. As a result, Israel engaged in security activities which resulted in human rights violations, which made the Palestinians feel ever more humiliated and vulnerable. Such violations included night raids against suspected Palestinian terrorists, unjustified incarcerations for months and even years without trial, restriction of movement, home demolitions, uprooting of olive groves, and creeping annexation of Palestinian territories to make room for expanding settlements.
The Israelis still justify these and other violations in the name of national security when in fact it became increasingly clear that successive Israeli governments were pursuing a policy of territorial expansionism by building more settlements throughout the West Bank. This policy, of course, exacerbated the Palestinians’ distrust of the Israelis and deepened their conviction that Israel will not allow the creation of a Palestinian state, a statement that former Prime Minister Netanyahu explicitly made on a number of occasions. The same sentiment was echoed by other right-wing leaders, including the current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. He too opposes to the establishment of a Palestinian state and has previously called for the annexation of Area C in the West Bank, which comprises 60 percent of the entire Palestinian territory.
One central security issue is the protection of the Jordan Valley. While Israel insists on maintaining its own security forces along the Jordan River, the Palestinians have rejected this as they consider the Jordan Valley an integral part of a future Palestinian state. However, they cannot simply reject the Israelis’ demands off-hand while insisting that they alone can bear such a responsibility. Instead, Israelis and Palestinians should join forces to guard the border with Jordan, with the full cooperation of Amman, so as to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and the smuggling of weapons, and guard the broader external borders from threats coming from Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran.
Collaboration on all security matters is essential; Israel will be hard-pressed to make any significant concessions unless it is satisfied that its national security is not being compromised. The Palestinians, on the other hand, will retain sovereignty over the Jordan Valley while benefitting from Israel’s enhanced sense of security if they take all security measures seriously and cease their threats because the safer Israel feels, the more lenient and accommodating it will become. If or when Jordan joins the Israeli-Palestinian confederation as an independent third state, at that point it can assume responsibility over the security of the Jordan Valley as an “internal” border, upon mutual consent by all three parties.
The newly-established Palestinian state must be demilitarized. The Palestinians do not need any military forces for three reasons: first, there is no regional enemy that will threaten the Palestinian state, especially once the Israeli-Palestinian confederation is established. Second, regardless of how powerful such a Palestinian military might be, it will never be in a position to overwhelm the Israeli military, as Israel will always maintain the most powerful military forces in the region that no enemy or a combination of enemies can defeat. Third, the Palestinians do not have the financial means to recruit and equip a military, however modest it may be. However, the Palestinian state would retain its existing paramilitary security forces and handle any external threat jointly with Israel’s military, along the line of their existing security cooperation.
In addition, Israel and the Palestinians should enhance their current security cooperation. To that end, the Palestinians should significantly augment its domestic security apparatus and work very closely with Israeli security to prevent extremists from either side from conducting act of violence against the other. Such full cooperation on all security matters can be done only in the context of a confederation. For this reason, their cooperation should include: sharing intelligence, conducting joint operations to prevent violent attacks by individuals or groups from either side, and establishing rules of engagement to prevent accidental clashes between their respective security forces.
The argument that hard borders are necessary for defense and security is valid only to the extent that there is an ongoing violent conflict. But once the conflict ends, it stands to reason that a hard border becomes unnecessary, specifically because of the interdispersement of the populations (including the settlements), the status of Jerusalem, and the intertwined security concerns. As such, it will be impossible to maintain hard borders between the two states. The final political borders, however, will be determined by mutual agreement based on the disposition of the settlements, the extent of the land swaps to compensate for the settlements that will remain beyond the Green Line (June 4th 1967 borders), and the political line that will be established between East and West Jerusalem.
In the context of final borders, perhaps it is necessary to disabuse those who argue that Jordan is a Palestinian state and that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved in that context, as it is simply wishful thinking. No Israeli official has ever suggested that Jordan is Palestinian since the two countries signed a peace agreement in 1995. Yet many Israelis continue to deny the Palestinians the right to a state of their own, which was enshrined in the UN Partition Plan in 1947 (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that also granted the Jewish community in Palestine the right to establish an independent Jewish state.2 The legitimacy of Israel as a sovereign country is anchored in the UN resolution, as is the Palestinian right to an independent state; any beliefs to the contrary are pure illusion.
There are many Israelis who believe that regardless of the contours of a mutually-agreed border, the Palestinians will later on fight to regain all of the land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Even if this is to be true, by what means, military or otherwise, can they in reality push Israel out of existence? Those Israelis who do not want to relinquish the occupation of the West Bank often come up with outlandish notions that have no basis in reality, just like many of the Palestinians who wish to destroy Israel.
Under the framework of a confederation, the contours of the final borders will be political in nature and appear on maps only. The time span of the transition from hard to soft borders will depend on the prospective interactions between the two sides on many levels, including commercial ties, economic developments, tourism, and the nurturing of trust, which is at the heart of the process of reconciliation.
Although the solution to the Palestinian refugee issue is not directly related to the confederation, there will be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until this troublesome issue is settled with definitive efficacy and execution. For more than seven decades, Palestinian leaders made the refugee problem front and center in the conflict with Israel, while methodically indoctrinating the public with the notion that the refugees’ return is sine qua non to finding a peaceful solution.
It is time for the Palestinians to disabuse themselves of the notion of the right of return as they currently envision it. From previous negotiations going back to the mid-1990s, Israel made it abundantly clear (and the PA understood and conceded, albeit not publicly) that under no circumstances will Israel allow the return of any significant number of refugees—only at most a symbolic few thousand under family reunification. As Israel sees it, the return of the refugees would demographically obliterate the Jewish national character of the state, which is the raison d’etre behind Israel’s creation.
Nevertheless, the problem is that Palestinian leaders have consistently and publicly been promoting the right of return, regardless of how illusory it may be. Palestinians from all political persuasions continue to support the right of return because they see it as the glue that keeps all Palestinians “united.” In fact, Palestinian leaders have consistently exploited the right of return, which became more of a slogan to rally the people around an emotional issue and make it the center piece of their own political agenda. Every Palestinian leader, starting with Yasser Arafat, knew only too well that they were misleading the public and that the right of return, as they described it, would never be realized.
Instead, the Palestinians must redefine the right of return—not to the exact towns and villages (and in some claims, exact homes) from which they and their ancestors fled, but to a return to the State of Palestine in general, which is in line with the international legal principle of right of return, which grants this return to “one’s own country.” The solution to the refugee issue rests then, as it always has, on compensation and/or resettlement, mostly in the West Bank, and offering compensation for those who do not choose to relocate, be they in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, or beyond.
Additionally, this is in line with UNGA Resolution 194 (1948), which stipulates that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible,” and which the PLO has long-cited as its basis for the right of return.3
As for Gaza, given Hamas’ longstanding opposition to the State of Israel, it will not have any impact on this arrangement. Nevertheless, if Hamas drops the idea of return, funding should be made available (from the overall funds to be raised for the refugees) to resettle refugees in Gaza, and if any Palestinian refugee chooses to return to Gaza, they should be free to do so. If a confederation between Israel and the Palestinians of the West Bank is established, Hamas can be invited to join the Palestinian Authority provided they first recognize Israel’s right to exist and officially renounce the use of violence as a tool to achieve any political objective. If Hamas elects not to join at the early stage, they should be allowed to join later either as a part of the Palestinian state or separately as an independent entity as long as they fully subscribe to the framework of the confederation that has been established and agreed upon between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Making a deal with the Palestinian Authority but not Hamas will as a consequence leave some unfinished business, but it will not torpedo any kind of agreement with the PA. Both Israel and the PA have been held hostage by Hamas for so many years; they should not continue to be held hostage over what Hamas does or does not want to do, unless it is prepared to join the process immediately. In any case, once there is peace between the PA and Israel, Hamas will have two choices—engage in violence from their open-air prison of Gaza, which Israel will immediately crush, or begin negotiating their own peace deal with Israel—and the latter is truly the only choice, as the residents of Gaza do not want to suffer and be isolated forever.
The role of the United States
The Biden administration, which supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, must now take into full consideration the vast and irreversible facts on the ground that clearly point to the need for total Israeli-Palestinian collaboration on just about every front. Such extensive collaboration can be made possible only through the formation of a confederation, but as I stated earlier, a process of reconciliation for several years, which the Biden administration fully supports, must precede any kind of peace negotiations to pave the road with confidence for the ultimate outcome of a confederation. The process of reconciliation is also extremely critical to the majority of Israelis who do not believe that the Palestinians will ever accept Israel as an independent state and agree to coexist with it peacefully. To be sure, a process of reconciliation will also allow for a critical psychological shift in the attitude toward each other, which is central to changing their political and ideological beliefs.
Moreover, given that the Biden administration is not inclined to dive into full-scale peace talks fearing, and for good reason, that the political climate both in Israel and among the Palestinians are not conducive to such peace negotiations, it should focus on the reconciliation process. This process would entail confidence-building measures and alleviate over a period of 5 to 7 years the deeply-rooted distrust and hatred and create a new environment ripe for peace.
The establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation can fully satisfy the national aspiration of both peoples. Israel will be able to secure and sustain the Jewish national identity of the state and its democracy, as well as its national security concerns. At the same time, Israel will maintain full control over Jewish holy shrines and together with the Palestinians ensure the security of the Temple Mount while East Jerusalem remains an open city.
Under the canopy of confederation, the Palestinians will be able to establish a free and independent state of their own, live in security and peace, and engage in nation-building where they can grow and prosper.
An Israeli-Palestinian peace that will lead to confederation will not only resolve perhaps the most debilitating conflict since World War II, it will also have far-reaching regional ramifications. It will stop Iran and extremist groups from exploiting the conflict, which they have been using as a rallying cry against Israel. An Israeli-Palestinian peace will also impede Turkish President Erdogan’s ambition to exert undue influence in the region as he aspires to make Turkey the region’s hegemon and the leader of the Sunni Islamic world. Finally, an Israeli-Palestinian peace will allow for the creation of a peaceful crescent that will include the six Gulf states, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt, extending from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. This may well open the door for the US to extend a security umbrella to all these countries, which will drastically disabuse Iran and Turkey of their regional ambitions.
To be sure, Israelis and Palestinians must remember that they have been fated to coexist, either in a state of constant enmity and conflict, or as neighbors living in peace and security that can prosper together. They must now choose one way or the other as neither side can concoct any other sustainable alternative. Indeed, there is nothing that either side can do to change this reality. The interdispersement of their populations, the impossibility of building hard borders, the significance of Jerusalem, and their national security all require them to make significant concessions and fully collaborate to realize the concept of a confederation, while safeguarding the independence and the territorial integrity of their respective states.
1. As it stands, the three settlement blocs mentioned encompass 80 percent of all Jewish settlers in the West Bank; the remaining settlements apart from Ariel (which has a stagnant population) are individually very small and make up only 20 percent of the entire settler population.↩
2. This right is reaffirmed in UNSC Resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), 1860 (2009), and 2334 (2016). ↩
3. This is also in line with proposals introduced at Camp David in 2000 and the subsequent Clinton parameters, and Olmert’s peace offer in 2008.↩