All Writings
June 17, 1993

Permanent Palestine Solution Still Elusive

A growing number of Israeli government officials, led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, believe the sealing off of the West Bank and Gaza should be made permanent. They say notions about Israeli-Palestinian coexistence have proven illusory. Although closure has halted the random killing of Israelis and may seem to have opened up new political options for a solution, sealing off the territories would be disastrous for both sides.

Meron Benvenisti, Israel's foremost expert on the territories, says: "The clo sure will deepen the segregation between Arabs and Jews, creating apartheid, complete with a pass system," a condition that Palestinians in Israel and the territories would violently reject. There has always been a deliberate effort by the Israeli governments to keep the Arabs as a nonassimilated minority to reduce the danger of assimilation and intermarriage and to prevent the transformation of Israel into a binational state. These efforts have been only marginally successful. Coexistence is not only dictated by existing demographic conditions but also has become a way of life.

Nearly 60 percent of the Palestinian people live in Israel proper and the territories. Considering the dual claims of both Israelis and Palestinians to the same land, the solution must incorporate these two realities and still produce two separate political entities, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Both sides must accept the requisite of exchanging territory for peace in accordance with United Nations Resolution 242. No Israeli government, however, could survive the ensuing political storm should it contemplate dismantling any sizable number of settlements, even for the sake of peace. And no Palestinian leadership will give up nearly 50 percent of the West Bank. This border correction will be critical to meet some Israeli security concerns, to satisfy the Israelis' strong attachment to their biblic al land, and to allow Israel to incorporate nearly half of the settlements in the West Bank, especially those around Jerusalem, into Israel proper. This would also alleviate the formidable resistance from the West Bank settlers and their supporters.

The borders to be established, following a transitional period of five to seven years of Palestinian self-rule, would provide legal jurisdiction for both peoples and an actual demarcation of the territory, over which Israelis and Palestinians would exercise their respective political authorities. The Palestinians could then establish their own political entity in Gaza and over 90 percent of the West Bank, possibly in confederation with Jordan. A mutual open border policy must be adopted to ensure freedom of movement.

Both peoples already live in their biblical homeland, and no major shift or transfer of population can realistically be contemplated by either side. The vast majority of Palestinians living in Israel under Israeli rule will undoubtedly continue to live in Israel. There will probably be between 50,000 to 75,000 Israelis who may not want to relinquish their current place of residence and may end up living in a Palestinian entity. The residents or citizens of each other's nationality who choose to stay where they currently reside will have to adhere to the laws of the country of residence. The acceptance of dual territorial claims will make it possible for both Israelis and Palestinians to maintain their own national identities without uprooting themselves to establish a physical presence in the area where their political national expression is exercised freely. Besides, the presence of 800,000 Palestinians in Israel makes it particularly important to maintain open socioeconomic and cultural channels to what will become the Palestinian national centers in the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinian entity will establish their own laws to govern land purchases in their territory and the issuance of permits for residency or citizenship of each other's nationals who wish to relocate from one entity to the other. This arrangement would prevent Palestinians or Israelis attaining demographic majorities in each other's territories. Only a solution based on the ideal of coexistence and a pragmatic mechanism to carry it through offers the hope for a lasting peace.