Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] set off another bomb. In a television interview, he
requested that the Arab states grant citizenship certificates to the
Palestinians living within their borders. – Haaretz, August 21, 2005
Beilin called on European countries to declare how many Palestinian refugees and
their descendants they would be willing to absorb as part of any future peace
agreement. – The Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2008
Over the past few weeks, I have
presented the reasoning for, and the operational elements of, an alternative
humanitarian paradigm to replace the two-state solution (TSS), and to forestall
what has been erroneously presented as its default option, the
one-state-of-all-its-citizens solution (OSS).
The discussion hitherto
humanitarian alternative is rooted in the recognition that Palestinians are not
a cohesive national entity, but merely a contrivance meant to undermine the
Jewish national entity. This realization suggests that rather than relating to
the Palestinians as a national collective, they should be addressed as an
amalgam of unfortunate, exploited individuals, cynically misled into their
current predicament by cruel, corrupt ruling cliques.
Palestinians on an individual, rather than a collective, level calls for a
solutionoriented policy that depoliticizes the context of the problem and
atomizes (individualizes) the measures to dissipate it.
translates into a comprehensive proposal, consisting of the following three
interactive and interdependent components:
• Dismantling – or dramatically
restructuring – the anomalous organization UNRWA, which deals (exclusively) with
the Palestinian “refugees,” to bring their treatment into line with all other
refugees on the face of the globe, who fall under the auspices of another
organization, the UNHCR.
As explained in previous columns, this would
reduce the “refugee” problem to almost negligible dimensions (from around 5
million to under 50,000). It would also go a long way toward debunking the
duplicitous and deceptive Palestinian narrative, which draws, in large measure,
on the image of millions of dispossessed refugees.
• Applying assertive
diplomatic pressure on Arab governments to end the ethnic discrimination against
Palestinians (“refugees”), resident in their countries for decades, and to allow
them to acquire citizenship of those countries – which, according to available
evidence, most of them desire. It should be remembered that the envisaged
changes to UNRWA would means millions of Palestinians would no longer receive
the anomalous handouts/services from the disbanded/ reconstituted
To ease the execution of this measure, the funds that
currently go to UNRWA to perpetuate the culture of dependency of the “refugees”
could be channeled to the governments of the countries, in which they are
resident, to finance their absorption as contributing citizens.
Providing generous funding for the relocation and rehabilitation of the
Palestinian Arabs resident in Judea/Samaria (and eventually Gaza) in third-party
countries of their choice. This should not be done through any Palestinian
organization, which may have a vested interest in this measure’s failure.
Instead, it should be made available directly to individual familyheads/
breadwinners, to afford them a chance to extricate themselves from the
regressive and repressive regimes in these territories, and an opportunity to
build a better future for themselves and their families elsewhere.
the bull by the horns
In last week’s column I discussed the first two
components, which relate mainly to the Palestinian Arabs living outside
Judea/Samaria (and Gaza). The third element – and arguably the most provocative
– relates to those living within these territories, and I will elaborate on it
in the ensuing sections.
Since first raised in this column, the proposal
has generated a deluge of responses – in hundreds of talkbacks to The Jerusalem
Post’s website, and also to my Facebook page and email address. Some were
effusively complimentary, others caustically critical; some were cynically
skeptical, others genuinely inquisitive.
comments/critiques/queries related to one (or more) of the following topics:
Control of the decision variables; recriminations of racism; Fear of fratricide;
allegations of ethnic cleansing; diplomatic and economic feasibility; identity
of prospective host countries; and evidence of acceptability in Israeli and
Not unexpectedly, most reactions focused on the
third component – funding the relocation and rehabilitation of Palestinian Arabs
in Judea/Samaria and Gaza.
I will now address these issues as
comprehensively as space permits.
prescription is designed to be a unilateral initiative, whose implementation
does not require agreement with any Arab collective, but rather the accumulated
acceptance of individuals of an offer to greatly enhance their wellbeing – far
beyond anything they could reasonably expect otherwise.
This is something
that Israel – given the political resolve – could advance, proactively, on its
own, under an adequately assertive diplomatic umbrella.
True, Israel by
itself cannot effect the first two components of the proposal:
dismantling/transforming UNRWA or the granting of citizenship by Arab states to
their resident Palestinian Arabs. For this the cooperation of other parties is
required. Although it would be hugely beneficial to all involved – particularly
the Palestinians – if they were implemented, this is largely incidental to their
For these measures are not intended primarily as actionable
policy items. Rather they are meant to comprise important elements in the
arsenal of a diplomatic offensive, aimed at putting Israel’s adversaries on the
defensive, exposing the flawed and fraudulent foundations of their positions,
and generating new conceptual space for TSS-alternatives in the
Their purpose is to inform interested publics of existing
realities in order to change the conversation, restructure (mis)perceptions
regarding the conflict, and dispel the ignorance on which they
Clearly then, the decision variables involved in launching both the
diplomatic and the actionable elements of the proposed initiative are in
Many readers were concerned that the
cost of the envisaged emigration incentives might be prohibitive. These concerns
The first and crucial point to grasp is that the absolute
cost of the proposed measures is not really the issue, but rather the
comparative cost, relative to other proposals – including the TSS – whose
implementation is also likely to be vastly expensive. Indeed, given the dire
state of the Palestinian economy, it would appear that the billions already
poured into it have been wildly insufficient to sustain it.
To the total
cost needed to create and maintain a Palestinian state, one also needs to add
the cost of resettling hundreds of thousands of Jews living east of the pre-1967
Green Line, and the huge increases that will be required in Israel’s defense
budget to enhance capabilities to adequately patrol and secure the indefensible
frontiers implicit in any TSS configuration.
Moreover, most variants of
the TSS do not exclude the return of millions in the Palestinian diaspora, who
considerably outnumber the population currently resident within the borders of
the prospective Palestinian state. Perversely, the cost of moving millions into
the Palestinian state, which, in all probability, would be higher than moving
smaller numbers out of it, has never been considered a prohibitive
If the claim is that only a few would return, with most
preferring to stay in their current places of abode, this would constitute
resounding endorsement of the first two elements of the proposal, greatly
bolstering the feasibility (and desirability) of the notion of Palestinians
building better lives elsewhere.
The total cost would be a function of
the size of the Palestinian Arab population in Judea/Samaria and Gaza – a matter
that is hotly disputed. But to side-step arguments on figures, let us focus on
principle. I will therefore adopt a figure that tends toward the higher
estimates and assume that there are roughly 1 million family units involved,
600,000 in the “West Bank” and 400,000 in Gaza.
Accordingly, providing an
average funding for each family unit with an amount of 1.5 to 2 decades of the
IMF/World Bank global average GDP per capita (roughly $10,000) would amount to
between $150 billion and $200b., over an envisaged time period for
implementation (15-20 years – the time elapsed since the conclusion of the Oslo
Accords, which brought nothing but trauma and tragedy).
Focusing on the
“West Bank” alone would reduce this figure by 40 percent (to $90b.-
Calculating costs (continued)
While this may seem a daunting
sum, it should be recalled that it is a small fraction of what the US spent, in
less than a decade, on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (around one trillion
dollars). Significantly, over 90% of this was spent after Saddam Hussein was
apprehended and the Taliban dislodged – in a futile, some would say delusional,
attempt to institute liberal democracy on the slopes of the Hindu Kush and the
banks of the Euphrates.
Israel, with its current GDP close to a quarter
trillion dollars, could probably shoulder the bulk of the burden itself, if
spread over the specified time period. Indeed, if the yearly outlay (around
3%-5% of Israeli GDP – depending on whether Gaza is included) were added to the
defense budget, it would bring this budget (in terms of share of GDP) to the
levels of the late 1980s/early 1990s – perhaps even lower. Moreover, if GDP were
raised significantly, by improving domestic productivity and/or inducing greater
participation in the labor force in the haredi and Israel Arab sectors, the
burden would be commensurately less onerous.
If the OECD countries, which
contributed to the Oslo process, were persuaded to participate, the entire
enterprise could be funded with sums amounting to a fraction of 1% of their
respective GDPs – hardly an unbearable sacrifice for dispersing one of the
world’s most intractable problems. Indeed, one might be excused for being
baffled as to why Western governments would be prepared to contribute billions
to facilitate the establishment of what in all likelihood would be doomed to
become a failed mini-micro-state, harboring some of the most extremist terror
organizations on the planet, but would resist contributing to a program that
would prevent its establishment.
Accordingly, it should be clear that the
economic cost is not the major obstacle to implementation, but rather the need
to muster the political will in Israel and international legitimacy abroad. The
first step to engender such political will and generate such legitimacy is to
foster vigorous public discourse on it as a viable alternative – which is why,
as I have argued in the previous installments, the drastic enhancement of
Israeli diplomacy is so crucial.
Identifying host countries
One of the
more common queries was “Which countries would accept the Palestinian Arabs as
immigrants?” This question seems to miss the point on a number of
First, the proposal neither envisages nor suggests an en masse
movement of Palestinian Arabs – certainly not a coercive deportation to defined
destinations by Israel. Rather, it would entail a gradual, “osmotic”-like (for
want of a better word) process, in which recipient families would identify their
preferred destination – with or without Israeli-facilitated
(Indeed, one might envision the establishment of a national
authority – a Zionist-oriented version of the Sela Disengagement Authority set
up to accompany the coercive evacuation of Jews from Gaza in 2005 – to advise
Palestinians on their options in implementing the voluntary
“evacuation-compensation” (pinuipitzui) principle).
It should be noted
that the prospective relocation grants would be sufficient to qualify recipients
for immigrant status in numerous countries – not only Arab or Muslim
ones. There are, for example, reportedly over half a million Palestinians
in South America.
This would allow them to arrive at the gates of
potential host countries as relatively wealthy (in terms of local GDP per
capita) émigrés – not destitute refugees.
The question would become:
Which country would not accept them? Or is the assumption that Palestinians
seeking a better life would be denied their wish, simply because of their ethnic
identity? That would be racist, wouldn’t it?
If the insinuation is that
Palestinians – even with adequate capital – cannot be useful citizens, capable
of making a positive contribution to a prospective host country, how can they be
expected to build their own state – without the benefit of that funding?
course, it should be remembered that absorption of externally funded
Palestinians could entail considerable capital inflow into the host country – up
to a billion dollars for every 5,000 families – hardly something that would make
them undesirable newcomers. The greater the absorption, the greater the capital
Furthermore, if accepted by the international community (again a
function of the efficacy of Israeli diplomacy), host countries could be given
further benefits for absorbing Palestinians – something raised by prominent
“peace process” advocates, who have urged the US to launch “an international
initiative that would provide economic support for refugees in neighboring
states, including host governments, and provide incentive packages for
patriation to non-neighboring states, including in the West.”
I have once again exhausted the space at my disposal with many
questions still unanswered.
For example, what about the threat of
fratricide to dissuade Palestinians from accepting relocation funding? Or the
repugnant recriminations of racism? And the egregious efforts to portray an
offer of economic enhancement as ethnic cleansing? The answers to these and
other questions will have to wait until next week.
Gmar Hatima Tova!
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of
the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.