Several weeks ago, I was serving as a camp counselor at a Jewish youth camp in Honeybrook, Pennsylvania – less than an hour away from the high school attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While volunteering at this camp, I tore my Achilles tendon and subsequently had quite a bit of time to observe and ponder the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip.
This all brought back prominently to my recollection a paper that I wrote for Professor Alan Dershowitz over a decade ago as a student at Harvard Law School. In the paper, I critiqued what I believed to be the unjust treatment of Israel at the United Nations World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. Acknowledging in the paper that peace between Israel and the international community would not be fully realized until there was a Palestinian state, I proposed that a Palestinian state can be created without posing an indefensible threat to Israeli security.
This Palestinian state should be initially established in the Gaza Strip, with negotiations commencing between Israel and its neighbors concerning the “disputed” territories.
Israel does not need to wait for the Palestinians in order to completely disengage from this interim Palestinian state.
However, any concessions in the face of Palestinian terror will play directly into the hands of Israel’s worst enemies, whose thirst for Jewish blood will subsequently grow stronger. Therefore, Israel should wait for a period of reasonable calm and then unilaterally disengage from the Gaza Strip, evacuating all settlements and military posts....
The [subsequent] negotiating parties would likely include Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and the United States and European Union as mediators.
The end-game to these negotiations could be the a) accession of West Bank territory to Palestine, b) Israeli annexation of “Judea and Samaria” with immigrant status to Palestinians who opt out of naturalization, c) consolidation of the Gaza Strip and Jordan to form a “Jordanian Palestine” [confederation], d) Palestinian [consolidation with] the Sinai Peninsula, or e) a combination of these and any other creative ideas generated out of the regional negotiations.
(“Out of Zion: The World Conference against Racism and the Truth about Zionism,” A.B., May 5, 2002) When I wrote this, I did not fully realize the prescience of what I had proposed. I did not know that less than five years later, Israel would in fact “disengage” from the Gaza Strip nearly precisely to the script of what I had proposed in the paper. And 12 years later, as I have observed – immobilized in a cast – the repercussions of what has materialized in Gaza, I have come to realize some important lessons.
Another political earthquake has shaken the Middle East, with its epicenter radiating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and I believe these lessons can guide a future durable peace in the Middle East.
Lesson 1: The militarization of the Gaza Strip is a grave threat to innocent Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to international peace and security.
The Gaza Strip must be demilitarized. Hamas must give up all of its arms, heavy arms in the territory should be banned under a regional, internationally recognized treaty, and all tunnels and entry points into Israel from the Gaza Strip should be prohibited unless approved and administered by Israel.
Lesson 2: The Gaza Strip cannot be left to the sole sovereignty of the current Palestinian factions, which have failed under both Fatah and Hamas to maintain stability, instead creating a volatile time bomb that has chronically upset regional peace and security.
There must be an international/ regional presence to maintain the stability and development of the Gaza Strip into a true bastion of peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people. This administering presence should be 1) an Arab country with a strong cultural and historical affinity to the Palestinian people for legitimacy, 2) a country that has maintained stability and peaceful relations with Israel and the international community over the past 20 years, 3) a country that has a demonstrated record of maintaining security within its own borders in recent years and geographically close enough to the Gaza Strip to administer it effectively and efficiently.
The one country that fits this bill is Jordan, which should administer Gaza’s international borders and airspace.
Lesson 3: The Gaza Strip should have freedom and independence from blockades that inhibit the reasonable movement of people and goods into and out of the Strip.
This should be within the framework of an obligatory agreement between Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel, Egypt and Jordan.
Within this agreement, the security needs of Israel, Egypt and Jordan must be taken into consideration while the human and economic needs of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are recognized.
Lesson 4: A reality in the West Bank as disastrous as that witnessed in the Gaza Strip over the past 10 years cannot emerge. Such a reality would pose an existential threat to major Israeli population centers and also destabilize the region with the potential for widespread devastation not yet seen in the Middle East.
Thus, policies and decisions dealing with the status of the disputed territories in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) should be addressed separately from the status of the Gaza Strip, so as not to replicate the chronic destruction that has emanated from the Gaza Strip since Israel’s disengagement from the territory.
The author is assistant professor of Political Science at North Carolina Central University and director of the University Honors Program.