The Israeli-Palestinian dispute, which has run for about 100 years, seems to be without solution. At least, none of the solutions suggested so far seem to be workable. The aim of this article is to present some “out of the box” suggestions. This is not a scientific article, rather a gathering of thoughts with the aim of enriching readers’ minds concerning alternative ways of thinking about the issue. So here are two:
1. Jewish enclaves in a Palestinian state A massive evacuation of settlements located outside large settlement blocs, home to about 100,000 residents, will be necessary if future Israeli governments seek (or are required to) implement the principle implied by the “two states for two peoples” plan. This will be highly challenging, traumatic from a human and societal perspective and politically problematic. At the same time, most of the difficulties can be overcome with advance planning, suitable compensation, internal Israeli dialogue that unites the population, appropriate legislation and a comprehensive plan to resettle evacuees.
Nonetheless, the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, including forcible evacuation of those who refuse to leave, could potentially result in bloodshed and civil war. Thus there is a need to examine other, less conventional ideas, including the idea of retaining Jewish settlements within the borders of a Palestinian state, provided that it is in the context of a permanent agreement that brings about an end to the conflict.
The idea appears impractical, first and foremost from a security perspective, especially given the state’s responsibility for the security of all its citizens, both within its borders and beyond. Nonetheless, an initial analysis of this possibility is in order, irrespective of any opinion on its political or diplomatic feasibility.
The idea itself is not new. A territorial enclave is sovereign territory of a state that is not connected by land to the main territory of the state and is entirely surrounded by land territory of another state. There are territorial enclaves that extend over thousands of square kilometers, but enclaves are generally small, comprising an area of several square kilometers or even less. In most instances, there is no problem traveling from the enclave to the mother state, but sometimes, passage involves a complex administrative procedure.
The global diplomatic map shows approximately 100 territorial enclaves around the world. Some 200 enclaves used to be located near the border between India and Bangladesh, but were abolished two years ago. Some 20 are found on the border between Holland and Belgium, and the rest are located in various areas of Europe and Asia.
The Jewish settlements outside the large settlement blocs in the West Bank can be divided into three categories: Israeli enclaves within Palestinian territory; autonomous Israeli settlements under Palestinian sovereignty; and settlements of Jews in the territory of a Palestinian state with no special status.
The largest settlements – Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Efrat and Kiryat Arba – with tens of thousands of residents, will remain under full Israeli sovereignty as part of the State of Israel, and their residents will remain Israeli citizens. Agreed-upon routes will be used for passage to and from these settlements to other areas in the State of Israel, and traffic on these routes will be unrestricted, without oversight by the Palestinian state.
Today, the total population in these settlements is 69,000, and their built-up areas total 770 hectares. This area will be taken into account during the discussion of exchange of territories between the State of Israel and the Palestinian state. If Efrat and Ma’aleh Adumim remain within the boundaries of the State of Israel as an integral part of a permanent border, only Ariel and Kiryat Arba will remain as two enclaves that are home to some 25,000 people on a built-up area of some 350 hectares.
Ten mid-size settlements, each home to between 2,000 and 7,000 people, will be in the territory of the Palestinian state and under its sovereignty, but they will conduct themselves as if they were autonomous in all respects. These settlements are Beit El, Ofra, Emanuel, Kfar Adumim, Kochav Yaacov, Eli, Kedumim, Talmon, Karnei Shomron and Shiloh. Any Israeli in these settlements will keep his Israeli citizenship, and the settlements will conduct their lives independently in all municipal-social- administrative areas, such as education, social services and health. The total population in these settlements is some 40,000, and their built-up areas total 850 hectares.
The residents of some 65 small and isolated settlements, with a total population of 36,000, who decide to remain in their homes will be able to retain their Israeli citizenship and also receive Palestinian citizenship. These settlements will be under the full sovereignty of the Palestinian state. The residents will retain their right to ownership of their private lands and the public areas in the settlement, but in all other matters, including the right to vote, they will be citizens of the Palestinian state. Those who remain in these settlements will be subject to the sovereignty and the laws of the Palestinian state, as Israeli Arabs are subject to the sovereignty of the State of Israel. The territory of these settlements will not be taken into account during the discussion on exchange of territories between Israel and the Palestinian state.
A permanent-status agreement on the basis of the principles reviewed here could ensure the continued existence of some of the Jewish settlements and make forced evacuations unnecessary. The residents themselves will choose whether to remain in their homes. Over time, some and perhaps most of this population will choose to return to the borders of the State of Israel of their own volition and receive compensation for the private property they left behind in the settlements, while others will remain willingly within the borders of a Palestinian state on the basis of the proposed models. This action will be taken freely and without the use of force, and occur over a lengthy period of time.
Another positive aspect is that the areas of the enclaves can be expected to be limited compared to the extensive areas of the settlement blocs discussed until now. Creation of the enclaves will reduce the need for territorial “fingers” in the direction of Kiryat Arba, Ariel and Emanuel, which will reduce the amount of land needed for land swaps with the Palestinians in a peace agreement. The land of the settlements in the second category (autonomy) and the third category (residence and citizenship) will be under the sovereignty of a Palestinian state, and thus it will not be necessary to “pay” for them with territory west of the Green Line.
Nevertheless, there is a decided possibility of friction and clashes between the enclaves and their Palestinian surroundings, which could develop into a state of high-intensity open conflict. Many experts believe that from the political, security and practical points of view the idea is not at all feasible, even in a state of full peace.
It was recently reported, however, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested to the Americans that the possibility of leaving Israeli enclaves in the territory of an independent Palestinian state.
2. Changing citizenship status Beyond the division of territory, there is a central phenomenon that the parties find difficult to deal with. It is clear that on the one hand, the Palestinian leadership is not interested in Jewish Israeli settlements in its territory. On the other hand, the majority of the Jewish population in the State of Israel is not comfortable with the existence of a large Arab minority within it, especially when the Arab political party (The Joint List) is openly opposed to the basic principle of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People.
I suggest that the following arrangement be pursued:
1. A Palestinian state shall be established in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, based on the armistice lines with some agreed upon changes. This includes the entire area of the settlements except for the changes detailed in the next section.
2. All communities and residents who wish to do so – Jews in the Palestinian state and Arabs in the State of Israel – will remain in their homes.
3. Exchanges of territory and population will be carried out by joining Jewish settlement blocs beyond the Green Line to the State of Israel, while the Wadi Ara area and the “Triangle” will be transferred to the Palestinian state.
4. The Jewish residents who remain within the Palestinian state will be Israeli citizens holding permanent resident status in the Palestinian state. They will enjoy all the rights of any local citizen, except for the right to vote in Palestinian elections.
5. All Palestinians living in the State of Israel who wish to preserve their Palestinian Muslim identity shall be citizens of the Palestinian state while retaining the status of permanent residents of the State of Israel and, like all permanent residents, shall have all the citizen’s rights except the right to vote for the Knesset.
The Druse population, which has already practically integrated in Israel, as well as the Circassians and the Arab Christians will continue to maintain their Israeli citizenship.
6. Anyone who is not prepared to accept this status, Israeli or Palestinian, will be able to move to the state of his people, while receiving compensation for his property that remains in the territory of the country he left.
7. Each state shall maintain its sovereignty over all territory within its boundaries and shall safeguard the rights of permanent residents therein and shall ensure the prevention of any harm to these residents.
8. Security arrangements shall be defined on behalf of both sides in order to protect the permanent residents from the majority population of the country in which they reside.
9. Movement of people and goods from one country to another will be open, with the exception of the right to settle or to add new people to the status of permanent residents, except for direct descendants of current permanent residents and special cases.
This arrangement will not harm any person. Palestinian residents of Israel will remain in their place with all their rights, except for the right to vote for the Knesset. They can vote for the Palestinian parliament of the Palestinian state. The residents of the Jewish settlements will continue to be Israeli citizens and will not be involved in the internal life of the Palestinian state. If permanent residents decide to move to their majority state, this will be done on their own free will, without coercion and pressure from the majority state.
This proposal, too, appears to be unacceptable, but as stated, it results in the least harm to people’s lives compared to all other proposals raised to date.
The author is a Professor Emeritus of the department of geography, Tel Aviv university.