An open letter to Jared Kushner: The Three-state Solution
For nearly a century the West has viewed the “Israel-Palestine” as the central source of instability in the Middle East. And while the “Arab Spring” should convince that deeper issues feed the instability, this is a side issue for a future discussion. But the outcome of this conviction was an enormous commitment of time and prestige by western leaders dedicated to the frustratingly elusive pursuit of solving the apparently simple problem. American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama made peace between the parties a priority, and each president left office blaming their failure on the recalcitrant parties. Donald Trump, determined as his predecessors to be the one to bring peace to the parties is taking a different and possibly more promising approach. But unless the tactical approach of “Outside-In” is accompanied by a different strategic outcome, he too will follow his predecessors in failure.
The “two-state” option was first promoted by the British mandatory in the 1920’s and was received with the same rejectionist response by Palestinian leaders as greeted all such efforts since. Although it would be simplistic to place all blame on the lack of Palestinian leadership willingness to accommodate a Zionist neighbor a pattern of Palestinian rejection developed from 1947 and the UN Partition Plan to Camp David in 2000 which describes past and future.
President Trump’s "Outside-In” diplomacy to Mideast peace opens the door to regional stability while re-establishing America as a global leader. But the Achilles’ Heel of the new American diplomacy remains unless the goal of the diplomacy adjusts to accommodate the lessons of past failures: the best outcome achievable will be that same offered by a Hamas intellectual soon after the Islamist takeover of Gaza: an unstable Hudna, a temporary truce with the ultimate goal of resumption of hostilities. That failure of achieving a meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians is even easier to predict today with the split between the two Palestinian entities. Old thinking results in old outcomes.
There is already, has always been available, an alternative approach providing an alternate outcome: a federation between the three parties included in the original UN mandate for Palestine. Before Britain divided Palestine into two sectors the Mandate included both banks of the Jordan. In rewarding the Hashemites for their assistance in fighting the Ottomans, Britain divided Palestine to provide for the Emirate of Trans-Jordan.
In fact, there has always been a quiet "understanding" between Israel and the Hashemite kingdom beginning with the original King Abdullah. The military component of that agreement surfaced most dramatically during Yasser Arafat's armed attempt to take control of Jordan in 1970-1. In support of Arafat’s war against Syria’s ideological nemesis Hafez al-Assad moved tanks to Jordan’s border threatening to invade. Israel responded by massing tanks along Syria’s border eliminating the threat. Jordan was then free to defeat the PLO in what became known among the radicals as Black September.
Since no Palestinian leadership since the 1920's has been willing to accept a permanent Jewish presence for neighbor; and today there are two warring Palestinian entities in Gaza and the West Bank, the likelihood of a "two-state" outcome is even less likely today. The question then is how to circumvent the obstacle. And the answer is the one most obvious from the beginning, a modified return to the original mandatory boundaries: a federation to include Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan.
Israel is generally acknowledged as regional military superpower. As in the Black September example Jordan provides a strategic barrier to a hostile eastern threat to the Jewish state. Jordanian stability is increasingly threatened facing the new "Arab Spring" chaos. In federation with Israel both countries would benefit by open military identification. The Palestinians, ever unable to seriously engage in a mutually-acceptable framework for co-existence with the Jewish state would be more able to swallow pride in a three-state federation including Arab Jordan.
All-in-all Trump’s "Outside-In" approach circumvents the pitfalls of efforts at promoting peace between Arabs and Israel. The Achilles’ Heel portending failure remains in “expecting a different outcome from repeating past failures,” insistence on a "two-state" approach.
Certainly the advantages in promoting Trump’s other regional goals, including integrating Israel into an open US alliance alongside Egypt and the Saudis in the war against Daesh (ISIL), containing Iranian expansionism, and increasing stability in the region suffering Arab Spring Syndrome. All this is achievable even as the president can also succeed where all predecessors failed: a lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israel.