Eiland calls to establish 'US of Jordan'

Eiland calls for a Unit

Forget a two-state solution, the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to create a United States of Jordan that would include three states governed by a federal government in Amman: the East Bank, West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That, at least, is one of two solutions that former National Security Adviser Giora Eiland presents in a monograph called "Regional Alternatives to the Two-State Solution," released Thursday by Bar-Ilan University's BESA Center. In the 41-page booklet, Eiland - a former head of the IDF's Planning Department and today senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies - argues that the conventional wisdom of how to deal with the conflict is stale and mistaken. What is needed, he argues, is a completely new way of looking at possible solutions, widening the lens to come up with fresh ideas beyond the idea of a two-state solution. The first option is what could be called the US of Jordan, a variation on the old Palestinian-Jordanian federation theme. The second option indeed envisions a Palestinian state, but one with territory that would be enhanced by 720 km. given by Egypt, which would in turn be compensated by a similar amount of land taken from the Negev. These new ideas are necessary, Eiland writes, because in 2010 an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, based on a two-state model, seems less likely than in 2000 at Camp David, or when the Oslo process was launched in 1993. Among the elements making it more difficult now than in the past to solve the conflict, Eiland writes, are the ascendancy of Hamas; the complete lack of trust between the sides; the absence of a Palestinian leader like Yasser Arafat who is recognized by his people as speaking on their behalf; an Israeli leader not convinced that achieving a permanent settlement is possible; and demographics that now have 290,000 Israelis living beyond the Green Line, as opposed to 190,000 on the eve of Camp David. "It is hard to believe that the diplomatic effort that failed in 2000 can succeed in 2010, when most of the elements in the equation have change for the worse," he states. Eiland argues that over the years Israeli leaders have erred by creating the impression that Israel alone could take upon itself the task of solving the Palestinian issue. For instance, at Camp David in 1979 Egyptian president Anwar Sadat wanted to hear Israel's position on the Palestinian problem. "Begin hastened to volunteer: Israel would give the Palestinians autonomy and both sides would be satisfied. This implies that the Palestinians are Israel's problem and Egypt has no reason to get involved." Similar missteps were made all the way down to Ariel Sharon's disengagement and Ehud Olmert's convergence plan, he claims. The problem with these unilateral steps, he argues, was that they sent a message that "the Palestinian problem is Israel's problem and Israel alone will know how to solve it." The new US administration, Eiland argues, has also made a number of errors based on misconceptions. "The Obama administration errs in believing that resolving the conflict is currently possible." Among America's misguided assumptions, Eiland notes, are the following: · The supreme Palestinian aspiration is to attain independence along the 1967 borders. · The gap between the sides' positions is small and bridgeable. · Moderate Arab states are interested in ending the conflict and therefore will assist in its solution. · The end of the conflict will bring about stability. · Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vital to obtaining Arab assistance on the Iranian issue. · There is currently an opportunity to resolve the conflict and it must not be squandered. · There is only one solution to the conflict, and that is the solution of two states with the 1967 border between them. As an alternative to becoming locked into the two-state mindset, Eiland proposes a Jordanian-Palestinian federation whereby Gaza and the West Bank would be states in a Jordanian kingdom, much like Pennsylvania and New York are American states. "They will have full independence on domestic issues as well as a budget, governmental institutions, laws, a police force, and symbols of independence, but similar to Pennsylvania or New Jersey they will not have responsibility for two issues: foreign policy and military forces. Those two areas, exactly as in the United States, will remain the responsibility of the 'federal' government in Amman." Eiland says the benefits of this proposal to the Palestinians are enormous. First and foremost it would ensure that an independent Palestinian state would not be ruled by Hamas. In addition, he writes, "the Palestinians also understand that under a two-state alternative, they will become citizens of a tiny state. Such a small state is not viable and will have security limitations (for example, conceding sovereignty over its airspace). It is preferable to be equal citizens in a large, respected country where the Palestinians will form the demographic majority." Jordan would benefit, he continues, because the way to prevent instability in Jordan, which would be fueled by a future Hamas regime in the West Bank, is through Jordanian military control over this territory. And Israel would gain, he says, because it is more likely to get the security it desires if the territories are incorporated into a greater Jordanian state, rather than if a new - and most likely failed - mini-state is created on its doorstep. Eiland's other model, based on territorial exchange, calls for Egypt transferring some 720 km. of land - including 24 km. along the Mediterranean coast toward El-Arish - to the Palestinians, in order to allow them to build a million-plus city and a sustainable port and airport. Egypt would be compensated by an equal amount of land taken from the Negev, and a tunnel at Israel's southern tip from Egypt to Jordan, which would connect Egypt with the Arab countries to the east. The 720 km. are equal to 12 percent of the West Bank, which would be the percentage of West Bank territory to remain in Israel's hands. The enlargement of Gaza is necessary if it is to be a viable entity, Eiland argues, and it could enable the region to become an international trade center, which is impossible with the current dimensions. Egypt would benefit primarily from the 10 km. tunnel to Jordan, which would give it important physical and economic access to the main eastern part of the Middle East, and Jordan would get - via the tunnel - an important passage to the Mediterranean. As far as Israel is concerned, this type of arrangement would give the Palestinians a much better chance of viability and, by involving Jordan and Egypt, would create "stronger guarantees for the upholding of the agreement."