Original Thinking: Palestinian Emirates (Part 1)

On the back of social stability you can build a stable political system, and then you can build a flourishing economy.

Dubai Skyline 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jumana El-Heloueh)
Dubai Skyline 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jumana El-Heloueh)
Mahmoud Abbas may have had the support of a mass of UN members to ram through a “non-member” status for “Palestine,” whatever “non-member status” means. Surely you’re either a member, or not? Non-member status is like being almost pregnant.
Either you are, or you aren’t, surely? Not at the UN, apparently. There you can be a non-member and still wield a big stick, which is what Abbas wants to do with his new badge.
He wants to apply legal pressure against Israel through forums such as the International Criminal Court and lever Israel into delegitimacy, when he is the most delegitimate person in the UN.
He doesn’t even truly represent the people he claims to represent. How is that going to foster peace, or the enigma of a two-state solution? Answer – it isn’t.
How could the United Nations defy the Montevideo Convention on statehood which stipulates that new states should have a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states? It also demands that statehood not be granted if attained by military force. This includes terrorism. The Palestinians fail on all counts.
Not only does Mahmoud Abbas not represent the Palestinian Arabs (think Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Salafists), he doesn’t even represent the majority of the Arabs in the West Bank. His Fatah party was slaughtered in their recent local elections, losing control of all the major towns. So, really, who is he kidding by boasting that he leads the Palestinian people? So why is this two-state solution promoted, to the exclusion of anything else, by the international community? After decades of effort, billions of wasted dollars (simply put, to bribe the Palestinians to soften their approach and learn to live alongside the Jewish State of Israel) it has been shunted into nothing more than diversionary tactics at the UN.
Yet, depressingly, there remain stubborn utopians that will stop at nothing to fulfill their failed formula of a two-state solution. You would think these people would be capable of facing reality. But they are not.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Clearly, the decades-old search for an impossible two-state solution has eluded us. Seemingly intelligent and influence people still beat on about it being the only game in town. I have advise for them. Start to think out of the box. Open your minds and horizons to other solutions. Give alternatives the opportunity to succeed or fail, even as you stubbornly cling to your impossible dream.
Israel has accepted that large parts of Judea and Samaria are occupied by large numbers of Arabs with an antipathy to Israel. Neither does Israel, the democratic Jewish state, desire to integrate millions of antagonistic Arabs into an Israeli society, thereby potentially tipping the demographic scales against a Jewish majority.
This was the reasoning behind the two-state notion which, despite decades of the best efforts of the international community, has failed.
All that has been achieved is a Palestinian split between two sections of their society, neither of which recognizes the Jewish State of Israel, and a fading minority-backed leader defying logic with a contentious move at the UN that is bound to kill the only apparent solution on the horizon.
Why would political and social scientists and other “experts” want to pour money into a situation that their basic instincts tell them is doomed to failure? But they do.
Why do politicians and think-tank experts vacuously point the finger at Israel, rather than examine the pathetic and dysfunctional artificially created “Palestinian” society that is torn asunder by internal bickering and back-stabbing (literally). Their violent political divide is teetering on collapse and chaos, propped up by massive financial injections, mainly provided by the West and even Israel, with Arab regimes promising assistance but defaulting on their commitments.
So who says the two-state solution need be the only solution that prevents a one-state no starter? More and more people believe the two-state collapse will not be a disaster and that the dark vacuum may enable alternatives to emerge into the light of day for consideration and application.
Gradually, opinion-makers are coming to the conclusion that the two-state solution is dead.
On October 23, 2012, Rachel Shabi of The Guardian wrote: “The zombie peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is deluded because the two-state solution principle framing is dead.”
She confirmed that “after 19 years of failed 2-State talks, the fault plainly lies in the plan, not the leadership.”
I would disagree with that. Its failure lies solidly with the Palestinian leadership, with their external actions, their internal incitement to rejectionism, and their rock solid refusal to recognize the Jewish State of Israel. This rejectionism goes way back, before the idea of a Palestinian state was born out of frustration and hatred, beyond the infamous Arab League “Three Nos” in Khartoum on September 1, 1967, and even further back than the Arab rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947.
Haaretz columnist Carlo Strenger wrote on August 29, “I give up on it because it will not happen. While I have no alternative to offer, I know one thing for sure. The two-state solution has failed.”
I have positive news for Carlo. There are alternatives, good alternatives, and I detail one that goes back to basics for its hope of success – Palestinian basics.
On Sky TV, on November 15, when asked about the impenetrable quagmire between Israel and the Palestinians, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said: “Whenever I’ve asked people for an alternative to a two-state solution they can’t give me one.”
Well, Mr. Blair, meet Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, a Middle East expert. He can give you one. Speak to him. I did, and what he said made sense to me. He calls his alternative “the Palestinian Emirates.”
He visualizes eight emirate-type city states with designated borders that will incorporate the Arabs within them. The rest of the land can be populated by the inhabitants, whether they be Jews or Arabs, living and behaving with respect and deference to the inhabitants of the various city-states. The states shall be granted sovereignty. They shall be granted surrounding land for expansion and development. Road systems in vacant lands shall be developed for transport of people and commerce, both Jewish and Arab.
To understand the theory one needs to step back in time and study why the deep rifts of failure in the Middle East were formed. Simply, it goes back to a Frenchman and an Englishman who redrew the geopolitical map with a ruler but with little sensitivity to the ethnic, tribal, religious and sectarian divides inherent in the region for generations.
Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot redrafted the lands that had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. They divided them crudely into future British and French spheres of influence in 1916, during World War I and before the League of Nations established mandates in the area.
States such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were devised along artificial lines, with no consideration given to the indigenous anthropology.
Today we see the sad result of dysfunctional states ripped apart by sectarian violence. Even brutal dictators cannot maintain an iron grip on their people. Witness Saddam Hussein, Muamar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and Bashar Assad.
Yet, in the violence of the region, there is an island of prosperous tranquility that gives us hope for a fresh solution to the Palestinian problem.
This example of a better future can be found in the United Arab Emirates.
Kedar points to this area as a success story to be applied to the Palestinian Arabs.
Why is it that the emirate states live peacefully with one another and prosper? How did they build such wealth out of the same desert sands that have left Iraq, Syria and Libya in such disarray? Oil is not the answer. Where Abu Dhabi is fabulously rich due to its oil and gas revenues, Dubai is also an extremely rich state, but oil and gas brings in less than 7 percent of its revenue. Other emirate states have no oil and gas at all.
On the other hand, look at Libya, Iraq, even Iran. Despite their oil wealth, they are in political despair. So, if it’s not the oil, what keeps these emirates prosperous and peaceful? In truth, it comes down to their original social structure that still applies in our modern times with great success. They may not run their countries with a liberal form of democracy, they may not offer their citizens the vote (apparently they don’t need to), but, generally, they are run well, they make good neighbors, and they act today as examples for fellow Arab regimes to follow, including the Palestinians.
What makes for the stability is not the oil, and Dubai is the proof of this. Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria are all oil-producing countries, and they are far as can be from being stable. So evidently oil is not the cause of stability. Stability is achieved by being a homogeneous society, and if you are lucky to have both, a homogeneous society and oil, you’ll do very well.
Wealth is the outcome of social stability. The paradigm is that on the back of social stability you can build a stable political system, and on a stable political system you can build a flourishing economy. When a society is fragmented, fighting internally and with its neighbor, as is the case with Palestinian society, it cannot function and the economy is devastated. Who will invest a penny in such a place? The economy is the victim of an unstable political system.
It is foolish to plow billions into a socially, and therefore politically, dysfunctional political system. It is a waste of money because it is not built on a stable foundation.
Money cannot be the cohesive glue on which to build a functioning state that does not have a basic stable social foundation. Can anyone doubt that this is not true of the Palestinian entity? Proof of this is the billions that have been poured down the Palestinian drain. No one can point to today’s Palestinian society as being a model of a stable political system. They have had decades to sort out their political framework, and failed disastrously. This, more than anything else, has fractured any chance for a two-state solution to succeed.
Compare the success of tribalism in the modern UAE world to the failure of the two Palestinian conglomerates, Fatah and Hamas, that are unable to unite, or to satisfy their people.
It is timely to present a positive and sensible alternative, an alternative not based on a fiction of what a “Palestine” should look like, a fiction that is bound to end in more violence and bloodshed, and which clashes with facts on the ground they barely control, but rather one that is based on their own tribal characteristics.
Next week I will attempt to put some flesh on the bare bones of this concept.Barry Shaw is the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative. (www.israelnarrative.com). He is also the special consultant on delegitimization issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.