Thoughts on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Part II

Original Thinking: How about the creation of a series of city states based on traditional and legitimate tribal leadership?

Palestinians celebrate UN statehood in Ramallah 370 (R) (photo credit: Marko Djurica / Reuters)
Palestinians celebrate UN statehood in Ramallah 370 (R)
(photo credit: Marko Djurica / Reuters)
Palestine was a desolate, barely inhabited, backwater of the Ottoman Empire until the Mandate, the British and the Zionist movement that led to the creation of the State of Israel, brought it back to life.
The anthropology of the Arab inhabitants in the disputed territories consisted of pastoral and static tribes or roaming Beduin tribesmen.
They were joined by a flow of Arab immigration from places such as Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, attracted by the employment opportunities created by the Zionist enterprise. Later, their numbers were swelled by the influx of refugees as a result of the Arab-initiated assaults on the nascent Jewish state.
This is today’s mix in what is called the Palestinian Arab population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the basic original ingredient was the various tribes that still exist today.
Those who migrated to this region left behind artificial states that are, today, in conflict and disarray. We see the disintegration of states such as Iraq, Libya and Syria because they have been artificially concocted from rival tribes and ethnicities that are forced to live together, but with a generations-old hatred of one another, in one state under a rulership they do not accept. The Palestinians haven’t even got to that unhappy state yet. Would it, therefore, be wise to create such a mess now?
This short series of articles presents the concept and the architecture of the idea of a Palestinian Emirates. The concept leaves the engineering and maintenance to others, such as diplomats, leaders and think tanks, to construct the project.
According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, and formerly of IDF Military Intelligence, the creation of a series of city states based on traditional and legitimate tribal leadership, rather than an artificial, weak and dysfunctional nation state, is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The basis of successful local leaderships is inherent in its own population.
These states can decide their own form of government, make their own laws, educate their own people, and print their own currency if they wish, have their own media, develop their own industry and commerce, or have their people find employment within Israel. The structure gives control and responsibility to the local residents to decide their own future.
In time, when a number of independent city states emerge, they can unite in a Palestinian Emirates body, similar in form to the Persian Gulf states. They can work together for their mutual benefit, including in commerce, tourism, security, regulations and other interconnecting interests.
Kedar visualizes eight such city states that will contain the majority of the Palestinian Arab population, with freedom of movement between them. They will be interconnected into a federation of Palestinian Emirates, if they wish.
It’s in Israel’s interest to foster close cooperation with such city states.
The leaders will be dependent on a cooperative neighbor for trade, employment, influence, contact with the outside world and security.
For Israel, these city states can be a source of local industry, trade and commerce, as well as be security buffer zones.
Instead of the existing West Bank and Gaza blocs of enmity, it will be possible to develop mutually positive relations with these smaller independent entities. Once both sides feel confident and comfortable with the success of the working model, the city states can have their own security and police forces which could be trained and equipped by Israel. Until then they should be guaranteed the protection of Israel to keep them safe from external forces wishing to destroy their quest for independence.
Dr. Kedar walked me through the list of local tribes. Tulkarm residents belong to the Karmi tribe. Al-Masri is the leading family in Shechem (Nablus). Barghouti is the Ramallah tribe. Erekat is the ruling family in Jericho. The Jabaris are the prominent tribe in Hebron, although Hebron also has the Abusnena, Qawasme and Natche tribes.
Kadar points to Hebron as the perfect place to create the pilot model of a future Palestinian Emirates. Although there are several tribes there, they have coexisted due to the traditional tribal court in which they settle all their differences without the need for a police or security force. The fiercely independent Sheikh Farid al-Jabari has been critical of the Palestinian Authority. He has spoken and written strongly to Mahmoud Abbas, whom he refers to as “the foreigner” due to the fact that Abbas is not from the territories, but from Safed, and has no tribal roots in the area. This traditional environment gives Kedar the key to opening the box to a different future for Arabs living in the territories, and hope for Israel and the world for a better, peaceful world.
The difficulty will be to convert this idea into a working initiative.
An academic or journalist can get the ball rolling. It’s up to the politician to convert proposals into policy. An idea, given the light of day in an article, is designed to create thought and dialogue that will lead to its construction. It is the starting point that may lead to international involvement in the road map to success.
Each of the emirates could apply to the Israeli government for permits to expand its territory for industrial, commercial, residential or recreational development, just as the Israeli towns and villages apply for building extensions in their areas. Israel would supervise the development of the road and rail systems, water and electricity supplies, to supply the emirates just as they would to the nearby Israeli communities.
A patchwork quilt of Palestinian city states and Israeli towns and villages would emerge in the territories, each giving allegiance to their own governing body. There would be coordination and cooperation between the federation of emirates and the Israeli government in a stronger form than the existing coordination between the PA and Israel.
Israel would use its influence within the European Union and America to bring foreign aid, development and commerce to each of the cooperating emirates. There would be less waste of funds and easier accountability in the city states than has been the case with the PA.
Israel would approve the flow of emirate goods and products to Israeli ports for shipment abroad. Israeli entrepreneurs would be encouraged to partner with Palestinian Emirates businessman in joint ventures. The Israeli government would allow residents from each of the city states to find employment in Israel in preference to the many thousands of foreign laborers who work in our agriculture and on our building sites today.
The plan is fraught with dangers. Any chieftain or tribe willing to become an independent entity will be accused of treason by peacekillers stubbornly determined to use the Palestinians as cannon fodder in their attempts to eradicate the Jewish State of Israel. It will take courage to declare an intention to attempt a brave new experiment in statehood. That is why the support of the United Arab Emirates may be an essential ingredient in implementing the project.
Surely it is to the benefit and credit of the UAE to promote and assist in the replication of their political system for the sake of their Palestinian Arab brethren? It would certainly strengthen their political model in the eyes of the world at a time of turmoil throughout the Middle East.
One thing the Palestinian Emirates concept has going for it is time.
Maybe the time isn’t yet ripe, but Middle East conflicts aren’t going away any time soon. More time will be wasted before a death certificate is issued for the body of a dead two-state project, and other ideas will be considered.
During that time the seed of the Palestinian Emirates idea can be planted, cultivated and allowed to flower into a sensible solution that has a successful model elsewhere in the region. Just imagine the UAE duplicating its example by adopting the city states project. Just as Western countries adopt twin city projects, perhaps Dubai will twin with the Emirate of Hebron, or Abu Dhabi will adopt Tulkarm, and guide them into a confederation of Palestinian Emirates? Israel need have no fear of such a commitment. On the contrary, this could act to Israel’s benefit.
The idea of a Palestinian Emirates must be allowed out into the open to give it breathing space, thinking space, talking space, to allow it to germinate and spread, to be adopted by think tanks and policy-makers so they can assemble the nuts and bolts that will go into the construction of this project. It is fraught with all sorts of dangers and risks. It will be called heresy and treason in the Islamic world as it would recognize the permanency of Israel. It would deconstruct the Arab ambition to destroy the Jewish state.
The idea must be advanced cautiously, with discretion, and with courage. It can only succeed when men of influence and vision put their reputation on the line for its success.
None is better placed to do so than the rulers of the emirates of the Persian Gulf. They should step forward to raise their unfortunate Palestinian Arab brethren to a brighter future modeled on the framework of their own existence. By offering their best efforts in solving this seemingly impenetrable problem, crafted in their own image, they would elevate their prestige on the world stage. This may sound like wishful thinking, but so is a two-state solution that is going nowhere.
The notion of a Palestinian Emirates in no way negates the affirmation of a Palestine as a non-member of the United Nations. This resolution did not refer to a governmental construct of a future Palestine.
Neither did it recognize any authority to govern over such an entity, neither for the PA nor for Hamas. The mention of a Palestinian entity within the pre-1967 borders does not negate the concept of a Palestinian Emirates within such boundaries.
Respect and honor are part of the Arab DNA. The Palestinian Emirates project should appeal to the local inhabitants because it goes to the heart of who they are, and not to some false narrative concocted by politicians and outsiders they do not respect. It honors their ancient tribal traditions. It gives respect and dignity to the head of each tribe. It respects the political and social system they have known for generations. Once proven, it will give them a better life, a better future for them, for Israel, for the region, and a peaceful resolution to the conflict bringing with it respect and cooperation with its neighbors, including Israel.
This article may lead to more questions than answers. That’s good, because questions lead to solutions when answers are found.
Barry Shaw is the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative. He is also the special consultant on delegitimization issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at the Netanya Academic College.