More than the two-state solution: The many possible paths to peace

What are we talking about when we talk about solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

A general view of a part of Ma’aleh Adumim (photo credit: REUTERS)
A general view of a part of Ma’aleh Adumim
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Judea and Samaria. The West Bank. Whatever you want to call it, this piece of land (which includes parts of Jerusalem) is 5,640 square kilometers of the most hotly contested real estate on the planet.
The landscape varies from barren desert to arable mountainous terrain. It has rocky terraces and graceful hills and gurgling springs and gnarled olive trees.
For Jews, it is the biblical heartland. It is where the patriarchs and matriarchs walked, where they are buried, where the Tabernacle and Temple stood, where the stories of the Bible played themselves out – where they were also massacred, expelled and returned.
For Palestinians, it is where they have lived for generations, and where they hope to establish a state of their own.
It fell into Israeli hands in a defensive war that lasted for six days in June 1967.
Ever since, there have been innumerable plans regarding ways to divide it up or annex it to Israel, without imperiling the country’s Jewish majority. Some of the plans – and they continue to be churned out – are realistic, some creative, some seemingly crazy. What follows is a brief historical survey of some of the more prominent plans that have been put – or are now resting – on the table. One of the earliest plans for the West Bank was submitted soon after the Six Day War in 1967 by then-Labor Party minister Yigal Allon. Allon’s basic idea was to give Israel defensible borders, while not significantly altering the demographic balance of the country.
As such, his plan called for Israel to annex most of the Jordan Valley – a ribbon some 15 kilometers in width from the Jordan River to the eastern slopes of the mountain ridge running through the West Bank – to serve as a buffer from attacks from the east.
The plan also called for the annexation of Gush Etzion, east Jerusalem, the Latrun salient, and a slice of the Judean desert extending about 15 kilometers from the Dead Sea westward to protect Jerusalem. In other words, Israel would annex one-third of the West Bank, and give up the other two-thirds.
At first Allon called for Israel to annex Gaza, and in a later permeation of the plan it was to become part of a confederated Palestinian-Jordanian state.
The densely populated Palestinian areas from the mountain ridge to the Green Line would not be annexed, and would either form a Palestinian autonomous region, or – in a later revision of the plan – be confederated with Jordan, and linked to the Hashemite kingdom by a corridor near Jericho.
An Israeli road link would be created to give Israel access across the corridor, and – likewise – a Palestinian road link would be created to provide the Palestinians a link from Bethlehem in Judea to Ramallah in Samaria, across the area today known as E-1. In addition, the plan called for Israel to hold on to the South Hebron hills.
The cabinet never formally adopted the plan, but until Menachem Begin’s rise to power in 1977, this plan animated Labor Party’s settlement policies.
For instance, in the first decade after the Six Day War, Labor governments established 21 settlements in the Jordan Valley and along the eastern slopes of Samaria, areas that under this plan Israel would ultimately hold onto.
Likewise, under Labor settlements were established in Gush Etzion, starting with the reestablishment of the pre-1948 community at Kfar Etzion in September 1967, the first settlement established after the war.
Jordan’s King Hussein rejected the principles laid down in the Allon plan in secret talks held with prime minister Levi Eshkol in September 1968, arguing that it “infringed on Jordanian sovereignty.” Nevertheless, the Allon Plan was a fundamental plank in the Labor Party platform up until 1987.
IN 1977, however, the country went to elections and voted in Begin, who had a different vision altogether. After signing the Camp David Accords, Begin laid down in the Knesset in December 1977 his principles for an autonomy plan.
The principles did not include any type of confederation, but rather self-government for the Palestinians.
“With the establishment of peace we shall propose the introduction of an administrative autonomy for the Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The principles of the plan included the following points:
• Military rule in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would be abolished, replaced by administrative autonomy “by and for the Arab residents.”
• The Palestinians would elect an 11-member administrative council that would establish departments of education, transportation, construction, industry, agriculture, health, labor, refugee rehabilitation, legal administration and supervision of the local police force.
• Overall security and responsibility for public order – and sovereignty – would remain in Israel’s hands.
The residents of the territories could choose to hold either Israeli or Jordanian citizenship, and if they opted for Israeli citizenship would be able to vote, purchase land and settle in Israel.
Israeli residents, in turn, would be entitled to purchase land and settle in all areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Begin presented his plan to US president Jimmy Carter and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and preliminary talks on the matter began, although Palestinian groups refused to take part.
The plan petered out with the passage of the Jerusalem Law in 1980 and Sadat’s assassination in 1981, and the talks completely ground to a halt with the outbreak of the Lebanon War in 1982.
Plans from the Right
“What is your alternative?”
Those four words are constantly thrown at right-wing supporters who argue against a two-state solution. The two-state solution might not be perfect, its supporters argue, but – as former US secretary of state John Kerry famously said in his December 2016 speech blasting Israel’s settlement policies – it is the only viable alternative.
But, the Right argues, maybe Kerry is wrong.
The alternative plans from the Right range from extending Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria and encouraging the Palestinians there to leave (almost no one wants to annex Gaza, with its 1.8 million Palestinians), to annexing Area C, and giving the 80,000 Palestinians living there Israeli citizenship.
On the far Right of the spectrum is a plan articulated by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who advocates a plan for Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria that includes the following:
• Annexing all of Judea and Samaria and making sure that Jewish sovereignty extends everywhere.
• The Arab population would have the following options: Either emigrate voluntarily with the aid of a “generous emigration grant”; receive permanent residency – similar to Green Card status in the US – but be unable to vote; “tie their fate to the fate of the Jewish nation, like the Druze,” and be able to go through a long-term process to attain citizenship.
• Encouraging Jews to immigrate and build massively in Judea and Samaria to absorb the new immigrants.
Jerusalem Post
senior contributing editor Caroline Glick laid out a variation of this plan in her book The Israeli Solution. She, too, advocates sovereignty over all of the territory. Unlike Feiglin, however, she believes that Israel should assert sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria and provide the Palestinians there with full civil and legal rights as permanent residents, who will also have the right to apply for Israeli citizenship.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has also put forward a similar idea.
A RADICALLY different approach has been proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Liberman advocates taking all of the land – excluding Gaza – from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and redividing it along demographic lines. In this plan, large Jewish settlement blocs would be drawn into Israel, and the area of the “Triangle” with its large Israeli Arab population would be penciled into a Palestinian state.
His plan is often misunderstood as calling for the physical transfer of Israeli Arabs. It doesn’t. It calls for moving the border, but keeping the Arabs physically where they are. A resident of Umm el-Fahm, for instance, would continue to live in the same home, it’s just that he would no longer be an Israeli citizen but rather become a Palestinian one.
While Liberman has not explicitly spelled out where the lines would run, his idea is clear: draw as many Jews as possible into Israel, and as many Arabs from Israel into a future Palestinian state.
Some plans continue to live on, reflected in new suggestions. This is the case, for example, with the Allon plan that 50 years after its drawing up still offers inspirations to some “plans strategists,” with some obvious adjustments. Such a “planner,” for example, is Yoaz Hendel, who heads the Institute for Zionist Strategies, was Netanyahu’s spokesman in the past and is a known columnist today.
Hendel suggests Israel should gradually annex the settlement blocks, and – as a result – the PA’s status would be upgraded to a demilitarized state with temporary borders. In the “disputed territory,” the Israelis and Palestinians would carry the citizenship of their own state, and security supervision would remain in Israel’s hands.
His plan uses as its starting point the Oslo Accords division of the West Bank into three distinct areas: Area A – the 18% of the territory where the vast majority of Palestinians live and the PA has full civil and security control; Area B – 22% of the land, where the Palestinians have full civil control, but share security control with Israel; and Area C – the areas encompassing 60% of the territory, mostly in uninhabited desert regions in the east and south, where all the settlements and IDF bases are located.
“The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines,” he wrote in 2014. “Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocs.”
“The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of a demilitarized state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as a result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.”
SOME OF the other plans that have been put forward are variations of Begin’s autonomy plan from 1977.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch has a plan actually called “The Autonomy Plan of MK Yoav Kisch Based on the Principles of the Late PM Menachem Begin.”
Under this plan, Israel would annul the 1993 Oslo Accords, dismantle the Palestinian Authority and extend Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, except for 38% of the territory, which would become the area of Palestinian autonomy. Another 15% of the territory on the outskirts of the autonomous areas would be designated as Area I (Israel) and would be used to build transportation infrastructure connecting the various parts of the autonomous zones.
The Arab citizens in the West Bank outside of the autonomous area would be able to choose whether to become Israeli residents, and “eligible for Israeli citizenship as acceptable under the law of citizenship – or become residents of the autonomy. Kisch leaves the model of governance of the autonomous areas open for later determination, with the guiding principle being maximum self-administration while preserving Israel’s vital interests.
ANOTHER AUTONOMY-based plan is one proposed by Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett. Under this plan, a Palestinian state already exists. Gaza, he argues, has all the requirements of statehood: a defined population, a defined territory, an effective government capable of using force, and the capacity to enter relations with other states.
Under his plan Israel will apply sovereignty to Area C, where some 400,000 Israelis live. The 80,000 Palestinians there would be offered Israeli citizenship or residency, something that would not significantly alter the country’s demographic balance.
Areas A and B would enjoy autonomy.
“A state manages taxes and postal services, hospitals, holds elections and provides education,” Bennett has said.
“The Palestinian Autonomy will do all that and much more, but be less than a state.” Bennett insists that there will be two restrictions: maintain an army and absorb “millions of descendants of refugees from 1948.”
The Center and Left plans Just as the maximalist alternative plans from the Right are very simple – annex all of the territories Israel gained during the Six Day War – so, too, are the maximalist plans of the Left equally uncomplicated: a complete withdrawal from all the territories.
Few Israelis, however, advocate such a policy, so over the years there have been numerous variations on this theme, all having to do with just how much territory Israel should withdraw from, and how much, if any, of its own territory it is willing to cede as part of a land swap.
The touchstone for these variations was the so-called Beilin-Abu Mazen plan, drawn up following secret negotiations that began in 1993 and concluded in October 1995 between Yossi Beilin, who was then Israel’s deputy foreign minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, at the time Yasser Arafat’s deputy.
Beilin hoped to get approval for the plan from Yitzhak Rabin, but the prime minister was assassinated just days after the plan was published. Abbas, meanwhile, distanced himself from the plan, but it has served as a basis for any number of proposals that have followed in its wake, even though this one was never formally published or ratified.
The Beilin-Abu Mazen plan introduced the idea of land swaps, whereby Israel would keep the large settlement blocs, about 4.5% of the territory, in exchange for a similar amount of Israeli territory – mainly near the Egyptian border in the Halutza area – and a “safe passage” for Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza.
The guiding principle was to retain the maximum number of settlers inside Israel in the minimal amount of territory.
Jerusalem would be expanded into a super municipality, with both an Arab and Israeli municipality under it.
Israel would administer all the Jewish neighborhoods (“Yerushalayim”), including those beyond the Green Line, and the Palestinian municipality would administer the Arab neighborhoods (“al-Quds”). The Palestinians would fly their flag over the Temple Mount, but the site would be under extraterritorial sovereignty.
The new Jerusalem would include Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev.
The plan animated the proposals Ehud Barak put forward at the Camp David talks in 2000. Under these accords, that were never signed, Israel would eventually cede 91% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and in exchange for annexing some 9% of West Bank, and would cede to the Palestinians 1% of the total territory inside Israel as a land swap (a 9:1 ratio).
Under this plan, Kiryat Arba would remain an Israeli enclave inside a Palestinian state, approachable by a road from the south. Israel would keep approximately 80% of the settlers in blocs, and would also hold onto the Latrun salient. The West Bank and Gaza would be linked by an elevated road.
Jerusalem would be shared.
THE CLINTON parameters of December 2000 moved the ball even further, with Israel ceding 94 to 96% of the West Bank, and the ratio of land to be swapped being 1% of territory inside Israel for 3% annexed to the Jewish state.
Like Camp David, the principles guiding the plan were that 80% of settlers would be incorporated into Israel; there would be territorial contiguity of the Palestinian areas; the amount of annexed land would be minimized; and there would be an attempt to minimize the number of Palestinians affected.
The solution for Jerusalem was not spelled out in detail, but the overall principle was two capitals, with the Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, and the Arab ones under Palestinian control. The Palestinians would have sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and Israel would have sovereignty over the Western Wall.
When this, too, went nowhere, Beilin got involved again – this time not as a government minister – going to Geneva in 2003 and drawing up the so-called Geneva Accord with former Palestinian minister of information Yasser Abed Rabbo.
This plan called for an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, but with slight modifications, giving Israel – for a 1:1 exchange – six settlements in western Samaria; Gush Etzion (excluding Efrat); Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim and Har Adar near Jerusalem; and the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and the Old City’s Jewish Quarter inside the capital. The rest would be ceded to the Palestinians There would be an international religious authority controlling the holy sites in Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount under Palestinian sovereignty, and the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty.
ALTHOUGH THE Geneva initiative was also never accepted, its approach had an influence on prime minister Ehud Olmert, who after some 30 meetings with Abbas in 2008, during the waning days of his tenure, outlined his plan to Abbas.
Olmert did not give the Palestinian leader the maps of his proposals, so Abbas sketched them on official Palestinian Authority stationery.
Olmert adopted the principle of the 1:1 swap from the Geneva Accords. Under this plan Israel would annex some 6.3% of the West Bank, but give up 5.8% in Israel to a future Palestinian state.
Unlike the Geneva Initiative, this plan called for the inclusion inside Israel of the Ariel bloc, as well as Efrat.
Under this plan, each country would have its capital in the part of Jerusalem that it controls, with a five-nation group overseeing the Holy Basin, over which neither Israel or Palestine would have sovereignty. This area included the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David.
Abbas never responded to this offer.
A year later, in 2009, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz – at the time a Kadima MK – unveiled a plan of his own, the Mofaz Plan. Mofaz called for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank on 60% of the territory, meaning the state would include all of Area A, Area B, and an additional 20% of Area C to provide contiguity. These borders would be temporary and negotiations would be held on a final status deal.
Mofaz ultimately envisioned a Palestinian state on 92% of the West Bank, incorporating the settlement blocs into Israel, but expanding them more than the Olmert plan did. On Jerusalem, he said the issue had to be dealt with sensitively, but “there is no chance if dividing Jerusalem.”
Trump edges away from two-state solution (credit: REUTERS)
What was new in this plan was that Mofaz advocated acting immediately and not waiting for a negotiated solution. Since that time, in light of the ensuing failure of negotiations, ideas from the Center and Left have shifted from suggesting a road map to a negotiated solution, to putting forward plans either to bring the sides back to negotiations, or to separate unilaterally.
ZIONIST UNION MKs Isaac Herzog, Erel Margalit, Amir Peretz and Hilik Bar all have put forward various plans that differ primarily only on how to restart talks, and perhaps on the size of the blocs to be retained by Israel.
Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev, meanwhile, advocates unilateral steps toward “separation.”
Israel, he argues, must separate from the Palestinians to retain its Jewish and democratic character, and while it would be best to negotiate the terms of this separation with a Palestinian partner, in the absence of such a partner, Jerusalem should move forward on its own to separate.
His steps include a halt to settlement construction beyond the main settlement blocs, passing a compensation law in the Knesset to grant generous compensation to settlers living outside the blocs who want to settle inside Israel, expanding Area B – the territory in the West Bank where the Palestinians have civil control, and Israel has security control – by another 20%, a move that would necessitate taking 20% from Area C, and the evacuation of some 35,000 settlers living in that part of Area C.
Once separation is achieved, Bar-Lev hopes the sides will negotiate a final status deal. His map has Israel ceding 95% of the West Bank, and needing to evacuate a total of 70,000 settlers.
A confederation, perhaps?
According to most European and US officials, the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution, that is widely held to be axiomatic. That was one of the reasons that US President Donald Trump raised so many eyebrows during his press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in March when he said that it really didn’t matter what solution was reached – one state or two states – the important thing was that the sides agreed.
While widely mocked, that statement showed that Trump was not locked into any one conception, something that has the potential for preparing the way to more out-of-the-box suggestions, that often haven’t received serious attention.
One such suggestion is a confederation, but not the worn idea of a confederation between a Palestinian state and Jordan, but rather between Palestine and Israel. One of the proponents of this idea, though he has not spelled it out in too much detail, is President Reuven Rivlin.
In December 2015 Rivlin indicated in an interview with two French journalists that the solution to the conflict might be a Palestinian state next to Israel in a confederated situation.
“There would be a confederation,” he said. “Decisions that concern the two states in the confederation – or the two states of the united Israel-Palestinian state – we will have to [make] together.”
During this interview he reportedly suggested land swaps between the two states, and said that while the two countries would have two parliaments and constitutions, the IDF would be the only army.
A variation of this idea has appeared in recent months pushed forward by an eclectic group of Israelis and Palestinians, including some Israeli settlers and former Palestinian security prisoners, called “Two States One Homeland.”
Under this plan, there would be “two sovereign states in one, open, land” – Eretz Yisrael/Palestine. The citizens of both states would be able to travel and live in all parts of the single homeland. Also, the states would agree on an equivalent number of citizens of the other state who could live in their territory as permanent residents. This would mean that Israelis could remain in the Biblical heartland of the Jewish people, and Palestinians could return to villages abandoned in 1948 inside the Green Line. Israeli permanent residents in Palestine, however, would vote for the Knesset, and Palestinian permanent residents in Israel would vote for the Palestinian parliament.
Jerusalem would be one city, with the holy sites managed by representatives of the different religions and the international community. Palestinians in the city would be residents of Palestine, and Israelis would be residents of Israel.
A different type of confederation idea has been put forward by former National Security Council head Giora Eiland, who placed on the table in 2010 a unique plan that could be called the United States of Jordan.
In this plan, Jordan would have three states; Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – all governed by a federal government in Amman.
The West Bank and Gaza would have a budget, government institutions, laws, a police force and symbols of independence, just like the US states of Illinois and Alaska, but – like the American states – they would not have responsibility for foreign policy and military. Those duties would remain in the hands of the federal government in Amman.
Eiland has argued that the Palestinians would benefit from this arrangement because they would become part of a more viable, larger state, and it would not be ruled by Hamas. Jordan would benefit because it would not have to worry about a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. Israel would benefit because it would most likely get much more security from a West Bank confederated somehow with Jordan, than with a mini-state – likely to be a failed one – right on its doorstep.
Eiland has proposed another regional alternative that calls for creative land swaps between Israel, Egypt, and the West Bank, involving Jordan as well.
This plan has Egypt transferring some 720 sq. km. of land – including 24 km. along the Mediterranean coast toward El-Arish – to the Palestinians, to allow them to build a modern seaport, an airport as far away from Israel as possible, and a new city of some one million people. The area would be approximately 13% of the West Bank.
In return, Israel would give to the Egyptians an area in the Negev, along the border with Sinai, and will allow for a 10- km. tunnel to be dug just north of Eilat connecting Egypt by land to Jordan and giving it a land link – fully under Egyptian sovereignty – to the Persian Gulf.
At the same time, Jordan would transfer a ribbon of territory equivalent to 5% of the West Bank near the Jordan River to the new Palestinian state, and they might possibly be compensated for this by land given to them by Saudi Arabia along their border – the idea being that Egypt should not be the only Arab country to give up territory.
And the final part of this puzzle is that a Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and enhanced Gaza.
Considering the land that will be added to Gaza from Egypt and to the West Bank from Jordan, the Palestinian territories would actually grow by 105% of the size of the original 1967 lines. Some 13% of Judea and Samaria, equivalent to the land given by Egypt, would be annexed to Israel, and this area – encompassing the large settlement blocs, plus some – would contain the vast majority of the settlement population.
SINCE THE end of the Six Day War, innumerable plans have been put forward from the Left, the Right and the Center about what to do with the historic land – and its inhabitants – that suddenly and quite unexpectedly fell under Israel’s control. That no agreement has been reached is due to a myriad of different factors, many of them not under Israel’s control. It seems that it is not, however, due to a lack of creative ideas.