The Two-State Solution Is For Sissies! Can I Hear a Three?

Two interesting things happened in the Palestinian-held territories last Sunday.

A Hamas rally in Gaza

In Gaza, Palestinian militants vandalized a United Nations children’s summer camp. About 20 men with assault rifles destroyed the camp’s tents and burned its storage facilities. They also left behind a note threatening to kill the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which runs the camp (and is generally in charge of taking care of all Palestinian refugees), unless the UN children’s summer camps are closed.
The destruction and threats were allegedly motivated by the UN “promoting immorality” at summer camp (I can just hear the Camp Ramah directors look up in interest…) A statement issued two days before the attack accused the camp of “teaching schoolgirls fitness, dancing and immorality.” A quarter of a million Gaza children were due to attend the camp and participate in “immoral” UN activities prior to this “act of protest” against “fitness.”

The West Bank

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israel announced the removal of 60 checkpoints after a very positive meeting between Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and IDF generals. In addition to dismantling the checkpoints, Israel plans to simplify entry to the West Bank for business and tourism, granting tourists and tour guides entry to Bethlehem, enabling Arab-Israeli civilians to travel to the West Bank, and facilitating travel for senior Palestinian businessmen through security crossings, all of which are expected to help revive the West Bank economy.
In fact, (I’m a finance person, so I care about such things), while we’re sitting in this whole “global recession” thing out here, the West Bank economy actually grew 7% last year! That’s while markets were tanking all over the world, unemployment was through the roof, and I don’t even want to start on housing prices. While Greece and California were headed toward outright bankrupcy, the West Bank experienced an outright economic boom (possibly the only one in the world last year).

Brand New Building in Ramallah - Nice, Isn't It?

Construction is booming in the West Bank. At this very moment, with new building essentially frozen in the United States, you can actually stand in Jerusalem, and see the construction cranes lining the horizon in the West Bank.  Construction for the first new Palestinian town in decades began earlier this year. A 7-story home furnishings store (Herbawi Home Furnishings, in case anyone’s on the market or needs a wedding registry) has opened in Jenin. The first movie theater in 2 decades opened in Nablus last summer (and I hear it went from showing Pirates of the Caribbean last summer, to showing Avatar this spring… I’ll leave it to the arts column to comment on their taste in movies).
So why am I telling you all this?
It’s not to make you all rush out to invest in West Bank stocks and real estate (I swear! This does not constitute investment advice, and any losses sustained are not my responsibility. I hope that’s enough to keep the TC Jewfolk lawyers off my back).
The reason I mention this is quite simple. I would like to go on the record to say:
I’ve had enough. It clearly hasn’t been working out. And I’d like to propose that it doesn’t even make any sense. Never did, in fact. It was just the stuff of someone’s confused LSD trip, as far as I can tell. And not a good trip, either.
You see, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are not just heading in opposite directions now, with the West Bank booming, while Gaza is making greater and greater strides toward illustrating the concept of “Hell on Earth.” Gaza and the West Bank were NEVER the same. They were never even similar. And they have never been united.
Gaza had always been controlled by Egypt (since the British left in 1948). Gazan arabs speak the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. A large proportion of the Gazan population are refugees.
Meanwhile, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan. They actually speak a different (Jordanian) dialect of Arabic. A much larger proportion of their population are not refugees at all, but for instance, arabs who had lived in Nablus or Hebron or Bethlehem prior to 1948, and are still living there.
West Bank arabs even have significantly fewer children than the Gazans. They live more secular lives. They are much more likely to have jobs. And to interact with Israelis. In short, these are 2 different populations, with 2 different cultures, and 2 different histories and experiences – for the last 3 generations at least.
Even their attitudes toward peace are different. While Gaza is overrun by Hamas terrorists, who are shutting down women’s theater groups, vandalizing camps for encouraging fitness for girls, and complaining that UN camps “promote conciliation between Palestinians and Israelis,” the West Bank is full of music stores blasting sappy love songs into the streets, and Israeli journalists are now complaining that there are no terrorist leaders to be found in Nablus for an easy front-page interview in Ha’aretz anymore. (Dudes, I feel your pain! It’s tough to just make this stuff up!)
So I would like to propose that we forget this whole business of 2 states, trying to mash the West Bank and Gaza into one single unified whole. How about a 3-state solution instead? (We can call it the “Jenna Mitelman Road Map,” if we must. I’m always willing to sacrifice for the greater good.)
Just think about this – let’s say the Israeli Prime Minister woke up tomorrow just totally ready to make peace, give in to any demands, give away everything – whom would he even call? Seriously – does he have anyone to actually give it away to? Whom can he have a single negotiation with? Abbas in the West Bank? Hamas in Gaza? They won’t even talk to one another!
But imagine this instead – Israel and the West Bank continue making peaceful overtures to one another, remove some more checkpoints, let the economy rebound, bring in more tourists, open people up to one another more – and eventually, settle on a peaceful resolution with the West Bank. Call it “East Palestine,” say (or something else more spiffy. I don’t insist on naming rights.)
If Gaza is willing to talk, great! It can be “West Palestine” (or “Palestine on the Beach.” Or Gaza, if it insists. Or even Hamastan.) And if they’re not, that’s fine, too. There can be peace and prosperity and economic exchange with the West Bank Palestinians, and Hamas in Gaza can continue to bury their people in a new, Middle East reincarnation of Somalia as long as their people let them. Why force them to go down the same road if they are clearly facing in opposite directions?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Even Palestinian President (and West Bank big kahuna) Mahmoud Abbas is starting to see things my way (go TC Jewfolk marketing department!) Yesterday, he spoke out against Iran’s influence in Gaza, saying that

“The Palestinian people’s unity… is not in our hands.”

Hear, hear!
He also said that

“peace could be achieved in a week”

Now, could anyone reading this seriously imagine a Hamas spokesman (and let’s not have any doubts here that it would be a man) saying the same thing?
So let’s allow Mr. Abbas to get his “peace in a week.” And let’s not let Hamas intransigence and some amorphous ideas of joining two halves that do not fit stop him. Let’s embrace the 3 state solution, and see what that gets us. I sure bet it won’t be worse than the brilliant success we’ve had with the 2 state plan. Who’s with me?
Note: The LA Times wrote about the lack of historical basis for the 2 state solution back in 2007. You can read all about it here.
[Photos: WILPF, Wikipedia, za3tar, Wikipedia]