By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
13 January 2014
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have for months hidden a major secret. Over the past two days, the details of a political solution based on establishing two states began to emerge after we thought the prospect of a solution had been buried for good.
The solution adopted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and championed by him during his visits to the concerned countries, will most likely fail. However, I do think it will pave the way for a final solution; perhaps it will be 10 years down the line, or whenever the historical moment arrives.
The concept behind the deal is based on exchanging both land and people. What if the Palestinians rid the occupied West Bank of Jewish settlers and the Israelis rid of towns and cities populated by Israel’s Arab population. Furthermore, what if two independent states with new borders are established after those cities and towns are exchanged between both sides.
It is a novel idea and if it is justly implemented, it will be better than the buried Oslo Agreement. But, the devil is in the detail. For example, many of “Israel’s Palestinians” do not live in areas neighbouring Gaza or the West Bank borders, therefore implementing population exchange will mean displacing more than one million people from their houses and land.
Not A Bad Idea
The idea itself, which seeks to gather Palestinians in their own state, is not a bad one as it will enlarge the size of the Palestinian state and strengthen its abilities as the Palestinians inside Israel are better educated. They are likely to contribute to building a strong and developed Palestinian state.
Despite this, I doubt that Kerry’s plan will succeed for several reasons. The major reason is that the Israeli party will impose its conditions as it considers itself the stronger party in negotiations. Even if the Palestinian party thinks it has finally attained the state it wants, with the minimum amount of rights and conditions, it is not actually in a strong political position to ensure massive support from the Palestinians.
Waiting Until the Right Time
Palestinian fragmentation is currently at its peak. Therefore, when a referendum comes, there will not be enough voices to adopt the resulting solution. Despite that, we expect the idea to be put on hold for years until the time is right for peace and after all the stubborn men have eased their stance.
Israel, until recently, has used the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state to waste the time of international parties even though it is a plan it never plans to accept. Israel thinks that one day, during some sort of crisis, it will be able to push out millions of Palestinians from the West Bank - that is to Jordan - which it openly described as the alternative state. But with time – after 50 years of this unpopular Israeli suggestion - it seems the Jewish Israelis, even the ultraconservative ones, have altered the way they think and have come to realize that getting rid of three million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is not an apt solution as they would continue to live with about two million Palestinians. Therefore, there will continue to be Palestinians on their land and Israel will not be solely for the Jews. The Israelis’ wish of having Palestine all for themselves without Palestinians is a mirage which is impossible to grab. It seems that this is what has pushed them to consider re-dividing old Palestine rather than just recognizing Gaza and the West Bank.
We do not know the details yet, but we know we are facing a historical change in stances. However, do not hope for too much as the situation is complicated and the struggle will continue.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.