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The Best Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict I Have Seen in Years

By  |  November 21, 2016, 04:15am  |  @josh_hammer

British-Israeli IDF veteran and current reservist Sgt. Benjamin Anthony is, to put it bluntly, a total badass.  A veteran of three major IDF combat operations (the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014) with a commanding personal presence and a proper Northern English accent he still maintains from his Mancunian youth, Anthony is also the founder of a wonderful pro-Israel organization called Our Soldiers Speak (“OSS”).  OSS seeks to fight back against the overwhelmingly pervasive anti-Israel narrative that predominates today on the American university campus by means of bringing high-ranking Israeli military/security officials to deliver information-packed, highly substantive speeches to student audiences.  Along with my collegiate fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a law school-centric group with which I am also proud to be involved, OSS is one of the leading on-campus organizations right now fighting against both flagrant anti-Semitism and the “anti-Zionism” fig leaf under which misanthropic anti-Semitic sentiment so often perniciously lurks.  I nearly accompanied OSS on a small trip to Israel this past July-August, and I would have done so had I not just been to Israel only a few months prior with a different group named Israel & Co.

Frequent visitors to this site know that I write a lot about both Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Indeed, I have described the pro-Israel cause as one of “my two [political] untouchables,” along with the right-to-life issue.  I care so much about—and am so involved in activism for—this issue for two primary reasons: (1) as a proud Jew and student of history, I consider the Zionist project and its staggeringly awesome IDF military guard to be the living, breathing embodiment of “never again”; and (2) I believe Israel serves as the West’s “man on the spot” at the precipice of the Islamic world and, therefore, that Israel’s long-lasting and oftentimes intractable conflict with its Arab neighbors represents a proxy fight in our existential twenty-first century civilizational clash between free, liberalized West and barbaric, sharia supremacist jihadist subjugation.

For decades now, bipartisan U.S. policy vis a vis the conflict has been to insipidly insist on the much-vaunted “two-state solution.”  And yet, due largely to Palestinian intransigence, refusal to directly negotiate with Israel, inculcation of virulent anti-Semitism amongst its progeny, and utter rejection of the very notion itself of a distinctly Jewish sovereign state existing somewhere between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, such a solution is—as the indispensable Mosaic Magazine noted over a year ago—currently in “stalemate“:

It’s a longstanding truism of international relations that “everyone knows” the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Yet today, after more than two decades of negotiations under several different Israeli, Palestinian, and American governments have repeatedly failed to produce the two-state agreement whose terms “everyone knows,” it is past time to put this false idea to rest.  In fact, what the talks have shown is that even when there’s agreement on general principles, the remaining gaps are insurmountable—and often there isn’t even agreement on principles.  What this means is that, for now and for the foreseeable future, a final peace is not achievable.

The main alternative to the “two-state solution”—which is, naturally, the “one-state solution”—has three chief problems: (1) despite the well-researched and compelling work of the laudable American-Israeli writer Caroline Glick, it remains a prevailing view that Israel’s demographic future as a distinctly Jewish state (which is, of course, the entire underpinning of Zionism itself) would be jeopardized; (2) even if Israel were to fully annex all of Judea and Samaria, the vexing problem of the Hamas-controlled mini-terrorist state in the Gaza Strip would remain; and (3) such a solution would be utterly anathema to the so-called “international community,” and as such would rely almost exclusively on American—but, let’s be honest, really just conservative/Republican—support for its continuing legitimacy.

Add thousands of years of religion into the mix, and, as countless diplomats over the decades have discovered, the impasse between Jerusalem and Ramallah is indeed quite the conundrum.

Last week, OSS sent out an important email to its distribution list—accompanied by a Sgt. Anthony-penned blog post at The Times of Israel— that I fear will not get the proper attention it deserves.  It is, quite frankly, the cleverest and most ingenious idea to solve the conflict with the Palestinians that I have seen in years.  Sgt. Anthony refers to his idea not as the “one-state” or “two-state” solution, but as the “New State Solution.”  The crux of the proposal is that it does not revolve around bifurcating the narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River Valley, but is instead based upon the Sinai Peninsula.  Here are the highlights:

A further state for the Palestinian Arabs can be established.  That state must be viable though.  It must augur in a future of promise, security, liberty, sovereignty, self determination and opportunity for its inhabitants.  Citizens of this Palestinian state must be granted every possible chance to positively thrive.  It must be a state whose people not only dare to dream, but who actually realize the dreams they conceive.

This state must not come into being at the expense of Israel either now or in the future.  Neither Israel the people, nor Israel the country must be existentially compromised in order to facilitate its creation…

The least practical aspect of the two-state scenario results from the geographical positioning of the Gaza Strip in relation to Judea and Samaria (West Bank)…

The New State Solution would thus be anchored first and foremost in the Gaza Strip, with territorial expansion into a section of the Sinai Peninsula.  This state could be larger than anything that could be accommodated by the minute area of Judea and Samaria, thus granting geographical viability.  It also redefines the Gaza Strip as a central part of the solution, rather than an insurmountable problem

The boundaries of the New State would be brokered and ratified by several other parties beside Israel; most notably Egypt.  Egypt is a prime mover within the Arab world.  Having their imprimatur would grant legitimacy among several Arab nations and non-western nations.  Egypt also has a history of going alone in the Arab world where necessary, so long as its own best interests are assured…

There would be no IDF presence within the borders of the New State.  None.  Independent states do not want foreign troops within their land.  The New State would thus be both demilitarized and have a highly effective security apparatus…

The New State Solution offers far more reasoned security guarantees [for Israel than would carving a new Arab state out of Judea and Samaria, which infamously pinches Israel to a national width of nine miles, at its narrowest juncture, under the much-vaunted “1967 borders”].  To the south, south-west and south-east of the New State, the Egyptian military would be present only on the Egyptian side of the shared border.  Israel would maintain its security presence on the border with the New State on the Israeli side only.

Israeli and Egyptian forces manning the borders would not only offer reassurance to their own countries, but also to the New State.  Both would closely assist and cooperate so as to prevent spillover beyond, and unwanted infiltration within, the borders of The New State…

With a shoreline no less inviting than that of Tel-Aviv, The New State would boast rich opportunity for trade, commerce, tourism, hotels, resorts, casinos (on or off-shore), import, export and both an open, commercial air-port and an open commercial sea-port…

In addition to how the New State Solution craftily proposes a sizable new Palestinian Arab state whilst not undermining Israel’s security by forcing it to shrink to anything remotely approximately the rhetorically ubiquitous but historically anomalous “1967 borders,” the single other most salient aspect of Anthony’s proposal is how it deftly handles the question of demographics.  Crucially, there would be no forced relocations, and those Palestinian Arabs who wish to remain in Judea and Samaria (due to, for example, a desire to be near religious sites in Jerusalem, Hebron, or elsewhere) will eventually be eligible for an offer of full, unequivocal absorption into Israeli citizenry:

Financial and commercial assistance would be granted to any residents of Judea and Samaria wishing to relocate to The New State.

…today, as in the past, Jews immigrate to Israel with the belief that a better life awaits them here.  Their reasons for doing so are varied. Significantly, however, Jews come to Israel voluntarily.  They are neither forcibly transferred into Israel as individuals, nor as whole communities.

So too should it be for the Palestinian Arabs of Judea and Samaria…

Some may wish to constitute their futures in Judea and Samaria, others will prefer the option of opening a hotel along the shores of their own state or the prospect of building a home overlooking the Mediterranean, or they will move seeking employment and the opportunity to build up a state in which they have agency.  They ought to be allowed to choose.

Successful repatriation to The New State would significantly further reduce Israel’s demographic considerations regarding Judea and Samaria while those residents already in the Gaza Strip would be part of The New State, resolving that demographic concern.

For those not wishing to relocate from Judea and Samaria, the more favorable demographic realities enjoyed by Israel would engender the confidence needed to annex Judea and Samaria with full and equal rights being extended to all, regardless of race, religion or creed.  This would take place only once a 50% immigration threshold to The New State is achieved.

I have included here what I consider the highlights, but you should really read the full proposal.

The New State Solution is an intellectually serious attempt to think outside the box of the fecklessly constricted historical consensus, and it is offered by a deeply incisive IDF combat veteran who nonetheless transparently cares a great deal about doing everything he can to provide the Palestinians with their best shot at autonomy and self-determination—whilst also never risking Israel’s own hard-fought (and well-deserved) national security.  It requires the full annihilation of Hamas as the ruling entity in the Gaza Strip (some of us presciently called for this during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, *cough cough*…), which benefits innocent Gazans more than it benefits anyone else—including the Israelis who live near the border with the Strip and are themselves so often victims of scattershot Hamas rocket fire.

The proverbial elephant in the room, to which Anthony provides only a facile answer, is, “what’s in this for Egypt?”  Then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin ceded the Sinai to then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as part of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979, and the Sinai has been under full Egyptian control since at least 1982.  The New State Solution is thus entirely dependent upon not just Egypt’s one-time agreement to cede (potentially) large swaths of the Sinai, but on Egypt agreeing to coordinate in the future with Israel to assure ongoing New State security in what will likely still be a deeply embattled Middle East.

But the Sinai, today, oftentimes presents more of a headache for Cairo than it does anything else.  A few luxurious beach resort locales notwithstanding, the Sinai is sparsely populated.  Due in part to this sparse Egyptian population, it has turned into something of a jihadist hotbed over the past decade.  Islamic State has a sizable presence in the Peninsula.  The situation has gotten so bad, in fact, that Egypt has even agreed to allow the Israeli military to bombard Sinai jihadists with drone strikes—a stark symbol of the general thawing of the longstanding “cold” peace between the neighboring countries that Western-aligned Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been admirable in conscientiously pursuing.  El-Sisi is anti-Islamist, anti-sharia supremacist, and anti-jihad.  He is, indeed, a genuine Islamic reformer who has shown himself willing to buck traditional Middle East geopolitical constraints in order to better take the fight to the jihad and improve the chances of brokering a true regional peace.

The U.S., along with the sundry other international actors which have staked out a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, could assist Egypt in relocating any Sinai inhabitants who might wish to remain citizens of Egypt and not of the New State.  The Sunni Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have also warmed to Israel of late—the only silver lining, alas, of the catastrophically terrible, Shi’ite theocracy-empowering Iranian nuclear deal—and it is not inconceivable that the Saudis and Emiratis could apply their own pressure on el-Sisi to move forward with the Sinai plan.  The embittered Khartoum Resolution was 49 years ago, after all, and many in the Arab world are quite simply exhausted with the quotidian travails of the Palestinian quagmire.

Sgt. Benjamin Anthony’s New State Solution is a profound attempt to think outside the box and shift the intensive global gaze upon this ostensibly interminable conflict away from both the repeatedly failed, deeply problematic “two-state solution” and the demographically risky, arguably undemocratic “one-state solution.”  Palestinian Arabs wishing to stay in Judea and Samaria would be able to do so whilst being eligible for full absorption into the vivacious Israeli polity, and those seeking to relocate to build their own Mediterranean-abutting state in pursuit of self-determination would be financially assisted in doing so.

It is a manifestly fair proposal, and, to the extent Palestinian leaders are proffered such a deal only to turn it down, the “international community” and Ban Ki-moon-led moral relativist dolts at Turtle Bay will no longer be able to throw temper tantrums about perceived Israeli obstinacy in the face of global (mostly Leftist) pressure.  To the extent the Trump Administration seeks to solidify its nascent pro-Israel bona fides, it should quickly instruct its State Department to get to work in further hashing out the details of such a Sinai Peninsula-based conflict solution, in proposing it in earnest to el-Sisi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas alike, and, lastly, in convincing el-Sisi that such a geopolitical risk for Egypt is well worth the potential reward such a risk might one day reap.  As the Republican Party platform rightly noted in Cleveland, it is time to do away with “two-state solution” Eretz Yisrael-splitting disingenuous niceties and get serious about solving this problem.