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Proposals for a Palestinian state

(The neutrality of this article is disputed.)

The current position of the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel is that the West Bank and Gaza should form the basis of a future Palestinian state. In the following, the historical background is briefly reviewed and the current dispute analyzed. For additional discussion, see Palestinian territories.

Table of contents

Peace Process

A peace process has been in progress inspite of all the differences and conflicts. Milestones along this path have been the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991[?] and the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel. The process stalled with the collapse of the Camp David 2000 Summit between Palestinians and Israel.

Historical Views

Historical Israeli views

The traditional Israeli view has been that there is no such thing as a separate Palestinian people, but only Arabs. They already have several nations, and it is therefore unreasonable to demand that Israel should have any responsibility or part in establishing a nation for them. This is summarized by the famous statement of Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74) Golda Meir: "There was no such thing as Palestinians ... It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."

Since then, according to polls, the majority of Israelis have come to accept the likelihood that a Palestinian state will be created.

Historical Arab views

Many Arabs have supported or continue to support the creation of a united Arab state encompassing all Arab peoples including Palestine, so that no independent Palestinian state would exist. This view has been expressed by the PLO. In March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, who stated that:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."

Since then, however, progress towards any kind of united Arab state has been slow and it is commonly accepted in the Arab world and elsewhere that any Arab state to be established in Palestine would be self-governing.

From 1948 until 1967, Gaza was held by Egypt, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was held (annexed actually) by Jordan. During those years, there was a growing movement for the creation of a Palestinian state, leading to the creation of the PLO in 1964.

Modern view The main discussion during the last fifteen years has focused on turning most or the whole of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into an independent Palestinian state. This was the basis for the Oslo accords and it is favoured by the U.S. The status of Israel within the pre-1967 borders has not been the subject of international negotiations. Some members of the PLO recognize Israel's right to exist within these borders; others hold that Israel must eventually be destroyed. Consequently, some Israelis hold that Palestinian statehood is impossible with the current PLO as a basis, and needs to be delayed.

The specific points and impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian state are listed below. They are a part of a greater mindset difference. Israel declares that its security demands that a Palestinian entity would not have all attributes of a state, at least initially, so that in case things go wrong, Israel would not have to face a dangerous and nearby enemy. Israel may be therefore said to agree (as of now) not to a complete and independent Palestinian state, but rather to a self-administering entity, with partial but not full sovereignty over its borders and its citizens.

The central Palestinian position is that they have already compromised greatly by accepting a state covering only the small areas of the West Bank and Gaza. They feel that it is unacceptable for Israel to impose a multitude of additional restrictions (see below) which, they declare, makes a viable state impossible. In particular they are angered by significant increases in the Israeli settler population in the West Bank during the interim period of the Oslo accords. Palestinians claim that they have already waited for long enough, and that Israel's interests do not justify depriving their state of those rights that they consider important. Therefore, Palestinians have been unwilling to accept statehood in this Israeli mindset, which they refer to as a "Bantustan".

Impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian state Note that the materials in this section are mainly based on the Israeli ([1] (http://www.mideastweb.org/CampDavid2.htm), [2] (http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/000720/2000072019)) and Palestinian ([3] (http://www.mediamonitors.net/pnt1),[4] (http://www.nad-plo.org/index)) positions during the ill-fated Camp David negotiations.

  • The city of Jerusalem is a site of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel demands that Jerusalem be recognised as their official capital (the very name "Zionism" is derived from Zion, one of Jerusalem's names), whereas Palestinians demand that East Jerusalem[?] be recognized as their official capital, calling for Jerusalem as a whole to be an open city. A border passing inside the Old City is likely to displease both Jews and Arabs, since in addition to not settling the two sides' claims for the city, it would lead to difficulties in everyday life. Israel agrees to a compromise in Jerusalem, in which Israel has sovereignty over East and West Jerusalem but civil administration of the city's east is in Palestinian hands. Some groups, such as the Catholic Church, favour giving the city a special international status independent of either Israel or a Palestinian state, as was proposed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan.

  • Palestinians insist on contiguous territory. Israel has preferred to give the Palestinian Authority control mainly over cities while keeping the surrounding hinterland under Israeli security and Palestinian civil administration (Area B) or complete Israeli control (Area C). In addition Israel has demanded corridors through the West Bank that divide the territory into three or more separate parts and also additional Israeli highways. All together this creates hundreds of small, separated, patches of territory. [5] (http://www.iris.org.il/oslo_2000.htm) According to Palestinians, this makes it impossible to create a viable nation and fails to address Palestinian security needs; Israel has expressed its agreement to withdrawal from some Areas B, resulting in the division of the Palestinian areas into dozens to about a few hundred distinct parts (the numbers vary), and the institution of a safe pass system, without Israeli checkpoints, between these parts. Neither side has publicized a map with the proposed final settlements (the leaked documents reveal different plans, which range from 3 chunks to 7 or more). See for example a Le Monde Dipolomatique extrapolation (http://www.orienthouse.org/dept/images/Maps/ecartediplo.eng) and Gush Shalom[?]'s Projected Map (http://www.gush-shalom.org/generous/generous).

  • Israel wants the new border lines to be shaped in such a way that the existence of a Palestinian state would not pose too great a security threat to Israel. The border before the Six-Day War, called the Green Line, passed at some point no more than 17 kilometers (12 miles) from Israel's Mediterranean coast, meaning that a hostile army in the West Bank (like the Jordanian forces at that time), could divide the country into two parts. The Palestinians argue that they have already compromised greatly by accepting Israel within the pre-1967 borders; as such they will not "compromise the compromise", and agree to any additional Israeli expansion. They have declared, however, they are ready to accept an exchange of land. In the Camp David talks Israel offered to exchange a part of the West Bank for a comparable part of Israel's Negev desert (which is less fertile, but suitable for building, according to Israel). The Palestinians turned down the offer without negotiating on the size of the proposed chunk, leading many Israelis to conclude that the offer was rejected on ideological grounds. Palestinians have however repeatedly stated that they were interested in negotiating, but the Israeli side said that it was a take it or leave offer.

  • In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel established numerous settlements on the West Bank. These settlements (which Palestinians and most international observers regard as illegal) are now home to about 350,000 people. Most of the settlements are in the western parts of the West Bank (thus making their retention part of the "safe borders" issue above), while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much intercommunal conflict.

  • Israel has grave concerns regarding the welfare of Jewish holy places under possible Palestinian control. When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, no Jews were allowed to visit the Wailing Wall. In 2000, Palestinian forces took over Joseph's Tomb, a shrine considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims, removed all Jewish parts, and turned it into a mosque. There were reports of unauthorized Palestinian digging on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which could threaten the stability of the Wailing Wall. Israel, on the other hand, has seldom blocked access to holy places sacred to other religions, and never permanently. Israeli security agencies routinely monitor and arrest Jewish extremists that plan attacks, resulting in almost no serious incidents for the last twenty years. Moreover, Israel has given almost complete autonomy to the Waqf, the Muslim trust over the Temple Mount, which is a sign of its respect for Muslim holy sites.

  • Palestinians have grave concerns regarding the welfare of Christian and Islamic holy places under Israeli control, pointing to the several attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al Aqsa) since 1967, including a serious fire in 1969, which destroyed the south wing, and the discovery, in 1981, of tunnels under the structure of the mosque which some archaeologists believe have weakened the building structures on the Temple Mountain (Haram ash-Sharif). In the ensuing confrontations, more than 70 Palestinians died [6] (http://www.aqsa.org.uk/flyers/attacks). Some advocates believe that the tunnels were dug with the intent of causing the mosque's collapse. The Israeli government claims it treats the Muslim and Christian holy sites with utmost respect (see previous paragraph).

  • Right of Return: although not directly a land-related issue, the parties have found it difficult to reach a compromise. Palestinian negotiators have so far insisted that refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the new Palestine. Most Israelis hold that the inflow of millions of poor refugees (almost none of whom were properly integrated by the surrounding Arab countries) will simply exceed the region's dwindling resources, and make them invade Israel and destroy it. The Arab summit of 2002 declared that it proposed the compromise of a "just resolution" of the refugee problem, to include the option of compensation in lieu of return. It is not currently understood what is meant by "just resolution"; a similar concept was offered by the Israeli government, but outright rejected by the Palestinians in the Summer 2000 Camp David negotiations.

  • Who will govern? Israel declares that the current Palestinian Authority is corrupt to the bottom, enjoys a warm relationship with Hamas and other Islamic militant movements, and seems at times to call in Arabic for the destruction of Israel (see Palestinian views of the peace process). This makes it, in Israeli perception, unfit for turning into a Palestinian state or, especially according to the right wing of Israeli politics, even negotiating about the character of such a state. Because of that, a number of organizations, including the ruling Likud party, declared they would not accept a Palestinian state based on the current PA (Likud's leader, Prime Minister Sharon, has publicly declared he rejects this position as too radical); a PA Cabinet minister, Saeb Arekat, declared this would mean Israel is waging a "war" against Palestinians to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza [7] (http://www.washtimes.com/world/20020513-80315970.htm). Some international observers argue that negotiations and internal Palestinian reform can be undertaken simultaneously.

  • The question of water. Since the West Bank and Israel's coast are on the same aquifer, a comprehensive agreement is needed as to who does the drilling (Map (http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cartes/israeleau2000), Detailed Map (http://www.nad-plo.org/maps/map7.jpg)).

  • The question of airspace - the West Bank and Israel form a strip only up to 80 kilometers wide. Israel has insisted on complete Israeli control of the airspace above the West Bank and Gaza as well as that above Israel itself. A Palestinian compromise of joint control over the combined airspace has been rejected by Israel.

  • The question of borders and international status - Israel has demanded control over border crossings between the Palestinian territories and Jordan and Egypt, and the right to set the import and export controls, asserting that Israel and the Palestinian territories are a single economic space.

  • The question of an army: Israel does not wish Palestine to build up an army capable of offensive operations, considering that the only party against which such an army could be turned in the near future is Israel itself. Israel, however, has already allowed for the creation of a Palestinian police that can not only conduct police operations, but also carry out limited-scale warfare. Palestinians have argued that the IDF, a large and modern armed force, poses a direct and pressing threat to the sovereignty of any future Palestinian state, making a defensive force for a Palestinian state a matter of necessity. To this, Israelis claim that signing a treaty while building an army is a show of bad intentions.

Plans for a solution There are several plans for a possible Palestinian state. Each one has many variations. Some of the more prominent plans include:

  • Create a Palestinian state out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with its capital in East Jerusalem. This would require Israel to return its borders to the Green Line, the borders before the 1967 Six-Day War. The Saudi proposal of 2002 promised in exchange for a retreat a complete recognition of Israel by the Arab world. This long-extant idea forms the basis of a peace plan put forward by Saudi Arabia in March 2002, which was accepted in principle by the Palestinian Authority. However, Israel claims that the plan does not guarantee Israel's security as it returns Israel to its 12-mile "strategic depth", not mentioning the issue of refugees or Jerusalem; moreover Israel claims that when it came to negotiations, the Palestinian Authority has rejected very similar offers made during the Camp David talks.

  • Other, more limited, plans for a Palestinian state have also been put forward, which would see parts of Gaza and the West Bank which have been settled by Israelis or are of particular strategic importance remaining in Israeli hands. The status of Jerusalem is particularly contentious.

  • A plan promoted from time to time by Jewish extremists advocates the transfer of Palestinian population from the West Bank into Jordan (on a voluntary basis), with the expansion of Israel up to the Jordan river and the institution of a Palestinian state in Jordan. This view is supported only by a small minority; the majority of Israelis support eventual granting of at least some degree of autonomy to Palestinians, in the West Bank and Gaza.

Several plans have been proposed for a Palestinian state to incorporate all of the land of Israel proper, as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Some possible configurations include:

  • A secular Arab state (the PLO National Covenant). According to the PLO Covenant, only those Jews that arrived in the country after 1918 would be forced to emigrate, which ranges at from around 99% (including all people born after that period) to about 50% (including only immigrants themselves) of the Jewish population. This would in effect lead to Israel's destruction.

  • A strictly Islamic state (Hamas and the Islamic Movement). Even if Jews would not be removed in the initial shockwave, it would contradict Israel's existence as an independent Jewish state. It would also cause problems for the Palestinian Christian minority.

  • A federation of separate Jewish and Arab areas (some Israelis and Palestinians). This arrangement is not adequate from the points of view of natural resources and security.

  • A single, bi-national state (advocated by various Israeli and Palestinian groups). Most Palestinians and Israelis are likely to reject this option, out of fear that the new state is likely to give the two sides an asymmetric status (though not necessarily an unequal one). Most Israelis and Palestinians would reject it as both peoples opt for independent nation-states.

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