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West Bank Palestinians (archives) Photo: AP
West Bank Palestinians (archives) Photo: AP
 
 

Who's afraid of autonomy?

Op-ed: New Mideast only has room for one state for Jews, another state plus autonomy for Palestinians

Elyakim Haetzni
Published: 01.09.13, 00:06 / Israel Opinion

The political map of the Middle East was drawn shortly after World War One and following 400 years of Ottoman rule. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and "Palestine" – the Land of Israel – were established out of nothing as "mandates" – territories that were administered on behalf of the League of Nations for the benefit of the local Arabs and to secure the establishment of the "national home of the Jewish nation." This home stretched to the Iraqi border, from both banks of the Jordan River. Within these territories the world powers only recognized ethnic groups (apart from the Jewish nation) and secured their religious and civil rights. The south-Syria ethnic groups had no idea they were the "nation" known as "Palestinian." Only when their king, Faisal, was expelled from Syria by the French and the Mandate for Palestine was established in the Land of Israel did they reinvent themselves as a "Palestinian nation" that has a right to a national home of its own.

 

The Palestinians substantiated this new identity with riots and pogroms that continue to this day. Way back in 1922, when the Mandate for Palestine was approved, the British tried to calm them down by dividing the land. About 3/4 of Palestine, the entire area east of the Jordan River - was handed to them, but to no avail. In the remaining area, west of the Jordan River, the attacks persisted. The lands east of the river were placed under the rule of Emir Abdullah, who would later turn them into the "Jordanian" - not "Palestinian" – kingdom, although Arabs also consider Jordan to be "Palestine," and 70% of the kingdom's inhabitants are Palestinians. So the British Mandate was actually revised for the benefit of another nation, the Palestinian nation, which received most of the territory.

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Seemingly, this was the realization of the "two states for two peoples" vision, but the new nation demanded two countries – "Jordan" in the east and Palestine in the west – so far only in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

 

The new Middle East that was shaped during the 1920s is crumbling before our eyes. In Iraq, Syria and Lebanon the Sunnis, Shiites, Druze and Alawis are going their separate ways. And where will the Palestinians go? Two possible scenarios concern the Hashemite Kingdom: 1) After the Palestinian state in the West Bank gets the Jordan Valley it will 'swallow' Jordan, and this will be seen as a natural and legitimate unification of the Palestinian people. 2) The Palestinian majority in Jordan will revolt and cross the Jordan River from the opposite direction. The result of both scenarios will be the same.

 

But they would still be faced with a problem, because there is a Jewish country in this area, and as far as it is concerned, one Palestinian state is enough. Judea and Samaria are stuck between this state (which is the same state regardless of whether it will be called "Jordan" or "Palestine") and the Jewish state in the west. Seemingly, this territory should be a part of Israel, as it is included in the one-fourth that was left for the Jewish people, who also have a historical right to the land. However, despite the settlement enterprise, thanks to which about a third of all of Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem's residents are Jewish – the vast majority of Judea and Samaria's residents are Palestinian.

 

The necessary compromise is autonomy: Israel will extend its sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and the Knesset will enact a law granting autonomy to Arabs living in areas A and B. The residents will vote once for their "local regime" and a second time in the state located to the east, which they will be citizens of. Meaning, the West Bank Arabs will be citizens of Palestine and residents of an Israeli autonomy. According to the UN's Partition Plan for Palestine, the Arab residents of the Hebrew state would be allowed to obtain citizenship in the neighboring state and vote there. Even the Oslo agreement, which the Left is so proud of, calls for autonomy: Security, foreign relations, infrastructure, water, airspace, border crossings and the basic economic structure all remain under Israel's control.

 

In the new Middle East there is room for one state for the Jews and a state plus autonomy for the Palestinians. Nothing more.

 

 

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