The prime minister continues to meet with Mahmoud Abbas often, high-ranking American guests visit here constantly in order to advance an agreement with the Palestinians, and Foreign Minister Livni explains that the only obstacle to a final-status agreement is the existence of the radicals opposed to it.
Seemingly everything is clear about the deal being discussed – two stations between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, with the border being more or less the 1967 lines. Anyone who goes into detail will reach more or less what President Clinton proposed seven and a half years ago.
Back then, conditions were better than they are today. The US president threw his full weight, personally, behind the process’ success, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak was determined to succeed, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, as problematic as he was, was at least recognized by its people as a leader. In addition, at the time, before the second Intifada, greater trust prevailed between the sides.
So why should we believe that what failed back then will succeed now? There are four reasons why such final-status agreement is unfeasible in the foreseeable future.
1. The most an Israeli government can offer to the Palestinians and still survive politically is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian government can accept and survive politically. The gap between the sides is large and is growing with the passage of time, rather than the other way around.
2. There is no trust in the desire for a deal or in the ability to implement it. When an agreement is signed, the assumption is that the other side intends to implement it and would be able to do so. This is not the reality when it comes to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The absence of Palestinian desire (to get a small and split state and view it as the end of the conflict) is the bothersome aspect. Let’s assume that a referendum was held among the Palestinians regarding the nature of the solution to the conflict, with two possible answers: First, two states to the two peoples on the basis of the Clinton plan. Second, no Palestinian state, but also no State of Israel, with the entire Land of Israel area being divided among Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. What would be the result of such imaginary referendum? I estimate that more than 50% would vote without hesitation for the second option. A Palestinian state was never the Palestinian ethos. The Palestinian ethos is based on other aspirations such as “justice,” “revenge,” recognition of their victimization, etc.
3. Hamas. It will continue to be strong enough to torpedo any diplomatic agreement that puts an end to the conflict.
4. Even if a miracle happens and a final-status agreement is reached, and even if it is successfully implemented, it will not achieve stability, but rather, the opposite. There is no chance that the small, split, and resource-poor Palestinian state will constitute the homeland of satisfied people.
So what should we do? We should reshuffle the cards and try to think about other solutions as well. One of them is a return to the Jordanian option. The Jordanians won’t admit this publicly, yet a Palestinian state in the West Bank is the worst solution for them. They too know that within a short period of time such state would be ruled by Hamas. The moment Jordan – which features a Palestinian majority as well as powerful Muslim Brotherhood opposition – will share a border with a Hamas state, the Hashemite regime will face immediate danger.
Other options are regional solutions whereby both Egypt and Jordan will contribute territory to the Palestinian state. As opposed to common perceptions as if this has no chance of materializing, we can prove that the great winners in such arrangement could in fact be Egypt and Jordan.
What is clear is that continued negotiations that cannot bring about any positive result are a waste of time at best and could lead to a third Intifada at worst.