However, it appears that there is no way to partition the land. Israelis’ faith in partition in the framework of a peace deal had been greatly eroded, and that’s no wonder. The Palestinians are unwilling to forego their demand for what they refer to as “the right of return” (in practice, international law recognizes no such right) – this means there will be no deal.
However, Israelis’ faith in unilateral partition is also eroding, in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal experience. Yet this erosion is unjustified: A unilateral move does not have to look like the Gaza withdrawal. Indeed, even a Gaza-style pullout from Judea and Samaria is better than the continuation of the status quo, yet many people believe it would be impossible to evacuate about 70,000 people for anything that is short of comprehensive peace.
So how can we nonetheless partition the land without peace? If you will it, it is certainly no dream. Moreover, even if we do not have a partner for peace, we may have a partner for a unilateral move. The Palestinians are working on their own unilateral maneuver – Salam Fayyad’s pledge to declare independence unilaterally may serve as a complementary move to an Israeli withdrawal, yet even that is not a must.
Seemingly, the key here is to detach the question of partition from the issue of evacuation: There is no need to turn the evacuation into a condition for partition.
Enlist world to the cause
Firstly, Israel can finally pass an evacuation-compensation law for the West Bank. We can assume that such law would drastically minimize the scope of the settlement problem.
Secondly, Israel can declare that “Zionists of land” - as opposed to “Zionists of state” - are permitted to stay at their place of residence and forego their Israeli citizenship. They can continue to live there under Palestinian rule. After all, a large Arab minority lives in Israel, so it’s not unthinkable to have a small Jewish minority living in Palestine. If necessary, we’ll come to rescue them and bring them back home. For that, we have the Law of Return. They would be able to return and get their Israeli citizenship back whenever they want.
Thirdly, also as opposed to the Gaza model, the withdrawal itself can be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority in an orderly and gradual manner. An orderly handover of power is a clear interest for Fatah. They too saw the results of the unilateral Gaza withdrawal and the murder of their people by Hamas; they fear Hamas more than they fear us, and rightfully so.
Fourthly, as opposed to Sharon’s solo style, this time around we can undertake the move under international auspices. The United States, European Union, United Nations, and the Russians – and possibly even the Arab League – can certainly enlist for the cause of ending the occupation, and even grant economic guarantees and possibly military ones too, in the form of an international force.
Red lines that meet nowhere
An unpleasant fact of life in this conflict is that its full resolution hinges on resolving questions of justice that appear absolute to both sides, on top of deeply held convictions and aspirations on both sides.
Hence, the negotiating positions adopted by both parties are characterized by absolute “No’s” and by red lines that meet nowhere.
However, should these questions of eternal justice be separated from the practical problems, we would be able to start with partitioning the land and postpone the end of the conflict to another time.
We’ll be able to deal with questions of justice in the future, and also modify the borders if necessary; for the time being, we shall make do with a ceasefire that would be premised on common interests rather than mutual love.
Most importantly, two nation-states shall prevail, and Zionism will not keep rushing towards the abyss.
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