Photo: Reuters
Egyptian President al-Sisi. 'There is no one else to advance such rare opportunities'
Photo: Reuters
Yoaz Hendel

A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai? Maybe

Op-ed: Proposal for Palestinian state in Sinai is the first time since the Oslo Accords that an original idea for separation is put on the table.

Megalomania is what makes people believe that they are capable of solving complex problems by will power. Sometimes the megalomania pays off. Usually it remains merely an obsession.



Most mediators who came to the Middle East in the past 20 years suffered from megalomania. They looked at a national and religious conflict which has been ongoing for more than 100 years and thought that they would solve it with the power of geographic lines.


They saw the radical Islam hiding behind the secular dictatorship of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and chose to ignore it. They noticed the major settlement of Jews beyond the Green Line, and thought that if they pressed hard enough it would be possible to move them away from there. And they mainly adopted a formula of two states within the 1967 lines, and since then they have been repeatedly smashing against the wall with it.


All these years, we have yet to see a single international official capable of thinking outside the box, a single mediator with the political courage to look the problem in the eye.


Its essence is that the gap between the sides is unbridgeable. No matter who you want to blame, that's the reality. The Palestinians are unwilling to compromise, the Israelis are unprepared to gamble. Like a vehicle stuck in the mud for 20 years, and the more you push the gas pedal, the deeper entrenched you become.


Israel has two basic options at the moment: Separating from the Palestinians or one bi-national state. Most Israelis on the right and on the left want the first option. They are arguing over the geographic lines, not over the need. The modern Zionist perception includes a maximum amount of land with a minimum number of Palestinians. As time goes by, it is becoming more and more complicated.


The Egyptian proposal by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, assuming he won't take it back and deny it, is the first time since the Oslo Accords that an original idea for separation is put on the table: Creating new geographic lines, rather than an attempt to return to lines which were significant in the past. A large Palestinian state in the south, from Gaza into Sinai, and upgrading the PA territories which were handed over to the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords.


The importance of this proposal is in its source. There have been Israeli ideas in the past to punt the Palestinian ball over to neighboring countries - Gaza to Egypt, the PA territories to Jordan. These proposals remained on the cutting room floor of Israeli politics.


No one talks about Jordan on account of political sensitivity, and the Egyptians (in the previous formulations of its government) were unwilling to deal with the Palestinian issue. The geographical proximity and the threat to Israel did not trouble Hosni Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood.


The sages said that righteous people's job is done by others. What they didn't say is that those who are right do the job themselves. We were probably not righteous enough and didn't feel right enough either. We have been waiting too long, making no decisions whatsoever, neither on the right nor on the left.


Now, 20 years after the Oslo Accords and 35 years since the peace agreement with Egypt, there is an idea on the table which has potential for the right, the righteous and everything in between. Potential, not a promise.


In the past few years, European and American diplomats have been meeting with whoever they can to discuss peace agreements. They inquire about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's character, conduct surveys of Israeli public opinion and ask what could bring peace. The question is part of the routine of those stationed here. I'm not certain that they are looking for an answer.


If America is the land of opportunities, the Middle East is the land of restrictions – both in war and in peace, and in the solutions being tossed around here. The diplomats like to hear about ideas outside the box, but not to adopt them.


Abbas isn't a man of new initiatives either. The refusal to accept a compromise is an inherent part of him – part of the tradition of the conflict.


In a comical turn of history, Israel and Egypt remain. There is no one else to advance such rare opportunities. And to all the opponents: If there is a different peace, bring it on.


פרסום ראשון: 09.10.14, 00:40
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