Proposals for a Palestinian state
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Proposals for a Palestinian state vary depending on one's views of Palestinian statehood, as well as various definitions of Palestine and "Palestinian" (see also State of Palestine).
At the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following WWI, the victorious European states sought to divide the Middle East into political entities according to their own needs, and, to a much lesser extent, according to deals that had been struck with other interested parties. Lebanon and Syria came under French control, while Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan came under British control. Most of these territories achieved independence during the following three decades without unusual difficulty, but the case of Palestine remained problematic.
The future of Palestine was contentious from the beginning of the Palestine Mandate since it had been promised as the site of a Jewish homeland (see Balfour Declaration 1917) yet most of the population were Arabs. It was also, according to one common view, the subject of British promises to the Arabs during WWI. Therefore, it is not surprising that many different proposals have been made and continue to be made, including
- an Arab state, with or without a significant Jewish population
- a Jewish state, with or without a significant Arab population
- a single bi-national state, with or without some degree of cantonization
- two states, one bi-national and one Arab, with or without some form of federation
- two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with or without some form of federation.
See also: Views of Palestinian statehood
Historical proposals and events
Proposals for Arab or Jewish states in the early mandate period
- The 1937 Peel Commission proposal. A British Royal Commission led by Lord Peel examined the Palestine question beginning late in 1936. Its report, published in July 1937, recommended the creation of a small Jewish state in a region less than 1/5 of the total area of Palestine. The remainder was to be joined to Transjordan except for some parts, including Jerusalem, that would remain under British control. The Arab population of the Jewish areas was to be removed, by force if necessary. The Zionist leaders accepted the proposal, seeing the tiny Jewish state as the seed of a future larger state, though their support of the "transfer" aspect was carefully hidden from the public. The Arab leadership rejected the proposal outright. Two more partition plans were also considered: Plan B (map) and Plan C (map). It all came to nothing, as the British government had shelved the proposal altogether by the middle of 1938. In February 1939, the St. James Conference convened in London, but the Arab delegation refused to formally meet with its Jewish counterpart or to recognize them. The Conference ended on March 17, 1939 without making any progress. On May 17, 1939, the British government issued the White Paper of 1939, in which the idea of partitioning the Mandate was abandoned in favor of Jews and Arabs sharing one government. Due to impending World War II and the opposition from all sides, the plan was dropped.
- The Zionist Biltmore Conference of 1942
- Various proposals made in 1947
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947 establishing two states west of the Jordan River: Israel and Palestine.
- Independence of Israel in May 15th, 1948
- The All-Palestine government. In September 1948, partly as an Arab League move to limit the influence of Jordan over the Palestinian issue, a Palestinian government was declared in Gaza. The former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was appointed as president. On October 1, an independent Palestinian state in all of Palestine was declared, with Jerusalem as its capital. This government was recognised by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Jordan or any non-Arab country. However, it was little more than a facade under Egyptian control and had negligible influence or funding. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued with All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.
- Various declarations of Palestinian independence
- During the 1978 Camp David negotiations between Israel and Egypt Anwar Sadat proposed the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel refused.
Current proposals for a Palestinian State
The current position of the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel is that some portion of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip 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.
A peace process has been in progress in spite 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. On June 24, 2002, the Road Map for Peace was published as the next step in the peace process. The Road Map has stalled awaiting the implementation of the step required by the first phase of that plan.
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, but this became a minority view amongst Palestinians during the British Mandate and after 1948 became rare. It is still an opinion expressed regularly in the Arab states outside Palestine (especially Syria due to its attachment to the Greater Syria Movement which was launched in 1944 to establish a "Syrian Arab" state that would include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine.) However, it is generally recognised that such a development has become implausible under current political realities and even those who might favor it in some circumstances support an independent Palestinian state as the most achievable option.
In 1958, during a period of Pan-Arabism, Syria joined Egypt in founding the United Arab Republic (UAR) as the first step toward the recreation of Pan-Arab state, which disappeared during the weakening and later dissolution of the Caliphate. The UAR was to include, among others, Palestine. The UAR disintegrated into its constituent states in 1961.
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 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964.
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 areas of the West Bank and Gaza. These areas are significantly less territory than allocated to the Arab state in UN Resolution 181. They feel that it is unacceptable for an agreement to impose additional restrictions (such as level of militarization, see below) which, they declare, makes a viable state impossible. In particular, they are angered by significant increases in the population of Israeli settlements and communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the interim period of the Oslo accords. Palestinians claim that they have already waited long enough, and that Israel's interests do not justify depriving their state of those rights that they consider important. The Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a territorially disjointed state that they refer to as a "Bantustan" (a term given to so-called "self-governing homelands" by the government in apartheid South Africa.)
Impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian state
Note that the materials in this section are mainly based on the Israeli ( (http://www.mideastweb.org/CampDavid2.htm),  (http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/000720/2000072019.html)) and Palestinian ( (http://www.mediamonitors.net/pnt1.html), (http://www.nad-plo.org/index.html)) positions during the ill-fated Camp David negotiations.
- Lack of trust. The violent conflicts and massacres of the period before the founding of the State of Israel and the decades of "terrorism" or political violence (most of it against civilians) and living as refugees under foreign governments has left both sides with little trust that the other will fulfill any commitments undertaken in an agreement.
- 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 which will in turn rupture the existing territorial contiguity of Israel. In the interim agreements reached as part of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority has received control over cities (Area A) while the surrounding countryside has been placed under Israeli security and Palestinian civil administration (Area B) or complete Israeli control (Area C). Israel has built additional highways to allow Israelis to traverse the area without entering Palestinian cities. The initial areas under Palestinian Authority control are diverse and non-contiguous  (http://www.iris.org.il/oslo_2000.htm). The areas have changed over time because of subsequent negotiations, including Oslo II, Wye River and Sharm el-Sheik. According to Palestinians, the separated areas make 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 a reduction in the division of the Palestinian areas, and the institution of a safe pass system, without Israeli checkpoints, between these parts. Because of increased Palestinian violence, this plan is in abeyance. The number of checkpoints has increased; resulting is a steep decline in suicide bombings since the early summer of 2003. Neither side has publicized a proposal for a final map. (Some maps have been leaked. These are reputed to come from the Israelis  (http://www.mideastweb.org/precdmap.htm) and the Palestinians.  (http://www.mideastweb.org/campdavid%20orient.htm)).
- In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s during the peace process, Israel re-established communities destroyed in 1929 and 1948 as well as established numerous new 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 Western Wall. In 2000, Palestinian forces took over Joseph's Tomb, a shrine considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims, destroyed, looted and burned the building, and turned it into a mosque. There are unauthorized Palestinian excavations for construction on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which could threaten the stability of the Western 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. They point 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 ancient tunnels under the structure of the mosque which some archaeologists believe have weakened the building structures on the Temple Mount (Haram ash-Sharif). In the ensuing confrontations, more than 70 Palestinians died  (http://www.aqsa.org.uk/flyers/attacks.html). Some advocates believe that the tunnels were re-opened 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, and all their descendents, from the 1948 and 1967 wars have a right to return to the places they were lived in before 1948 and 1967, including INSIDE Israel. They cite international law demanding this, e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Israel accepts the right of the Palestinian Diaspora to return into the new Palestinian state but claims that their return into Israel would be a great danger for the stability of the Jewish state. Moreover, according to Israel, Palestinian refugees returning to Israel doesn't fit the international law (as about the Benes decree in former Czechoslovakia); however the Israeli government claims that granting all Jews worldwide a "right of return" to Israel does fit international law. 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. 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. 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 that 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  (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. Israel obtains water from four sources: rainwater collected naturally into the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River(~36%), the mountain aquifers (~28%), the coastal aquifer (~14%), and water recycling (~23%). A saltwater desalinization plant is under construction in Israel to provide a source of additional water. Almost all the water used in the Palestinian areas other than rainwater is drawn from the underground aquifers (mountain aquifer ~52%, coastal aquifer ~48%). The Palestinian Authority has not developed any significant wastewater treatment facilities. The mountain aquifers lie mostly under the West Bank and the coastal aquifer mostly under the Israeli coastal plain. In recent years, the rate of usage has exceeded the rate of replenishment, leading to depletion of the aquifers and pollution of them by seepage from underlying saline aquifers. Almost 80% of aquifer usage is by Israel and its settlements. Water usage issues have been part of a number of agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. For these reasons, the question of water supply for both Israel and Palestine is a very serious obstacle to a comprehensive agreement.
- Israel Ministry of the Environment (http://english.sviva.gov.il/Enviroment/bin/en.jsp?enPage=e_blankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=Zone&enDispWho=water_top&enZone=water_top&)
- Israel's Chronic Water Problem (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00ic0)
- Map of drainage basins (http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~wws401c/basin.jpg)
- Map of portion of mountain and sub-aquifiers underlying the West Bank (http://www.nad-plo.org/maps/map7.jpg)
- Detailed analysis (PDF 115 pages) (http://www.mideastweb.org/Mew_water95.pdf)
- Does Israel use Palestinian Water (http://christianactionforisrael.org/isreport/marapr00/water.html)
- Source of numbers cited above in table at end (http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~wws401c/geography.html)
- 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.
- Insistence by the Palestinians that all Jewish communities within the territories to be part of a Palestinian state be removed. This includes ancient communities (Hebron), communities destroyed in 1948 and since re-established (Gush Etzion), and settlements established since 1967. The Palestinian position on the Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem is unclear.
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 10-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. The insistence on a Palestinian "Right of return" to the pre-1967 territory of Israel would effectively result in two Arab states, one of them (pre-1967 Israel) with a significant Jewish minority, and another (the West Bank and Gaza) without Jews.
- 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. Areas that are currently part of Israel would be allocated to the Palestinian state in compensation. The status of Jerusalem is particularly contentious.
- A plan proposed by the Israeli tourism minister Binyamin Elon and popular with the Israeli right wing advocates the expansion of Israel up to the Jordan River and the "recognition and development of Jordan as the Palestinian State". Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank would become citizens of Jordan and many would be settled in other countries. Elon claims this would be part of the population exchange initiated by the mass expulsion 1 (http://www.meforum.org/article/263) of Jews from Arab states to Israel in the 1950s. See Elon Peace Plan. A September 2004 poll conducted by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies reported that 46% of Israelis support transferring the Arab population out of the territories and that 60% of respondents said that they were in favor of encouraging Israeli Arabs to leave the country.  (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=140196&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0).
Several plans have been proposed for a Palestinian state to incorporate all of the the pre-1967 territory of Israel, as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Some possible configurations include:
- A secular Arab state (the PLO National Covenant before the cancellation of the relevant clauses in 1998). 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 Christians and other minorities.
- 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.
- Full text of George Bush's speech on Israel and a Palestinian state (http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,743503,00.html)
- British Foreign & Commonwealth office on Palestine (http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029394365&a=KCountryProfile&aid=1038488927273)