Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One, Two - What's The Solution

Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs

Vol. 8, No. 22 17 February 2009

The Future of the Two-State Solution

by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland
Former Chairman, National Security Council

Executive summary:

While the outlines of a two-state solution are generally known, the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians and still survive politically is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept. The real gap between both sides is much greater than what is perceived, and that gap is growing.

The level of trust between both sides has changed. There are fewer Israelis who believe that the real intention of the Palestinians is to have only a small Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Furthermore, there is less trust in the Palestinians' abilities to keep their commitments, even if they undertake the right commitments.

In Gaza today there is, for all practical purposes, an independent state led by Hamas. It is not part of the Palestinian Authority because that is what the Palestinians decided. If there is an accountable state in Gaza, although it is an enemy state, Israel has a degree of deterrence because there is another party that has something to lose. Current Israeli policy claims that Israel's goal is to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government in Gaza, but that is not going to happen.

If we make Gaza double or triple its current size by adding an additional 600 sq. km. of territory from Egyptian Sinai, this could give Gaza the space it needs. Suddenly Gaza would have the space to build a new city of a million people, along with a real seaport and airport, and to create the conditions that would make economic expansion possible.

At the same time, Israel needs 600 sq. km. in the West Bank because the 1967 line is unacceptable from a security point of view. In return, Israel could give to Egypt 600 sq. km. in the Negev in southern Israel. At the end of the day no one loses land, while multilateral swaps enable us to solve the currently intractable problem of Gaza and solve Israeli needs in the West Bank.

Egypt can gain significant benefits from this arrangement. The new seaport and airport next to Egypt can become major economic connections between the Gulf and Europe. Furthermore, Egypt could get a land corridor to enable movement from Egypt to the rest of the Middle East without the need to cross Israel.

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