Claude Salhani
Middle East Times
September 23, 2008 - 8:00pm

Okay. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are getting nowhere fast. Some experts are starting to say that maybe it's time to look at the future of Palestine with a completely set of new lenses. The paradox in the comatose peace negotiations is that although the details calling for a two-state solution are generally accepted by all sides, a solution is not truly desired by either the Palestinians or the Israelis for various reasons. See the Sept. 15 issue of the Middle East Times

One such expert looking into innovative approaches to the long-standing problem is a former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who offered what could certainly be considered a revolutionary approach to the Israeli-Palestinian debacle:

Forget about Palestine!


That's right, forget about Palestine. Give the land back to the Jordanians.

Major General Giora Eiland, a retired officer of Israel's general staff, presented his view on how to solve the current dilemma in the Middle East at a conference in Washington, Tuesday.

Hold on. Before you smash your keyboard in anger (or delight), depending on which side of the separation barrier you find yourself, read on. The idea, at least part of it, has merit. Not the part about forgetting about Palestine, but the part about enlarging parts of it. Yes, this is not a mistake, enlarging part of Palestine. Well, sort of.

Eiland argues that much has changed in the last eight years when U.S. President Bill Clinton attempted to push through a last minute peace deal between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. If at that time a deal could have been obtained, the reality of the ground today is very different.

To begin with, Arafat enjoyed a unique national status that commanded the loyalty -- even if somewhat begrudgingly -- from the majority of Palestinians; Hamas had yet to become a major force to be reckoned with. And then there is the issue of Israeli settlers. Eight years ago the settlement population was about 100,000. Today there are 290,000 Israeli settlers in the occupied territories.

Then if there is a Palestinian state there are good chances it could be taken over by Hamas, as Gaza was. Neither Jordan nor Israel would want to live next door to a state run by Hamas.

So the time has come to look at a new approach to the Israel-Palestinian dispute. Bring Jordan into the fold.

"If Israel is to return to the pre-1967 position, as is requested by United Nations resolutions," said Eiland, "then let's give it back to Jordan." As he points out, Jordan and Egypt controlled the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively.

"I am not sure that the need to have an independent Palestinian identity is so strong," he said, adding; "The national desire to have an independent state is not as strong as some people try to present it today." Though he admitted: "It is true that the Palestinians want to get rid of us." But "a complete sovereign Palestinian state is not the only way to do it."

The flaw in Eiland's plan is that neither Jordan nor Egypt are about to get involved in the Palestinian territories and become de facto policemen for Israel.

We mentioned enlarging the Palestinian territory. Here is the former general's plan, starting with Gaza:

"Assuming that Gaza can be a viable state, today there are 1.5 million people in Gaza; there will be 2.5 million in 2020," said the former general. Gaza needs much more space in order to be viable. Otherwise the frustration and the poverty and the misery will be another source of trouble. The problem with Gaza is that even if today a peace agreement was signed between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is it really going to make any changes for the people who live in Gaza?


Here is the good part. If Egypt were to donate land to Gaza, making it three times its current size, then it would become viable. The concept is to build a new city for one million people, an international port in the new enlarged Gaza as well as an international airport. This new land would represent 12 percent of the West Bank. Now seeing that there is nothing for nothing, in return for the land Egypt donates to the Palestinians, Israel would compensate the Egyptians by giving them an equal amount of land in southern Israel. This would allow Egypt a land corridor to Jordan and would give Jordan access to the Mediterranean Sea.

How does Jordan get access to the Med? We did mention the fact that Jordan would be given control of the Palestinian territories, right? One minor detail: Jordan does not want the territories and the Palestinians don't want the Jordanians.

It gets better: Egypt gave land to the Palestinians and in return the Israelis gave the Egyptians an equal amount of land, so now it's only proper that Israel gets compensated for the same amount of land from the Palestinians. And where would that land come from? The West Bank.

Under this plan -- if Israel were to receive 12 percent of the West Bank -- it would mean that the Israeli government would only have to remove 30,000 settlers instead of 100,000, thus saving roughly some $30 billion in the process.

This line of thinking is "completely rejected by our side. We want to see the creation of a Palestinian state. Anything else it smacks of implausibility," the Jordanian Ambassador Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein told the Middle East Times.

"It's anathema to us," the Jordanian ambassador said in reply to Eiland's remarks. "The Palestinians want their freedom from you, they want their freedom from us," he told Eiland. "I still believe that the two-state solution can be possible if properly marketed to the Israeli public."

With proper investment, this could turn Gaza into another Singapore. At least in the mind of the general who asks that before you smash your keyboard, please come forward with a better idea.

The Jordanian ambassador said he was all for creative thinking, as long as the creative thinking falls within the realm of what is feasible.

"The essential point is that the Palestinians are desperate for their freedom," said the Jordanian ambassador.


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