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One, Two, or Three States? Print E-mail
By Jay Bushinsky
August 13, 2007

JERUSALEM -- The time has come for the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians to rethink their common belief in the so-called two-state solution to the conflict that has pitted Israeli against Palestinian in the Holy Land for the past 40 years -- since the end of the Six-Day War and the increasingly-volatile situation that developed in its wake.
 
This conclusion can be drawn from an analysis published by the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, a think tank that has been an acerbic critic of Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, especially with regard to its nurturing of Jewish settlements and their constant governmental subsidization and military support.

It may not be the message the foundation's president, Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., wanted to deliver to the recipients of its bi-monthly newsletter, a publication that keeps critical tabs on the existence and alleged expansion of Israeli settlements in the sectors taken from Jordan and Egypt respectively in 1967, but it can be deduced from the factors he and his staff delineate.
 
Wilcox demolishes the notion, promoted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the implicit backing of President Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and, not surprisingly, Foreign Minister Zippy Livni, that Hamas' violent seizure of the Gaza Strip last June has created a new opportunity for peace.  The theory on the basis of which Rice and Livni hope to advance toward Palestinian statehood hopefully by January, 2009 (when the Bush Administration will come to an end) is that without Hamas as a component of his former coalition government the relatively moderate Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and their allies will be able to negotiate a two-state settlement.
 
But that theory ducks the unpleasant, but ever-more unchangeable fact that the Authority has lost a third of its population and an integral part of its projected territory and that its hopes of retrieving the Strip from Hamas are fading day by day.
 
Wilcox underwrites this evaluation of the status quo in his bi-monthly message to the foundation bulletin's readers.  He even exacerbates the new reality in a telling reference to the January, 2007, election in which Hamas won an overwhelming majority of the votes cast by the Palestinian Authority's constituents: "This is wishful thinking.  Hamas has considerable support in the West Bank as well as Gaza.  It is unlikely to surrender its 2006 electoral mandate, forswear violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and accept past agreements without rejoining the political process and reciprocal undertakings by Israel.
 
"Nor will economic and diplomatic boycotts force Hamas force Hamas to abandon its demand to share power..."  (Without recognizing Israel how can Hamas join the negotiations?) In a separate segment in which the bulletin reviews the effect of Abbas' break with Hamas, its editors contend that as a result "nothing remains of the core foundations" of the 1993 Oslo Accords on the basis of which the Palestinian Authority was created as an interim vehicle that would lead the way to Palestinian statehood.
 
If Rice and Livni were to conduct a successful negotiation (from their common point of view) and the Abbas-governed West Bank were to become the recipient of most if not all of the West Bank and a substantial number of Jewish settlements were to be abandoned in the process, they only would have bequeathed a three-state solution to the existing problem.
 
Hamas has been solidifying its control of the Gaza Strip.  Its Executive Force uses rifles and clubs to crush diehard Fatah elements by breaking up their rallies, arresting their leaders and firing officials who do not obey Hamas dictates.  The Strip's overworked and badly-equipped Shifa Hospital has been ordered to fire senior doctors who belong to Fatah and as a result its medical staff went on part-time strike -- two hours a day.  An additional work stoppage erupted when the staff demanded that Hamas remove its gun-toting ruffians from the hospital premises.
 
At the political level, Hamas spokesmen have warned Abbas against trying to retake the Gaza Strip by armed force.  One of them said sarcastically that the only way Fatah can dare reenter the Strip is inside Israeli Merkava tanks.  Meanwhile, Hamas' rump regime, which professes to be the PA's only legitimate government, has been developing a naval capability with shore batteries deployed to prevent a Fatah or Israeli invasion from the sea.
 
A senior Fatah official based in Ramallah, Abbas' capital in the West Bank, estimated the value of arms, ammunition and military equipment earmarked for Hamas presumably by Iran and ready to be smuggled into the Strip from the adjacent Sinai desert at $40 million.
 
Under these circumstances, it would behoove the diplomats and government officials engrossed in finding a peaceful and workable way out of this discouraging state of affairs to consider interim alternatives to the two-state solution.  This has become all the more necessary in view of comments attributed to Israel's quixotic new defense minister, Ehud Barak, that there can be no pullback in the West Bank until Israel has a complete anti-missile missile system in place.  This would push Rice's diplomatic timetable back by at least three years.
 
Despite the Foundation's rejection of the alternatives, they are worth considering: "such ideas as the Jordanian, autonomy and one democratic state options."  Discussion of these and other potential solution could be more fruitful than the two- or three-state option.
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