Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sorting Out The Middle East.

I've got ten minutes to spare so I thought I'd solve the Middle East problem.

Thinking aloud about the Israel Palestine situation.

What some or all Israelis want:
  • Security within recognised borders.
  • To be able to maintain a homeland for jews the world over where they can be free of persecution.
  • Some also want to annex some territory within the West Bank & Gaza.
  • To have Jerusalem as their capital.
The first two of those wishes are perfectly reasonable the third one is not. Thankfully in recent years this has been recognised entirely with respect to Gaza and to some extent with the West Bank. Many of Israel's critics only pay lip service to recognising the first two requirements and in actual fact oppose any move Israel makes to protect its citizens (even simply building a wall) and by advocating a one state solution to the problem.

What some or all of the Palestinians want:
  • A viable nation state free from foreign control.
  • The opportunity for economic development.
  • To remove the settlements from the West Bank.
  • To return to properties that their families lost in the numerous Arab-Israeli wars.
  • For Jerusalem to be their capital.
  • To Expel the Jews from Israel.
  • To establish an Islamic state.
Before I continue I want to emphasise that I am not saying that all these positions are held by everyone on one side or the other. Some of the Palestinian positions cannot be considered as up for negotiation namely the last two. This means that Gaza should be ignored until they get rid of Hamas but there is a starting point for discussions with Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, who isn't perfect but is a vast improvement of Yasser Arafat, on the West Bank.

Some of the wishes are entirely reasonable such as the first three.

In the long term what is up for negotiation therefore is the status of Jerusalem and the 'right of return'. Israel cannot accept a full right of return of the children and grandchildren of those who left 60 years ago, because the vast increase in the Palestinian population in the last 60 years would mean that Israel would cease to be a Jewish state and the recent history of Jews in Arab countries is not encouraging. However given that for most Palestinians there isn't any sentimental value to properties they have never seen so it is the value of the properties that matters. So carry out a survey of who owned what in 1948 and 1967 and offer their descendants twice the market value* of the properties in return for renouncing their claims.

Jerusalem is a trickier problem to solve because if it's importance to both communities. Partitioning the city isn't an appealing prospect to anyone, perhaps it could be made into a stand alone entity in which both sides share sovereignty like Spain and France do in Andorra.

* The best way of getting the money for this is from the USA. Lame duck presidents love sorting out the region, so the Israelis and Palestinians should make the arrangements themselves and then let the US president take the kudos for it.


JuliaM said...

"Lame duck presidents love sorting out the region..."

...so long as they can only take credit, and avoid any blame, that is!

Agree with a lot of your conclusions, byw, except this:

"What some or all of the Palestinians want:
The opportunity for economic development."

Isn't that mostly within their own hands..?

Ross said...

"Isn't that mostly within their own hands..?"

To a large extent it is. They and their leadership have made decisions that make it very difficult.

James Higham said...

Jerusalem is a trickier problem to solve because if it's importance to both communities.

Er ... all three communities. Damn, forgotten again. :)

Ross said...

Oh yeah the Christians too. Although there are are several different sects of Christians in Jerusalem- hence you occasionally hear stories of rioting monks of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox faiths attacking each other in the city.