Israeli-Palestinian conflict can end with the New State Solution

Israeli-Palestinian conflict can end with the New State Solution
© THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Israel recently absorbed another barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip launched by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). These violent interludes have become an unacceptable new normal. Meanwhile, the U.S.-Bahrain "Peace to Prosperity" economic workshop is scheduled to take place in Manama this summer to explore economic dimensions of the “Deal of the Century,” the Trump administration’s proposal for bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

While these realities seem incompatible, the Bahrain gathering should be welcomed, undetermined though the outcome is. It rightfully seeks economic solutions to the conflict as one prong in a multi-pronged resolution that must traverse economic, political and security dimensions.

The period since Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza tells two distinct tales. Locally it is characterized by the Israel Defense Force’s three major, defensive operations and a further eight rounds of sustained violence. Regionally, though, it has yielded domestic and international circumstances  that beckon fresh thinking about resolving this interminable problem.

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Israelis need a clearly defined strategy to end the conflict with the Palestinians, one that addresses the most urgent challenge: the Gaza Strip.

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and, therefore, responsibility for its fate and its citizens, should play a central role in implementing this strategy.

These are just some of the reasons that the authors, and other leading security and policy experts, call for implementing The New State Solution, a conflict-ending alternative to the status quo, which would invert the Strip from an intractable problem into a solution.  

Already a de-facto state, Gaza should be the anchor for a free, independent and sovereign Palestinian state, contiguous into the Sinai Peninsula, along the coastal plain, to El-Arish.

The economic viability of a Palestinian state there is far more assured than in resource-poor, landlocked Judea and Samaria, where any entity likely would become a client state at best and a failed state at worst. Consider the Mediterranean shoreline instead, which offers rich opportunity for the immediate development of trade, commerce, hospitality, fishing, import and export industries. The New State Solution marries an underemployed but ready workforce in Gaza with a ready works program — the building of a state in their own image.

The time is now.

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Conceived in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, in which the authors served, the New State Solution imagines a future for Israelis that moves beyond repeated military campaigns characterized by the same enemies, geographical area, absence of decisive conclusion and foreboding of further violence at Hamas’s whim. The current status quo is unacceptable to Israel’s southern citizens and to Gazans.

Recent footage from the Gaza Strip illustrates a growing disillusionment among the Gazan population toward their rulers because of a lack of economic opportunity. Hamas’s failure to alleviate this pressure may well be its demise.

The United States, Egypt, Israel and moderate Arab states seek to resolve the conflict in order to focus upon the shared Iranian threat in a coordinated fashion, a collaboration legitimized by ending Palestinian-Israeli strife.   

The Oslo process never offered more than a substate to the Palestinians, to be established on the hills of Judea and Samaria. But that positioning would threaten central Israel’s most densely populated area and reduce Israel to a nine-mile waistline at its narrowest point — a prospect Israel correctly has resisted.

The New State’s location affords a military and topographical advantage for Israel and Egypt, overlooking a Palestinian state, geographically distant from respective population centers, and with natural territorial buffers — Egypt’s Sinai desert and Israel’s Negev. Israel and Egypt could take a maximalist approach toward risks and opportunities, impossible under a conventional two-state configuration. This sovereign New State would bear the full responsibilities of statehood, including retaliation for belligerence, a responsibility critical to the 13-year lull in conflict with Lebanon, designated responsible by Israel for Hezbollah’s actions.

Eight years after the Egyptian revolution, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi still faces the challenge of a restive, youthful population. Arab leaders recognize that a failure to deliver improved living standards may result in being deposed. Al-Sisi is, after all, a product of such unrest.

Egypt does have a role to play in stemming neighboring Gaza’s deteriorating situation — beyond the brokering of ceasefires.

As compensation for leasing approximately 10 percent of the Sinai Peninsula to establish a Palestinian state, Egypt would receive massive international investment in Sinai and its mainland, another encouraging reason for the Bahrain conference. Coupled with Israeli technological proficiency, the New State desert could bloom as once-barren Israel blooms, and Egypt would flourish as a result.

Egypt’s international standing would return to prominence as the Middle East’s “king maker.” Egyptian security concerns, including ISIS and PIJ in Sinai, would be tackled by an expanded, coordinated military campaign. Removing terror organizations from the New State area, which constitute a far greater threat to Egypt than to Israel, would benefit from expanded Israeli security assistance, currently manifested by ongoing Israel Air Force aerial sorties over the peninsula at the behest of Egypt.

The Oslo Accords process failed, in part, because its focus on the West Bank over Gaza provided neither a sovereign state nor sovereign citizenship for Palestinian-Arabs in either location. The New State Solution proposes the opposite. Those in the New State would receive both residency and citizenship. Those in the West Bank would remain residents there and gain citizenship of the New State. Palestinian Arabs would be elevated from statelessness to a people with a state.

The New State’s establishment must include a declared end to all claims and conflict. Absent that, an economic strategy would amount to rewarding a corrupt, brutal regime. A military strategy unmoored from a political end-game, will only perpetuate the status quo or cause the situation to worsen.

But the increase in Hamas violence does increase the need to consider a far-ranging military component — albeit as a last resort. Hamas must be faced with a clear ultimatum: Renounce the strategy of violence or face being deposed by Israel and a coalition of allies in order to make way for this much-needed resolution.

Now is a time for choosing.

Will Israel, Palestinians, the U.S. and regional players seize upon the current circumstances for the betterment of all involved? Or will terrorist organizations be allowed to stymie all attempts to create a brighter future?

Neither economic nor military nor political solutions are sufficient. But with resolve and vision, a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel is possible. The New State Solution is the vehicle toward that vision and an economic conference is a positive start indeed.

Benjamin Anthony, director and CEO of New State Solution Working Group, is a veteran of service in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Amir Avivi is a retired brigadier-general of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), concluding his service in 2016 as head of the auditing and consulting department of Israel’s defense establishment, including the IDF, the Ministry of Defense and Israeli military industries. He is a principal of the New State Solution Working Group.

Nechemia Sokal is a retired IDF brigadier-general, concluding his service in 2017 as chief of staff for the IDF’s Technological and Logistical Branch. He is an adviser to the New State Solution Working Group.