The Nation of Israel is a friend and ally to the United States. As such, it’s stability and prosperity is intertwined with our own. Understanding it’s complex neighborhood is our key to creating bold new solutions to the troubles that have frustrated diplomats for generations. Applying Conservative principles, such as peace through trade and reinforcing strong, defensible borders, is vital to sustaining order and security. Achieving peace in Israel will, contrary to Leftist lies, benefit the whole world by leaving future generations a more cohesive society than what we have inherited.
Despite all the support a two-state solution garners in the UN and the media, it appears to be a misguided and simplistic, even Solomonic solution that will never engender any protracted peace. The longer-enduring effect of Palestinian statehood along 1967 borders will only create a mismatch of two competing, mutually-hostile nation-states: each claiming the land of the other state as “rightfully” its own in perpetuity. Perhaps such a scenario suits the agenda of some, but it certainly does not build a lasting peace.
Firstly, the Green Line of the so-called “1967 border” is merely a ceasefire line and has never been a recognized international border. Secondly, there has never, properly speaking, existed a State of Palestine. The political structure of the historical ideal of Palestinian nationalists was always one controlled by foreign imperialist entities (the Rashidun Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and finally the British Empire). Rather than recognize a new state ex nihilo (as the UN intends to do on September 15, 2015), it would benefit all parties (excluding the most radically nationalist) to recognize that a perfectly adequate homeland for the Palestinian people already exists as a sovereign state: Jordan. The majority of Jordanians are already Palestinian and the state of Jordan represents some 70% of the original British Mandate for Palestine.
Historically speaking, the reason for the UN partition plan of 1947 was due to the demographic composition of the land at the time, considering the limited pace of Jewish immigration. The ensuing persecution of Jews across the Middle East led to the influx of one million Jewish refugees from the Middle East alone, discounting refugees from Europe and the Holocaust. Considering the new demographic composition of the land, 70% is an appropriate portion of the land for Arabs, if indeed we are talking about a just solution for all parties and not the wholesale uprooting or annihilation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
Jordan, with the above considerations, represents a completely suitable right-of-return homeland for those Palestinians who no longer wish to live in diaspora.
How then should the remaining Palestinian territories be administrated? There are at least two options. My preferred option is that all parties drop the arbitrary demarcation of 1967 and instead allow Israel to annex Area C of the Oslo Accords, rather than forcibly evicting Jewish settlers. Concurrently, rather than evicting the Palestinian minority in Area C, they should be given full Israeli citizenship, with voting rights. Areas A and B should continue to fall under the administration of the Palestinian authority which would function as a completely autonomous governing entity or parallel government within the State of Israel, without becoming an independent state, maintaining all the rights of Israeli citizenship except that their voting rights extend only to local, Palestinian Authority elections, the governing apparatus of the autonomous Judea and Samaria region: a status not unlike that of Puerto Rico to the United States.
Alternatively, one could revive for the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, as the territory is known in Israel) the three-state solution in which Jordan would assume control of the entire territory, including Area C. My main concern regarding this proposal is that the borders are completely indefensible. Compared to having the nice straight line of the Jordan Valley as a border, this plan would put an international border in place that would divide the city of Jerusalem. Historically, we know that divided cities are not sustainable, to say the least.
A particularly thorny impediment to peace is the status of the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-led government there refuses to cooperate with either Israel or the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The conclusions left for the Gazans is that they must either be granted full independence or else left in a legal limbo (which would be inadvisable, inhumane, and I do not by any means advocate). Proponents of the three-state solution would have Gaza handed over to Egypt in a similar fashion to how the West Bank would be annexed to Jordan. However, today the Egyptian government is having difficulties pacifying Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. The last thing the Al-Sisi administration needs is more Islamists to deal with, such as Hamas.
Here’s where this proposal veers into radical idealism:
In order to foment a lasting and sustainable peace, I propose a monetary and economic union for the nation-states of the Levant. Beginning with a customs union and slowly progressing stage-by-stage to a full economic and monetary union under the Israeli shekel, this war-torn region may achieve peace by commerce. The European Union has done much to promote peace in Europe – a lasting peace – and has as an institution, even been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The security and stability of Europe began and evolved from a simple trading bloc. My ideal would have this process replicate itself in miniature throughout the four states of the Levant (Israel, Jordan/Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria).
It is my hope that Israel could take a stabilizing leadership role in the region much as Germany has done in the EU. In doing so, Israel could both potentially export democracy and raise the standard of living among its neighbors in exchange for new markets for Israeli enterprises to explore.
Now, moving on to a bigger and more complicated topic, which is an important factor in regional security, yet far too big to do justice in the context of this article.
Whichever faction prevails and becomes the government of whatever is left of Syria (if such an outcome is even possible) will require aid, in terms of security and financial assistance, to begin reconstruction. Israel and Jordan can muster some support and fill this void, along with the rest of the international community. These actors particularly because they are directly affected by the aftermath of the Syrian Civil War in terms of their security. Whether these nations like it or not, any foreign policy mistakes will lead to domestic consequences when it comes to states in such close proximity.
Further incentive for implementing a full economic union with the embattled Syrians, outside of peace and security, is Syria’s lucrative oil reserves, though Israel’s huge, newly discovered sub-aquatic natural gas reserves as well as the slumping price of oil may diminish the magnitude of the incentive this would bring to the negotiating table.
The economic prospects are interesting, but undeniably it is security that serves as the major catalyst for action in the region. The threat from groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra necessitate regional security cooperation. Lebanon has both lessons to offer and lessons to learn concerning its confessional system of pluralist representation. Linking a religious sect to their own parties has the benefit of ensuring representation in a sense, but it is by no means a perfect solution as it enables and perpetuates division between the sects. More important to the Israelis would be the tolerance of the Lebanese for militant group Hezbollah, a major security concern. In myriad ways, all participants would benefit from further cooperation, yet the main impediment to any formal moves towards that end would be the violent militant Islamist groups: Hamas, Nusra, Hezbollah, and ISIS.
Further Balkanizing forces in the region include Kurdish and Druze separatism. But that is another article altogether.
Were such a union of the states of the Levant to defy the odds and come together to unite against religious fundamentalism, provide security, and create new dynamic investment opportunities, the trajectory of human and economic development could experience unprecedented success for the region. Furthermore, economic and monetary union would serve as a bulwark and counterpoint to other influential hegemonic spheres such as that of Iran or the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Factions used as proxies by outside powers within the Levant such as Hezbollah and the Assad regime (Iran) and rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (Turkey) and Nusra (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) have served only to destabilize the Levant and embroil it in conflict.
United, the states of the Levant can stand together against the neocolonialist ambitions of foreign elements and in doing so preserve the cultural, economic, and political autonomy of the Levantine peoples, bringing peace to a region of the world in desperate need of stability.