As Israelis and Palestinians are getting together for direct talks, a waxing question is: what will be the final form of their relationship? Most observers expect two states (although some outliers hold for one state, in which Jews and Arabs have equal rights–but in effect the Palestinians soon will have the majority). Many observers on both sides agree on what the final outcome will look like: the line that separates the West and East Banks (the future Palestinian state and Israel) will be adjusted a bit, in both directions; different parts of Jerusalem will serve as a capital for both states; and the refugees, who cannot return, will be compensated.
There is, though, a sticking point that is rarely discussed. Israel fears that the West Bank will be dominated by Hamas, which will rain rockets on Israel, up and down its long border with the West Bank. Rightly or wrongly, it hence holds out for Palestine to be a demilitarized state; one in which Israel would control what is entering by land and air, the electromagnetic spectrum, and much else. These measures are by nature restrictive and confining. One can argue about whether all are essential, but even if they are, they would deprive the new Palestinian entity of what is considered to be the most fundamental quality of a state: the right to act like a sovereign.
An approach that is much more likely to win support from America, other nations, and the Palestinian Authority–and which would still meet Israeli security needs–is one modeled on the power-sharing arrangement in Vienna. From 1945 to 1955, the U.S., U.K. and France patrolled the center of Vienna jointly with the U.S.S.R., which was already emerging as a Cold War adversary. Small units, composed of military police from the four powers, jointly patrolled the streets and ensured public safety.
A similar security arrangement was agreed upon between the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organization, as part of the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement. It called for Palestinian border-crossing officials to examine the passports of all those who wanted to enter Palestine, while “invisible” Israeli security officers, in a back room, would vet the clearance given in the front. A similar arrangement had been agreed upon regarding the flow into the fledgling state of commodities, whose entry could be delayed up to 48 hours for Israeli inspection.
Such an approach could be incorporated into a much broader cooperative relationship. The two nations could readily form a free trade zone. (Much was made of the barrier that separates the two but few note that it has numerous gates, and that it can be opened in a jiffy). The two nations could cooperate in curbing crime. (Many of the laptops and cars stolen by Israeli thieves end up in the West Bank). And–in helping each other remove incitements from their textbooks and other education material. One can even dream–this is a good time to unfurl some heartwarming visions–of an East/West Bank commonwealth, composed of the two independent states, although obviously it will need a much more fortuitous name.
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