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No Plan No Palestine

24/02/2012

This is a guest post by Tony Manson, an MSc in International Relations (London School of Economics) and a researcher in the political and military history of Israel and the Middle East. 

If Palestine is to be created on 22% of U.N. mandated territory[1] then the international community will have to enact a bold plan very soon, assuming it is genuinely interested in a “two state solution.” Future conflicts might destroy any hope of an independent Palestine. An international plan will require promptness, vision, and serious commitment and funding.

The Plan

Any plan that hopes to create a successful Palestine would have to look similar to the one below. If it does not both Israel and Palestine can be sure the international community is not yet serious about a sustainable “two state solution”:

1. A Financial Guarantors Coalition: core members – USA, E.U., Japan, Gulf Arab states, to guarantee financial support to Palestine for 20 years. Its remit to include:

a) compensating refugees

b) resettling refugees

c) building 4 new cities for the resettled

d) building bullet train for Hajj pilgrims from East Jerusalem to Medina that will be         connected to an international airport on the Jordan-Palestine border

e) building broadband infrastructure on South Korean model

f) developing East Jerusalem to accommodate Muslim pilgrims

g) self-sustaining water, power, and transport infrastructure projects

And, if Hamas agrees to abide by the 3 Quartet principles[2]

h) a Gazan container port and an international airport on the Egypt-Gaza border as well as a connecting road and rail tunnel link to the West Bank

2. For Palestinians: freedom to work in, and travel to, the Gulf states, open borders with Jordan and Egypt, security guarantees from NATO, the U.N. and Russia, recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital.

3. For Israelis: freedom to work and reside in the E.U. on 4-year renewable work visas, preferential E.U. status, NATO membership or affiliation and security guarantees including unilateral measures in extremis, financial support for all additional security measures, and international recognition of West Jerusalem and the Kottel area of East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

4. The freedom to coordinate unilateral acts of withdrawal between Israel and Palestine to be used at both nations’ mutually agreed discretion.

5. For China, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey: involvement in building and infrastructure projects including engineering, manpower, organisation, energy supply, building materials.

An international conference in 2011 to declare, allocate, and establish these responsibilities.

The need for, and advantages of, such a plan

The advantage of such a plan is that each of the participants in the Financial Guarantor group would be supporting each other in implementing their individual and collective efforts. Were a party to withdraw it would not only be an international embarrassment but evidence of lack of support for a two state outcome. It would also anchor the Gulf states into the process, something that until now, for many reasons, they have been reluctant to do. Finally the plan would ensure that the West Bank had a realistic chance of becoming part of a stable, prosperous, and successful state, as opposed to yet another potential threat to Israel.

It offers incentives to both Israel and Palestine to overcome their genuine doubts about a two state solution, instead of being trapped in an endless cycle of either having pressure put upon them or endeavouring to create pressure on the other party. Direct exposure to the advantages of the plan to the respective populations would also undermine the propensity of the political leaderships to veto progress in talks. Two other potential benefits to Israel and Palestine would be product and technology transfer via Palestinian economic zones to the Gulf States, and a portion of the Muslim pilgrim tourism to East Jerusalem crossing into Israel.

China would play a vital part in creating the new cities required to absorb the new returnee and refugee populations. China’s proven ability to build and complete large projects on time would add credibility to the project.

South Korean involvement in supplying broadband to the new cities would help ensure that they would not become instant backwater dumping grounds for their populations but had a modern urban infrastructure ready and fit for development. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s influence would be particularly productive in this effort.

Japan’s proven success with its high speed rail networks will give credibility to the bullet train project from East Jerusalem to Medina and will be only the first stage in a regional effort to link Istanbul and Damascus in the north with Jordan in the east and Medina and the Gulf states to the south. At the centre of it all would be the international airport on the Jordan-Palestine border which would act as a hub for tourists and pilgrims to go directly by train to East Jerusalem, to Jordan’s main tourist sites, to the Red Sea, and beyond. A major highway and rail network would also help integrate Palestine into the regional economy.

Turkey’s vital contribution, beyond supplying materials and engineering and manpower skills, would be to extend the network north via Syria into Anatolia. Turkey, having built the original railway linking Damascus to Medina, would not only see the project as a matter of national pride but of economic self-interest, as the network will link Arabia to Turkey and on to Europe.

Russian engagement and involvement in the creation and construction of Palestine has self-evident advantages, and delegating to Russia construction projects, the supply of energy and materials, and security guarantees to Palestine will reinforce Russia’s role, satisfy her aspiration to great power status, and undermine the rejectionist camp.

The plan can work with or without Syrian, Iranian, Hizb’allah and Hamas participation and/or veto but it can also be part of a wider comprehensive peace process. Successful investment in the West Bank by the Financial Guarantor powers will act as an incentive to Palestinians in Gaza to get involved and will undermine the rejectionist camp. The plan could also assuage Israel’s concern that no progress can occur in relation to a two state outcome until the threat from Iran is dealt with.

If this or a similar plan is not enacted:

1. Unilateral moves by both Israel and Palestine will leave all the main issues unresolved: refugees, Jerusalem, borders, economic and political integration, security, and legitimacy.

2. Radical Islamic forces and the rejectionist camp led by Iran will be strengthened, undermining moderate Arab regimes, and would be further bolstered should there be a pre-emptive strike by Israel upon Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.

3. The losses that Israel expects to endure following a strike upon Iran will make her even less likely to compromise on security.

4. Palestine, as an independent, economically viable nation state, will be increasingly difficult to either create or sustain, and will certainly comprise far less than 22% of Mandate Palestine. Non-violent Palestinian resistance will slowly be replaced by more radical forces, particularly post President Abbas’s tenure.

5. The region will remain a centre of political instability and violence for the foreseeable future.

The 5 points above describe, in any event, the most likely future based upon current trends.

[1] 22% of U.N. mandated Palestine constitutes the West Bank and Gaza territories based upon the disputed 1967 borders.

[2] 1) Unconditional recognition of Israel; 2) Abide by all previous Israel-PLO-P.A. agreements; 3) Renounce violence.