How Israelis and Palestinians Can Coexist
Postwar conditions are propitious for an arrangement that satisfies both political aspirations and security concerns
WITH or without linkage to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf war has galvanized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and placed it in the forefront of the international diplomatic effort led by the United States. Moreover, for the Arab states, which seem more disposed to peace than ever before, Palestinians' right to a homeland has become central to all Arab policy toward Israel. Many analysts insist that Israeli-Palestinian coexistence under separate political authority offers the most viable option if the current momentum for peace is to be translated into creative steps by the US.
No Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, however, can survive the test of time unless it considers the realities on the ground to which both sides have developed profound psychological and emotional ties.
Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians live in Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and Lebanon. Other than perhaps a limited repatriation of 75,000-100,000 from Lebanon, there is no socioeconomic or political need to force the transfer of Palestinians from one location to another, nor would any forced transfer be tolerated by either side.
For religious, cultural, psychological, and political reasons most of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza may have to remain in place as well. Other than relocation of some settlements that may be offensive to Palestinian pride, no Israeli government can dismantle a significant number of these settlements and stay in power.
Continued economic intercourse on every level is a necessity. Even at the height of the uprising, nearly 100,000 Palestinians traveled daily from the West Bank and Gaza to Israel to work. Future economic collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians is an imperative by reason of proximity and the sharing of natural resources, especially water.
Though the status of a united Jerusalem may not be negotiable, the Palestinians could have a modified borough system, as was suggested by Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollack, which would give them total and complete administrative autonomy.
Within Israel, the search for total security may seem a national obsession. Considering, however, Jews' centuries of persecution, expulsion, and despair culminating with the Holocaust, followed by 42 years in a state of war for survival, obsession with security becomes understandable. For these reasons, Israel's security requirement would have to include the following elements:
(1) Any future Palestinian entity will have to be demilitarized.
(2) Security forces from Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, under United Nations mandate, will establish security zones.
(3) Withdrawal of Israeli military forces will be done in stages allowing a transitional period of 10 to 15 years for confidence building.
(4) The Palestinian entity will be formally established only after the Arab League recognizes Israel's right to exist and accepts the final boundaries negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.
(5) A formal peace treaty with Jordan, which may develop confederate ties to the Palestinian entity in the West Bank, should precede the formalization of Pales- tinian self-government.
(6) The Palestinian entity will not enter into alliance with any country other than Jordan.
The political boundaries of Israel and the Palestinian entity should be established on the basis of UN Resolution 242 of 1967. The states of Israel and Palestine should provide legal jurisdiction for residency and citizenship.
An Israeli living in the West Bank may choose to be a resident of the Palestinian entity but a citizen of Israel, and vice versa for Palestinians living in Israel. A ratio between Israelis and Palestinians living in each other's country should be established. Dual citizenship could also be granted on the basis of a permanent ratio that can be decided upon and reviewed periodically.
Both Israelis and Palestinians thus will be living in their homeland. Each, however, is exercising legal and political authority over part of their homeland. Under such arrangements, Israelis and Palestinians would maintain their separate national identities and ethnic majority while respecting each other's territorial integrity.
The Palestinians realize that their political autonomy depends on Israel. They can achieve it only if they respect Israel's own legitimate rights and security considerations. Many Israelis recognize, too, that their ultimate security cannot be guaranteed through military power alone and that territorial depth, considering today's military technology, provides only marginal security.
The US is in a rare position to bring pressure to bear on Arab states and Israel to project a clear vision of an overall settlement. Initiating this process would require a public recognition of Israel by the Arab states. Such acknowledgment would provide the incentive and confidence the Israelis need to show flexibility.
Under any circumstances, the peace process will be difficult, slow, and frustrating. Coexistence under separate political authority remains the only viable option for both sides. Israel and the Pales-tinians cannot be separated by artificial political boundaries or fortified military lines. Neither could the imposition of Israeli rule be tolerated indefinitely.
Twenty-three years of coexistence have created socioeconomic, political, and psychological conditions that the Gulf war could not change.
Institutionalizing these realities on the ground will offer much of what the Israelis and Palestinians need and want: coexistence under separate, independent political authority behind secure borders, while exercising the right to live in their ancient homeland.