National Security & Defense

Four New Peace Plans for Palestinians

“Land Day” protest in Jerusalem, March 2015. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
The Israeli–Palestinian status quo is a disaster. How about something completely different?

This week, two Arab terrorists shot four Israelis to death and wounded 16 others. The attack was a continuation of the terror wave that spread through Israel last autumn. It’s time for a new approach to Palestinian terror, and to the Palestinians’ limbo. Here are four possibilities. Each is more realistic than the present Israeli plan of waiting for the Palestinian Authority to decide it’s ready to make peace.

(Remember, in 2008, the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, refused an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state in Gaza and 93.7 percent of the West Bank, with the missing 6.3 percent to be made up for by land swaps with Israel. Said Abbas: “I rejected it out of hand.”)

1) Israel could say publicly: We will accept a Palestinian state tomorrow, under these conditions: A Palestinian state must be demilitarized. Jerusalem must remain Israeli, as must East Hebron and the largest settlement blocks. In exchange for this territory being annexed to Israel, the most heavily Palestinian part of Israel — the Wadi Triangle — will be annexed to the Palestinian state: Two states for two peoples, as the saying goes.

The next step toward Palestinian statehood is in the Palestinians’ hands, Israel would say. They can take it whenever they decide they want peace.

By publicly laying out its terms for a Palestinian state, Israel would make it clear to the world that it is the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, that is guilty of intransigence. This would put the ball in the PA’s court and — finally, one hopes — convince the Palestinians’ European bankrollers to pressure the PA to accept a compromise.

2) Those European bankrollers — who give the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid every year — could demand that the PA lift its ban on Palestinians voluntarily selling land to Jews. Per the Palestinian Authority’s own Central Bureau of Statistics, roughly a third of Palestinians wish to emigrate from the West Bank. But they don’t have enough money to make the move. Selling their land to Jews anxious to live in the heartland of ancient Israel (who are the only people who want to buy it) would give emigration-minded Palestinians money enough to settle in Jordan or the Gulf States or Europe, as they wish to do. Unfortunately, in Palestinian-controlled territory, the punishment for selling land to Jews is a life sentence of hard labor. (Recently upped — by Mahmoud Abbas, in 2014 — from “temporary hard labor.”)

3) Along the same lines, Israel, or peace-minded donors in Israel or the U.S. or anywhere else, could simply offer to sponsor any Palestinians who wish to leave. If you gave the Arabs who wish to leave the Palestinian territories — roughly one million people — $10,000 each, say, to settle somewhere new, Israel could annex the West Bank fully, giving all Palestinians who chose to remain there the same full citizenship that Israeli Arabs have. They would then join the freest and most prosperous Arab community in the Middle East, and Israel would not have to worry about a so-called “demographic time bomb” erasing its status as the nation-state of the Jews.

The Gaza Strip would then become the Palestinian State.

This formula would cost $10 billion — which is a lot, unless you compare it with what the unending Israeli–Arab war would cost in the long run.

I also suspect that simply putting a plan such as this into motion would be a sufficient threat to the kleptocratic PA to convince its leaders to accept Israel’s previous offers of statehood.

4) Thirty miles southwest of the Gaza–Egypt border is the Egyptian city of Arish; between Arish and Gaza, there is more or less nothing but desert. Israel could make a multi-billion-dollar investment in the Egyptian economy, irrigating part of that desert and paying for the construction of a port city between Arish and Gaza, using Egyptian and Palestinian labor. Then Israel would offer apartments in that city, for free, to West Bank Palestinians.

Needless to say, living in the West Bank is difficult. The territory is landlocked and heavily regulated. Agriculture, reportedly, employs 90 percent of Palestinians, but the land isn’t especially fertile, and the threat of terrorism makes it hard to get produce to market. A seaside city, abutting large tracts of Israeli-irrigated land, would be vastly more pleasant: easier farming, with a port for trade and a sea for fishing (all the things Gaza would have today if not for Hamas). Palestinians could move from overcrowded PA-run semi-slums and shack-towns into free sea-view apartments. To get the ball rolling, Israel could offer the first migrants cash payments of $2,000 each, which is slightly more than the West Bank’s annual GDP per capita (as well as offering security to anyone willing to make the move).

The idea would be that, since the construction would use Palestinian labor, word of mouth would help convince Palestinians at large that the project wasn’t a Zionist sham. Since it would also use Egyptian labor and material, Egypt might be induced to give up a relatively small and empty piece of land in its mostly empty Sinai Peninsula and to accept several hundred thousand new Palestinian residents there. The boost to the Egyptian economy would be especially timely, given Islamic terrorism’s destruction of Egypt’s tourist industry.

The irrigation and city-building would cost billions of dollars. But surely it would be worth it for peace.

The eventual goal of this plan would be annexing the new city, the irrigated land, and the people who live there to Gaza, for the creation of a coastal Palestinian state (which would, incidentally, closely correspond to the territory of the Palestinians’ namesakes, the genetically unrelated ancient Philistines). The Palestinians who remained in the West Bank would then be offered full Israeli citizenship, as in the previous plans.

The irrigation and city-building would cost billions of dollars. But surely it would be worth it for peace. And, it’s important to note, each of these Palestinian migration plans would involve totally voluntary movement by Palestinians. No one would be forced to sell his land, nor would anyone be forced to move anywhere. These ideas are merely a response to polling that shows that a third of Palestinians would welcome this sort of opportunity.

I’m reasonably certain that any one of these proposals would be a tremendous improvement on the current stalemate. And no doubt some of the people involved read NRO. Maybe something can actually get done.

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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