By Jeremy Salt
Actually, the heading is wrong, even though this is how the ‘problem’ is generally described. As it was the arrival of the Zionists that caused the ‘Palestine problem’ it would be more accurately described as the ‘Israel problem’ or maybe the ‘Zionist problem’, seeing that Zionism is the root cause of the ‘Israel problem.’
Many people have come up with a solution to this problem. For Zionists, the problem would have been fixed had they driven all the Palestinians out of Palestine in 1948, not just some. The removal of all is still the preferred solution of some, probably many and perhaps most, not that they are going to talk about it openly any more than Herzl talked openly about his plans to empty Palestine of its people back in the 1890s.
The British and the Americans have come up with their plans. In 1937 the British wanted to give part of Palestine to the Zionists. This was also the decision of the UN General Assembly in 1947, although it was actually an American decision, the US having threatened vulnerable delegations if they didn’t vote ‘yes.’
The partition plan having exacerbated the ‘Palestine problem’ instead of solving it, the Americans kept looking for solutions. Once Yasser Arafat acknowledged the existence of the state of Israel, it seemed only fair that the Palestinians should be given something in return, and something more than Israel gave in 1993, which was the acknowledgment of the PLO as a body that could negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.
What seemed to be on offer was the return of the territory taken in 1967, 22 percent of Palestine, in return for Israel keeping the rest. This would not seem fair to any disinterested observer, Israel having taken by force an entire land belonging to someone else, but the Palestinians signed on.
They were to be disappointed because, as events have shown, Israel was not prepared to hand back even the 22 percent, let alone deal with other issues at the heart of the wrongly labeled ‘Palestine problem.’
So we all have to go back to the drawing board. In fact, we have all been driven back to the drawing board by the Zionist rejection of the solutions on offer, from one democratic secular state for every one to two states for two peoples. Their solution is one state in Palestine, but only for them.
As this can hardly be described as a just solution to the wrongly-labeled ‘Palestine problem’, what would be just? What would be fair in accordance with legal entitlements? What would thus deliver a moral settlement as well?
Here is one suggestion:
By 1946 the Zionists had bought less than six percent of Palestine, in scattered purchases across the land. These purchases included the land on which the city of Tel Aviv was built, so why not a solution which gives the Zionists the six percent of Palestine they actually bought, consolidated around Tel Aviv?
Actually, as they didn’t even purchase six percent this would be a most generous offer. Perhaps in negotiations, as a mark of good faith, it could even be increased to 6.5 percent, maybe seven on a good day.
Fitting six million people inside this small territory would be a bit of a squeeze but the Zionists would only have to look at Gaza, which was their model of high density living in the first place, to see how it could be done.
There’s no need to drive anyone into the sea on one side (the Zionists) or the desert on the other (the Arabs). These are cruel and unnecessary solutions. The land would be shared on an equitable basis. The Zionists could live on the land they had legally purchased. The Palestinians could go back to the 94 percent of Palestine that was legally theirs, individually and collectively.
As the self-proclaimed nation-state home of the Jewish people, the enclave around Tel Aviv could serve as a sort of Jewish Middle Eastern Vatican. It would have its own borders and passports and even its own police and security force. Here, the Vatican, or possibly Switzerland, could give some good advice about uniforms and weapons. No doubt tourists would come, generating a healthy revenue flow.
Understandably, this Jewish ministate couldn’t be militarized because of the dangers it would represent to Palestine. Its administrators would surely have no problem understanding that. A wall might even have to be built to protect the citizens of Palestine from terror attacks by residents of the Jewish nation-state still deluded into thinking that Palestine belonged to them.
However, as long as they respected the authority of the government of Palestine and the rights of its people, the citizens of the Jewish nation-state would be free to travel across Palestine and even pray at their holy sites. They could travel on to Jordan and see Jerash, Petra, and Wadi Rum.
The residents of Tel Aviv would have the beach for swimming on hot days. Tel Aviv gets a bit hot in summer but otherwise is quite pleasant. High rise apartments can go a long way to solve housing problems, as long as there is not an enemy nearby to bomb them as soon as they are built, and once the just peace had been reached there would be no more enemies to worry about anyway. No more conflict of rights or conflicting narratives either. They would belong to the confused past.
Initially, the state of Palestine would probably have to patrol the waters and stop fishing boats from going too far out from the coast and stop unauthorized boats from coming in, but these are measures the Jewish nation-state would surely understand, the Zionists having applied them in the old days against the people of Gaza.
Other matters would have to be considered, i.e. reparations for the hundreds of villages the Zionists had destroyed and the thousands of lives they had ended, but as the recipient of billions of dollars from Germany in reparations, the Jewish nation-state would surely have no problem recognizing the principles involved.
It could draw on the experiences of Gazans to help them overcome the difficulties of high-density living. Once back in their own land, the Gazans would no doubt only be too happy to help with solutions to the housing problem.
There is no reason to doubt anything said by the leaders of the present Jewish nation-state about its moral qualities, its commitment to democracy and its respect for human rights and the law. Let’s just take all of this for granted. On the basis of these genuinely held beliefs, it would surely have no difficulty acknowledging the commitment to the same values that underpin the just solution.
After almost a century, problem solved. Why didn’t someone think of this before?
– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.