Tel Aviv, Israel
Monday, January 19th, 1998 http://adamkhan.net/rambles/we-tri-harder
ever mind summits and shuttles; what are we going to discuss at the Oslo agreements final status talks? As things stand now, we’ll just continue squabbling over the shape of the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state — until the subject of Jerusalem comes up, at which point talks will break down completely, both sides will go home, and the Palestinians will declare sovereignty without Israel’s blessing on whatever land they already have. And they’ll still want Jerusalem. The Oslo peace accords will have served merely to amplify hostilities.
To avoid “final status” becoming a euphemism for “final breakdown,” new solutions are needed. Here’s one. [Update 2018 Oct 12: I wish I could attribute this folly to youth but I was already 27 when I wrote it. That said, some form at least of less-complete-than-average sovereignty and some nurturing by multiple foreign powers does still seem the way forward over 20 years later…]
Diplomacy by the Numbers
If a secretary has ten bosses, who’s really in charge? Each of them gives him a different agenda, so that he himself must come up with an eleventh set of priorities in order to best serve them all — and they must either accept his decisions or argue amongst themselves. Unavoidably, the few must rule the many — it’s practically built into the verb “to rule” — and the founders of our democracies knew it.
So they ingeniously made the people few and the government many; in today’s successful nation-states, a single electorate meets governments comprised of rotating representatives and a number of branches balanced each against the other.
Taking this division of sovereignty one step further, a land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.
Three is a more stable system than two, because when one starts to dominate, the other two instinctively band together to reestablish equilibrium. In George Orwell’s 1984, the three oppressive world powers use this inherently stable system as a cynical excuse to remain constantly at war. We, however, can harness the stability of threes to establish and maintain a permanent peace.
With apologies to the Swiss, imagine that their country was a no-man’s land and that each of the three nations surrounding it — France, Italy and Germany — claimed it. To resolve the conflict, the three nations, rather than going to war, set it up as a fourth shared entity. Now everyone in Switzerland is not only Swiss, but must also choose either French, Italian or German citizenship; and every French, Italian and German now also acquires Swiss citizenship. With such a solution, none of the initial three has ceded land to either one of the other two, and rather than dying in war, the peoples involved are merely obliged to vote not once but twice.
Moreover, since the people of Switzerland are a large electoral bloc in each of the other three countries, and the people of the other three states comprise much of the electorate in Switzerland, the interests of France, Italy and Germany, while previously opposed due to Switzerland, now gradually align because of it. A political party in Italy, for instance, would have to appeal both to Italians and to the Italian-Swiss. A Swiss political party, meanwhile, would have to appeal to everybody, including every Italian. In the democratic race for power, the prize in all four countries would go to those parties best able to forge the most common ground.
And yet, the original three countries would not lose any sovereignty; the French, if they so chose, could refuse to import Germans and Italians baguettes, which is more than they can do today.
To apply this model to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must first have three initial countries. Currently we have only two: Israel and Jordan. So we establish a small but full-flight liberal democratic sovereign state centered around Gaza — borders, an army, airports, the works. With this, Palestinian Arabs at last become full-status members of the international community.
At the same time, both Israel and Jordan return to Judea and Samaria/the West Bank to meet the Palestinian administration now there. Together, the three establish the democratic Trepublic of Palestine, so that there are now four states: Jordan, Israel, Gaza and Palestine.
In Palestine like in our Switzerland, every citizen must choose to become a citizen of one of the other three countries too. For example, a Jew in Hebron will become Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian, while an Arab in Ramallah will become Gazan and Gazan-Palestinian. Both of these women can move freely between their two home states. Meanwhile, all Gazans, Israelis and Jordanians vote in Palestine elections.
The Milk and the Honey
With this solution, the peoples of the entire area will have the choice either to live in their own more homogenous states or as equals in the shared middle-ground between them. Palestinian Arabs around the world will have the right of return — not to Israel but to Palestine. The goal here is not to conquer the fourth state by dint of numbers but for all to prosper by maintaining a balance of Gazan, Israeli and Jordanian influence there.
Furthermore, the precise position of borders becomes less deadly significant; apart from Gaza, Israel is giving land as much to itself as to anyone else, and will retain its strategic depth by comprising ⅓ of the new Palestinian army. Palestine can be shaped to reach the coast to separate Gaza and Israel — or not. Nobody need be uprooted.
And final status talks, rather than collapsing, can focus on something constructive, like how much money each side must raise for the unique new fourth state.
Meanwhile, Jordan has regained its interest in its West Bank, the Palestinians have won the right to live as sovereign citizens throughout the land they claim, and Israel — at last and importantly — has entered the surrounding Arab world institutionally.
Update 2021 Mar 29 (a mere 22½ years later): Benjamin Kerstein suggests in Tablet Magazine his similarly bonkers “Three-State Solution”.