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Israel and the Middle East

How to Create a Win-Win-Win Situation
for Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians

Daniel J. Elazar

All of a sudden, out of the blue, we have, to mix metaphors, a new ballgame. My heart aches with hope that what is now merely an agreement on principles will work out in practice to the advantage of all. It will not be easy, but it seems as if the parties, at least at the moment, have the will to make it work. Making it work is, however, as I suggested nearly a quarter of a century ago, contingent upon finding the appropriate combination of self-rule and shared-rule solutions that will prevent the results from ending up as a zero-sum game in which each winner leaves the other side a loser. The idea is to make everyone winners.

That means that the Palestinians will gain more self-rule than they have had at any time in their past. The Palestinians have convinced the world that they are, for political purposes at least, a people, forged in the crucible of their struggle with the Jewish people, and their periodic rejection by the rest of the Arab world. The Jewish people, in turn, has discovered that under present conditions they cannot hold onto exclusive control over lands lived on by others, no matter how important those lands might be for Israel's security. The Jordanians have discovered, once again, that they are both in and out of the game; it is up to them to get off the fence if they hope to remain players.

For all three parties the realities of obtaining or preserving self-rule are tied in completely with the necessity for a certain amount of shared rule. Without shared rule there cannot be any successful self-rule -- for the simple reason that some things cannot be divided, only shared. If we cannot share what cannot be divided, one or another of us will not be able to hold even what we can divide. Harsh? No, just realistic. Difficult? Probably.

Take water for instance. How do we divide waters that flow across or underneath boundaries? Only through well-negotiated and well-administered sharing arrangements.

Or economics. The Palestinians almost certainly know how dependent their economy will be on Israel. At the same time they want to be as free of us as they can. To them, that's independence. They may want that, but do they want it at the price of tens of thousands of unemployed who will have no prospect for jobs, with all the political instability that will bring? And once they recognize their need for Israel as a place of employment, why should they not benefit from Israeli investments in their territory? From joint efforts for tourism and economic development?

What about Jerusalem? Should Israel and the Palestinian entity re-partition the city? Should the Palestinians be excluded from any role in its governance? Should the Israelis be excluded from their holy places and not be able to get to them with the same ease as they do today? Without shared-rule arrangements there must be a winner and a loser. Does anyone sincerely seeking peace want that?

Finally, what about the Israeli settlers in the territories and the Palestinian Arabs who will find themselves on the Israeli side of the line if there are any border adjustment at all. (One hopes, for Israel's sake, there will be. If not, even the present Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road will be cut by Palestinian territory.)

Israel is much stronger than the Palestinians, who need all the help that they can get. If they are smart, the will get that help in federation (a close union with common citizenship and institutions) with Jordan and at the same time in confederation (a looser linkage between entities) with Israel. This will give them a political entity with sufficient self-rule, while at the same time offering possibilities for economic viability. For Israel, this will give a firm constitutional basis to its security needs and to the maintenance of 130,000 Jews who have settled in the territories beyond Jerusalem, not to speak of the Jews' historic rights to a presence in those territories, even if not an exclusive or ruling one. For Jordan, this will encourage an energetic population west of the river to help Jordan grow economically and will minimize the possibility of political conflict with the Palestinians east of the river who might want to join their brethren west of it.

Without federal solutions, we will either see stalemate or one party will lose everything. With them, all can gain. Who knows. If a proper combination of federal and confederal principles is introduced, so as to guarantee both self-rule and shared-rule, we may even be able to extend those principles to Jerusalem in an appropriate way.

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