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Proposals for a Palestinian state

At the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following WWI, the victorious
European states sought to divide the Middle East into political entities
according to their own needs, and, to a much lesser extent, according to
deals that had been struck with other interested parties. Lebanon and Syria
came under French control, while Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan came under
British control. Most of these territories achieved independence during the
following three decades without unusual difficulty, but the case of
Palestine remained problematic.

Palestine and Transjordan were formally part of the same League of Nations
mandate, but from the beginning they were administered as separate
terrorities in almost all respects. For the history of Transjordan, which
became the independent state of Jordan, see the article on Jordan.

The future of Palestine was contentious from the beginning of the Palestine
Mandate, since it had been promised as the site of a Jewish homeland (see
Balfour Declaration) yet most of the population were Arabs. It was also,
according to one common view, the subject of British promises to the Arabs
during WWI. Therefore it is not surprising that many different proposals
have been made and continue to be made, including

  1. an Arab state, with or without a significant Jewish population
  2. a Jewish state, with or without a significant Arab population
  3. a single bi-national state, with or without some degree of
  4. two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with or without some form of

Historical proposals and events

   * Proposals for Arab or Jewish states in the early mandate period
   * The 1937 Peel Commission proposal. A British Royal Commission led by
     Lord Peel examined the Palestine question beginning late in 1936. Its
     report, published in July 1937, recommended the creation of a small
     Jewish state in a region less than 1/5 of the total area of Palestine.
     The remainer was to be joined to Transjordan except for some parts,
     including Jerusalem, that would remain under British control. The Arab
     population of the Jewish areas was to be removed, by force if
     necessary. The Zionist leaders accepted the proposal, seeing the tiny
     Jewish state as the seed of a future larger state, though their support
     of the "transfer" aspect was carefully hidden from the public. The Arab
     leadership rejected the proposal outright. It all came to nothing, as
     the British government had shelved the proposal altogether by the
     middle of 1938.
   * The Biltmore Program of 1942
   * Various proposals made in 1947
   * Independence of Israel in 1948
   * The All-Palestine government. In September 1948, partly as an Arab
     League move to limit the influence of Jordan over the Palestinian
     issue, a Palestinian government was declared in Gaza. The former mufti
     of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was appointed as president. On
     October 1, an independent Palestinian state in all of Palestine was
     declared, with Jerusalem as its capital. This government was recognised
     by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by
     Jordan or any non-Arab country. However, it was little more than a
     facade under Egyptian control and had negligible influence or funding.
     Palestinians living in Gaza or Egypt were issued with All-Palestine
     passports until 1959, when Nasser annulled the All-Palestine government
     by decree.
   * Various declarations of Palestinian independence

Current proposals for a Palestinian State

The current position of the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel is that
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should form the basis of a future
Palestinian state. In the following, the historical background is briefly
reviewed and the current dispute analyzed. For additional discussion, see
Palestinian territories.

Peace Process

A peace process has been in progress inspite of all the differences and
conflicts. Milestones along this path have been the Madrid Peace Conference
of 1991 and the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel. The
process stalled with the collapse of the Camp David 2000 Summit between
Palestinians and Israel.

Historical Views

Historical Israeli views

The traditional Israeli view has been that there is no such thing as a
separate Palestinian people, but only Arabs. They already have several
nations, and it is therefore unreasonable to demand that Israel should have
any responsibility or part in establishing a nation for them. This is
summarized by the famous statement of Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74) Golda
Meir: "There was no such thing as Palestinians ... It was not as though
there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a
Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country
away from them. They did not exist."

Since then, according to polls, the majority of Israelis have come to accept
the likelihood that a Palestinian state will be created.

Historical Arab views

Many Arabs have supported or continue to support the creation of a united
Arab state encompassing all Arab peoples including Palestine, so that no
independent Palestinian state would exist, but this became a minority view
amongst Palestinians during the British Mandate and after 1948 became rare.
It is still an opinion expressed regularly in the Arab states outside
Palestine (especially Syria). However, it is generally recognised that such
a development has become implausible under current political realities and
even those who might favor it in some circumstances support an independent
Palestinian state as the most achievable option.

From 1948 until 1967, Gaza was held by Egypt, and the West Bank, including
East Jerusalem, was held (annexed actually) by Jordan. During those years,
there was a growing movement for the creation of a Palestinian state,
leading to the creation of the PLO in 1964.

Modern view

The main discussion during the last fifteen years has focused on turning
most or the whole of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into an independent
Palestinian state. This was the basis for the Oslo accords and it is
favoured by the U.S. The status of Israel within the pre-1967 borders has
not been the subject of international negotiations. Some members of the PLO
recognize Israel's right to exist within these borders; others hold that
Israel must eventually be destroyed. Consequently, some Israelis hold that
Palestinian statehood is impossible with the current PLO as a basis, and
needs to be delayed.

The specific points and impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian
state are listed below. They are a part of a greater mindset difference.
Israel declares that its security demands that a Palestinian entity would
not have all attributes of a state, at least initially, so that in case
things go wrong, Israel would not have to face a dangerous and nearby enemy.
Israel may be therefore said to agree (as of now) not to a complete and
independent Palestinian state, but rather to a self-administering entity,
with partial but not full sovereignty over its borders and its citizens.

The central Palestinian position is that they have already compromised
greatly by accepting a state covering only the small areas of the West Bank
and Gaza. They feel that it is unacceptable for Israel to impose a multitude
of additional restrictions (see below) which, they declare, makes a viable
state impossible. In particular they are angered by significant increases in
the Israeli settler population in the West Bank during the interim period of
the Oslo accords. Palestinians claim that they have already waited for long
enough, and that Israel's interests do not justify depriving their state of
those rights that they consider important. Therefore, Palestinians have been
unwilling to accept statehood in this Israeli mindset, which they refer to
as a "Bantustan".

Impediments to the establishment of a Palestinian state

Note that the materials in this section are mainly based on the Israeli
([1], [2]) and Palestinian ([3],[4]) positions during the ill-fated Camp
David negotiations.

   * The city of Jerusalem is a site of dispute between Israel and the
     Palestinians. Israel demands that Jerusalem be recognised as their
     official capital (the very name "Zionism" is derived from Zion, one of
     Jerusalem's names), whereas Palestinians demand that East Jerusalem be
     recognized as their official capital, calling for Jerusalem as a whole
     to be an open city. A border passing inside the Old City is likely to
     displease both Jews and Arabs, since in addition to not settling the
     two sides' claims for the city, it would lead to difficulties in
     everyday life. Israel agrees to a compromise in Jerusalem, in which
     Israel has sovereignty over East and West Jerusalem but civil
     administration of the city's east is in Palestinian hands. Some groups,
     such as the Catholic Church, favour giving the city a special
     international status independent of either Israel or a Palestinian
     state, as was proposed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan.

   * Palestinians insist on contiguous territory. Israel has preferred to
     give the Palestinian Authority control mainly over cities while keeping
     the surrounding hinterland under Israeli security and Palestinian civil
     administration (Area B) or complete Israeli control (Area C). In
     addition Israel has demanded corridors through the West Bank that
     divide the territory into three or more separate parts and also
     additional Israeli highways. All together this creates hundreds of
     small, separated, patches of territory. [5] According to Palestinians,
     this makes it impossible to create a viable nation and fails to address
     Palestinian security needs; Israel has expressed its agreement to
     withdrawal from some Areas B, resulting in the division of the
     Palestinian areas into dozens to about a few hundred distinct parts
     (the numbers vary), and the institution of a safe pass system, without
     Israeli checkpoints, between these parts. Neither side has publicized a
     map with the proposed final settlements (the leaked documents reveal
     different plans, which range from 3 chunks to 7 or more). See for
     example a Le Monde Dipolomatique extrapolation and Gush Shalom's
     Projected Map.

   * Israel wants the new border lines to be shaped in such a way that the
     existence of a Palestinian state would not pose too great a security
     threat to Israel. The border before the Six-Day War, called the Green
     Line, passed at some point no more than 17 kilometers (12 miles) from
     Israel's Mediterranean coast, meaning that a hostile army in the West
     Bank (like the Jordanian forces at that time), could divide the country
     into two parts. The Palestinians argue that they have already
     compromised greatly by accepting Israel within the pre-1967 borders; as
     such they will not "compromise the compromise", and agree to any
     additional Israeli expansion. They have declared, however, they are
     ready to accept an exchange of land. In the Camp David talks Israel
     offered to exchange a part of the West Bank for a comparable part of
     Israel's Negev desert (which is less fertile, but suitable for
     building, according to Israel). The Palestinians turned down the offer
     without negotiating on the size of the proposed chunk, leading many
     Israelis to conclude that the offer was rejected on ideological
     grounds. Palestinians have however repeatedly stated that they were
     interested in negotiating, but the Israeli side said that it was a take
     it or leave offer.

   * In the years following the Six-Day War, and especially in the 1990s
     during the peace process, Israel established numerous settlements on
     the West Bank. These settlements (which Palestinians and most
     international observers regard as illegal) are now home to about
     350,000 people. Most of the settlements are in the western parts of the
     West Bank (thus making their retention part of the "safe borders" issue
     above), while others are deep into Palestinian territory, overlooking
     Palestinian cities. These settlements have been the site of much
     intercommunal conflict.

   * Israel has grave concerns regarding the welfare of Jewish holy places
     under possible Palestinian control. When Jerusalem was under Jordanian
     control, no Jews were allowed to visit the Wailing Wall. In 2000,
     Palestinian forces took over Joseph's Tomb, a shrine considered sacred
     by both Jews and Muslims, removed all Jewish parts, and turned it into
     a mosque. There were reports of unauthorized Palestinian digging on the
     Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which could threaten the stability of the
     Wailing Wall. Israel, on the other hand, has seldom blocked access to
     holy places sacred to other religions, and never permanently. Israeli
     security agencies routinely monitor and arrest Jewish extremists that
     plan attacks, resulting in almost no serious incidents for the last
     twenty years. Moreover, Israel has given almost complete autonomy to
     the Waqf, the Muslim trust over the Temple Mount, which is a sign of
     its respect for Muslim holy sites.

   * Palestinians have grave concerns regarding the welfare of Christian and
     Islamic holy places under Israeli control, pointing to the several
     attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al Aqsa) since 1967, including a
     serious fire in 1969, which destroyed the south wing, and the
     discovery, in 1981, of tunnels under the structure of the mosque which
     some archaeologists believe have weakened the building structures on
     the Temple Mount (Haram ash-Sharif). In the ensuing confrontations,
     more than 70 Palestinians died [6]. Some advocates believe that the
     tunnels were dug with the intent of causing the mosque's collapse. The
     Israeli government claims it treats the Muslim and Christian holy sites
     with utmost respect (see previous paragraph).

   * Right of Return: although not directly a land-related issue, the
     parties have found it difficult to reach a compromise. Palestinian
     negotiators have so far insisted that refugees from the 1948 and 1967
     wars have a right to return to the new Palestine. Most Israelis hold
     that the inflow of millions of poor refugees (almost none of whom were
     properly integrated by the surrounding Arab countries) will simply
     exceed the region's dwindling resources, and make them invade Israel
     and destroy it. The Arab summit of 2002 declared that it proposed the
     compromise of a "just resolution" of the refugee problem, to include
     the option of compensation in lieu of return. It is not currently
     understood what is meant by "just resolution"; a similar concept was
     offered by the Israeli government, but outright rejected by the
     Palestinians in the Summer 2000 Camp David negotiations.

   * Who will govern? Israel declares that the current Palestinian Authority
     is corrupt to the bottom, enjoys a warm relationship with Hamas and
     other Islamic militant movements, and seems at times to call in Arabic
     for the destruction of Israel (see Palestinian views of the peace
     process). This makes it, in Israeli perception, unfit for turning into
     a Palestinian state or, especially according to the right wing of
     Israeli politics, even negotiating about the character of such a state.
     Because of that, a number of organizations, including the ruling Likud
     party, declared they would not accept a Palestinian state based on the
     current PA (Likud's leader, Prime Minister Sharon, has publicly
     declared he rejects this position as too radical); a PA Cabinet
     minister, Saeb Arekat, declared this would mean Israel is waging a
     "war" against Palestinians to maintain its occupation of the West Bank
     and Gaza [7]. Some international observers argue that negotiations and
     internal Palestinian reform can be undertaken simultaneously.

   * The question of water. Since the West Bank and Israel's coast are on
     the same aquifer, a comprehensive agreement is needed as to who does
     the drilling (Map, Detailed Map).

   * The question of airspace - the West Bank and Israel form a strip only
     up to 80 kilometers wide. Israel has insisted on complete Israeli
     control of the airspace above the West Bank and Gaza as well as that
     above Israel itself. A Palestinian compromise of joint control over the
     combined airspace has been rejected by Israel.

   * The question of borders and international status - Israel has demanded
     control over border crossings between the Palestinian territories and
     Jordan and Egypt, and the right to set the import and export controls,
     asserting that Israel and the Palestinian territories are a single
     economic space.

   * The question of an army: Israel does not wish Palestine to build up an
     army capable of offensive operations, considering that the only party
     against which such an army could be turned in the near future is Israel
     itself. Israel, however, has already allowed for the creation of a
     Palestinian police that can not only conduct police operations, but
     also carry out limited-scale warfare. Palestinians have argued that the
     IDF, a large and modern armed force, poses a direct and pressing threat
     to the sovereignty of any future Palestinian state, making a defensive
     force for a Palestinian state a matter of necessity. To this, Israelis
     claim that signing a treaty while building an army is a show of bad

Plans for a solution

There are several plans for a possible Palestinian state. Each one has many
variations. Some of the more prominent plans include:

   * Create a Palestinian state out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,
     with its capital in East Jerusalem. This would require Israel to return
     its borders to the Green Line, the borders before the 1967 Six-Day War.
     The Saudi proposal of 2002 promised in exchange for a retreat a
     complete recognition of Israel by the Arab world. This long-extant idea
     forms the basis of a peace plan put forward by Saudi Arabia in March
     2002, which was accepted in principle by the Palestinian Authority.
     However, Israel claims that the plan does not guarantee Israel's
     security as it returns Israel to its 12-mile "strategic depth", not
     mentioning the issue of refugees or Jerusalem; moreover Israel claims
     that when it came to negotiations, the Palestinian Authority has
     rejected very similar offers made during the Camp David talks.

   * Other, more limited, plans for a Palestinian state have also been put
     forward, which would see parts of Gaza and the West Bank which have
     been settled by Israelis or are of particular strategic importance
     remaining in Israeli hands. The status of Jerusalem is particularly

   * A plan popular with the Israeli right-wing advocates the transfer of
     the Palestinian population from the West Bank into Jordan, with the
     expansion of Israel up to the Jordan River and the institution of a
     Palestinian state in Jordan.

Several plans have been proposed for a Palestinian state to incorporate all
of the land of Israel proper, as well as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Some possible configurations include:

   * A secular Arab state (the PLO National Covenant before the cancellation
     of the relevant clauses in 1998). According to the PLO Covenant, only
     those Jews that arrived in the country after 1918 would be forced to
     emigrate, which ranges at from around 99% (including all people born
     after that period) to about 50% (including only immigrants themselves)
     of the Jewish population. This would in effect lead to Israel's

   * A strictly Islamic state (Hamas and the Islamic Movement). Even if Jews
     would not be removed in the initial shockwave, it would contradict
     Israel's existence as an independent Jewish state. It would also cause
     problems for the Palestinian Christian minority.

   * A federation of separate Jewish and Arab areas (some Israelis and
     Palestinians). This arrangement is not adequate from the points of view
     of natural resources and security.

   * A single, bi-national state (advocated by various Israeli and
     Palestinian groups). Most Palestinians and Israelis are likely to
     reject this option, out of fear that the new state is likely to give
     the two sides an asymmetric status (though not necessarily an unequal
     one). Most Israelis and Palestinians would reject it as both peoples
     opt for independent nation-states.
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