, I'd like to follow-up on the trip I made to Israel and the West Bank, but I'd like to do it within the framework of a request. This is a blog that focuses on elections and campaigns, with a motive of helping progressives and defeating conservatives. I know that people have strong views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, so my request is that the community not spur off the topic into multiple competing diaries that argue the point from an isolated point of view. That's probably too optimistic, but I thought I'd at least ask.
Theoretically, as Bowers points out, there has been a recent support for a two-state solution, which is a radical departure from the past decades. Israel already made a first step, with the pull-out from the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip is on its way to being a separate state. It is a failed state, under the leadership of a fundamentalist Hamas regime, and depends entirely upon the goodwill of Israel and Iran. But plainly, it is already separate from Israel and will remain as such. The West Bank is an entirely different place.
We had many presentations of a two-state solution whereby the West Bank and Gaza would be re-united, with a security road connecting the two, but its not that simple. Its a significant issue in the West Bank that settlements by Israelis are multiplying, that Israel-only roads are being built in the West Bank, and that Arab communities are increasingly being geographically divided. I don't believe that 1967 is coming back.
I had the notion at first, when looking over maps of the security fence & wall thats been built across the boarder of the West Bank, that it could serve as a natural first step toward a permanent border. But after seeing firsthand the extent of division that the security fence creates, and coming to understand the extent of settlements within the West Bank, I'd be naive to hold the expectation that a Palestine country will happen. It would literally be a country that had dozens of underground tunnels and a separate but parallel road system, to interconnect the Palestinian communities apart from the Israeli ones. And this isn't even taking into account the settlements beyond the fence that have happened around the Jordan river, or the Jordan border over which Israel would want to maintain control. And given the encroachment that's happened, its difficult to believe that a simple 'land swap' is going to provide a solution.
Beyond just the map problems stated above for the West Bank, is the question of political will. There is very little political will for a repeat of Hamas taking over from Fatah in the West Bank, as what happened in Gaza. There will be no pull-out by Israeli military from the West Bank anytime soon.
So what's the solution? Well, there is already a two-state presence, Israel and Gaza, and I'm not convinced that the West bank will become rejoined with Gaza. As such, Israel is left with a few choices, either create an apartheid-like situation for the Arabs in the West Bank, or figure out how to live alongside them, as they've already done with the Arabs living within Israel.
There is a demographic fear within Israel. What the Jewish community has created, in terms of their cities and place, is a good thing for the middle east. It's a western attitude and lifestyle in a region where too many totalitarian regimes dominate peoples lifestyles through repressive means. But, the secular community, which is mostly responsible for the development, is not repopulating as fast as are the Arab and Orthodox communities within Israel. The Arab community makes up about 20 percent of the Israel population currently. The fear has been, if Israel were to open up and allow those living in the West Bank and Gaza to become Israeli's, that the Jewish population would become a minority within Israel. But it's worth noting, that with just the West Bank population, that is no longer the equation.
The gist of all this being that disengagement of the West Bank isn't an option like it was for the Gaza Strip. And as such, integration is a long-term necessity.
The most positive development I learned about in Israel was that children have started to learn Arabic, Hebrew, and English, in primary schools throughout Israel. Its that sort of effort, if it were extended into the West Bank, which could replace fear with understanding.