Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Clearly I lack breadth of vision

For some time it has seemed to me inevitable that the two-state solution that may have been obvious back in 1948 (though not to the Arab states who refused it) is not going to work in the Palestine now. Given the normal relationship between Hamas who rule Gaza with ferocious control and Fatah who do much the same in the West Bank, there would have to be a three-state solution: Israel, Fatahland and Hamastan. Someone recently suggested to me a four-state solution as the Christians who are mostly thronging into Israel may not always want to be there. Well, maybe.

What we all lack is breadth of vision. Phyllis Chesler is advancing an idea, which is not hers originally but whose time has come, a ten-state solution.
But why is everyone thinking so “small?” My colleague and friend, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar Ilan University and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, has a far more realistic and creative suggestion. When I first heard his proposal, I laughed. I thought: “Surely, this is some kind of Jewish joke.”

His suggestion is no joke. In fact, it has some serious support from both Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, things being what they are, no one will go on record supporting this idea, which is based on a sociological and historical analysis of Arab tribes and the consequent concept of Arab tribal city-states.
When you think about it seriously, it does not seem such a bad idea.
Dr. Kedar proposes the creation of no less than eight or nine independent and separate Arab city-states within the West Bank, in addition to Gaza. Of course, Israel would comprise the ninth or tenth state. He writes:

“There is no reason to assume that a Palestinian state will not become another failing Arab state, due to the fragmented society in the West Bank and Gaza, tribalism and lack of awareness of nationhood as demonstrated by the failing performance of the Palestinian authority since its establishment in 1994…Social stability is the key for political stability…the only successful model for an Arab state is the one which is based on a single consolidated traditional group such as each of the individual Arab Gulf Emirates.”

This actually makes sense. The Arab Gulf Emirates have been relatively successful because their inhabitants are, with some exceptions, largely homogeneous in terms of tribe, ethnicity, and religion. True, the oil wealth has also provided an incentive for unity. But in general, the Arab Middle East has always been composed of many tribes, religions, sects, and ethnic groups, all at war with each other and with the government. The colonial imposition of a central, western-style nation-state has not served the interests of the indigenous people but rather the interests of dictators and large corporations.
If that would mean the eight or nine Arab city states actually concentrating on wealth creation and ordinary life, the Middle East might become considerably more stable. But which politician is likely to express this as a policy?

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