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Opinion: Columnists

Time for an Israeli one-state solution in the Middle East?

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Opinion,Michael Barone,Columnists,Israel,Palestinians

Just about everyone in American politics agrees on one policy in the Middle East. And just about everyone in American politics is wrong, argues Caroline Glick.

That policy is a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian disputes. Two nations, Israel and a Palestinian state, would share the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s been the guiding assumption of American policy for more than 20 years. And, argues Glick, an American-born Israeli who has served in its military, it’s impractical, unachievable and immoral.

Glick makes her case in her new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Let Israel assert and exercise sovereignty over the lands between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, except for the Gaza Strip, which it evacuated in 2005.

This sounds unrealistic. Any such proposal would encounter harsh rhetorical opposition in the Arab world, in European foreign ministries and in United Nations tribunals.

But the two-state solution, Glick argues, is just as unrealistic. Starting in fall 1993, then-President Bill Clinton devoted his considerable energies and talents to negotiating a two-state agreement. Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat visited the Clinton White House more often than any other leader.

Clinton persuaded Israeli leaders to make unprecedented concessions and muscled aside Benjamin Netanyahu when he resisted. Despite all this, Arafat rejected Clinton’s final offer and launched the second intifada, a series of terrorist attacks on Israel.

George W. Bush refused to deal with Arafat but proclaimed the two-state solution as U.S. policy and urged Ariel Sharon to evacuate the Gaza Strip. Barack Obama has called for more Israeli concessions as John Kerry has made the issue a major priority.

None of these extraordinary efforts have worked. Palestinian still leaders won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state and demand a “right of return” for descendants of Arabs who left in the 1940s — a right not enjoyed by descendants of other peoples displaced then.

Meanwhile, the old argument that resolving Israel-Palestinian differences is the key to solving all other Middle East problems looks increasingly risible, given the Iranian nuclear threat, the Syrian civil war, Saudi discontent, etc.

But isn’t Israel, if not divided into two states, in danger of being demographically overwhelmed by Palestinians? President Obama has been only the latest to make this claim.

Caroline Glick’s answer is no. She points out that these dire demographic projections are based on a 1997 census conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. That census reported that there were 2.86 million Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza and another 1 million Arabs in Israel, compared to 4.7 million Israeli Jews.

The PCBS’s projections for 2015 — just one year from now! — were that the West Bank and Gaza Arab population would rise to 5.81 million and the Israeli Arab population to 1.6 million. Together they would outnumber a predicted 5.9 million Israeli Jews.

Glick points out that these numbers were, from the start, inconsistent with data collected by Israeli researchers from 1967 to 1996 and that the Palestinians double-counted some 210,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem.

Moreover, a 2005 report by an American-Israeli statistical team revealed an overcount of more than 1 million by the Palestinians and showed that the projected Arab population increase was based on high birth rates and immigration figures that did not occur.

Rather, as American Enterprise Institute demographer Nick Eberstadt has pointed out, birth rates among Muslims, including Palestinians, have fallen very sharply since the 1990s. Meanwhile, Jewish immigration has continued and Jewish birth rates have risen in Israel. And some Christians and Arabs have embraced Israeli citizenship and even military service.

So the two-state solution is based on demographic projections that have turned out to be inaccurate. And the economic situation there has changed sharply.

For many years, Israel’s economy was held down by socialist policies imposed by idealistic founders. But in recent decades Israel has moved toward capitalism, and it now has a rapidly growing economy with one of the world’s leading high-tech sectors.

The contrast with neighboring states — and with Gaza and the Palestinian Authority — couldn’t be greater. Israel has pretty much stamped out violent terrorism while maintaining freedoms and civil liberties. Its economy soars in contrast to the “bigoted, authoritarian kleptocracy” of the Palestinian Authority.

Glick’s book won’t be popular in diplomatic circles. But it’s a closer fit with reality than the long-dreamed-of, never-achieved two-state solution.

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Author:

Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner