How to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

by Benjamin Studebaker

As Israel proves that twitter can be a tool of the state just as easily as it can be a tool of rebels and revolutionaries, the question once again rises as to how on earth a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might come about. The attitudes to this conflict are too partisan and too subjectively involved. What is required is emotional detachment and rational analysis, and I propose to use both of these tools to devise the optimum solution to the conflict, which I submit to you, the reader, for judgement.

There are four potential solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  1. Israeli Victory, Palestinian Defeat
  2. Palestinian Victory, Israeli Defeat
  3. Divided Victory (2-State Solution)
  4. United Victory (1-State Solution)

Under the status quo, Palestine possesses 4 billion in GDP while Israel possesses 243 billion. This means the Palestinians possess 1.6% of the total output that the former British mandate as a whole presently produces. It is worth noting that this figure is depressed by several Israeli policies:

  1. The Gaza Blockade
  2. Seizure of Palestinian Territory by Settlers
  3. Denial of Freedom of Movement

We will leave out, for the purposes of simplicity, discrimination against Palestinians living in the Israeli territory itself, as that reduces the wealth of the Arab ethnic group rather than the Palestinian political entity. There are a variety of justifications for these policies; it is not my purpose here to judge them, merely to note their impact on the current economic situation in Palestine, which is one of severe comparative poverty, poverty that increases support for radicalism and militant organisations within Palestine. Keep this in mind as we proceed to discuss the four solutions.

Israeli Victory

Israeli victory is perhaps better termed Zionist victory–the settlements grow until the Palestinian territories are subsumed into Israel, with the Arab population being driven out or eradicated through economic misery and military destruction. This solution would strengthen the resolve of the Muslim world against Israel and lead to further long-term regional instability. It is important to note that when we discuss this conflict, all nations that are not Israel nor are Islamic do not have any vested interest in the outcome beyond producing a stable result that keeps the region peaceful and the oil flowing. For Chinese/Americans/Russians/Europeans (hereafter referred to as “CARE”), this solution is extremely bad. It also grows less feasible over time, because the demography does not favour an Israeli victory over the Palestinians in the long-term–Israel’s birth rate of 21.4 is inferior to the Palestinian birth rate of 24.5. In addition, most of the surrounding Islamic countries have higher birth rates and populations than Israel. Consequently, this solution is most feasible while Israel has a large technological advantage, the smallest population disadvantage it will have going forward, and the backing of the US government–in other words, right now.  This is the source for the Israeli political right’s desire to provoke an American war with Iran to provide it with the circumstances in which it can further expand the Israeli state and reduce the Muslim world’s ability to present opposition to it. It is not merely a defensive stratagem, because, as we’ll see going forward, a policy concerned primarily with promoting Israeli security would look very different. This is a policy of expansion, not security, and it is exclusively to the Israeli right wing’s interest.

Palestinian Victory

This amounts to the stated policy aims of Hamas and Ahmadinejad, the whole “driving Israel into the sea” thing. It is the inverse of Israeli victory, in which the Palestinians, together with Islamic supporters from other countries, use military force to drive out or eradicate the Israeli population. It is every bit as undesirable for CARE as Israeli victory, but, importantly, it is no worse. It entails roughly the same level of instability and violence. It is also, at the moment, completely infeasible due to Israeli technological advantage and foreign alliance. However, historically, states backed by the west in this region have a tendency to fail, even if it sometimes takes centuries for them to do so, on account of sheer population disadvantage and eventual fatigue on the part of their western backers, who eventually cease to send them support and aid. The Muslim fundamentalists are playing the long game and waiting for Israel to follow those historical examples, and the slow whither of western support for the Israeli position suggests that, given time and the avoidance of the aforementioned Israeli victory, such a Palestinian victory would come to pass. This is a policy of jihad, it involves centuries of misery for the people of the region while they await Israel’s death, and it is exclusively to the interest of Islamic fundamentalists.

Divided Victory

This is the classical two state solution–one state for the Israelis, one for the Palestinians. It is analogous with the India/Pakistan solution and would produce a similar result–open hostilities end out of mutual self-interest to avoid the catastrophe of endemic destructive war, but friendship remains impossible and the resentment sticks around. This is particularly the case because while in theory a Palestinian state would be equal to an Israeli state in standing and rights, in practise the Israeli state would have a considerably military advantage (at least in the short term) and a huge advantage in its economic development. The Palestinian state would also, like Pakistan, be split between two pieces of territory unconnected to each other and separated by the untrusted neighbour. The Pakistani example would suggest that eventually the Gaza Strip could become a Bangladesh of sorts, except for the fact that the Gaza Strip is too small to be independently economically viable. It consequently presents administrative challenges to a Palestinian state. Of course, this solution hasn’t happened because the Israelis expect the various Palestinian factions to renounce terrorism before they agree to discuss it, and the Palestinian factions–in addition to being disunited and consequently unable very often to universally agree to anything–demand that Israel renounce settlement construction. Neither party is willing (though Israel, as a united state rather than a group of disunited militant organisations, is more able) to change behaviour, in part because there are very large factions on both sides that really don’t want this solution because it deprives them of the two we previously mentioned. This is a bad compromise for all involved–it leads to the same kind of endemic lessened but still latent instability we see in the Indian subcontinent, which isn’t especially good for CARE, and it forces both Israel and Palestine to compromise their preferred economic outcome.

United Victory

This solution is gradually being forced on all parties involved as a result of the Israeli settlements, which will likely never go away, and the intense need to bring some kind of non-violent, stable, civilised solution to the conflict. This would involve combining Israel and Palestine into a single secular state with no religious affiliations in either direction that treats citizens of both groups equally. This would end the conflict in a very broad sense and would bring about stability that is very much to the benefit of CARE. It is generally considered infeasible however, because the leadership of both sides deeply oppose it (though it is not without its supporters–Ronald Dworkin, the political theorist, is among them and considers all other solutions ethically unjust). This opposition is despite the fact that history shows that religiously and ethnically inclusive states tend to prosper from that inclusivity, that this presents the only solution which is, in the long run, stable and peaceful, and that no other solution presents any opportunity to make the Jews and Arabs friends again. It is certainly the rational solution, only rejected because the people involved are behaving irrationally and emotionally out of nationalism and religious fundamentalism.

So, to summarise what we’ve done so far:

Solution Distribution Feasibility Beneficiaries
Status Quo Israel 98.4%, Palestine 1.6% Highly Feasible and Historically Resilient No One
Israeli Victory Israel 100%, Palestine 0% Short term feasible, long term infeasible Israel exclusively
Palestinian Victory Palestine 100%, Israel 0% Short term infeasible, long term feasible Palestine and the broader Muslim world
Divided Victory In theory, Israel 50%, Palestine 50%, likely not the case in practise Support from both sides in theory, not in practise Palestine and CARE to a degree, Israel in the short term but not the long term
United Victory Mutually Shared 100% Both Israel and Palestine Oppose In the long run, everyone, but especially CARE

I have mentioned CARE periodically here, because there’s been something missing in all the discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, once considered, makes it clear what should be done, and that is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not affect merely the Israelis and the Palestinians. It has been an enormous pain in the neck for the CARE countries for the last half century. It creates endemic, endless regional violence, it disrupts their trade, it drags them into conflicts, it politically embarrasses them, it is a constant annoyance for CARE. CARE cares quite a bit about what happens in Israel and Palestine. CARE has a stake in the outcome–it needs united victory. The CARE countries are neither Jewish nor Muslim, they do not have any reason to care who wins, only that the conflict ends and never again resumes. United victory is the most stable and provides the best chance of that. In addition to having a stake in the outcome, CARE is vastly more powerful than Israel, Palestine, indeed, the entire Muslim world.

So what’s the real policy error here? CARE has allowed the Israelis and Palestinians to selfishly refuse to resolve their conflict for half a century while that conflict damages global economic output and makes the citizens of CARE poorer. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an insult to the CARE nations and to every citizen of a CARE nation (which is, interestingly, most of my readers). CARE has the capacity to coerce Israel and Palestine into abandoning their childish nationalism and religious fundamentalism, to force a united victory, in the interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, against the wishes of both. There are numerous ways by which CARE could do this ranging from the peaceful to the more dramatic:

  1. Close trade and blockade both Israel and Palestine and all countries that trade with Israel and Palestine until united victory is agreed.
  2. Threaten to (and if necessary, do) destroy Jewish and Muslim holy sites in Israel and Palestine until united victory is agreed.
  3. Invade and occupy both Israel and Palestine and physically force them to stop fighting and agree to united victory and attack them again if they go back on their word, deliberately going out of the way to deter and punish them by destroying economic infrastructure.

Millions of people have been oppressed, injured, killed, or otherwise harmed either directly or indirectly through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the engine that drives Islamic terrorism, it spawned 9/11, it created the War on Terror and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, it threatens our energy security, it has created a nuclear conflict with Iran, it is the single most destabilising thing on the face of the earth, and it has been allowed to go on for fifty years simply to respect the “autonomy” and “independence” of the Israelis and Palestinians. Enough is enough. Control them. Coerce them. Make it stop.