The conventional wisdom that has been in place for at least two decades has been that the people now known as Palestinians should have a country that is their own. Discussions have focused on what has been called “the two-state solution.” The real answer is to have a “three-state solution.”
The two-state solution became the official position of the United States when adopted by the Bush Administration. This occurred after the disastrous negotiations held at the end of the Clinton Administration and the resulting Second Intifada. The Obama Administration has forcefully asserted their support for a two-state solution. This has caused even Bibi Netanyahu to mutter the words.
You have to wonder whether this whole thing makes sense. To create a single state for the Palestinians would involve two tracts of land with no actual border. An independent country between them – Israel - uniquely divides the two tracts. There has been a proposal to build a dedicated highway that cuts through Israel to connect the two proposed parts of the country. This proposal is preposterous for all parties involved. For Israel it provides an insurmountable security risk. For the Palestinians it provides the opportunity for Israel to cut off the connections between the two distinct areas.
For the past sixty years these two areas – Gaza and the West Bank -- have existed independent of each other and only forced upon each other by political convenience. The people who occupy these two distinct areas may speak the same language and may have been in the middle of the same conflict, but they have lived lives that are separate and unequal. They may both be called Palestinians, but after an extended period they have developed distinctly different lives.
They also have separate governments. Since the elections in 2006, a divide has developed between the governments of Gaza and The West Bank. Some have cited the election as a misstep on the part of the Bush Administration by trusting people who are not ready for democracy with an election. It can also be viewed as a defining moment. It has caused a split with Hamas ruling Gaza and Fatah ruling the West Bank. While each area may have elements of the other’s political interest, the ruling interests have solidified their control in each area. Now each of the existing tracts has its own culture and distinct government.
Some would say that Fatah is not a significantly different political party from Hamas. If you read their pronouncements you would certainly be led to believe that to be true. Fatah has made some of the same extreme statements about what they demand from Israel. Others would say that neither Hamas nor Fatah are willing to accept Israel, and the difference between them does amount to essentially a hill of beans.
Yet recent statistics from the Israeli government, supported by independent organizations, show a different picture. The West Bank has become a much calmer area and has had resulting economic growth reflecting that newfound peace. With 2,000 new businesses having entered the area, the West Bankers are harnessing themselves to the Israeli economic engine. The economic growth rate of 7% is one of the highest in the world. Instead of fighting they are building shopping malls. The Israeli government credits this success to the Palestinian people and the West Bank government.
Because of the reduced violence there, Israel has responded with reductions of restrictions and soldiers. This is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more the West Bankers succeed, the more freedom they are given and the more success they achieve.
So while the West Bank is flourishing Gaza continues its dismal situation. Led by the ineffective Hamas government, growth is stifled with a resulting 40% unemployment rate. The Gazans may want what the West Bankers are achieving, but they are allowing Hamas to be their rulers and determine their fate.
Because of some bad decisions and the lack of leadership in the Arab world, two separate areas have been lumped together as though it is one country. The people of the region need to come to the realization that Israel is not going anywhere. Once that is done they will realize that Gaza and the West Bank are two separate and distinct entities. The three-state solution will then come to pass. Once this is crystallized then a real path to peace can occur.