The Option: For Israel/Palestine Peace and Prosperity
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Two State Settlement
The realization of two state settlement in the Israel Palestine conflict is no closer now than it has been in 40 years. In fact it is further away today than it has been in recent history. The United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and the presidential order that recognizes the Golan Heights as part Israeli territory are all actions that obstruct the creation of a Palestinian state. The US and Israel firmly assert a Palestinian state can only come through direct negotiations with Israel.
What interest does the US have in the creation of a Palestinian state? US foreign policy is a very simple creature. United States foreign policy is motivated by ensuring US corporations have access to the markets of nations for the exploitation of labor and resources. All other foreign policy goals support this motive by removing obstacles to the aforementioned end. The creation of a Palestinian state is the creation of an unfriendly state with no opportunity for investment. Furthermore, should a Palestinian nation develop and prosper economically it would likely serve as an obstacle to market access elsewhere by supporting regimes who are unfriendly to this paramount US interest. A two state settlement serves no US interest.
What interest does Israel have in the creation of a Palestinian state? The creation of a Palestinian state serves no purpose since Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza have been defanged despite repetitious claims of being under the constant threat of attack. In 2018 1 person died as a result of Arab rocket fire.(1) In 2018 as many Israeli’s died of snake bites (2). The threat is greatly overstated, which is to say Israel does not need the creation of a Palestinian state to secure the peace it already enjoys.
International law is not enforceable to any meaningful degree. It is cited by activists and nations when it suits their interest and ignored when it does not. International relations are governed by the ability of force in consideration of cost verses benefit. Israel continues to destroy Arab homes and build settlements contrary to international law. But who is going to stop them?
A truly sovereign Palestinian state would prevent Israeli expansion into the West Bank. A Palestinian state does not serve the interest of Israel’s expansionist agenda.
The pretext is a Palestinian state poses existential threat to Israel.(3) The fruits of self determination and development will be channeled into terror against Israel. They cite past violence while omitting the causes of that violence but the position is speculative, becoming a game of will not, will too.
There is no benefit to either the United States or Israel in the creation of a Palestinian state, and these are the only two nations on the planet capable of birthing Palestinian statehood. This is why a Palestinian state will not happen. Activists and intellectuals who think public opinion or international opinion becoming more supportive of the idea is progress towards achieving the idea, neglect the fact that the deciding states are not persuaded by popular opinion. To lead the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza to believe a state of their own is any closer, is like a doctor giving a positive prognosis to a patient he knows to be terminally ill.
The likely course is as it has been with one modification already on the horizon. Gaza will be left as is. There are reports anticipating Gaza will be uninhabitable within a year(4) and I think by most people’s standards it already is uninhabitable but human beings are very resilient. It is difficult to know exactly how Gaza will play out on the present trajectory but we can be sure if conditions eventually force them out they are not going to be welcome in the West Bank.
Israel will continue settlement expansion in the West Bank. The first step is establishing a concentrated presence which is reaching acceptable levels as signaled by Netenyaha’s promise to begin annexing the West Bank.(5) Arabs living in the West Bank will be pushed into enclaves of greater concentration until those remaining are either absorbed into a West Bank that is part of the Israeli state, or until they are forced from the West Bank completely. This is the present trajectory.
The two state solution is not viable based on the interests of the United States and Israel.
We should be searching for alternatives instead of supporting a solution that is unrealizable.
A one state solution based on absorption is also not realistic for two very simple reasons: 1st Israel is a Jewish state and absorbing 4.7 million Arabs with a higher birth rate than Israeli Jews not only dilutes the purity of the state, but becomes an existential threat to the state’s purpose if public policy is governed by truly democratic processes. From the Palestinian perspective it is unacceptable because they doubt their interests will be represented in proportion to their numbers. A one state solution trades siege and occupation for apartheid, which would hardly be an improvement from present circumstances.
“The option” I am proposing is intended to allow the Palestinians to extract value from a collective asset to improve the lives of all Palestinians while they are still possessed of that asset. In exchange Israel will have an opportunity to legally expedite the end it seeks to achieve. Plainly, I am talking about the sale of the West Bank and Gaza to Israel with the proceeds being directly dispersed to Palestinians for a mass migration to nations of their choosing.
Initially I began with a figure that would produce $30,000 per household, but given the concentration of members per household this method could produce some unfair discrepancies. A better and only slightly more costly arrangement for dispersal would be $7500 per head. Per head including dependents eliminates a family of 8 receiving $30,000 and a house hold of 2 receiving $30,000.
The first question is where would they go? The Palestinians have the sympathy of nearly the entire world. The first step is for countries to make national pledges to accept Palestinian migrants. There are inherent incentives for countries to make these pledges. First these migrants are coming with money which will stimulate the economies of these countries. Second, many countries, especially in Europe have an aging population that poses a threat to economic growth due to a shortage of prime working age people. The median age in Gaza is 18 years old while the median age of most European countries is 40. I’m not implying that Europe should absorb all or even the bulk of Palestinians, only citing the median age to demonstrate the value of the youth in Palestinian territories. These migrants are not a burden on the economy but an asset.
The beginning to end process will be illustrated. While at first glance the proposal may seem absurd, it effectively boils down to a single question: is the commitment of the Palestinian population greater to their families and the immediate prospect for life, liberty and prosperity; or is their commitment greater to the land of their ancestors which they have already been mostly evicted from and exercise only the most minimal autonomy over?
Living Conditions in the West Bank and Gaza
The most basic staples of life are food, water, and shelter. Both territories are considered water scarce with only 19% of Arabs in Gaza reporting no problem with their piped water and less than half of the population in the West Bank being satisfied with their piped water. (6) This is in regard to water they have access to not satisfaction related to their access to water.
A woman living in the West Bank provided the following account concerning her access to water: “It is a very stressful situation. I have to consider and prioritize every single drop of water I use,” Taha said. “We have barely enough to drink, cook, shower and use the bathroom. Sometimes I don’t do the laundry or clean the house for weeks. It is hot and dusty. This is exhausting.”(7)
In Gaza access to clean water is much worse than the West Bank, where Gazans have access to water for 8 hours every 3 days. (8) Only 11% of Gazans have access to water through the public network with 9 out of 10 people relying on water tanks and containers. Water is a great expense and much of the water purchased through private venders remains contaminated, drawn from wells that are unregulated. 2/3rds of the water purchased from tankers is contaminated.(9) A Gaza resident named Madlain Al Najjar told PBS reporters “My children get sick because of the water. They suffer from vomiting, diarrhea. Often, I can tell the water is not clean, but we have no other option.” The Najjar’s water expense costs about a third of Madlain’s husband’s income. (10)
In Gaza food insecurity is an issue with “68% of the population considered either moderately or extremely food insecure”, despite 69% of the population receiving food aid. In the West Bank food insecurity is comparatively better with 19% of the population being food insecure, but on its own, this still represents nearly 1 in 5 people who do not have enough to eat.(11)
Unemployment among Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza is 29 percent, with a work force participation rate of only 47 percent.(12) This means only 1.7 of the 4.7 million people are working, or roughly 36% of the population has a job. Cultural gender roles likely deflate the overall workforce participation numbers as workforce participation is significantly lower among women. Still, the number of Arabs without work in the Palestinian territories is very high.
Among those who are fortunate enough to have work, the average daily wage for a person working in the West Bank is 25$ per day and only 15$ per day in Gaza. (13) The average does not properly reflect the daily wage of the average person as averages are subject to inflation due to income concentration. I could not find a median individual or household income statistic for the territories. Of people who are employed in Gaza, 29 percent are considered poor earning less than 4.6 dollars per day. Of Arabs in Gaza whose main source of income is social assistance 53 percent received less than 4.6 dollars per day, and 34 percent received less than 3.6 dollars per day.(14)
Based on these figures, the income of most Arabs living in the Palestinian territories is barely adequate to meet their needs. The UN considers a poor person as someone earning 4.6 dollars per day which the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics states is the minimum required to meet the basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing. Evident by those living in deep poverty, (less than 3.6 dollars per day) and the number of areas where Arabs have inadequate access to food and water, most do not have an income that suffices for even basic needs.
In 2018, between March 30th and November 19th, Israeli forces killed 226 Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza and injured more than 5800. Some of the casualties resulted from air and artillery strikes in Gaza. This is an average of 1 Arab killed per day and 25 injured per day.
Almost 6500 Arabs, primarily from the West Bank were arrested, over 1000 of which were children, and nearly 1000 administrative detention orders were made. In addition to arrest by Israeli security forces, Arabs face arrest, detention, and torture from their own governments as the Palestinian Authority has received 180 complaints of arbitrary arrest, and 173 complaints of ill treatment and torture. During the same period Hamas received 81 complaints of arbitrary arrest and 143 complaints of ill treatment and torture.
During the above mentioned period in 2018, 390 Arab homes in the West Bank were destroyed displacing 413 people. (15)
Movement is heavily restricted for Arabs in the West bank, where over 700 road obstructions including 140 staffed check points prevent free movement. (16)
Israel exercises complete control of what can be imported and exported in both Gaza and the West Bank effectively cutting the Palestinian territories off from the outside world. Blockade and regulation prevent any real economic development from taking place. Authority over the borders has other implications in regard to health and sanitation where medical supplies and parts to maintain infrastructure related to public services such as water and sewage are restricted.
If you are an Arab living in the West Bank, or even worse by most standards, if you are an Arab living in Gaza: would you prefer to endure these conditions, to subject your children to these conditions if you had the option to comfortably move to another country with the means to establish yourself? Staying means you struggle to have enough to eat, to access clean and adequate amounts of water, you work in a labor market that pays sub poverty wages, unable to participate in the laws that govern the area you live in, and in West Bank you cannot move freely. Your property is subject to search, seizure, and destruction without due process. You and your children are subject to murder, arrest, detention and torture, not only by your occupiers but also by your government. 50 years of these conditions existing to varying degrees and no real prospect for improvement.
Did the Cherokees cease to be Cherokees when they were forced from their land in Georgia? Were they not still Native Americans, and were they not still Cherokees? Does a Palestinian cease to be a Palestinian and cease to be Arab if they are living anywhere else? There is no better option, and that is what this proposal seeks to establish: an option to enduring hell.
The motivation for “the option” is to provide Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza with clean water, food, reliable power, adequate housing, economic opportunities, eliminating from the environment arbitrary detention, murder, indiscriminate bombing, and to remove children from the trauma and obstacles to healthy development that exist in their present living conditions. “The option” aims to accomplish these goals as soon as possible.
Cost and Interests
If Israel can slowly gain the West Bank through incremental settlement expansion and annexation, why would Israel pay to gain the territory? There are a number of benefits to the state if the will exists among the Arab population to choose “the option”. Israel is immediately able to begin repairing its reputation internationally. The expansion into the West Bank becomes unencumbered by international law, international opinion, and eventually the presence of people who resent living under occupation enduring difficult circumstances. The area becomes an attraction for investment, development, and tourism. Security costs will be reduced in perpetuity and as is consistent with the Israeli narrative, Israel will have peace.
What price is too high for peace? The West Bank and Gaza consist of 2300 square miles which is 1,472,000 acres. In 2006 The New York Federal Reserve bank estimated the cost of an acre of raw undeveloped land in Manhattan would cost 90 million dollars.(17) I’m not making the comparison between Manhattan and Gaza and the West Bank in terms of value but in consideration of a fair cost we should mark the ceiling as a point of reference. 7500 dollars per head for 4.7 million people is roughly 35 billion dollars, or $23,777 per acre. Which would naturally include all publicly owned infrastructure. The sum could be paid over the course of 5 years to accommodate the process and logistical challenges.
Israel’s annual budget is 140 billion dollars per year. This will cost 8 billion dollars per year which is a little over a 5% increase in the budget, but Israel has resources both in its closeness to the United States as well as international credit. Although the amount to achieve 7500 per head is 35 billion, the process will cost about 5 billion dollars. The costs will be explained as we proceed, but the deal will stipulate that all unused processing funds will be returned to Israel.
For Israel, the deal is reasonable, feasible, and in service to all of their interests.
Why would Palestinians want to stay living under the conditions they are living under?
Some are struggling to maintain enough food, in Gaza the water causes families to become sick, their children are under the constant threat of arrest, detention, and murder. If they love their children, if they love their grandchildren, if they love themselves, and an option exists to remove themselves from their current situation into a situation that offers them peace, liberty, and the opportunity for prosperity, why would they choose to remain hopeless?
Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza know their situation will not significantly improve. They know there is no hope for a two state solution. They know day after day that Israel exercises authority over their lives and opportunity for prosperity. The choice is land or life, no hope or hope.
The average household size in the Palestinian territories is 6.4 people. This means the average household is leaving with close to $50,000. The average daily wage for an employed person in Gaza is $15 dollars per day. $50,000 is nearly 10 years worth of wages working everyday at that rate. 50,000 is not a life setting sum, but a comfortable life starting sum.
Steps to Realization
The first step is gauging interest. The proposal can be reviewed by the Israeli government and presented to the Israeli population including a poll. The process can be repeated on the Palestinian side through Hamas and the Palestinian Authority including polling the population. If 70 to 80 percent of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza are inclined to choose the option, the plan should proceed. People should be allowed to remain but they do so knowing they will become members of a single Israeli state, and they will not receive a portion of the sale.
Securing National Pledges
The next step after terms are agreed upon is presenting the proposal to the UN. Nations will be expected to pledge the number of Arabs from the Palestinian territories they will offer fast tracked citizenship to. These nations must create a separate process to citizenship to accommodate the circumstances of the migration. A per year pledge of acceptance, which should balance preferred destination with preferred date of departure. Naturally some destinations will be more appealing than others. If nations pledge a per year amount of migrants some may prefer to wait a year for their preferred destination, while others would rather choose another destination instead of waiting.
Establishing a UN Agency
The third step is the establishment of a UN agency to facilitate the process.
Israel will pay the funds for the West Bank and Gaza to the agency. The agency will handle the dispersal of those funds to the Palestinians and all logistical and planning aspects of the migration.
The agency must process over 2500 applicants per day. This will require at least 500 staff members, processing 15 people per day through 3 departments. If paid an average rate of $60,000 per year this will cost 150 million dollars over the life of the program, unless applicants can be processed effectively in greater per day volume.
Presuming on $1000 per person in travel fees, 100% participation would cost 4.7 billion dollars.
Out of the 5 billion allocated for the process this would leave the program roughly 150 million dollars or 30 million dollars per year for materials and process related expenditures. I do not anticipate the agency requiring additional funds given the minimal amount of overhead related to the process, but if required, the international community could contribute to make up for any operation shortfall.
This is the general allocation purposes of the 5 billion dollar processing cost.
Circumstantial Priority, Applications, and Lottery
The first phase of the process is determined by circumstantial priority. The situation in Gaza by tangible quality of life standards is much worse than the West Bank. I say tangible in regard to measurable quality of life standards although Arabs living in Gaza do enjoy the benefit of not being under physical occupation. Inhabitants of Gaza should be given first priority.
The agency will begin by collecting applications from Gazans. The applications will be processed using a lottery system focused on those living under the worst conditions. 308,720 people in Gaza live in deep poverty, on 3.6 dollars per day or less. We would begin with applications from these people and randomly select the daily case load from this group until all the applications were fulfilled. Naturally, after all these applicants are processed you move onto the next most disadvantaged group which would be below poverty or those with incomes of less than 4.6 dollars per day.
Applicants will be solicited by agency staff where staff may choose a central location in a neighborhood, invite the population to that location, and assist the residents with the completion of the application.
Phase One: Citizenship
The citizenship coordinator begins by establishing the applicants destination. As previously mentioned each country pledges a number of Arabs from the Palestinian territories it will grant citizenship to per year. Each nation will create a separate process to offer the agency exclusive access to personnel who specialize in the process. The applicant will supply their top 5 preferred destinations. The citizenship coordinator will ensure availability of the most preferred destination. If the destination is not available the coordinator will contact the applicant to inquire how the applicant wishes to proceed. The applicant may either defer their application placing them on the list for the destination the following year if spots are available, or select an alternate destination.
If the preferred nation is still accepting migrants the coordinator will make contact with the program citizenship specialist in that country and submit the necessary documentation to process the request for citizenship.
While awaiting the confirmation of citizenship, planning can begin taking place for the procurement of housing in the new nation. The citizenship coordinator will assist applicants in that planning as requested; as an agent to find prospective housing as well as directing applicants to resources to find housing on their own.
The first phase of the process is establishing citizenship. Plans for housing can begin but housing is not required for the applicant to proceed to the next phase.
Phase Two: Logistics
Airlines should be both eager and prepared to accommodate the demand of 2600 additional passengers per day leaving Israel. The logistics coordinator must complete the procurement of housing in the host country. The household will have the option to secure temporary housing, like an extended stay hotel if they so desire or if they prefer to be on location before making a housing decision. Some may require temporary housing while waiting for their permanent housing to become available. Many will require some lodging.
Once housing is established the logistic coordinator will schedule their flight and transportation from the airport destination to their housing or lodging destination.
Phase Three: Financial Dispersal
The third phase of the process is financial coordination. The financial coordinator will receive the applicants information after the logistics coordinator has finished his or her tasks with the applicant. The financial coordinator will create a bank account with the applicant and transfer their funds to their bank account. The account will become accessible the day of their departure.
Completing the Program
Although scheduled for 5 years with the specified cost based on 100% participation, should applicants exist past this time frame, or should the funds become exhausted, the program should exist until every applicant who wishes to participate is afforded the opportunity to participate. I don’t think we have to worry about that because I don’t think we will reach 100% participation. Any funds remaining for distribution that go unused should be distributed equally to participants at the conclusion of the program. Any funds intended for operational costs that go unused will be returned to Israel.
The United States and other western countries consider Hamas a terrorist group. This could make the migration of some Arabs in Gaza more difficult. Even with that distinction while their options may be limited due to that affiliation there are nations who do not consider Hamas terrorists. Members if required could sign a renunciation of their affiliation, even though such a step should hardly be necessary because at the conclusion of the program Hamas will no longer have a purpose for which to exist.
There are many details required which require research. Most of which are related to the agency and execution. The most important are the specifics of the agency, including management, protocols, materials, and locations of operation. All of these specifics require guidelines from the parties involved as well as on the ground knowledge to produce something usable in those areas.
This is a preliminary outline. Some estimates like the amount of people processed per staff member may be understated, and even if not, if the will and means existed on the Israeli side to expedite the process there is no reason why the size of the agency couldn’t be scaled up to achieve such a goal. The bottle neck in regard to speed of processing is the physical logistical aspect of it, and the process for migrant citizenship among pledging nations. The physical logistical aspect shouldn’t be a hindrance with proper planning. An Airbus A380 fitted for economy class seating can carry over 800 passengers. 10 could move 8000 passengers per day. I know it is not that easy due to the diversity of potential destinations but there are solutions. Perhaps military aircraft could be used to facilitate the process in the event Israel wishes to complete the program in a shorter time than is proposed. Of course the main logistical challenge likely isn’t travel from Israel to other nations, but travel from the Palestinian territories to airports in Israel and Egypt.
There may be some issues in regard to preparatory expenses like the procurement of luggage or other related expenses. These issues can be addressed through private fundraisers to support the process if need be.
I am optimistic Israel would support “the option” even if they didn’t believe the Palestinians would. There are multiple phases that cause “the option” to be appealing to Israel from a public relations stand point. For example should nations refuse to make pledges concerning Palestinian migrants, then they lose their standing in to criticize Israel as Israel can respond we offered a solution but you didn’t want them as your neighbors either.
Should the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza refuse the option it immediately casts doubt on how difficult the conditions actually are. If it is unlivable as reports suggest, then why wouldn’t you accept on average $50,000 to resettle your family where conditions are better?
If the will exists among both sides the plan is very doable. Unconventional, and although it fails to achieve the most minimal solution in terms of fairness, which is a two state solution, the most minimal solution in terms of fairness is unachievable. Unless there are other proposals I am not aware of, this is the best option in the absence of a real alternative to the present situation.
1: Human Rights Watch, World Report: “Israel and Palestine Events of 2018”. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/israel/palestine
2: The total number on snake bite deaths in Israel is elusive. The citation is a report of a woman who died from a snake bite in northern Israel. Snake bites killed at least 1 and rocket fire killed 1, basic logic is in 2018 snake bites claimed as many lives as rocket fire. Times of Israel 10/22/2018 “Woman, 70, Dies of Snake Bite in Northern Israel”, TOI Staff.
3: The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 8/14/2017 “The Potentially Existential Threat to Israel from Palestine”, Louis Rene Beres
4: PBS News Hour 1/1/2019 “Water Crisis May Make Gaza Uninhabitable by 2020”, Fred de Sam Lazaro
5: Haaretz 4/7/2019 “Netanyahu Says He Will Begin Annexing the West Bank if He Wins Israel Election”
6: World Bank. 2018. “Securing Water for Development in West Bank and Gaza.” World Bank, Washington, DC. Page 4 Figure 2.
7: Aljazeera 10/24/2016 “Palestinian Villages Get Two Hours of Water a Week”, Eloise Bollack
8: The Crisis of the Gaza Strip: A Way Out. “Gaza’s Water and Sanitation Crisis: The Implications for Public Health”. Shira Effron, Jordan R Fischbach, and Giulia Giordiano. Chapter pg 3, Book Pg 87. http://ecopeaceme.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/GazaCrisis_WayOut_87-103.pdf Source Note: “Gaza Ten Years Later,” United Nations, July 2017, https://unsco.unmissions.org/ sites/default/files/gaza_10_years_later_-_11_july_2017.pdf.
9: Unicef 1/10/2019 “Searching for Clean Water in Gaza”, Gregor Von Medeazza
10: PBS News Hour 1/1/2019 “Water Crisis May Make Gaza Uninhabitable by 2020”, Fred de Sam Lazaro
11: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, November 2018. “Food Insecurity in the oPT: 1.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are Food Insecure”. Source Note: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and Food Security Sector, Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey 208 Preliminary results
12: Trading Economics, January 2019, “Palestinian Unemployment Rate”. https://tradingeconomics.com/palestine/unemployment-rate
13: Palestinian News and Info Agency, 2/16/2017 “Unemployment Rate 27% in 2016; 42% in Gaza Strip and 45% Among Women.” http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=JQZdoka52413989463aJQZdok I found it exceedingly difficult to find any source describing the individual or household income of Arabs living in Gaza or the West Bank. The list of statistics compiling in 2017 was most the credible and descriptive of what was available with all other sources offering only GDP per capita in my search for income analysis.
14: United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, May 2018. “53% of Palestinians in Gaza Live in Poverty, Despite Humanitarian Assistance”.
15: Human Rights Watch, World Report: “Israel and Palestine Events of 2018”. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/israel/palestine
16: The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, September 2018. “Over 700 Road Obstacles Control Palestinian Movement Within the West Bank”.
17: New York Times, City Room Blog 5/13/2008 “$2100 a Square Foot for Vacant Land”?, Sewell Chan