The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is typical of the many of the territorial disputes which disturb the peace of the world. Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Sudan, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Borneo, Ecuador, Chechnya ....the list seems almost endless. And when one dispute is settled, another takes its place.
The Israelis and Palestinians have entered into negotiations which are known as the Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process. Despite this, the terrorism continues and no one seems very happy with the prospects of this peace. Nevertheless, if the negotiations are successful, it could have a profound effect on the lives of the Israelis and Palestinians for decades.
The State of Israel can be proud of the way in which it has pioneered democracy in the Middle East. It is to be hoped that it will maintain these traditions in the future. In this context, it would seem appropriate to hold a referendum on the results of the negotiated peace settlement. In this way, the people of Israel and Palestine would have the final decision on their long term future together.
A Lasting Peace?
The current peace process was initiated by the United States. This reflects a long term change in the attitude of the USA towards both the State of Israel and its Islamic neighbours. In addition, there has been a demographic change within the USA which has reduced the Jewish influence on the United States' political establishment.
For their part, the Israeli people seem to be more aware of the increased military potential of their Islamic neighbours. This was brought home to the Israelis in the Gulf War. Fortunately, the Iraqi ballistic missiles were relatively ineffective. Next time it could be different.
So the Israelis must secure a long term peace - not only with the Palestinians, but with their Islamic neighbours as well.
Under the terms of the current peace process, the aim seems to be to give the Palestinians limited autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. This could eventually lead to a separate and independent Palestinian state. This possibility worries those who are concerned with Israel's defence. It could leave Israel with a very convoluted border - and one which would be difficult to defend.
Such a settlement would also seem to leave the Palestinians in a precarious position. Their state would be divided, and economically weak. As such, they could suffer from economic colonialism - from Israel.
If the current peace process seems to be leading to disaster, perhaps an alternative should be sought. Something to take account of the geopolitical realities of the situation.
Any successful peace plan must satisfy the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the World of Islam. It must satisfy the 'hawks' and the 'doves'. It must result in a defensible Israel and Palestine. And ideally ....it should act as a model for world peace.
Let us consider such an alternative.
Firstly, there would be two states - Israel and Palestine. Together these two countries would form a Union of Sovereign States, known as the Israeli/Palestinian Union.
The new state of Israel would comprise Jerusalem and all the land to the north of Jerusalem (including the West Bank). It would have 'national status', which would give it the right to its own autonomous national government. This might be situated in Tel Aviv.
The new state of Palestine would comprise Jerusalem and all of the land to the south of Jerusalem (including Gaza). It too would have national status, and its national government might be situated in Hebron.
The government of the Israeli/Palestinian Union would be situated in Jerusalem. The democratic traditions of the Israelis would form the basis of the governing system of the Union. However, it is recommended that the national proportional system of elections be changed to the Maximum PR system. This would ensure that the government of the Israeli/Palestinian Union was either a joint Israeli - Palestinian government, or a minority Israeli or Palestinian government.
The 'national status' provisions would allow either of the national governments of the new states of Israel and Palestine to hold a plebiscite on the question of independence. Under the 'national status' provisions, if a majority of the voters decided in favour of independence, then independence would be deemed to have been granted.
The Israeli and Palestinian people could register as voters in the state of their choice. They would not have to move. They could cast their votes by postal ballot.
If either of the new states of Israel or Palestine, decided leave the Israeli/Palestinian Union, their registered voters would automatically become citizens of the newly independent state.
In the event of either of the new states pulling out of the Israeli/Palestinian Union, the city of Jerusalem would become part of the other state.
It will be evident that the new state of Palestine would be economically weak. It would have territorial integrity, but the territory south of Jerusalem is largely desert. If the new Palestinian state wished to match the economic strength of the new state of Israel, it would have to be strengthened in some way.
In this context, it is proposed that the Egyptians should give Sinai to the Palestinians. This would enable the new state of Palestine to balance the economic power of the Israeli state.
The Egyptians would give Sinai to the new Palestinian state as part of the overall peace settlement. Their purpose would be to regain Jerusalem for the World of Islam. For this reason, they would demand no compensation for their loss - as this would imply that Sinai was in some way equivalent in value to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians would have joint control of Jerusalem. They would be the agents of Islam - guardians of Islam's third most important city. This is why the Egyptians would cede Sinai to the Palestinians.
Egypt is the leading nation of Islam. It is a sophisticated state, which fully understands the concerns of Judaism and Christianity. It would not expect the Israelis to leave Jerusalem. All it would require is that the Israelis should give up their exclusive control of Jerusalem. They should accommodate Islam in the same way that Islam has always accommodated Judaism and Christianity. The Palestinians would share the control of Jerusalem on behalf of the Islamic World.