Behind the Headlines Solving the Palestinian Problem

Prof. Ranaan Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s settlement department, has proposed dividing up Israel and the occupied territories into eight administrative districts as a means of solving the Palestinian problem. He said five of the districts would be populated mainly by Jews and the other three on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be administered by Arabs. Jerusalem would be a separate district “in itself” according to the Weitz plan.

Weitz, a member of the Labor Party, has presented his proposal to the party’s political committee which is scheduled to discuss it. One committee member noted that the plan is original and will stir a heated debate.

In his proposal, Weitz argues that Israel must minimize the “physical involvement” of Palestinian Arabs in Israel, particularly the large number of Arab workers from the administered territories who work in Israeli towns. He said that if something is not done to develop the economies of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “Arabs will continue to be the cheap labor providers” and this will develop into a permanent status.

Weitz also argues that Arabs in these areas must have their own “political expression” without which there will never be peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He notes that socially, economically and politically it is not desirable to continue a military administration in the areas for many more years. He says that in any political agreement all citizens of Israel must have equal rights while in the territories the Palestinians must have the right of self-determination.

It is for this reason that Weitz has suggested dividing up the country into eight districts. The five Jewish districts would be Safad, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Beersheva. The three Arab districts would be Nablus, Hebron and Gaza.

THE PLAN IN PRACTICE

According to Weitz’s plan, each district will have its own administration in charge of the district’s internal affairs. The Israeli government will deal mainly with defense, economy and foreign policy.

Weitz maintains, that dividing the country into districts will not prevent a possible political agreement in the area. If there is an agreement with Jordan, Weitz says, then according to the plan, all three Arab districts would become part of Jordan. (The plan includes building a highway from Hebron to the Gaza Strip that will not go through Jewish settlements.) The Gaza Port would serve Jordan with the exception of receiving imports of arms and military equipment.

If there is no hope for a peace agreement with Jordan, Weitz notes, then the two remaining possibilities are–a Palestinian state or a federal system. According to Weitz, the unification of all three Arab districts with all rights except the establishment of an army, would in effect be a Palestinian state.

The third option would be a federal state made up of the eight suggested districts with Jerusalem as the capital. As far as defense and foreign policy are concerned, “Eretz Israel” will be one unit run by a central government, Weitz says. All domestic and internal affairs would be handled by the local administrations of the various districts.

In his plan, Weitz gives top priority to an agreement with Jordan. He says that for a peace agreement with Jordan concessions should be considered even in his plan. However, if it is not possible to reach a peace agreement with Jordan. Weitz prefers establishing a Palestinian state rather than have a federal system which will include the three Arab districts because he maintains that a federal state would abolish the basic supposition of having a Jewish state.

However, he emphasizes that he includes in his plan a federal state in order to prevent the dangerous tendency “of annexing Arab territory with dense Arab population.” He assumes that Israel will not be able to financially carry out such a plan without aid, but is positive that such aid would be given if Israel decides to carry it out.

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