WASHINGTON (Nov. 3)
The proposal that the solution to the West Bank and Gaza should be through Israeli-Jordanian “shared rule” has apparently received some serious thought both in Jerusalem and Washington since it was first made last June by nine Israelis who participated in a study group on Israel-Arab peace under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Two members of the group, Daniel Elazar, president of the Jerusalem think tank and chairman of the study group, and Zalman Shoval, a former Likud Knesset member who was a close associate of the late Moshe Dayan, outlined the proposal to a group of journalists, scholars and former government officials at the American Enterprise Institute here recently. They called the plan the “only viable option available.”
“The one thing that is desperately needed in the Middle East is some unconventional thinking even if it takes a while to germinate and percolate,” said Elazar, who is also head of the Institute of Local Government at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan. He said the Mideast has been “the victim of conventional European thinking about state sovereignty.”
The two Israelis rejected all the current options for the territories. Annexations, or what Elazar said was the present Likud government’s policy of “absorption,” is not acceptable outside Israel or by many Israelis. Full Israeli withdrawal is opposed by almost all Israelis.
SEVERAL DIFFICULTIES CITED
The major option being discussed, territorial compromise or “repartition,” has several difficulties, according to Elazar. First, he noted, no Arab in a position of authority has been willing to consider it as a basis of negotiations. Secondly, since 1977, with increased Israeli settlements, it would be now difficult to “untangle” the territory in Judaea and Samaria. Shoval also noted that there is a difference of opinion in Israel over how much of the areas can be given up for security.
This led the group to shared rule, Elazar said. The American-born Elazer, who is also director of the Center for Study of Federalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, said that the plan is neither for a “federation or a confederation.”
Instead, it is an Israeli-Jordanian “condominium” that “recognizes the existences of two peoples and two states within a common territory from the Mediterranean to the eastern desert, Israelis, Palestinians, Hashemites.” Elazar said there were two states there now, Jordan and Israel, “with territory in dispute in between.” Shoval stressed that Israel could not allow the West Bank and Gaza to become a separate Palestinian state for “fear that such a state would be a “springboard for aggression against Israel.”
ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN
The plan would set up separate Jewish and Palestinian “cantons” on the West Bank and Gaza with the Jews being citizens of Israel and the Palestinians citizens of Jordan, as most are now. There would be a large measure of local autonomy with a central authority deciding on issues of common concern.
Shoval, who helped Dayan found the Telem Party, noted that Jordan has the largest number of Palestinians living in one place and the majority of people in Jordan are Palestinians. He said that might cause the Palestinians to eventually think of Jordan as a solution for their problems instead of the West Bank, and for this reason King Hussein might be willing to go along with the shared rule concept.
The proposal is within the framework of the Camp David agreements, Shoval maintained. He said the autonomy period envisioned by Camp David may be needed for the shared rule plan as a “psychological necessary transitory step.”
But Shoval ruled out President Reagan’s peace initiative since he said it does not take into account Israel’s security needs in Judaea, Samaria and Gaza, as Camp David does. But he said the U.S. could play a major role in promoting shared rule.
“All attempts in the past to reach compromise have come to nought either because the time wasn’t ripe, but usually because of Arab intransigence and unwillingness to take anything but the whole loaf,” Shoval said. “This has been the tragedy of all the parties but primarily that of the Palestinian Arabs themselves.”
THE PROBLEM OF AN ALL OR NOTHING APPROACH
When a Palestinian journalist said that the plan does not meet Palestinian aspirations since it rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, Elazar replied “not every people can satisfy its aspirations precisely in the way that it seeks to satisfy them.”
He noted as an example that the Basques in Spain have to be satisfied with an autonomous region in a larger area while the Basques in France do not even have that. He said if Israel is faced with an all or nothing choice it will retain exclusive control. Shoval added that if the Palestinians continue to demand “all or nothing” then “I’m afraid they will get nothing.”
The problem with “realistic” proposals such as shared rule is that they have been usually offered by either Israelis or Americans with the Palestinians and other Arabs rejecting any sort of compromise. But the two Israelis who spoke here continue to have hope.
“Even if for the present we shall only succeed in getting the dialogue started again and in forcing people to think about a way out of the present stalemate we shall consider ourselves well-rewarded for our effort,” Shoval said.