You Cannot Divorce an Octopus Until You Release Its Tentacles
Anyone who looks at the map of Judea & Samaria can see that it can be compared to an octopus that has its tentacles all in a dither.
Therefore, when talking about any change in status to the region, whether that is extending Israel’s sovereignty, unilaterial disengagement, or the supposed two-state-solution, it is not the same as Israel’s unilaterial disengagement from Gaza where the borderline was always clear (and we see how well that worked out).
Let us look at what this means for Judea & Samaria.
The plan put forward by Trump, called Peace to Prosperity, takes a stab at making sense out of the region. It removes the tentacles and creates contiguous stretches of land.
But if we look closely, we can see that there are still islands and inlets of Israel within this portion of the overall territory the Trump plan seems to be willing to sign over to a Palestinian state (should the Palestinian leadership show any willingness to actually engage in true state-building). This is a strange way to define the boundaries of a modern state. Such convolutions and twists in a border may have been appropriate when boundaries were determined by warring factions fighting with swords and hatchets in days of yore. But today?
What do the borders of contemporary landlocked states, of which there are 49, look like? After all, the Judea-and-Samaria portion of the proposed state is landlocked, so let us just be curious about this for a moment.
This is Bhutan – it shares borders with Tibet and India.
Here is Lesotho – it is totally enclosed within South Africa.
And this is San Marino – totally within Italy.
San Marino and Lesotho are most like the proposed Palestinian state in that they are encased within a single other state. However, this is not the intention of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership. Their aim is to declare their independence over the entire area of Judea & Samaria, what the Jordians called The West Bank when they occupied it from 1948-1967. Should this come to pass, this would mean that this region would not be within Israel but between Israel and Jordan. However, since they consider Gaza as part of the intended state, the Judea-and-Samaria region would potentionally be linked by bridge or tunnel to the coast, meaning the “state” as a whole would not be landlocked.
However, this is a side-issue not relevant to what I am trying to show here.
In order to smooth out the border, whether locked within Israel or between Israel and Jordan, it would mean either including Jewish communities within the proposed state or cleansing the land of its Jews. The PA has made it clear they will not countenance any Jews within their borders so the former, implying a peace agreement, is not on the horizon. In a divorce situation, favoured by some Israelis, the latter is implied, for is that not the meaning of divorce? Does divorce not entail a splitting up of property: this is mine and this is yours?
Well, let’s talk about divorce for a moment
Divorce settlements, whether reached by mutual agreement or imposed by a court, involve two major issues: division of property and child custody arrangements. (I have not yet heard of a unilateral divorce — that is more like just leaving home, like we did re Gaza, or kicking the partner out of the house, something only the Jewish extremists among us are hoping for; on the other hand, I think it is the dream of many Arabs to kick us Jews out of the land altogether.)
Division of property begins with distinguishing between property owned by the individuals before the marriage and shared property acquired over the course of the marriage. But, as I start reflecting on this, it seems that there was no Palestinian collective property with which they came into the “relationship” because the Palestinian Arabs never really considered themselves a collective entity before 1967 and for some it took much longer than that.
In fact, we are not really talking about a marriage because neither the Israelis nor the Palestinian Arabs ever considered standing under the hupa or before an Imam or whatever. Even talking about a common law relationship does not really fit because that would also imply an initial desire to move in together, something nobody would ever say about the two sides here. So why are we even talking about divorce?
Letting my thoughts continue to ramble unhindered, I remember that the Israelis (represented by Peres and Rabin) stood alongside the Palestinian Arabs (represented by Arafat) before President Clinton in 1993.This famous handshake stands in for the kiss that seals the wedding ceremony.
So the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis married each other, it seems, and the ketuba is the Oslo Accords. Given the lack of love between us, it makes me think of the couple that marries because they “had to”; that sometimes works out and often does not.
The Palestinian Arabs came into the marriage with no property except, perhaps, one could say that the villages and farms on which they lived conferred a kind of ownership but certainly had never been recognized before as Palestinian Arab collective property. Oslo turned Area A into their first-time-ever collective property. Area B is, by agreement, shared between the PA and Israel and Area C is under Israeli control. In fact, the last formal contract pertaining to the land, signed at San Remo in 1920, had determined that all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belonged to Israel.
While many rant and rave and declare Israel an illegal occupier of Palestinian land, there has been no legally binding contract, since the San Remo agreement, that challenged Israeli ownership of the land until we gave land away at the ceremony on the White House grounds.
So Israel paid a bride price to a bride who came without a dowry.
We could go on and on with this fantasy metaphor but we would get weighted down by the details and it would become nonsensical in the end. As nonsensical as it is to talk in terms of divorce from the Palestinian Arabs.
So let us go back and think of those borders again – because the only kind of borders that make sense in the modern world are smooth borders that do not make either side feel like it is living in a maze with so many turns leading to a dead end marked by “turn around; do not pass this point” or with bridges over enemy territory. I do not know of any other country in the world in which its territory is marked by inlets and islands of land belonging to its neighbour. I do not know of any other country in the world that would agree to have parts of itself exist as islands within the territory claimed by its neighbour. The whole idea is absurd.
And because the proposed Palestinian state would insist upon being judenrein (free of Jews), smooth boundaries would mean that ethnic cleansing, a crime against humanity, would be the foundational act of such a state, should it come into being. And should Israel agree to such a thing, it would be the ultimate act of appeasement, appeasement being something that has characterized us since our establishment as a modern state.
So if “divorce” means giving away more than we already did in 1993, giving away our sacred heartland, then I say no. If the Trump plan means cementing an island of hate within our boundaries, then I say no.
So, do we continue to live like an octopus with contorted tentacles? Surely there must be other more creative possibilities. Stay tuned.
Insightful. I hope it will be discussed widely!
Sheri, you write, “I do not know of any other country in the world that would agree to have parts of itself exist as islands within the territory claimed by its neighbour.” Take a look at the history of the India-Bangladesh border. It was full of bizarre contortions and islands (fingers and pockets and enclaves and even enclaves within enclaves). Some of these dated to the original partition, others to the 1970 war that separated Bangladesh from Pakistan. These have all (or mostly) been smoothed out by treaty, but only within the last few years.
I will have to look into this. As you say, these contortions and islands have been smoothed out – I imagine the land areas involved are much larger than for Israel and that would make a difference regarding the relevant population movements. But something interesting to explore.
By the way, lovely title!