What happened after the Brexit referendum was a surprise to many, but I would be willing to bet that a lot of people in the “Leave” camp are now having “buyer’s remorse.” Perhaps the first to have it is Boris Johnson, who withdrew his possible candidacy to be PM of England. He will never admit it, but I am sure he withdrew himself because, among other things, he does not want to be the one having to deal with all the intricacies of the separation.
People are now starting to realize that Brexit will demand quite a lot of work before the separation starts running smoothly: tax accounting between the UK and EU, healthcare accounting, immigration rules, transportation and customs rules, trade agreements, and the list goes on and on…
So what’s the parallel between Brexit and Israel’s exit from Gaza and an eventual exit from the West Bank? Neither can foresee the potential consequences of something that has more to it than meets the eye, or in those cases, than what we are told.
While there was no referendum about exiting Gaza, in 2005 Ariel Sharon went against the wishes of those who wanted the return of Gaza to be part of a comprehensive agreement, and ordered the unilateral “Gazexit.”
His intentions were the best: after uprooting all the settlements, including cemeteries, let’s give the Palestinians the infrastructure that we built, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse that generates millions of dollars a year in exports to Europe, and let’s hope that with this gesture, Gaza will become an example for what can be a future independent Palestinian state. In turn, with this move Israel stopped having to send troops protect the Jewish settlers in Gaza and eliminated the Jewish casualties inside Gaza.
But it did not take long for the realization to set in that things would not work exactly the way Sharon intended. The greenhouse was totally vandalized and destroyed and rockets started flying in much larger numbers into Israel. The consequence was that in 2007 Israel imposed a blockade severely restricting the flow of goods and people between Gaza and Israel. The rest we know quite well: rockets and more rockets into Israel, two Gaza wars, and now… the tunnels.
Despite the outcome of the Gaza disengagement, the idea and the calls for a two-state solution became a sort of slogan. Last week, saying that there’s a “window of opportunity”, Tzipi Livni even called for a referendum on two-state solution. Like Cameron suggested for Brexit: “a very simple in or out choice,” Livni wants a very simple yes or no to a two-state solution. While in the UK case the “in” would be the easy choice and the “no” became the choice that people are finding to be complicated, in Livni’s referendum the “yes” or “no” would lead in both cases to very complicated outcomes. To address just the “yes” outcome, does anyone believe that a yes to a two-state solution is: Israel returns the West Bank with slight border changes, removes most of the settlements, the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel, the refugees issue and Jerusalem borders are agreed upon, Israel agrees to the the PA demands regarding security arrangements, and puff…. we have peace?
Really? In May of 1967 Egypt’s President Nasser expelled the UN troops from Sinai and Gaza and amassed large forces in the border with Israel. The UN troops were stationed there to secure the armistice signed between Israel and Egypt in 1949. With the UN out, the field was open for an Egyptian attack. At the same time, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi troops were pushing towards Israel’s other borders. Had Israel not launched a preemptive strike, most probably Israel would be no more…
One does not need to be a Middle East expert to realize that today the situation in the area is a thousand times more explosive than in was in 1967. To put it very mildly, now we have Hamas killing and throwing PA members from the top of Gaza buildings – and I am not even talking about what they do to Israel and Jews – and then there’s ISIS in the Sinai and at the border of the Golan Heights. The only reason they are not active in the West Bank is thanks to the security arrangements that the PA has with Israel. But we all know that there are sleeper cells over there.
The bottom line is, let’s not transform the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution into a simple task that might be in line with the wills of two peoples. Like the British are realizing after the Brexit vote, the world, the Israeli people and many politicians need to realize that when we are talking about the Middle East, there’s much more to a two-state solution than a will and a simple referendum.