There are two major groups living in an area popularly known internationally as the West Bank. Most Israelis refer to it’s biblical and historic name of Judah and Shomron. The two groups are local Arabs, known as Palestinians, and Israeli Jews, colloquially known as settlers. The Palestinians have identity cards that gives them rights under the Palestinian Authority (PA). This authority can be regarded as a transient body in as much as the PA seek statehood, while their current status can be likened to a municipal body with semi autonomous control. Jews living in settlements share a somewhat similar transient status as their Palestinian counterparts.
The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since the 6-Day War in June of 1967. Jews and Palestinians alike living in the West Bank are subject to both military rule with a distinct difference, Jews have citizenship of the State of Israel while Palestinians have citizenship status under the PA. Accordingly, both Jews and Palestinians share an uneasy future.
The following video provides a brief and witty overview of the thorny issue of Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank in July, 2020. Although it never happened on that date, there are many parties interested in seeing Israel gain sovereignty, at least over the settlement blocks. We recommend also seeing the video ‘Ashraf and Avi at Hebron’ on the bottom of this page, for one leading Palestinian’s perspective on this issue.
Two State Solution
External parties push for a two-state solution that would see Palestinians gaining their own state, while Jews in the West Bank might be compelled to leave their homes and move into the parts of Israel not under military control i.e. not in the West Bank. What is the critical factor? Territory is the dominant factor in this multi-faceted equation. The PA have a charter that still pushes for a Palestinian state that includes the whole of Israel, and not just the West Bank. Conversely, many on the right wing of Israeli politics consider the whole of the West Bank as being part of a greater Israel. Accordingly, those Palestinians not living in the main Arab towns, instead residing close to settlement blocks, as well as Jewish settlers – both live in perpetual fear of being uprooted.
Abraham Accords sought to resolve that pending crisis by promising that nobody would be uprooted from their homes. However, the conditions under which local Palestinians and Jewish settlers would live, have yet to be fully solved. There still exists pressure from many international entities that would uproot Jews and give their homes to a PA setting up statehood. To a lesser degree the same sentiment is shown by those seeking to uproot Palestinians for a greater Israel. How does this affect Abraham Accords? The Arab signatories belong to a lesser strident camp that calls for a two-state solution, but without defining the fate of Jewish settlements. There is however a heavy caveat placed on any attempts by Israel to give full status to Jews living in the West Bank. It would in effect replace Israeli military occupancy with a sovereign status, which gives de-facto recognition of the West Bank as being fully part of Israel. Accordingly, the fate of both local Palestinians and Jews hangs in the balance. Furthermore, the very future of Abraham Accords rests on unstable ground should this seemingly unsolvable equation turn into a potential crisis.
Events took a remarkable turn by the initiative of both local Palestinians and Jewish settlers preferring to improve their own livelihoods with its resultant economical and security related benefits. Three organisations have stood out in taking the lead in this direction.
Woman Wage Peace (WWP) has been a surprising and refreshing voice amid those with political aspirations that would prefer to find a settlement based on confrontational activities that would undermine either Palestinians or Jews. While there are diverse factions within the movement, WWP adopted a non-political stance that welcomes participants from across the political and racial divide to focus on activities that serve to improve relationships, and they have greatly succeeded in this mission. To date, it boats over 42,000 members, and that number continues to grow. META has fostered positive relationships within WWP that have empathy for our initiative. This encouraging trend could prove fruitful. WWP have many events that have appealed to both Palestinian and Jewish settler women, proving that peaceful co-existence is far from a myth.
Israel-Palestinian Economic Forum (IPEF) is a more male oriented entity that has raised awareness between local Palestinian and Israeli businessmen about the many benefits of enjoying a shared commercial environment. To date, it has attracted successful business owners who have been discovering the many benefits of working together to achieve a sustainable growth. Of particular interest are the number of Palestinian businessmen who have demonstrated a potential to provide an alternative political voice for Palestinians. They have publicly declared a willingness to even accept local Jews living under Israeli sovereignty. Such remarks can alter the dynamics of Abraham Accords in many ways.
Arab nations signed onto Abraham Accords have been continuously snubbed by the same PA that they had donated billions of dollars worth of aid to, in the past. A landmark incident took place in October of 2020. Shortly after these Arab countries drew a red line on the question of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, Israel backed down from its election promise to do so. However, a few days later the Israeli government confirmed that it would build over 5000 housing units in the West Bank, which enhances the de-facto presence of Jewish settlements there. The following day, the same Arab nations were lining up to sign meaningful deals with the Israeli government. That begs the question as to how much lip service is being paid by these Arab nations as to the PA entrenched position of seeking to take over Jewish land in the West Bank? A further question relates to the original ‘Deal of the Century’ that formed the basis of Abraham Accords. The American position allowed for the recognition of Jewish settlements in the disputed West Bank.
This leads to the thorny issue of how to move forward?
Extremist voices on all sides can be heard. There remains a serious split in the right wing Jewish camp as to the question of how much autonomy to offer Palestinians living in the ‘Greater Israel’ that would incorporate the West Bank. While a cloud hovers overhead as to the actual fate of jewish settlements in the same region, such speculation would seem a muted point. It is not without historic precedent. In recent times, Stalin raised the question of the future Soviet Union empire, while facing the onslaught of Nazi Germany and its axis partners that threatened the very existence of its capital Moscow. Accordingly, the more radical right wing demands that would rid the West Bank of all Palestinians are viewed with scepticism by more moderate right wing voices. The key point is that extremist voices can be heard both within the PA leadership and right-wing Jewish bodies as to the future composition of those living in the West Bank. Therefore, any solution going forward would need to at least take into account such antagonists, without necessarily having to appease them. But is it the more moderate voices that can serve to carry the day?
WWP and the IPEC have both laid the ground for a prosperous and more peaceful entity that could be further exploited. However, it is reasonable to suggest that within the framework of the more substantial Abraham Accords, this local initiative could fully prosper. Furthermore, by having a successful West Bank entity between local Jews and Palestinians, the moderate Arab states would be faced with less of an obstacle as they endure at present. This is where META, the third organisation in this initiative, enters into the equation.
META can be regarded as a stepping stone that facilitates the sterling efforts of WWP and IPEF to encourage the growth of local Palestinians and Jews, outside of the political quagmire. More to the point, by helping to integrate META within the overall Abraham Accords framework, it acts as a catalyst to heal any wound that could result from an unresolved West Bank crisis. There could be a win-win situation for all peace loving citizens of the region without compromising essential security issues. The economic impact alone of an expanded Abraham Accords that includes the multi-talented participation of both Palestinian and local Jews could contribute towards a new Middle East Trading Alliance that would be a model for global success.