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Since the 1980s, the primary method of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace has been some sort of compromise hammered out by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (pre-Oslo, the PLO). Yet the immense failure of the peace process has never seem to deter more of the same.

The political realities in Israel and the Palestinian territories make it impossible for any solution to turn up (the closest, Ehud Barak’s offer in 2000, was shot down by Yasser Arafat by failing to address the “right to return” of Palestinian refugees and led to the Second Intifada).

Distrust and insecurity on both sides inhibit this. Israel will never trust full autonomy for the territories: Yasser Arafat’s dream Gaza International Airport, for example, was shot down by Israel because there would be no Israeli control over terrorists and weaponry flown in. At the same time, no Palestinian government will accept a compromise of statehood without a military.

International conservatorship, , with a firm plan towards self-governance and a framework to negotiate a final settlement afterwards, over West Bank and Gaza will immediately solve a lot of problems in the short-run, and provide a stable path to a final settlement in the long-run – think Kosovo, East Timor.

Just like UN and NATO having a mandate and mission to pacify Kosovo, a conservator government will have an interest in doing so in the territories, with a far greater legitimacy than if Israel did it. Along with something like a Marshall Plan, the Palestinian territories could very quickly be developed (Gaza, for example, is well-positioned to be an international entrepôt).

Jerusalem could be carved out, in the period, to be ruled by a special local government – Israel could still use it as its seat of government, but that doesn’t prejudice an eventual final settlement. Other settlements could be placed under the conservatorship (what a way to discourage settler activity!) – they can still practice Israeli law, just like how West Berlin applied West German law before unification.

Any eventual self-government in the territories will require strict protections of minority rights – and a large Jewish population on the other side of the Green Line will encourage Israel to open its borders and integrate the territories into a cohesive socio-economic zone – think Benelux.

When both sides come close to negotiating a final settlement, questions like the status of Jerusalem, military or Palestinian refugees should by then be quite academic and inconsequential. It could end up with two (or more) states. Or a single state similar Belgium – a homeland for the Flemish and Walloons, with a special area for divided Brussels.

The only bit is that this plan requires a neutral international organisation or state to be a conservator (neutral as in neither the United Nations or the United States qualifies). But it isn’t as if the international community isn’t already invested in the conflict – and even if that was so, there are international benefits to a solution.

Pacifying Muslims is one thing – a successful settlement, with a liberal democracy on both sides of the Green Line, will improve the lot of liberal democracies in the region (Israel is the Middle East’s only liberal democracy – it isn’t exactly, at the moment, a shining example).


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