The New State Solution: Turning Gaza Into an Opportunity for Regional Peace
Recent events have again demonstrated that Gaza, not the West Bank, constitutes the most pressing challenge to Israel and regional stability. Yet Gaza also constitutes the richest opportunity to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. With the right policies, Gaza can become nothing less than the linchpin for regional security and prosperity.
This policy has a name: It is called the New State Solution. This approach calls for the creation of a state for the Palestinian people in Gaza and a coastal section of the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Currently, Hamas rules over two million Gazans who are trapped in a small area without any promise of a brighter future. With limited space for economic development, Hamas has mismanaged Gaza’s economy, diverting funds in a way that poses a threat not only to the State of Israel but Gazans as well.
The New State Solution provides a solution to these problems. It champions a dramatically widened territory. It opens the door to massive economic development, including a seaport, airport, new cities in the Sinai, water desalination, and a new economic market.
An Egyptian role in facilitating the New State would also generate significant international support, boosting its own economy and security, and reasserting its regional stature. ISIS’s sustained and bloody presence in northern Sinai would be dealt a severe blow, as new cities would rise along the Sinai coastline backed by international investment and military collaboration.
Hamas, for its part, would face a crossroads. If confronted with a credible threat of military force, it might believe it was facing an existential threat and could change into a tenable player within the New State.
This doesn’t mean that Hamas would change its basic ideology. Rather, it could accommodate such an arrangement to survive. In the event that Hamas refuses to do so, it would face the prospect of a military operation to topple its rule, clearing the path for Fatah or new leadership to take the helm.
From Israel’s perspective, the New State represents a defensible security option better than the current alternatives.
The New State would require the international community to unite around a common understanding of Gaza’s twin challenges: regime (Hamas’ rule) and territory (the limited space for growth and development).
At present, foreign donors have all but given up on injecting further funds into Gaza. Few donors want to provide funding that ends up used to construct terror tunnels and manufacture rockets.
By contrast, a viable Palestinian state in Sinai and Gaza would see economic projects initially administered by Egypt and the international community. Investors and donors would have credible assurances that funds would support the civilian economy, not terrorist activity.
Gaza could become a new basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace and unify Israel with the Sunni-Arab bloc with international support. Such a resolution would enable the Sunni-Arab nations to focus upon the issue that truly threatens them: Iran.
During extensive lecture tours, I along with colleagues of similar standing have presented this idea to key members of the US Senate and Congress, as well as members of the British Parliament. I have also lectured at leading US, UK, and European campuses. Enthusiasm for this vision was forthcoming across these audiences. That enthusiasm stems from the fact that this vision is sustainable.
The Oslo Accords, while well-intentioned, ultimately failed to offer anything more than two non-viable states — one living inside the other. The New State realizes the two-state vision realistically, creating a sovereign, free Palestinian state on a significant amount of territory with access to the Mediterranean coastline alongside Israel.
With regard to the future of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank, there are many possible scenarios that have been put forth by proponents of the New State. My personal view is that the current autonomy in Areas A and B would remain unchanged, except for a significant status upgrade for the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, who could immediately claim citizenship in the New State. They could also receive residency — not citizenship — in the State of Israel if they so choose.
All parties stand to gain under this vision. For this reason, the world should consider the New State Solution as the most practical resolution for this century-old conflict.
Gaza today constitutes a profound challenge to Israel and the region. If viewed through the lens of opportunity rather than despair, it is also Gaza — more than the West Bank — that can swiftly be converted into a regional mutual victory.