The Owen Plan, named immodestly for the author, was not a peace plan per se but an arrangement for the resettlement of Jewish and Arab populations in the Middle East. It was conceived several years before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the current situation, in which Hamas rules Gaza, and the recent war with Israel, which caused the destruction of thousands of homes and buildings.

Its main provision was that the Jewish settlers then living in the West Bank would leave, and the Arabs would move into the vacated West Bank settlements. The Jewish settlers would relocate in new settlements in Gaza or Israel itself. Israel would then annex the Gaza Strip, thus removing it from the spine of Israel. Instead of giving up land for peace, Israel would gain 360 square kilometers of land. This would create two contiguous states: Israel and the State of Palestine.

Some Israelis might choose to remain in the West Bank under Palestinian rule, just as some Palestinians, especially fishermen, might choose to live in Gaza under Israeli law. So it would be in the best interests of both peoples to maintain friendly relations with each other.

This would seem to be impossible situation today, with Hamas firmly in control of Gaza, at odds with the Palestinan Authority on the West Bank, and ever on the attack against Israel, even if it leads to severe military reprisals from Israel. The 275,000 thousand or so Jewish settlers living in the West Bank amongst a Palestinian population of 2,345,000, plus 200,000 more Israelis living in East Jerusalem, show no signs of leaving. A few so-called “illegal settlements” of small size are dismantled from time to time, but the overall trend is of Israel expansion in the West Bank. Maps of the West Bank show a crazy quilt of settlements, roadblocks, military bases, etc. Presently, Israel controls app. 45% of the Palestinian population on 80% of the West Bank, while the Palestinian Authority administers 96% of its population on only 17% of the West Bank.

Looking at such a map, the outside observer would despair that anything other than a very splotchy Palestinian state can be cobbled from such a patchwork, and joined to Gaza to form the complete Palestinian State. Such a state would be like a man walking down the street with stains on his trousers.

Add to that the influence of Iran on the territories and in Lebanon. As long as Iran arms, trains and encourages Hamas, in Gaza, and Hezbollah, in Lebanon, how can anyone imagine that a two state solution can be implemented with the best of intentions between the Israeli and Arab populations?

So, what is to be done?

Well, perhaps very little in the way of creating two states living side by side in peace and harmony. The first, and best opportunity for clearly marked borders between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Lands was the Balfour Declaration, in 1917, and subsequent adjustments to it in 1923, in which Great Britain, when it could do such things, would have created a homeland for the Jews on all lands west of the Jordan River. Arabs immediately opposed the idea, and the discovery of rich oil fields in Arab lands in the 1930s essentially killed the idea. The best deal Israel has offered the Palestinians came at the 2000 Camp David summit, in which Yasser Arafat turned down Ehud Barack’s offer of Gaza plus 97% of the West Bank.

The failure to seize upon historical opportunities has led to the present predicament, where nothing seems possible but an extension of the status quo—which nonetheless keeps changing. Israel, which clings to the notion of itself as a Jewish state, nonetheless permits immigration of non-Jews into Israel in considerable numbers. More and more Jewish settlers build in the West Bank, at least because it is much cheaper to do so than in Israel proper because of billions of dollars of aid from the U.S. Living under the more liberal leadership of the Palestine Authority, West Bankers, especially in places like Ramalla, live relatively peaceful and prosperous lives. While Gaza lies in rubble, an open sewer of misery and pain under Islamic law.

The truth is, no plan is workable today. The Owen Plan is no more whimsical than other failed or untried ideas. Why not a three state solution, with Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel each as a sovereign nation? Not likely, but worth a few hundred words on somebody’s blog. The so-called Saudi Proposal, in which Israel retreats to its original borders and grants the right of return to the Palestinians by the formation of Israel in 1947, is a lame attempt to some to terms with the success of the Jewish state after so many Arab attempts to destroy it. What about the 700,000 Jews cast from Arab lands in those days? They, of course, would never be welcomed back to Arab territory, where Jews cannot own land today, should they ever want return for some unlikely reason.

What the Middle East waits for today is action, the swift movement of events, facts on the ground, new leaders. The most likely event would be a war: between Israel and Iran, Israel and Syria, Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah. Wars have a way of clearing the air of loose chatter, cruel as that sounds. Wars create new facts on the ground. Wars move history forward.

The Arabs are waiting for the day when they have overwhelming strength and can drive the Jews into the sea. Or, more quietly, out-populate them within their own borders and vote the Jewish state out of existence. That day might come, or it might not. Israel and its Jewish population have thus far prevailed against the odds, defeated their enemies, and turned around and made peace deals with some of them. Israel is a country of surprises. It packed up from Gaza in 2005 and gave it over to the Gazans—lock, stock, and barrel—who then squandered their opportunity to live a better life in favor of war with their more powerful neighbor.

The Palestinians have made the worst of the cards dealt to them by the British and world history, making poor decisions at home and abroad. They have been out-fought and out-witted by the nimble Jews, who took the strip of land given to them by the United Nations and turned it into a modern state, welcomed their brethren from around the world, contributing to world culture and technology and making the desert bloom. Yes, they have taken land from the Palestinians. I have listened to the stories of Palestinians who lost their houses and land and moved to the United States. They have a voice and they deserve consideration. In the larger view, the culture of victimhood has accomplished little, will accomplish little, unless it precipitates Armageddon when all parties go up in smoke.

When you think about it, Gaza today is a wreck. The Saudis and others have offered several billions in rebuilding funds to Gaza. But if the princes of the desert really wanted to be helpful, they would offer the money to Israel instead, with the understanding that the quarter million Jewish settlers on the West Bank would move into the new construction in Gaza, which would then be annexed into Israel, and where they could live quite comfortably. And the million of so Gazans would then relocate to the West Bank, which has the space to accommodate them. Then you would see something like the Owen Plan.

I must be dreaming.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

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