On Sunday I sat in a small room with 40 or so Young Global Leaders during the 2009 World Economic Forum on the Middle East. Among us were Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and a host of international and regional figures. This was the last event after four days in the Dead Sea talking about the regional economic outlook, Obamas upcoming trip (with Valerie Garrett), sustainable development to low-cost housing in the region (disclosure: I spoke on the later).
Back in the well-secured room for ninety minutes we were treated to back-to-back talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyed. Sitting listening to both men talk about a two state solution they both explained in detail all the hurdles ahead. I began to think about a three-state solution. Why not East Palestine, West Palestine and Israel?
As a pragmatic designer I tend to look at things in a different manner and by looking at the conflict as a geographical problem, not a political one then the creation of East Palestine and West Palestine seems an obvious solution.
In this arena I'm just your typical semi-informed individual, I've read as much as I can on the subject and have spoken at length with friends and colleagues from all parts of the region. So the fact that other folks in the room had spent years trying to ask these gentlemen a direct question I sat there resisting the urge to ask about addressing a tri-state option.
Some of the biggest hurdles are about managing and connecting Gaza and the West Bank. By treating the two regions as separate states it would create much simpler negotiations with all parties involved. I maybe missing something here but there seem to be a list of pluses in taking this route.
1. No need for creating a physical connection between the state, saving hundreds of millions for upgrading education, health care and governance.
2. In addition to recognizing and working with Israel, East Palestine (Gaza) would end up strengthening ties with Egypt and West Palestine (West Bank) with Jordan and Syria.
3. The two states would end up competing for peace within the global community. Nothing like a bit of competitive compassion to speed up the process.
4. If one of the states decided to continue a military approach then the other would become a safe haven for families and individuals seeking a more peaceful solution. Extremism would be contained and with the ability to move freely between East and West people would vote with their feet.
5. The debate surrounding Jerusalem will be confined to West Palestine and not connected to activities going on in East Palestine
East and West Pakistan will be the example given by many who disagree, but let's remind ourselves that the bloodshed in 1971 is going on continuously as we speak in this region. The end result was the creation of a peaceful Bangladesh, a troubled yet semi-stable Pakistan and a strong India.
There will also be criticism for allowing the creation of small countries but Gaza has close to a half million people and the West Bank is close to 2.5 million, making them the168th and 140th-sized countries respectively (out of 221). With a peaceful solution the 3 million or so refugees would be able to return and create more robust and economically secure states.
Take this with a pinch of salt. Heck, the idea was born in the Dead Sea, take it with a huge lump. This is just a simple, unexamined solution to a design problem but perhaps a far easier and economically sound one than what is currently being suggested.