Israel Report

May 2002         

The Stillborn Palestinian State

Or why a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is nonviable

by Boris Shusteff - May 21, 2002
It is not an exaggeration to say that all of "progressive mankind" is now completely crazy about the idea of establishing a new Palestinian state in the lands called Yehuda, Shomron and Aza (collectively known as YESHA, and nowadays referred to as "the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,"). Israel liberated these lands from Jordan and Egypt, (as a result of two defensive wars in 1967 and 1973), who unlawfully occupied them in 1948. Although there is no substance whatsoever to their declarations, the supporters of this idea desperately try to convince everyone (themselves first of all) that as soon as a viable Palestinian state is established on the lands of YESHA, peace will descend upon the Middle East.

This idea has existed for more than twenty years, but for some reason no one has been able to see that a state built this way will be stillborn. It will be nonviable, unable to exist. It will be a ticking time-bomb, the unavoidable explosion of which will lead not only to the disappearance of this corpse-state itself, but could also cause Israel's destruction and potentially even lead to the nuclear apocalypse of World War Three.

A Palestinian State ? All those who so stubbornly demand the creation of this corpse-state never stop to ask themselves what will happen after it is proclaimed. However, it is precisely the answer to this question that unequivocally demonstrates not only the hopelessly utopian nature of the idea, but more importantly the almost criminally ill-advised nature of any attempts to establish this state.

Before discussing the objective reasons of the non-viability of a separate Arab state in YESHA, let us look at some subjective issues. Let us assume that, since we are talking about a sovereign Palestinian state, it will have certain characteristics common to all other sovereign countries. It will have sovereignty over its air and sea space, have an army, independently decide with which countries to sign treaties, be completely responsible for the defense of its borders, etc. Put another way, it will have the same unlimited rights and responsibilities that America, Russia, Egypt, Israel and any other sovereign state. Even the poorest and most bedraggled of nations make their own independent decisions on all important issues, which is what is meant by the term "sovereign state."

It does not require much explanation why Israel is categorically against such unlimited sovereignty for any Palestinian state in YESHA. Even the most ardent proponents of Arab rights, like Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres, only talk about a demilitarized Palestinian state. They also mention several other restrictions that would be required, thus a priori curtailing the sovereignty of this state. Slightly rephrasing Orwell, we must admit that, in this particular case, the stalwarts of democracy and liberalism are unable to explain why, if all states are equal, some of them should be less equal.

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let us assume that Israel agrees to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in YESHA. Israel does not care that this state might arm itself to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry, that it can sign military pacts with the fiercest of Israel's enemies, like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia, and that it may place tens of thousands of missiles on its borders with Israel as Hizballah has done on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

So, for the sake of an argument, a sovereign Palestinian state is created in YESHA. Since the main goal of the supporters of such a state is Peace, it make sense to inquire into Arab expectations regarding this state. An abundance of polls taken during the last two years will give clear answers to many questions. For instance, a poll taken in mid-February 2002 by Bir-Zeit University revealed that "of 1,198 Palestinians polled in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 49.5% said that a future Palestinian state and Israel could not coexist peacefully."

This is very consistent with many similar polls taken since November 2000, according to which 50 to 60 percent of Palestinian Arabs are convinced that "there is no chance for peaceful coexistence between the two peoples after an independent Palestinian state had been established next to the Israeli state."

When respondents of a December 2001 survey were asked "if a future Palestinian state should adopt a school curriculum that recognizes Israel and teach schoolchildren not to demand the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians," 90.7 percent of the respondents "opposed or strongly opposed such a change in curriculum." In a November 2000 poll, 74.3 percent of those surveyed answered that "even if East Jerusalem were to come under Palestinian sovereignty, they still would not accept Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem." When asked in the same poll about "refugees," 91.5 percent answered that they believe that "peace is not possible if Israel does not recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return."

Taking into account this very "friendly" attitude of the proposed Palestinian country towards Israel, and keeping in mind other previous "good will gestures" made by the Palestinians, such as murderous terrorist activity against Israelis, it is safe to assume that Israel will try to have as little contact as possible with this new country. Now, again for the sake of argument, let us assume that Israel builds absolutely impregnable border installations and the Israelis do not concern themselves at all with the activities of their newly independent neighbors. The Arabs wanted complete independence -- fine, they can have it, but Israel is no longer obliged to provide for their employment.

Now it is time to take a look at this corpse-state in order to understand the objective reasons that make it stillborn. First, it consists of two disconnected segments: 138 sq. miles in the Gaza strip and 2,129 sq. miles in the West Bank, or a total of 2,268 sq. miles. According to data from July 2001, the population of Gaza consisted of 1,180,000 people and the West Bank of 2,100,000 people. 49.6% of the population in Gaza and 44.6% of inhabitants of the West Bank are children under the age of 15.

This means that this population doubles every 15-16 years, and, by 2050, Gaza will be home to 8-10 million Arabs and the West Bank to 11-14 million Arabs (population growth rate in Gaza is 4.01%, and in the West Bank 3.48%). This is without taking into account ANY increase in population due to the influx of so-called "refugees," at least part of whom will theoretically move into this newly established state. Already today the average population density in the Gaza strip is one of the highest (if not the highest) in the world with 3,277 people per sq. kilometer. This is 1000% higher than in Japan, which is one of the world's most densely populated nations (338 people per sq. kilometer). In the West Bank the population density is 372 people per sq. kilometer.

We will not even attempt to solve the problems of this corpse-state related to the necessity of maintaining a minimum subsistence level for people stuffed like herring into a barrel. We shall only mention that thus far the Arabs have been mainly able to survive through being employed in Israel and YESHA. Even if the leadership of the corpse-state were to attempt to resolve these problems, it is doubtful that it can succeed for a number of reasons. It is enough to mention the complete lack of infrastructure (especially if Israel stops supplying power and water), the lack of any valuable natural resources, and the complete lack of industry (today there exist only small family businesses).

However, let us assume an absolutely impossible thing -- that the Arabs become as hardworking as the Japanese, and that the other Arab countries, after the creation of this corpse-state immediately start to provide it with all sorts of aid. And that all this aid and monetary donations is funneled towards improving the wellbeing of the people, and not towards purchasing military equipment, which is what all the other Arab countries do without exception. Even in this science-fiction scenario the two-segment entity will be unable to survive.

(In this Part, all non-referenced quotations and data are taken from Kelly and Dixon. See Ref. 1 below.)
The reason why the Palestinian state in YESHA will be unable to survive is one short word - WATER. In order to simplify the explanation we shall look only into water problems in the Gaza strip. If the non-viability of Gaza can be demonstrated, it will be enough to substantiate the bankruptcy of the whole idea of the Palestinian state. In the Middle East the water resources are plummeting. If Israel and the West Bank are water-scarce areas, the situation in Gaza is already absolutely catastrophic today. Gaza's aquifer is relatively self-contained, so its water inventory can be considered independently. For its freshwater supply, Gaza relies almost entirely on groundwater drawn from its "aquifer, with minimal amounts obtained from other sources, such as rooftop rainwater catchments. Gaza's aquifer is often only a few meters from the surface. It is also shallow, ranging in thickness from 120 meters near the coast to 10 meters in the east." This limited water supply has been severely overused since the time when the territory was under Egyptian control. After Israel liberated this land, in order to prevent the deterioration of the situation, Israel categorically prohibited the unauthorized digging of wells. However, after the transfer of water distribution to Palestinian Authority (PA) control the situation has gravely deteriorated. According to 1995 data "of the 3,000 wells thought to exist in Gaza, some 500 to 700 have been illegally drilled." Since a complete inventory does not exist, one can only guess at how bad the situation has become during the last seven years.

Let us compare the Gaza strip with the adjacent Israeli coast. "The top of the Israeli coastal aquifer, which is analogous to the neighboring Gaza aquifer, is 3 to 5 meters above sea level." At the same time, overpumping has reduced the Gaza aquifer to well below sea level and continues "to draw it down by 15 to 20 centimeters per year. This decline reduces the aquifer's hydrostatic pressure, allowing the infiltration of saltwater from the Mediterranean and from saline aquifers below and to the east." Already by 1995 "the saltwater intrusion had been detected as far as 1.5 kilometers inland."

Gaza's groundwater is generally classified as very saline, ranging "from 750 to 3,700 parts per million (ppm). Salinity increases an average of 15 to 20 ppm per year. The US standard for drinking water is 500 ppm, and water over 1,000 ppm is considered saline." This level is also based on the assumption that the individual also has access to sufficient fresh water required to flush excess salts from the system.

The rapid salinity increase of Gaza's groundwater threatens the total salinization of the aquifer. This will lead to total disaster since most groundwater there is already only suitable for use on highly salt-tolerant crops. Yet Gaza's main agricultural export crop - citrus fruits - in addition to being water intensive cannot tolerate high salinity. It is not surprising that many orchards lie abandoned because the water salinity is too high.

Gaza's outdated agricultural activity also adds chemical groundwater contamination to the problems of salinity. Since the aquifer is so close to the surface, unrestricted use of pesticides, herbicides, DDT, and other dangerous chemicals has contributed to severe pollution and made the situation even more catastrophic. This is exacerbated by the fact that at least 10% of Gaza's population is not served by any wastewater management system, and it simply dumps raw sewage onto sand dunes.

According to one very optimistic analysis, "50% of Gaza's drinking-water supply is murky, and 23% is not potable at all." The Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem is far more pessimistic, considering "Gaza's groundwater simply not fit for human consumption. A water survey conducted by this Institute in 1992 identified concentrations of several key substances far exceeding what are generally regarded as acceptable levels for potability." A similar study by UNRWA and the Palestinian Health Authority (between 1987 and 1994) determined that "every one of Gaza's 60 drinking water wells exceeded acceptable levels for at least two tested contaminants."

Gaza's drinking water is not spared from nitrate contamination either. If in1987, "84% of Gaza's drinking water wells were considered suitable for drinking in terms of nitrate levels, already by 1994, not a single safe well remained."

Not surprisingly, the contaminated water is a major source of various illnesses. While high nitrate levels and fluoride concentrations in the groundwater lead to increases in infant mortality, cancer, spontaneous abortion, ulcers, kidney failure, etc., the most prevalent and serious health problem in Gaza is infectious disease. According to a 1994 article published in the Journal of Palestine Studies (vol. 23, no. 2), "75% of all clinic patients in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank suffered from infectious diseases, which were responsible for 74% of all childhood deaths."

If the absolutely disastrous picture described above is insufficient, the dispassionate language of numbers unequivocally proves that the world community's maniacal desire to establish a Palestinian state in YESHA will lead to the creation of nothing but a corpse-state. After substantial research, the Swedish hydrologist Malin Falkenmark identified one thousand cubic meters per person per year as the minimal "water barrier" for agricultural and industrial development. She defined this barrier as "the level of water availability below which serious constraints to development will arise." This number in Gaza at the current population level is less than 50 cubic meters per person per year and will reach the single digits in two decades.

There is no need to spend additional time discussing the only slightly better water situation in the West Bank. It is enough to mention just a few key numbers. In accordance with the unofficial agreement developed in 1953-1956 by American Ambassador Eric Johnston, Israel and Jordan accepted the quotas worked out by him as a basis for dividing the waters of the Jordan River. Per the agreement, Jordan was to supply 70 to 150 million cubic meters (mcm) annually to the West Bank. However, Jordan reneged on the unofficial obligation and, not only has not supplied water there for over 40 years, but itself began to receive water from Israel. Under the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty the Jewish state agreed to annually supply to Jordan with 55 mcm. According to a 1998 Israeli government report the total amount of Israeli water being supplied to Jordan amounted to 75 mcm annually. This all means that Jordan can't be expected to help the West Bank with water at a time when it desperately needs it for itself.

In summary, it becomes clear that, using the slogan of a Palestinian state in YESHA as a fig leaf, the world community is preparing a genocide. Planning to establish the corpse-state, mankind washes its hands of the problem, while shoving several million people into two disconnected tiny parcels of land totaling 2,268 sq. miles. With the current reproduction rates, by 2050 this area will turn into a human ant-hill, populated by 20,000,000 people. The lands envisioned for this corpse-state are not only lacking in any natural resources, but also characterized by catastrophically intolerable water scarcity. Among other things, this makes the development of agriculture and industry impossible, and guaranteeing flourishing diseases, epidemics and an exponential death rate increase.

The wretched people condemned to live in these terrible conditions will have only two options: either to keep dragging out a miserable existence in poverty disease, dying from thirst, or, before this happens, trying to expand their "lebensraum" by invading Israel, the envy of which already drives the whole Arab world crazy. The latter option will not only doom the corpse-state to destruction but could also lead to the disappearance of the Jewish state.

All of this means that the plan of "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace with each other," which is obsessively promoted at all levels by the world community, not only will NOT bring peace and prosperity to the region, but on the contrary will undoubtedly end up in a terrible conflagration of war, causing the deaths of so many people that previous Arab-Israeli wars will seem as a childish game.

If the world community believes that the Palestinian Arabs are so special that they need a second sovereign state, in addition to the one they already have in Jordan, it must completely forget about the lands of YESHA, and search for a much more suitable place for this state.

Considering the current geopolitical situation, nothing appears as promising as granting them autonomy on part of the Iraqi lands after the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's regime. The relocation there of the Palestinian Arabs will be much more sustainable, and economically viable than other options and most importantly this solution will save hundreds of thousands of lives.

In the meantime Israel must IMMEDIATELY annex the lands of YESHA. They constitute an inseparable entity together with Israel proper. To steal them from the Jewish people is tantamount to the amputation of a person's arm and foot. A person will perhaps survive the surgery, but the severed extremities will definitely not survive on their own. Though in the long run, this maimed person will perish too. When attacked by her enemies, Israel will be unable to protect herself.

1. Kimberley Kelly, Thomas Homer-Dixon. Environmental Scarcity and Violent Conflict: The Case of Gaza. 1995 paper.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

Source: Freeman Centre

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