A Libertarian Solution for Israel-Palestine?

Along the road to liberty I passed many stations of tyranny. Like almost everyone else, I wasn’t born a libertarian but shopped around many ideologies until I stumbled across the beautiful universal and simple ideas of voluntary interaction.

The worst of those stations was the station of radical fundamentalist Zionism, I spent a solid 3 years as a hardcore Meir Kahane Zionist that believed in forcible removal of any and all non Jews in all of Biblical Israel (many among these groups have been clear this includes Lebanon Jordan large parts of Syria and Egypt) that did not accept complete Jewish control and certain basic Jewish principles of Faith.

Ironically, while this group was absolutely on the fringe of Israeli society (the political party representing it is routinely deplatformed from running for Knesset-the Israeli parliament and some iterations of it were deemed terrorist groups (by Israel and the U.S.) and far out of the political mainstream, it was surprisingly also one of the few groups that actually understood the conflict. They recognized what the Palestinians grievances were, and in general they appreciated the Palestinian hopes, dreams and aspirations. In fact, many of my friends remarked to me that had they been born Palestinian they would have joined Palestinian armed resistance groups. This discernment was precisely the reason for their radical policy ideas because they realized that, as Kahanne put it, “one does not buy the national aspirations of people by installing indoor toilets.”

Most of Israeli society believes that the Palestinians can be beat or that they can be appeased into submission. As a general rule, political debate centers around accepting the premise that the Palestinians are a donkey that needs prodding with the old carrot and stick method. The basic political discussion in Israel comes down to what carrots what sticks and how much of each is needed to deal with the Palestinians. What I find especially irritating is that the rest of the world, while not accepting that premise explicitly, as they attempt to solve the conflict, they accept everything that the premise brings. They accept that Israel should remain big bully on the block and the prime force in the region. Their entire discussion operates around pressuring them to give a little more carrot and a little less stick. This mistake, while made in good faith, and in a sincere effort to help Palestinians is disastrous, as the one thing the Kahane crowd got right is that you can’t make the Palestinians forget their grievances with a few carrots or even a few sticks.

Even prominent libertarians who, understanding that Israel is the aggressor, call for it to capitulate to the Palestinian demands call for either unworkable or immoral solutions. They usually call for either a single democratic state or a two state solution, both of which address all the wrong and none of the right issues. The best and most important Palestinian claim is the fact that many individual Palestinians can show land deeds for homes they lived in before they were ousted in 1947-8. The single democratic state and especially the two state solution, ignore this and instead focus on the settlements, which, while they are a clear breach of international law, the majority of them were not built on private property but on abandoned mountaintops. (Palestinians having settled long before modern plumbing live almost exclusively in low lying areas where access to water is easy unlike the West Bank’s mountains where water is very hard to come by without a ton of manual work. Settlers on the other hand settled to control as much land as possible and also had access to modern technology when they settled making the water issue a minor one and therefore making the scenic mountains more attractive than the watery lowlands). There are obviously many exceptions where settlements are built on private land (most of which is on land the Jordanians granted by fiat to local clans whose support they wanted in the 50s and was never actually homesteaded) but most of them are essentially legitimate homesteads, even if they were founded with nefarious intent.

Now that we’ve laid some groundwork, let’s examine the problems and the various solutions from a libertarian perspective.

First off the most important issue is the millions of Palestinian refugees kicked out of their real property, a majority of which were bulldozed and replaced with Israeli socialist communes known as “Kibbutzim” (which mostly failed and became privatized “Moshavim”) and Jewish National Fund (JNF) forests. This is the most important issue due to the fact that it’s the most indisputable claim as well as the one affecting the most people and the hardest one to solve due to the entrenchment of the Israelis on that land. Some notable examples of such land are the Tel Aviv University and some of the most elite Tel Aviv neighborhoods.

The second most important issue, and the one that often gets the bulk of the attention, is treatment of Palestinians in Israeli hands (the occupation in the West Bank, legal untermenschen in East Jerusalem, the siege of Gaza, unfair treatment inside Israel).

While clearly this is a major issue, I believe it is a symptom of the conflict, but not its underlying cause, and as long as there is conflict there will be violence. So, while we can, and should pressure Israel to be a lot less violent, we can’t expect an end to a conflict without addressing the underlying issues.

Thirdly, the settlements. While the Palestinian case is strong legally, it is very weak on the basis of natural rights.The central anti-settlement claim, “since we want to make a state here you can’t homestead the land,” is cloaked in terms of “our land.” When asked to explain why it is their land they explain it is their national land a concept which violates property rights. At times they make a better, albeit still weak, argument that since the purpose of Israelis being there is to oppress them, their homestead claim isn’t valid. As libertarians know, this claim is feeble because property rights aren’t defined by goals and aspirations, regardless of the ill or good of the intent. Additionally, many settlers, especially in the Jordan Valley, are only in that particular area for land they were granted by the government and aren’t particularly concerned who ends up governing the land as long as they can continue on with their lives. Many of them would happily work land whether it be in the Israeli South, or some as yet undefined territory.

The presented solutions to the conflict, can also be broken down into three categories, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Let’s now turn our anarcho-libertarian examination to these categories.

Firstly, the most popular and worst solution is the two state solution. Not only does this require gross violations of human rights, and a disregard for individual property rights, it deals with the “rights of Israelis” vs the “rights of Palestinians,” rather than human rights. Little to no consideration is given for problems created by the proposed solutions. For example, what happens to a jew who legally bought a house from an Arab, or an Arab who owns property on what will become Israel? This top down solution would displace at the lowest estimates 100,000 innocent people and still not resolve some of the most significant issues. Not to mention, it solves none the communal national level concerns such as holy sites that will remain an issue. No matter what arrangement politicians reach, religious factions will no doubt be dissatisfied with the results which will inherently destabilize whatever agreement is reached.

The second solution advanced is one that while gaining in popularity, I believe is deeply flawed and that is the idea of one democratic state. The consequences of two populations of more or less equal size wrestling for control of a state apparatus in hopes of damaging the other side, has great potential to be disastrous. Is the best answer really an American style duopoly developing between two tribes who have been in violent conflict for the last 100 years? Encouraging for the 12 million people of the region, the same kind of thinking prevalent in the U.S. of everything hinging on who wins any given election? You can see issues such as the name of the country and holy site policies swinging back and forth from election to election with all the accompanying unrest.

The third, and I believe best, solution which has emanated from a group of mixed Jewish and Arab peace advocates is known as the “two states homeland.” This brilliant bottom up idea can solve many of the aforementioned issues, while also not creating any new ones. Simply put, the plan is to establish two states in the same geographic area, each with its own parliament, citizenship etc. One for Israelis and one for Arabs. Even with a cursory glance, it is easy to see that one of the most pressing issues of how to allow the four million person Palestinian diaspora to return home. While it might not return them to former property, there would be compensations, and a return to their homeland, without having the added concern of how a democracy would marginalize the newly minted minority. This plan also solves two of the other largest issues. With two independent states that occupy the same geography, occupation and settlements are no longer concerns. While not removing the most difficult problem of what to do about holy sites, it is far superior to having a central government who controls every aspect of who can go where when. This leaves only one major unresolved issue, to which I honestly don’t know of a good solution, and that is what kind of worship can be done at each site. This is a situation that, once people have much more latitude in other regards, may end up being resolved by the people concerned. Regardless, this plan brings the most issues to resolution. Besides the obvious advantages of such a solution, the very idea of competing governments offers great possibilities. Smaller minorities would presumably have a choice in what state they wanted to join or even open their own state which could lead to many great outcomes. If this idea is implemented (and it’s the only logical solution so it has a shot) it may be the first crack we get at a testing ground for an ancap world. While it probably wouldn’t look exactly like a Rothbardian dreamscape especially with the Israeli proclivity for an authoritarian state, it could open up new possibilities there and around the world. I sincerely hope that out of this horrific conflict a new dawn of freedom can emerge perhaps even a freedom that can be spread worldwide.

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