A Palestinian state will come into existence, some say, by a “two-state solution.” Some say a “one-state solution.” They are not thinking big. A fifty-one state solution—that is the answer.
The United States must offer the West Bank and Gaza Strip statehood in the manner of Nevada or Rhode Island. Voting can follow conventional forms for state ratification under federal law. Alaska and Hawaii prove states need not be contiguous with the continental forty-eight.
The offer of U.S. statehood to the Occupied Territories on pre-1967 boundaries is the real solution to everyone’s problems. Israel gets its staunchest ally as its neighbor. Palestinians get the rights and responsibilities of American citizens, plus Federal relief. America receives something better than an uncertain and tenuous American-style democracy “in the heart of the Middle East.” It gets America in the Middle East.
If its citizens choose to ratify, Palestine will gain two senators and proportional representation in the House. It will have adopted a state constitution, creating a governorship and a legislature and judiciary.
It may be that Palestinian voters wish to enshrine different lifestyles under their state law than do, say, Alabamans. Conservative commitments to states’ rights will be put to a proper test. Existing United States law provides the best framework for dealing with any conflicts. There is judicial review, and law in Palestine, USA won’t keep any citizen from rights (free speech, assembly, due process, and maybe soon gay marriage) that he’d receive in continental America. But Palestine, USA might add rights or responsibilities not yet existing elsewhere. Our daughters may learn to dress more modestly, Wendy’s will serve falafel.
As for Israel, this innovation should settle once and for all the nation’s right to exist. Israel’s freedom from infringement by eastern neighbors is assured. No more worry of long-range missile attacks from Arab countries. The US wouldn’t stand for projectiles straying across one of its fifty-one states, any more than it would allow Mexico to shell Canada, via the Midwest.
Israelis have always been poised between America and Europe. Now they would have each physically on one side. Resurgent secularists and closet peace lovers—always the vast majority of both populations—would parley in renewed universities, on rebuilt roads, and in a new landscape of malls, cinemas, T.G.I. Fridays, Home Depots, and New Deal-like public works projects.
The Mall of the Middle East can be built on an artificial island in the Jordan River.
The benefits to America, too, are clear. At a cost of 200 billion dollars the United States is installing by force a “stable, democratic regime” in Iraq. It doesn’t look stable. It is hard to see that it will be democratic. A fraction of the cost would support a U.S. state the size of Palestine. The very best thing America has to export is its Constitution. And no need to pay for an occupying army—only xeroxing.
This is the way to dignify an American Empire. Right now we plant democracy like an orchid and depart—leaving behind oilmen to drain nutrients out of the soil. Better to offer a plot in our own garden, so to speak, protected and sheltered by many hardy perennials, who find the new shoot in no way inferior.
Really, just to offer statehood is the least we can do. The worst Palestinians can do, for their part, is refuse. At least we’ll have asked. This would be a lot politer than the Israeli occupation, or our invasions in the Middle East: Iraq today, Syria tomorrow, smuggling “freedom” in somewhere in our cargo holds, jerry-rigging an electoral system. This while the model of the most successful democratic system the world knows is outlined in The Federalist Papers and the dusty books of any American Embassy library.
Even the name of our newest state is American. Private Jessica Lynch, heroine of the Iraq invasion, hailed from Palestine, West Virginia. A healthy reminder of our Judeo-Islamo-Christian heritage.
The Untested Premise
On one thing we agree: We face above all the question of whether televisions and soft drinks, individual rights and freedoms, or American-style democratic institutions, can make peace in any population intimate with terrorism and civil strife. With no answer to this problem, we base our whole foreign policy on an untested premise. Our adventure in Iraq depends on it. Liberals and conservatives share common ground in hoping it is true. This vague good intention is fundamental to post-9/11 thought. “Freedom” brings peace. Or consumer goods bring peace. Or free markets bring peace. Or individual rights, “human rights,” bring peace. Or the American way of life, civil calm and ordinary infrastructure bring peace.
But really we have no idea. If we wish to have a lawful and humane empire which—when it inevitably crumbles—can leave institutional legacies closer to Rome’s than the business secrets of Attila the Hun, we must be willing to find out. We start small (though with a big idea). Forget mere faith. It is the simplest thing to test it. From the American perspective, no place furnishes so reasonable, inexpensive and practical a trial-run for our export of goodwill, yielding the greatest imaginable benefits, as Palestine—our fifty-first state.