Independence for Negev
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The Negev is the mostly desert-steppe region in the HaDarom (Southern) District of Israel. The district is divided into two subdistricts, the Ashqelon in the north and the Be'er-Sheva in the south, containing the Negev. The area of the Be'er-Sheva subdistrict is 12,946 square kilometers, with a population of about 450,000. While its population is 7.5% of Israel, the Negev has over half the territory of pre-1967 Israel. Its largest city is Beersheba in the center of the Negev, and the territory narrows to a small coast on the Red Sea, with the port and resort city of Eilat. To the west, Negev borders on Egypt's Sinai peninsula as well as Gaza. To the east, Negev borders on the Jordan, the Dead Sea, and the Hebron district of the West Bank. About one fourth of the population is Bedouin Arab.
Some Arab Palestinians claim that if Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, then a Palestinian state covering those lands would make peace with Israel. But many Israelis fear that the Palestinian state would continue terrorism, since they think the aim of most Palestinian Arabs it to take all of Israel and expel the Jews. Moreover, some Palestinians would think that their terrorism caused Israel to abandon the territories, and would think that further terror would make Israelis leave the pre-1967 land too.
This is the critical sticking point of the conflict, and there is no way to know what would happen unless there is a real-world test. What if there were a mostly Jewish state that did not claim any of the Gaza or the West Bank? The best test would be an independent Negev.
The Be'er-Sheva subdistrict would secede from Israel and declare independence, with the approval of the State of Israel. Israel would retain a one-kilometer border area around Gaza and the West Bank, so that Negev would not border on Palestinian Arab areas and would thus avoid needing to guard that border.
Negev would be a fully independent country, with its own flag, currency, and foreign relations. It would have free trade with Israel, but Israel would need to set up security along its border with Negev to protect against terrorist infiltrators who sneak into Negev. There is no economic reason why Negev could not have a thriving economy if it adopted pro-growth policies. This would be a splendid opportunity to discard the tangling bureaucracy of Israel and eliminate all taxes on production. Government revenue could instead come from land rent, pollution charges, and user fees.
Negev would apply for membership in the United Nations. The Negev government would have no territorial claims beyond its borders. Negev would have a mutual defense treaty with Israel, but it would not have any authority over the Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Negev would seek recognition as an independent state from the Arab countries. The Arab governments have said that they would make peace with Israel and recognize it as a state if Israel withdraws from the Gaza and West Bank. Negev would put this pledge to the test. Since Negev would have no more authority over Gaza and West Bank than France or Lebanon, would the Arab states recognize Negev? If not, then their promise is null and void.
Arabs also demand that Israel let in the Palestinians who wish to return. Not that many came from the Negev, so Negev could safely allow Palestinians to return to their home areas. Negev's government would be secular, with equal political and economic rights and benefits for all residents. Negev would thus satisfy the major demands of the Palestinian Arabs. If the terrorists continued to attack Negev as well as Israel, it would prove that their real demand is the entire land of Israel, empty of Jews.
Some Israelis would not be happy about splitting their country in two. But Negev would remain a homeland for Jews who wish to live there, and if it became free from terrorism, it would be an even better homeland. With pro-growth free-market policies, Jews world-wide would happily move to Negev to seek better opportunities and a land free of persecution. Where is it written that there must only be one Jewish state? There could be several states united in a confederation.
The best thing about an independent Negev is that this is something Israel could do all by itself. There would be no need for tortuous negotiations with Palestinian Arabs, neighboring countries, the US, Russia, and the United Nations. Israel could just do it.
So, people of Israel, be bold and daring. Create an independent Negev. This should be true independence, not a sham state. Then see if the Arabs are true to their word and recognize the Negev, establish diplomatic relations, and stop all their attacks. If the terror stops, then the path to peace will be clear. If the terror continues, then the other path will also be clear.
For the sake of world peace, let there be an independent State of Negev!
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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