The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be the first step towards redrawing the region’s borders.

by Jason Shvili, Israel Hayom

The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still widely supported by the international community, despite the fact that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are moving any closer to that solution.

It is unfortunate that the international community is so attached to current borders, even if those borders are unjustly drawn up against the popular will of the people.

Indeed, most of the borders in the Middle East, not to mention Africa, some of Asia and the Americas, were established by the former colonial powers of Europe with little regard for the native inhabitants. People of different ethnicities and religions were forcibly incorporated into new countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

It is also ironic that the European powers imposed most of the Middle East’s current borders without taking into consideration the ethnic and religious makeup of the region, because in Europe itself, following the World War I, they were doing the exact opposite.

After the war ended, the victorious Allied powers decided that there would no longer be multinational empires ruling the continent. Hence, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up and its territory was divided into separate states based on nationality. This is how the current states of Hungary and Austria were born, as well as the former states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

In the Middle East, the story was different. During WWI, the Allied powers promised the Arabs an independent state as a reward for their struggle against the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the war, however, the victorious European powers betrayed their Arab allies with the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, in which the British and French divided the territory of the vanquished Ottoman Empire amongst themselves.

They created what would become the new states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and of course, the British Mandate of Palestine, which would become the epicenter of the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews.

Many would say that the Sykes-Picot agreement is one of the primary reasons for the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps part of the solution for resolving the quagmires of the region is to undo the arrangement made by Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, and do what the Allied powers did in Europe following World War I, by redefining the borders of the Middle East along ethnic and religious lines.

The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be the first step towards redrawing the region’s borders. After the Holy Land is divided between Jews and Arabs, so too should the other countries created by the Sykes-Picot agreement be broken up and repartitioned; this time with demographics in mind.

Based on the ethnic and religious makeup of Syria, it would be prudent to divide the country into Alawite, Sunni, Druze and Kurdish states. Latakia is the region in which most of Alawite Muslims reside, and so it should become a state unto itself. The extreme northeast corner of Syria is inhabited mostly by Kurds and should become part of a new nation-state of Kurdistan, which will also encompass parts of present-day Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The region of Jabal Druze to the south of Damascus would become a separate nation-state, giving the Druze a country of their own for the first time in history. Once the predominantly Alawite, Kurdish and Druze areas of present-day Syria are portioned off, what is left will be a country composed overwhelmingly of Sunni Arabs.

Lebanon would probably be the most difficult country to partition as the various religious sects in the country are not geographically divided as simply as the different groups living in Iraq, Syria and Iran. The most likely and logical scenario would have the country partitioned into two states, one predominantly Christian and the other predominantly Muslim. The geographic boundaries of the two new states would be extremely difficult to negotiate, but the Muslim state would probably have the bulk of its territory in the south of present-day Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley, while the Christian state would have the coastal territory between Sidon and Tripoli at its core.

Iraq would be divided into three states. Southern Iraq would become an independent state composed mainly of Shiite Muslim Arabs; central Iraq would be a majority Sunni Arab state, and northern Iraq would be part of Kurdistan. It would also be pertinent to create a small autonomous enclave in northern Iraq for the country’s Christian population to allow them to govern themselves and preserve their centuries-old heritage. This enclave would likely be attached to Kurdistan.

Iran would be partitioned so that the predominantly Azerbaijani areas of the northeast would be attached to the state of Azerbaijan to the north. Kurdish areas of the northeast would become part of Kurdistan.

In the Arabian peninsula, the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia would become an independent Shiite Arab state, while Yemen would once again be divided into a predominantly Shiite North Yemen and a mostly Sunni South Yemen.

The southeastern part of Turkey, which is inhabited mostly by Kurds, would become part of Kurdistan, while Mt. Ararat would be given to Armenia.

Right now, partitioning the Middle East as described above is pure fantasy, because there are simply too many powerful forces both inside and outside the region that have a vested interest in keeping the borders as they are now, to the detriment of the people who live there.

The same is true in other regions throughout the world, where borders ought to be redrawn to reflect ethnic and religious divisions. Nearly all the conflicts of the Middle East are of an ethnic or religious nature, so redrawing the borders to account for demographics would probably put an end to such conflicts, though there are certainly no guarantees.

Inasmuch as redrawing the borders of the region may seem unrealistic right now, there was a time long ago when it was unfathomable that the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire would collapse and be replaced by independent states that reflected the desire of different peoples to self-determination in their own countries. The same thing can happen in the Middle East. It doesn’t have to be a fantasy forever.