Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Is the State of Palestine's Geographic Destiny Failure?

The United Nations voted to recognize "Palestine" as a non-member observer state, i.e. a fully independent country.  The resolution recognized an independent Palestine based on the pre-1967 borders of Israel with former Egyptian and Jordanian-occupied lands in the old Palestinian mandate award to the State of Palestine.

Geography is not destiny but it is a good rule of thumb.  With borders like this Palestine would struggle to keep a status quo out of war with Israel or at the very least a return to the Hamas-Fatah Civil War.  The reasons for Palestine's geographic strikes against it are that the population sizes of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and their separation from each other by internationally-recognized Israel.  A quick examination of excalves shows that having a Gaza Strip-exclave shows that the status quo as envisioned by the United Nations is undoable.

Exclaves are usually not causes of instability.  In most cases open border travel, similar ethnic/national makeup, and the limited population size of exclaves help ensure peace by making state geographic unity unnecessary.  For example, let us examine quickly exclaves that existed peacefully and some that failed.

Peaceful Exclaves
  • Alaska-United States:  Open borders and friendly relations with Canada, same ethnic/national groups as in the United States.  17% of the United States' landmass but only 0.2% of the total population.
  • European and former Soviet exclaves such as those in the Low Countries and even Kaliningrad:  Open borders or custom unions which allow for easy travel.  Very minimal in physical and population size (>.01)
Contested Exclaves
  • Calbinda-Angola:  Semi-open borders with varying relationship with Zaire/Congo, different ethnic/national groups.  1.9% of Angola's total population and 0.6% of the total landmass. 
  • East Pakistan-Republic of Pakistan:  In 1971 closed borders due to hostile relations with India.  Very different ethnic/national groups between the exclave (Bangladesh) and present-day Pakistan.  18.5% of the country's landmass but 55% of the total population.
  • East Prussia-Nazi Germany:  In 1939 closed borders due to Polish corridor and Polish fears of Nazi invasion.  Same ethnic majority.  3.1% of Germany's population and 6.1% of Germany's landmass.
Now let us examine Palestine as declared by the United Nations.

Both the Gaza Strip and West Bank are demographically the same.  This will help reduce internal strife.  Another Hamas-Fatah conflict is still possible but both populations will view themselves as one Palestinian nation which should remain in one state.

The trouble for Palestine concerns size and access.  The long running tension between Israel and Palestinians is likely to keep borders closed.  The critical blow to long term viability is in population size.  The Gaza Strip only makes up 6.1% of United Nations-declared Palestine but comprises 44.5% of its total population.  


Something like Palestine as recognized by the United Nations has never been done before.  The only thing similar was East and West Pakistan, the difference being the separate ethnic groups, and that ended in monumental failure.  Under a United Nations-envisioned Palestine, Palestinians would be one people separated nearly evenly with a hostile country in between.  As such a permanent split between the Gaza Strip and West Bank is unlikely, though the lack of access between the two may drive some in Palestine to push for a war for geographic unity against Israel.  Geography is not destiny, as I stated before, but the United Nations defined Palestine has been set upon an unknown and dangerous course.


t.przechlewski said...

Kaliningrad not Kalingrad after Mikhail Kalinin soviet politician and activist.
Until quite recently it had
a special status---sort of Guantanamo, Cuba

Anonymous said...

You forgot Nahicevan in Azerbaijan

Dina said...

Yes, "a dangerous course" indeed.