The Palestinian Emirates?

From Barry Shaw:, this is also known as the “eight-state solution”:

Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University, a Middle East expert…calls his alternative “the Palestinian Emirates.”

He visualizes eight emirate-type city states with designated borders that will incorporate the Arabs within them. The rest of the land can be populated by the inhabitants, whether they be Jews or Arabs, living and behaving with respect and deference to the inhabitants of the various city-states. The states shall be granted sovereignty. They shall be granted surrounding land for expansion and development. Road systems in vacant lands shall be developed for transport of people and commerce, both Jewish and Arab.

If Palestinians could “vote with their feet” across these various Emirates, it would be interesting to see what kind of policies would evolve, relative to what is produced by currently existing forms of political participation.

Here is a web site devoted to the concept, with one more detailed account here.  I should add that there are versions of this idea which do not add all of the “baggage” found on this web site.

In presenting this material, I am not seeking to have MR commentators reprise all of the usual debates on the broader topic of Middle East peace or lack thereof.  Nonetheless I had never heard this idea before, and so I am passing it along.


That's interesting. I gave up on trying to understand middle east politics ages ago. A good book IMO is Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 [Benny Morris]. As for this proposal, didn't Jordan knock Palestinians (yes, I see only 40% are citizens after all these years, and wasn't there something called the United Arab Republic that failed?

In other words, an archipelago of miniature Bantustans entirely surrounded by territory controlled by Israel. While there may be a libertarian's attraction to the notion of free competition among those mini-states, how free is it going to be if transportation is controlled by the largest competitor of all in such a scheme, Israel? Didn't work in apartheid South Africa, won't work here.

I don't disagree with you, but Israel is hardly going to be competing with these little dwarf states for population.

Honestly I can not think of a single Free City that has ever been a success that didn't have a seaport.

Yeah give them a seaport for Chri sakes! What are you kidding me?

--- the Swiss confederation


The problem is that the real Emirates have tremendous oil wealth, while Palestine has ... date palms?

Israel, Jordan, and Turkey are three of the most successful nations in the region, despite not having oil wealth. Meanwhile, lots of oil-rich countries are full of dysfunction and terrorism. This is an interesting point, but maybe not as decisive as it seems.

Jordan? Thanks for the laugh.

Cool idea, but I still prefer a one-state solution: Israel-Palestine -- why not create a single state under the Israeli constitution (so Palestinians could have representation in the Knesset), with Jerusalem as her capital, and of need be with a UN police force to protect the minority from the majority

If you need a UN peace force, you're not doing it right.

Kind of like Lebanon. Which has not gone well.

"If Palestinians could “vote with their feet” across these various Emirates, it would be interesting to see what kind of policies would evolve, relative to what is produced by currently existing forms of political participation."

You mean, if self-governance were allowed to take place and evil, opportunistic politicians were prevented from pitting innocent civilians against each other, it would be interesting to watch human society thrive peacefully and efficiently?

If so, I agree.

If Palestinians could “vote with their feet” we'd have to put the levers really low to the ground.


Who the hell is supposed to be the emir (not to mention one of eight) of Palestine. especially considering that the Hashemites (U.S. allies according to the current, I'll assume valid, estimate) already claim that privilege, more or less.

"living and behaving with respect and deference to the inhabitants of the various city-states"

Yeah, that doesn't ever work.

The minute there's a dispute between the cities and the countryside, the local hegemon will step in to block trade, regardless of the abstract desirability of free commerce. This already happens in Gaza.

It's reminiscent of the utter naiveté of the Honduras charter city supporters. Places with ambiguous sovereignty don't attract nice people who love the rule of law.

If it were enough to hope that the people of Israel and Palestine would end up "living and behaving with respect and deference", any political system would lead to peace. The challenge is to create that behaviour, or to mitigate its absence, neither of which is achieved by sovereign emirates (who are the emirs, anyway?).

The minute there’s a dispute between the cities and the countryside, the local hegemon will step in to block trade, regardless of the abstract desirability of free commerce. This already happens in Gaza.

Yes, but the local Hegemon is Israel, and if their security is somehow aided by free-movement and trade between otherwise independent Arab city states, then they will twist arms and try to make it happen.

The real question is whether the Palestinian people want anything like that arrangement.

If Israelis think their security is aided by free trade, and if they cared so much about their security, they wouldn't blockade Gaza. So at least one of those two "if" statements is untrue; probably the first, since Israel does value its right to exist a lot. For instance, it seems trivially true that free trade would make it easier to build weapons.

We know what the Palestinians want, and it's not Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza. So support from that side is probably not a go-er, either.

Horrendous mixing of disciplines, but replacing a three body problem with an 8-9 body problem generally doesn't make it easier to solve.

No, but it certainly obscures Israel's current plans to build more settlements with another topic which has no actual relevance to what is going on.

There's a lot I find really interesting about the idea in the abstract, but unfortunately this specific proposal seems to be nothing more than bantustans -- Kedar's clearly looking for a solution to kettle the Palestinians. Look at the map here:

There's a lot of empty space between these "emirates" -- Kedar says an explicit goal of this is noncontiguity between the "emirates" -- see He also constructs is so that all these emirates are fully enveloped by Israel, ensuring total dependence for transport and trade on Israel, both between each other and other countries (say: Jordan).

Are there any successful city-states that are fully enclosed by one country, let alone a hostile one? I can't think of any but I'm not thinking too hard, admittedly. Would this work if you expanded the emirates to fill up most or all of the space in the West Bank so that each bordered at least 2-3 sovereign entities? This is explicitly contra Kedar's plan but I wonder if it would work.

Vatican City and San Marino:

I don't know what to say about this... thing... other than the obvious, that it's totally unworkable as a peace plan and clearly isn't even intended to work as one, appears to involve literally no Israeli concessions whatsoever, and is little more than a thin gloss on annexation and formal apartheid. It even explicitly retains the Hebron fanatics for Israel.Good show! I always like my Middle East peace plans to start from premises like "There is no Occupied territory west of the Jordan River" and "Any proposed re-unification between Hamas and Fatah is an obvious ploy that further threatens the survival of Israel and the Jewish people."

Why again did you post this, Tyler?

Was intended as top-level reply.

'Why again did you post this, Tyler?'

I'll venture a one word guess - 'distraction.'

I think this was proposed as a way of discussing city states competing for the same general population. It is just that the initial example is too muddled by concrete realities.

Now what if we talked about breaking Greece up? Or maybe we can bait Tyler and propose breaking Spain up into 8 microstates.

Breaking up European people's countries is clearly preposterous and must be condemned as a threat to everything.

Breaking up Muslims' countries is an idea worthy of respect and discussion.

I wouldn't call Palestine a country, or Muslim really, but other than that, yes.

Who condemned the breaking up of Czechslovakia, the USSR or Serbia? Who will condemn the coming break of the UK and Belgium?


Where you got the idea I didn't approve of breaking up European states is beyond me. There is nothing sacred to me about any European boundary, except maybe Sweden... Finland is an artificial construct!

Honestly I think California should be broken up, and if the Quebecois want to freeze to death in their own version of Belorus, it serves them right, especially since I can now get a decent bagel in a dozen other Canadian cities. I could go on and on.


Interesting article. Quote from the article (that's OK right?)

"What makes for the stability is not the oil, and Dubai is the proof of this. Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria are all oil-producing countries, and they are far as can be from being stable. So evidently oil is not the cause of stability. Stability is achieved by being a homogeneous society, and if you are lucky to have both, a homogeneous society and oil, you’ll do very well."

Stability comes from being a homogeneous society?

Who knew?

Bryan Caplan apparently does not know.

Being very wealthy also helps. Like, Belgium is pretty stable (perhaps not as a united polity, but in terms of what actually matters to people). Duh.

The US - a not particularly homogeneous country - feels pretty stable. Israel, neither homogeneous nor a source of oil or any other natural resources other than sea salt, is stable.

Something tells me that national stability can't be boiled down to two variables (homogeneity and an abundance of oil).

I agree that national stability cannot be boiled down to two variables, probably not any two variables, but I also doubt how stable your two examples are.

Israel is fairly homogeneous in the main variable - most of its inhabitants are Jewish and are disinclined to break solidarity to side with their minority. Even there their main minority is kept divided in so far as Israel can do so - the Druze, Circassians and Bedouin are not treated as "Palestinians" but given a slightly better status. That minority was also kept under martial law for the first decade or so of Israel's existence. And until recently (and in fact probably still today) Israel is perfectly prepared to torture anyone who gives them grief.

While the US is doing a moderately good impression of a country engaged in a low-level civil war. Or perhaps the better way of putting that is that is doing a moderately good impression of having two minorities who are engaged in a low-level civil war against the majority and against each other. As can be seen in the ethnic cleansing of places like Compton in LA. And the crime wave of the past few decades. The majority has responded by jailing huge numbers of said minorities' youth. This is what stability looks like? Sweden it ain't.

Even if you don't like that extreme line, the US is only politically stable and even then only up to a point. If the US was stable, a lot fewer people would be living behind walls. Both prison walls and Gated Community walls.

Dubai isn't a homogenous society.


"Dubai isn’t a homogenous society"

Of course, it isn't. However, it doesn't trouble itself with democracy, human rights, free speech, etc. Heterogeneous societies can thrive with a competent authoritarian government. Look at Singapore. A very successful society and quite diverse. Not real high on Western liberalism either.

You started by quoting the claim that "Stability is achieved by being a homogeneous society." When that turns out to be rather oversimplified, you attempt to rescue the hypothesis by claiming that "competent authoritarian government" can also lead to stability. As opposed to incompetent authoritarian government which presumably can lead to instability. Somehow this is not striking me as a very impressive insight, especially if we just go full circle and measure "competence" by the degree of stability and lack of dysfunction in a society.

As noted above, these are bantustans. And the proposal doesn't address the issue it purports to solve: if a unified Palestine contains a powerful politcal bloc that opposes peace with Israel, a collection of Palestinian microstates also each contains a powerful political bloc that opposes peace with Israel. Partition does not prevent similar entities from following similar paths for similar reasons.

Holy crap. I bet if I made a blog post arguing for monarchy and apartheid David Brooks wouldn't write a column praising me as 'influential' and telling everyone I had 'matured intellectually.' I bet he wouldn't let me get away with re-branding 'imperialism' as 'charter cities' either.

Apropos of nothing, some argue imperialism was a good thing. Some in Nigeria (as seen on TV), some in the Philippines (I've spoke to them in person) and in that recent book on UK imperialism that came out this year. Let's face it: leaving your small USA town to go to NYC or the "big city" is a form of imperialism, is it not?


Escaping Stockton is Imperialism, and thank heaven for it. What do you think Nevada is? Or North Dakota to Minneapolis-St. PUl?

it just depends on how you define the metropole.

What problem is this trying to solve?

I think acknowledging the reality on the ground is generally a good idea. This proposal would be good for Somalia, where there are real local governments that are hampered by the refusal of other countries to acknowledge them. But does this proposal reflect reality any more than a single West Bank state? In Somalia, it might be reasonable to abandon the countryside to anarchy. But Israel doesn't want rockets being shot at it. Either it is going to control the countryside, or it will expect cities to do so and will attack them for failure. If the proposal doesn't distinguish between those options, it is not proposing anything. This quote says it all: "living and behaving with respect and deference to the inhabitants of the various city-states."

So.. the idea is to steal all valuable land in the West Bank and call the resulting Bantustans "Palestinian Emirates" and make the whole thing a "LIbertarian Experiment" instead of a land grab and ethnic cleansing?

Who are you quoting with the phrase "Libertarian Experiment"? It's not used in any of Tyler's links, unsurprisingly since hardly anybody outside the U.S cares about libertarianism.

Man, if these are the kinds of ideas they're teaching at your online university, sign me up! I love love love "out of the box" thinking like this, a win win for all sides involved!

Another out-there plan...

"Can one imagine a scenario with a two state solution, one Israeli state and one Palestinian state in parallel, each for the whole area and with civil rights to all, Israelis and Palestinians, built upon existing political, economic and physical structures? Such a scenario would mean a decoupling of the exclusive link between state and territory, and the notion of two state structures parallel with each other, or “superimposed” upon each other. Both state structures would cover the whole area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

The people in the whole area would be able to choose freely which state to belong to and at the same time have the right – at least in principle – to settle in the whole territory. Citizenship would be the result of the individual’s free choice and thus follow the citizen, not the territory."

Here, I'll produce the first draft:

The Israelis and Palestinians each hold their respective undivided territory in common interests in the Levant ("Interests") as Territory-in-Common. The Territorialists-in-Common do not intend by this Agreement to create a partnership or joint venture between themselves, but merely to set forth the terms and conditions upon which each of them shall hold their respective Interests. All decisions regarding the Levant, including but not limited to the development, financing or taxing or use of the Levant, as well as decisions regarding expenditures shall be made by _______. The Israelis and Palestinians are and will be responsible for paying all costs and expenses for the operation, maintenance, improvement and upkeep of the Levant, whether recurring or nonrecurring, including but not limited to wars, welfare, and utilities (“Expenses”) in the following proportions: Israelis __% and Palestinians __%. To the extent Israelis or Palestinians fail to pay any Expenses, the other party may, after providing notice and reasonable amount of time to cure, elect to make such payment on behalf of the delinquent Territorialists-in-Common, in which event such party shall be entitled to reimbursement on demand (together with interest or with Ijara wa Iqtina , as the case may be, on the amount advanced at the maximum rate permitted by the Law or Shariah), under penalty of having all the first borns of such delinquent Territorialists-in-Common circumcised or not circumcised, as the case may be. Each party to this Agreement hereby waives his right of partition as to the Levant, if any, and hereby agrees that he will not bring any action for partition of the Levant, or any swine, amphibians, or crustaceans, during the term of this Agreement.

I don't see how 8 states can solve the fundamental problem with the region which is water scarcity. Control of the Golan Heights in the north and the West Bank give control of the two biggest rivers and the biggest lake in a small, arid region.

They say the devil is in the details. Would Israel draw a map that allows Palestinians to control any of the water?

I agree Tyler was just exploring generalizations of charter cities. But lets indulge this idea. How about Palestinians control the whole region, and put the Israelis into eight cities?

Nobody has addressed the basis of the Palestinian city-states concept.
It is based on the indigenous tribal residents that constitute the majority of the inhabitants and who are no too thrilled about having an artificial entity imposed on them.
As for city-states not having a seaport, there are many in existence today. Just do the homework.

Comments for this post are closed