Proposal for Ending the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict
A FEDERATION OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE
FOUNDATION FOR OUR PROPOSAL
From the outset, we recognize that according to western democratic standards, the ideal and fairest solution would be for Israelis and Palestinians to live as citizens of one democratic country based on equality and justice that ignore religious affiliation, race or ethnicity. However, western ideals may not work for Israel/Palestine because the best solution is a solution that fits the particular needs of specific populations based on their history and circumstances. In the following model for Israel/Palestine, unity and self determination are our goals.
Currently, there are approximately four (4) million Palestinians who live in areas controlled by Israel, namely the West-Bank and Gaza, but are not citizens of Israel. There are also approximately 400,000 Jews who live in the West Bank who are citizens of Israel. These demographic statistics are at the core of the conflict. While Israel controls the borders of the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians living there have no rights in Israel and are unable to travel freely from their cities to Israeli cities while their Jewish neighbors are able to travel and have full rights in Israel. The Jews of the West Bank have full access to Israeli hospitals, universities, courts, public transportation while the Palestinians do not. Only Palestinians with a Jerusalem ID and Palestinians who are Israeli citizens have access to Israel’s hospitals and other institutions.
According to our contributors, the reason for the unequal treatment between Israelis and Palestinians is not necessarily caused by racism or hatred for non-Jews. It is because Israel has a dilemma that it has been unable to solve from day one of the creation of Israel. Israel was created with the intention of being a Jewish state or a national home for the Jews. The problem with this goal is that Israel is not 100% Jewish. The dilemma for Israel is how to have a Jewish, democratic state when a substantial number of non-Jews live in Israel and Palestine.
The second part of the dilemma is that Israel perceives the Palestinians as naturally hostile to Israel and does not trust them to be citizens. Without a doubt, the Palestinians have complicated the matter by using violence to achieve their goals. This must stop.
When Israel became a state many Israelis believed that the demographic dilemma was solved after a majority of the Palestinians in the new state either immigrated or were kicked out of Israel. While many Israelis dispute that the Palestinians were kicked out of their homes, there is no dispute that only a fraction of the Palestinians in modern day Israel remained after the founding of Israel. It is also undisputed that Israel gave the Palestinians in Israel (Israeli Arabs) citizenship five years after the founding of Israel.
The demographic dilemma remerged 29 years after Israel was created when it increased its territory by occupying the West Bank and Gaza which increased the number of Palestinians under Israel’s control. Currently, there are approximately six million Jews in Israel, four million Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in Israel proper. Thus, there are 6 million Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians in Israel/Palestine. The number of Palestinians is expected to equal the number of Jews in a few years.
Currently many Jews on the left and right believe that if Israel gave equality to Palestinians in the form of citizenship and political rights then Israel as a Jewish state could be undermined or threatened. To deal with the demographic dilemma, Israel has isolated the Palestinians in an open prison by building huge walls to lock them in their cities and has deprived them of freedom of movement and most civil rights and freedoms enjoyed by Israelis.
Israel has justified its treatment of the Palestinians by referring to the Palestinian use of violence to end their inequality and suffering. Without a doubt the use of bombings and the targeting of Jewish civilians by Palestinians are morally wrong and unacceptable. The use of violence has hurt the Palestinian cause in every way imaginable and must stop. The Palestinians counter that during the first uprising (intifada), they did not use violence and Israel responded to their demonstrations with lethal weapons that killed thousands of Palestinians.
Currently, the Palestinians claim that their situation under Israeli control is worse than the situation of blacks in the United States prior to the civil rights movement and even worse than blacks in apartheid South Africa. Palestinians point to the irony of how Jews treat them considering that Jews have traditionally been leaders in global civil rights movements. American Jews were and continue to be leaders in demanding equality and justice for blacks in the United States. However, the same Jews who supported equality for blacks in the U.S. opposed equality for Palestinians. The Palestinians interpret this contradiction as being caused by the fear of the above mentioned demographic dilemma. Israelis respond by saying that they are a different nation from the Palestinians and have no obligation to allow Palestinians equality or freedom of movement in Israel. Palestinians respond that Israel cannot claim that they are a different nation since Israel controls the borders of Palestine and controls the movement of Palestinians.
Two State Solution
Over the last 30 years, the world has pursued the two state (two country) solution without much success. However, contrary to unanimous belief, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are to blame for the failure of the two state solution. The two state solution failed because the concept of creating two separate countries by dividing Israel/Palestine was and still is a difficult pill to swallow for Israelis and Palestinians. It is a fact that Israelis and Palestinians have religious, historical and emotional attachments to every square inch of the land that includes Israel and Palestine and neither side is eager to embrace permanent separation or “amputation” as described by Israeli novelist Amos Oz. Practically speaking, it should be obvious to anyone who takes an honest look at the map of Israel/Palestine that there is not enough room in such a small area to support two separate countries that are contiguous, and viable.
Historically, the Palestinians only requested an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza for strategic reasons or to end the misery associated with being stateless. The West Bank and Gaza are approximately 25% of the lands that Palestinians claim as original Palestine. For most of their recent history the Palestinians have wanted to return to all of Palestine which includes all of Israel. It was only in the 1980s that a significant number of Palestinians began asking for a state in the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, the split between Hamas and Fatah and between Fatah and other branches of the PLO is precisely over this point. Hamas and other branches of the PLO reject the notion of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Not surprisingly, the leaders of Israel have also rejected the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. They argue that withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza would leave Israel vulnerable while others argue that the West Bank and Gaza are integral parts of Israel and refer to the territories as Judea, Samaria and Azza. The attachment of many Jews to Israel/Palestine is so strong that many Jews claim that Jordan is Palestine and that Palestinians should move to Jordan.
The fact is most Israelis and Palestinians share in the belief that Israel/Palestine is indivisible. For many Palestinians, Palestine is not the West Bank and Gaza, it includes all of Israel. For many Israelis, Israel includes all of Palestine. And both claim Jerusalem. Thus, the two state solution requires compromises that neither side can ever make.
Recent history has shown that separation is not the answer for Israel/Palestine. Increasingly, more and more Israelis and Palestinians are turning to the idea of a shared country in the form of a federation or confederation or a European Union style of a union with a supranational government. The Task Force believes that the way forward is for a shared future as opposed to separation. This article outlines an initial roadmap for Palestinians and Israelis to share Israel/Palestine in light of their goals, aspirations and fears. We seek your input to help us create the best way forward.
TWO STATES = ONE COUNTRY
The Roadmap envisions one country made up of a federation between Israel and Palestine where each state contributes 50% to the federal parliament regardless of population.
This road map envisions two people sharing one united country where each side is guaranteed equality, freedom, civil rights and security. The reference to “states” is not to two independent countries but rather two partially sovereign states similar to New York and New Jersey linked together to form one country similar to the United States of America.
The road map envisions several tiers of government: federal, state, municipal, and districts. The federal government will have specific powers that are given to it by the constitution.
The ideal and preferred solution is not to have boundaries and in many instances the roadmap envisions a future with no boundaries. However, practical administration of a modern federation may require legal or administrative boundaries without physical barriers. Among the purposes of administrative borders is for simplicity in determining the reach of state government and to give people the psychological satisfaction and security that comes from the perception that they are in a state of similarly situated people. The boundaries will not be apparent and the federal parliament will not be based on the number of people living in each state.
For example, for the federal parliament, each side will contribute 50% regardless of where the people live. Jewish settlers will be represented in the federal government by the 50% allocated for Jews and Arab Israelis will be represented by the 50% allocated for Palestinians.
The 50/50 split will never change. The purpose of the 50/50 split is to provide each side with security, equality and to make certain that only moderates on both sides are able to pass legislation because any legislation will probably need support from parliamentarians from the other side.
As to voting for federal candidates, Israelis living in Palestine or Palestinians living in Israel shall be able to vote for the Federal candidates that represent their district regardless of his/her religion.
The administrative borders may be based on the location of the people. Cities that are majority Jews may go to Israel and cities that are majority Palestinian may go to Palestine. If there is no agreement on the administrative boundaries, the administrative boundaries can be, as a default, based on the 1967 lines. An agreement on administrative boundaries should be easy since there is free movement of people and no permanent separation or exclusion from any jurisdiction.
To illustrate further, if the Boundaries are not based on 1967 boundaries, Jews and Palestinians may agree to adjust the state boundaries based on demographics. For example, the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo is in the West bank and by default will fall within the boundaries of the Palestinian state. Similarly, the town of Abu Ghosh is a Palestinian Israeli town and currently falls within the state boundaries of Israel. Both sides may agree to design the boundaries of Palestine to include Abu Ghosh because it is majority Palestinian and include Gilo into Israel because it is majority Jewish. Regardless of the legal boundaries, the formation of the federation is such that the boundaries are of no visible significance for the free movement of people or labor. There will be no physical barriers or check points. The boundaries are only relevant for choosing state representatives and the application of state law.
Moreover, cities may have a vote as to which state they want to belong to. For example, if the parties draw administrative boundaries based on demographics rather than 1967 lines then a particular town may object to being in the state made up of its people. For example, an Israeli Arab town may prefer to stay within the state boundaries of Israel rather than Palestine. The wishes of that town should at least be considered.
FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The federal government shall be divided 50/50. The federal government will have specific authority that is given to it by the constitution. It will not interfere with state and municipal governments but will guarantee certain fundamental rights for all people. Where there is a contradiction between federal and state law, federal law must be supreme.
For state governments, each state must allow all its citizens the right to vote in state government regardless of religion. However, states shall have the right to limit the number of state parliamentarians from the minority population. For example, Israel may prefer to have 100% Jews in its state parliament. Israel shall have that right. Palestine may want to allow as much as 20% Jews in its parliament, Palestine shall have the right.
For further illustration, Palestine must allow Jewish settlers living in Palestine the right to vote in Palestine state elections. However, if Palestine wants 100% Palestinians in their state parliament, Palestine will have to allow the settlers to vote for the state candidates who cover their district but the settlers may not run for office.
Some members of the Task Force believe that it would not be healthy for Jews or Palestinians to have state parliaments that are either 100% Jewish or 100% Palestinians. However, the constitution will allow states to have 100% parliamentarians of a particular group to enhance the feeling of security and preserve the cultural identity and political power of a particular group in its own state. Nevertheless, the federation’s suggested policy is for the states to allow members of the minority population to run for office and hold as much as 10-20% of the seats.
As to municipal elections, the allocation of seats will be done on a system of one man one vote. There will be no limits on the number of any community in municipal parliaments. However, municipalities or districts may be created or designed around specific community concentrations. For example, the Har Homa settlement falls within the boundaries of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. Har homa could become its own municipality since it is 100% Jewish and allow it to run itself.
Jerusalem shall be the Capital of the federation and there shall be no restrictions on the number of people who travel, visit or reside in Jerusalem.
There may be municipal police, state police, federal police, a national guard and a federal military.
The federal police will have specific federal jurisdiction and will enforce laws that are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The federal government will recruit and train federal police from both communities, preferably in equally numbers.
There will also be state police and municipal police. The jurisdiction of the state police shall have general police powers and cover the entire state it belongs to and the municipal police shall have general police powers but limited to the municipality and subject to state restrictions.
Military and State National Guard
The ideal situation will be for the state to have one federal military. However, in light of decades of hostilities, the individual communities may want a state national guard to feel secure in the early years of the union.
For example, upon the creation of the union, the country of Israel may transfer most of its military to the state of Israel and call it the state national guard. The same goes for Palestine. The National Guard may limit its membership to all Jews or all Palestinians. The purpose of the National Guard is to provide real and psychological security to a specific state, especially in the early years of the union. As the years turn into decades and the states begin to function as one country, the goal is for the National Guard to be less significant and the federal military to be the dominant military force.
If states choose to keep a national guard, then the states shall transfer 25% of their military hardware to the federal military, along with officers and other military professionals to assist in establishing the federal military. If the states choose not to have a national guard then the states shall transfer all of their military hardware to the federal military. The Federal military should be made of young new recruits, whereby the new recruits are developed into a professional army over the years and decades. To the extent possible, the federal government shall recruit military personnel on a one to one basis, with equal numbers of Palestinians and Jews.
MIGRATION AND RIGHT OF RETURN
Ideally, the new country shall accept the return of all Jews and Palestinians from all over the world. However, it is understood that some citizens may feel uneasy with the sudden movement of a large number of people into their state.
Thus, while the basis of the new country is the free movement of labor and people, a state may limit the number of people who migrate from one state to the other as permanent residents to no less than 50,000 per year for the first 15 years. The 50,000 limit shall NOT apply to labor or people traveling for anything other than permanent residency.
As to the right of return, both Jews and Palestinians shall have the right to return to the states of the federation at any time. There shall be no limit on the number of Jews who return to Israel or Palestinians who return to Palestine. The new returnees shall also have the right to free movement and employment anywhere in the new country. However, each state shall have the right to insist that the new returnees first reside in their respective state for five years before residing in the other state as permanent residents. For example, a Palestinian who is a resident of the United States may want to return to Israel/Palestine. The family of that Palestinian may have originated from Haifa in 1948. He shall have the right to return to Palestine at any time. He shall have the right to travel and stay in Haifa at any time. However, if he wants to reside in Haifa permanently, the state of Israel shall have the right to insist that he first reside in Palestine for five years before moving to Haifa as a permanent resident. The purpose of this reservation is to reduce the anxiety that certain people may have from sudden changes in demographics.
The limitations on residency in a particular state shall not apply to the free movement of people and labor. Any citizen of the federation may travel and work anywhere in the federation and at any time with no limitations.
There shall be NO restrictions on interstate commerce within the federation. This means that the federation shall act as one economy in every respect. No state may favor its industry to the detriment of the industry of the other state. No state may restrict the flow of goods from the other state or tax goods from the other state differently than it taxes goods of its own state.
Israel/Palestine shall have the same currency, no tariffs and complete free trade. The early days of the national government or confederation shall be to bring jobs and economic prosperity to both Israelis and Palestinians. This should be an easy task. A peaceful Israel and Palestine acting as one nation should be a gold mine the likes of which the world has never seen. A nation that is the birth place of western civilization and immensely revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, religious tourism alone will guarantee a healthy economy in perpetuity.
However, the economy will have more than tourism to secure its prosperity. A nation of Palestinians and Israelis at peace with their neighbors shall have unlimited opportunities. The technical know-how of Israel, the available capital in the Arab world and a geography that is at the intersection of three continents can produce an economic power house that is second to none on a per capita basis.
The federation shall have the power to guarantee basic rights of all the citizens of the federation. For example, the federation may protect citizens from religious, racial or gender discrimination. No state may have the right to discriminate against a citizen of the federation because if his/her religion, race, national origin or the exercise of free speech.
Courts and state/federal law
The respective states shall have general governing powers to enact laws. The states may use religion as a basis for law in family matters or any other matter that the people of the state feel that religion plays a role. However, a state may not compel religion or religious based laws on any resident of the state. Each resident of each state shall have the right to opt out of religious based laws and rely on secular law by seeking the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
The federal courts shall have parallel jurisdiction to state courts but the federal courts shall only apply secular law which is the law of the federal government. The residents of the federation shall have the right to submit their legal matters to the state courts or the federal courts. For example, a Muslim who wants a divorce may apply to the state court which may apply Islamic law to determine her rights or obligations to her husband or children. However, if that Muslim woman is secular in ideology, she may submit her dispute to the federal court which will decide the case based on secular law.
Words of empathy and understanding
To summarize, this roadmap requests the Palestinians to reach out to their Israeli and Jewish partners and say:
“We understand why the state of Israel is important to you. We understand that the Jews – as a people- have a right to self-determination and to rule themselves under their own national institutions. We are fully aware of the persecution that Jews suffered throughout history and the necessity of having a safe haven for Jews. We also understand that Jews have historical and religious ties to the land of Israel/Palestine. We believe that every Jew shall have the right to move to Israel and become a citizen immediately. We also welcome Jews to live with us in our cities, towns and villages. We want the Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors, friends and countrymen. In return, what we want is freedom, liberty and equality for the Palestinians. Will you meet us half way?”
The roadmap is also requesting Israelis and Jews to reach out to their Palestinians Partners and say:
“We understand why Palestine is important to you and we understand that the Palestinians – as a people- have a right to self-determination and to rule themselves under their own national institutions. We are fully aware of the suffering the Palestinians have experienced over the last 100 years and the necessity of having a safe haven for Palestinians. We also understand that Palestinians have historical and religious ties to the land of Israel/Palestine. We believe that every Palestinian shall have the right to move to Israel/Palestine and become a citizen immediately. We also welcome the Palestinians to visit and to reside in our cities, towns and villages. We want the Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors, friends and countrymen. In return, we want permanent security, liberty, equality and total freedom for the Jewish people. Will you meet us half way?”
Task Force on Israel/Palestine