The Jerusalem Post
A way to get out of the mire in the Holy Land
Two things are almost certain. First, the two-state solution is in the dustbin of history and beyond redemption. Second, the status quo is neither morally acceptable nor practically sustainable. Let me explain each of them.
Israeli public opinion and politics are against the two-state solution, notwithstanding the occasional lip service paid by some. The settler lobby and the Orthodox community are determined to prevent a Palestinian state from ever coming into existence. You can see it reflected in the Israeli elections as well. On the other side, there is division between the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza. (Do they even represent the residents of their area?) The leaders in Gaza want no compromise with the Israelis. The leadership in the West Bank is corrupt and impotent. Perhaps a more important factor has been the attitude of the US administration in the last 20 years. It has helped the
Israeli opinion and policy become more intransigent.
How about the status quo? For the Palestinians, it means misery no matter where they live in Gaza or the West Bank. Gaza is like a concentration camp that occasionally erupts into violence and creates more misery for the residents. Israeli firepower demolishes everything in its way and kills many people in every violent confrontation.
Those living in the West Bank are confronted by demolition of homes and villages to create space for Jewish settlers, concrete separation walls, and the security checkpoints. All of this means frustration, harassment, and humiliation.
On the Israeli side, despite the massive security measures, there is really no sense of security or normal life. In addition, occupation, settlements and the mistreatment of Palestinians undermines the Israeli claim about their state. Inside Israel, the Jewish state is not democratic because the Arabs citizens do not have equal rights with the Jews. The status quo serves no one’s interest except of the extremists on each side, or the insane. A perpetual state of confrontation cannot be a sustainable solution.
So, what should be done? For one thing, think out of the box. And get bold. We can get out of the mire in the Holy Land if we start debating about a fair and feasible solution. The one that comes to mind would include the following elements.
• ACCEPT THE settlements of 400,000 to 440,000 Jews in the West Bank. They are there to stay. But remove the rest and demolish their settlements. Stop building new settlements and expanding the existing ones.
• Stop demolishing Palestinian homes and villages in the West Bank and in Jerusalem and its vicinity. Provide compensation for the demolished homes and villages to build the Jewish settlements.
• Demolish all concrete (separation) walls and remove the security checkpoints in the West Bank and
Jerusalem. Withdraw Israeli security forces from the occupied West Bank and establish a joint security force for the West Bank and Jerusalem.
• Create a federation or a binational state of Israel and Palestine (excluding Gaza). Give the Arabs of Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank equal rights with the Jews – the right to own property, free speech, free movement and free voting. Share Jerusalem as the capital of the federation. Shared security, fiscal arrangements and a passport, together with devolved authority should be the guiding principles. Admittedly, the idea of the federation will not be easy to work out. But it is worth trying.
• Allow Gaza to become a sovereign state having open borders with the new federation and Egypt. I think neither the residents of Gaza nor the citizens of Israel would be willing to live together, yet surely they can live in peace as neighbors.
• Israel should end the occupation of the Golan Heights and return the territory to Syria with conditions.
The proposed plan will require strong political and financial support from the United Nations, United States, Great Britain, European Union and the oil-rich Arab states.
The proposed federation (between Israel and the West Bank) would be a binational state: two nations with equal rights sharing a common territory. There should be three unicameral legislative assemblies, three superior courts, and three executive bodies – each one of them for Israel, the West Bank, and the federal state.
Initially, the right of permanent residence within the common territory should be regulated in a way that it does not disturb the existing structure. However, members of the two nations should be free to travel and work across the federation. All residents of the federation should have one passport to travel abroad, but they should have separate national identity cards.
The federation should have one currency and it should use the fiscal instruments and safety nets to reduce poverty and inequality. Do not hurry to implement the proposed solution.
First, get the consent of the people. Consensus should be the basis for decision-making. Give five to 10 years for the transition. Make a coherent plan of action and follow it through.
What if this solution is not acceptable? Is there a fourth option? Maybe there is. I do not know. What I do know is that the two-state solution is not going to happen, and the status quo is not sustainable.
The ideal solution would be a secular democratic state of Jews and Palestinians with equal rights. But that is not on the table, certainly not for most of the Jews. This solution was proposed by some, mostly on the Palestinian side, both before the partitioning of Palestine in 1948 and after the Six Day War in 1967. I think there are still some Palestinians and Israelis who favor this option. If the proposed federal state works well and long enough, it might transform into a secular, democratic and multicultural state.