Proposal for Ending the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict
Posted April 13, 2013 by Kamal Nawash
UNITED FEDERATION OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE
This is a road map for creating a Cooperative Union of Israel/Palestine. This proposal allows Israelis and Palestinians to pursue a shared future based on a compromise arrangement that give both Israelis and Palestinians most of what they would have if they had separate an independent countries but organized in a manner that allows them to function as a united country to reap the benefits of a union that guarantees permanent peace and prosperity for Jews and Palestinians. The basis of the proposed Union shall be a federation that ensures a Jewish state and a Palestinian state with security, equality and respect for all citizens regardless of religion, gender, race or ethnicity.
Currently, there are approximately four (4) million Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) living in areas controlled by Israel (West-Bank and Gaza), who do not hold Israeli citizenship. On the other hand, there are 750,000 Jews who live in the West Bank and are Israeli citizens. There are approximately six million Jews in Israel, and 1.5 million Palestinians in Israel proper who hold Israeli citizenship. Thus, there are 6 million Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians in Israel/Palestine.
These demographic statistics are an essential element of the conflict. While Israel controls the borders of the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians (non-Jews) living there have no rights in Israel and are unable to travel freely while settlers living in the same place are able to travel and have full rights in Israel. According to Israelis, the unequal treatment is due to security concerns and the preservation of Israel as a Jewish state even though Israel, West Bank & Gaza are not 100% Jewish.
When Israel became an independent country, many Jews believed that the non-Jewish demographic dilemma was solved after most Palestinians in Israel either ran away or were kicked out of their homes. However, the demographic dilemma reemerged 29 years later when, as a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza which substantially increased the number of Palestinians under Israel's control.
Currently, Israel isolates the Palestinians behind huge walls without freedom of movement, employment or commerce. Since 1967, Israel has exercised control over Palestine as if it was an Israeli province but treats its Palestinian residents as if they were citizens of a foreign country. This contradiction has driven Palestinians to seek statehood and total independence from Israel.
Two State Solution
Over the last 30 years, the world has pursued the two state (two country) solution without much success. However, contrary to common 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 is very difficult 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 amputation. Practically speaking, it should be obvious that there is not enough room to support two separate countries that are contiguous, and viable.
Currently, the Palestinian Authority is requesting an independent state in the West Bank & Gaza, which are approximately 23% of original Palestine. Since 1948, Palestinians have wanted to return to all of Palestine which includes Israel. It was only in the 1980s that some Palestinians began asking for a state in the West Bank & Gaza. However, this caused a split between Palestinians and is unlikely to be accepted by a sustainable majority in perpetuity.
Many Israelis also reject a Palestinian state in the West Bank& Gaza. They argue that withdrawing from the West Bank & Gaza would leave Israel vulnerable while others argue that the West Bank & Gaza are integral parts of Israel and Palestinians should move to Jordan.
Many Israelis & Palestinians believe that Israel/Palestine is indivisible and both claim Jerusalem. Thus, the two state solution requires compromises that neither side can make sincerely. This is why the authors of this proposal have devised a plan based on a shared future in the form of two states one country organized as a federation similar to the United States of America and the European Union. The following proposal was designed by Palestinians and Jews over many years.
TWO STATES = ONE COUNTRY
The Roadmap envisions one country designed as a federation of two States, Israel and Palestine, where each State contributes 50% to the federal parliament regardless of population. Both states shall have sovereignty within their borders.
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 sovereign entities 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 and municipal. The federal government will have limited powers that are given to it by the constitution.
PHYSICAL AND POLITICAL BOUNDARIES
This proposal envisions no physical barriers between states. However, administration of a federation requires legal boundaries to determine the jurisdiction of State government and to give people the security and satisfaction that comes from being in a Jewish or Palestinian State.
As to the boundaries of the states, this should be easy to agree to since boundaries do not affect freedom of movement or commerce. As a default position the boundaries should be the 1967 lines. However, in limited circumstances, the borders may be based on the location of the people. For example, many Israelis want a state with a Jewish super majority. This can be achieved by including borderline Palestinian Israeli cities such as Um Alfahim to the legal boundaries of Palestine which would increase the percentage of Jews in the State of Israel and Palestinians in Palestine without curtailing the rights or privileges of the people of Um Alfahim. If this transfer occurs, then the people from the borderline cities and towns of Israel shall maintain all the privileges and services they currently have in Israel, which includes but not limited to healthcare, unemployment benefits and access to universities, for a period of 30 years after the transfer. Thus, the only consequence of the transfer is that they will no longer be able to vote in the state elections of Israel. All else remains the same.
Despite the possibility of shifting borders to create super majorities, this proposal envisions a country where the states have a substantial number of people from the other side. For example, all the settlers should remain part of Palestine and most Palestinians in Israel should remain part of Israel. This type of demographic diversity is necessary for a shared future. It does not serve anyone to have states with 100% Jews or 100% Palestinians.
FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The federal parliament shall be divided 50/50 regardless of population, (similar to the U.S. Senate). Israel and Palestine will each contribute 50% to the federal parliament regardless of which State Jews and Palestinians choose to live. For most Palestinians and Jews, this equation works out fine because each resident has a representative in the federal parliament who represents their interest and will be of their ethnicity. However, for Jewish settlers or Palestinian citizens of Israel, they get an additional representative. For example, a settler will have his general Jewish identity represented by the 50% Jewish parliament and a specific Jewish Parliamentarian that he can approach for assistance. In addition, the settler may approach his Palestinian representative to the federal parliament if he needs a service. The settler's actual representative is a Palestinian but as a safeguard there will also have a Jewish representative who is assigned to a particular settlement. The same rule applies to Palestinians in Israel.
The purpose of the 50/50 split is to provide each side with security, equality and to make certain that the legislature will not discriminate against a particular state or group and to generally legislate for the best interest of the country as a whole. Consequently, as an added safeguard, legislation will require a minimum of 55% of the Parliament to pass.
The federal government shall have specific authority that is given to it by the constitution. It will not interfere with states governments but will guarantee certain fundamental rights for all people. One of the responsibilities shall be the protection of any group from violence. As with any part of the world, there may be a small group who rejects a peace agreement. The goal is to have a peace agreement sincerely accepted by the majority so that the federal government and the governments of Israel and Palestine will have the legitimacy to jointly fight and prevent violence from any militia or terrorist group.
The Federal government shall also use its resources to assist Palestine in building its infrastructure and of implementing joint construction and engineering projects to connect the highways, railways and other infrastructure of Israel and Palestine.
All citizens of a state shall have the right to vote and run for public office regardless of religion. The state government shall be responsible for the general welfare of the citizens of the state. Thus, the governments of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine shall have near absolute authority to deal with all issues and legislation that concerns the state and it citizens.
The state governments shall assume special responsibility to protect its minorities, especially in the early years of the union. There must be a zero tolerance to any bigotry and violence directed against any religious, racial or ethnic minority in Israel or Palestine.
Moreover, states may not discriminate against any citizen of the federation when it comes to healthcare or colleges and universities. All citizens of the federation shall have access to all public health facilities, colleges and universities in any of the states.
As to municipal elections, they will be based on man/one vote. There will be no limits on any community in municipal parliaments. However, municipal districts may be created around specific community concentrations. For example, Jews who live in Bethlehem or Palestinians who live in Tel Aviv shall have the right to vote and run for municipal elections regardless of their religion. However, community concentrations such as the Har Homa Jewish settlement which falls within the jurisdiction of Bethlehem or Beit Sahour may become their own municipality since they are large and 100% Jewish. In other words, Har Homa will be allowed to run itself. Most importantly, Municipal governments may not discriminate against residents based on religion, ethnicity or gender. Municipalities must provide all residents with equal services. The federal, state and municipal governments shall have the authority to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
President or Prime Minster
The federal President or Prime Minister shall be selected by the parliament. Having the parliament make the selection is appropriate because a 50/50 parliament is more likely to produce a leader who will strive to serve all the people rather than just his community and will ensure that no community dominates the top office.
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. The size of Jerusalem shall either remain the same or even expanded to include some of the Jewish settlements. This approach may make it easier to negotiate borders because Palestinians cannot give up one more inch from the West Bank and Gaza unless it is for the maintenance or expansion of Jerusalem, which would be more acceptable since Jerusalem is their capitol and is an open city. With this solution Jerusalem will remain an undivided city forever.
Police (Municipal, State and Federal)
There may be municipal police, State police, federal police, a national guard and a federal military. All police and military institutions shall specific responsibilities to ensure no violence is ever committed against any minority or group in any of the states.
The federal police shall have specific federal jurisdiction throughout the entire country and shall 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 equal numbers. In addition to federal jurisdiction, the federal police shall have resources to fight and prevent attacks against any religious community, group or ethnicity.
There shall 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. Both municipal and state police forces shall be responsible for fighting and preventing attacks against any religious or ethnic group.
Federal Military and State National Guard
The ideal situation will be for the federation to have one federal military. However, in light of the current mistrust, the states may want a State national guard to feel secure in the early years of the union. Thus, Israel and Palestine may keep their existing armed forces for their state only and at the same time develop a joint federal military made up of Palestinians and Israelis.
Similar to other police forces, national guards shall have resources to fight and prevent attacks against any religious community, group or ethnicity. In limited circumstances, national guards may cross state boundaries to protect their coreligionists in the other state from terrorism or other violence.
The Federal military should be made up of new recruits, whereby the 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.The goal of the federal military is to protect the country from external forces. The federal military shall also have authority to fight and prevent attacks against any religious community, group or ethnicity anywhere in the union.
MIGRATION AND RIGHT OF RETURN
The federation shall accept the return of all Jews and Palestinians from all over the world. However, to avoid sudden changes in demographics the states may impose limitations. Thus, while the basis of the country is the free movement of people, to reduce the anxiety from sudden changes in demographics, a state may limit the number of people who emigrate from one State to the other for permanent residency. However, the state cannot limit the number to less than 50,000 per year or another agreed upon number. The 50,000 limit shall NOT apply to labor or travel for anything other than permanent residency. In addition, each State shall have the right to insist that the new returnees first reside as permanent resident in their respective State for five years before seeking to become permanent residents of the other state. 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 which is in Israel. 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 seeking to move to Haifa as a permanent resident.
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 free trade. The job of the federation shall be to facilitate jobs and economic prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians. This should be easy to do. A nation that is the birth place of western civilization and immensely revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, tourism alone should guarantee a healthy economy. However, the economy will have more than tourism to secure its prosperity. A union at peace with its neighbors shall have unlimited opportunities. The technical know-how of its people, 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.
Courts and state/federal law
The 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, Christian or Jew who wants a divorce may file in State court which may apply Islamic, Christian or Jewish law. However, if she wants to submit her dispute to the secular federal court, she shall have that right.
There shall be a committee on education reform to study the school curriculums of the States. The curriculum must encourage respect among the religions and among Israelis and Palestinians.
COMPENSATION AND REPARATION
To help Palestinian refugees reverse the economic loss from being stateless, the federation shall at a minimum assist Palestinians by allowing all qualified students to get a college education at no cost and allow Palestinians to purchase housing with a 30 year, zero interest loan. Palestinians, whose land was confiscated after 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza, must be compensated using the current fair market value of the land.
Both states must allow citizens of the other state to use their public health and education facilities on the same terms as their own citizens.
The federation must also contribute to building the infrastructure of the Palestinian state.
Words of empathy and understanding
To summarize, this roadmap requests the Palestinians to reach out to their Israeli and Jewish partners and say:
Palestinian to Israeli
"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 mourn your losses, we are pained by your pain and we want a future with no losses and no pain due to this conflict. We recognize that because of desperation and self-defense, both sides committed atrocities that should never be repeated. 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?"
Israeli to Palestinian
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 mourn your losses, we are pained by your pain and we want a future with no losses and no pain due to this conflict. We recognize that because of desperation and self-defense, both sides committed atrocities that should never be repeated. 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
By Kamal Nawash