Let Us Live Together In Israel/Palestine
Posted May 29, 2011 by Kamal Nawash
Kamal Nawash and Yehuda Schwartz
President Obama has publicly announced that Israel should withdraw from Palestinian territories that it conquered in 1967. Not surprisingly, the leaders of Israel and the American Jewish community have quickly announced their opposition. They argue that withdrawing from 1967 Palestinian lands will leave Israel vulnerable while others argue that the 1967 territories, which include the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, are integral parts of Israel and refer to the territories as Judea, Samaria and Azza.
On record, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority are the ones who call for the creation of Palestine on the 1967 territories as part of a two state solution. However, it is questionable whether most Palestinians believe in the two state solution. The majority of Palestinians originated from Israel proper so even if the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza accept separation, it is doubtful whether the rest of the Palestinians will permanently accept the two state solution since it will deprive them of their ancestral homes.
Most Israelis and Palestinians believe 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.
Consequently, an increasing number of Israelis and Palestinians understand that separation is not the answer. It was not an answer in the United States, nor was it an answer in South Africa. Rather, the answer lies in a shared future. The authors of this article share this vision. We have accepted the realty that we must live together and share Israel/Palestine as citizens and countrymen in a united country. We envision a confederation of Israel and Palestine where each state contributes 50% to the national parliament.
We are using social media such as facebook to communicate our message. We believe that Israelis and Palestinians are equals, who were joined together by destiny, history, religious lineage and genetics. We envision a prosperous union, at peace with its neighbors that shares the stage with rising powers such as China, Brazil, South Korea and India. We want to live and love each other. Our numbers continue to grow even as we have to deal with Jews who falsely accuse us of wanting to destroy Israel and Palestinians who accuse us of being Zionist traitors.
Among the more recent leaders of a shared future are Yehuda Schwartz, Kamal Nawash, Josef Avesar, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Tsvi Misinai, Ali Abunimah and Gershon Baskin to name a few. We understand that Jews and Palestinians have a right to live in Israel/Palestine and that it is inherently unfair that an American Jew can move to Israel and become a citizen while a Palestinian who emigrates from Jerusalem is not allowed to return.
Unity can work. Israel's population includes 1.5 million Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship. Despite complaints of discrimination, they have lived with Jews in peace since the creation of Israel. Another example is the Old City of Jerusalem. It includes Muslims, Jews, Christians, Armenians and various ethnicities. They live in harmony.
We are realistic and we understand that for a shared future to occur, we must address the fear of the parties. We understand that Jews fear a democratic union with Palestinians because the Palestinians may outnumber Jews one day and "vote Israel out of existence." Palestinians fear that Jews will always persecute them. We believe that both people's fears may be addressed as follows:
We propose creating a confederation of two states united by a federal type government with limited powers. While both states may have the right to limit migration initially, the foundation of the nation should be based on the free movement of labor and people. To the extent that Israelis move to Palestine and Palestinians to Israel, the demographic consequences of the migration can be avoided by having their votes count in their respective state, for state and local politics, regardless of where they live. This approach will totally avoid the demographic fear that Israelis have of joining a union with Palestinians.
As to the national government, Israel (Jews) and Palestine (Muslims and Christians) shall each contribute 50% to the national parliament regardless of their populations. With this solution, Jews do not have to fear political dilution from potential demographic changes and the Palestinians do not have to fear discrimination and persecution from Israelis.
As to the President and Prime Minister of the national government of Israel/Palestine, they should be elected by the national parliament. Being that the parliament is divided 50/50 no Palestinian or Israeli can win without support from parliamentarians of the other state. This will guarantee that no Palestinian or Israeli extremist can become president or prime minister of Israel/Palestine.
As to the right of return for Palestinians and Jews, both shall have the right to move to the new nation. However, initially, Palestinians should move to Palestine and Jews should move to Israel. After five years of living in the confederation, the returning citizen shall have the right to live anywhere he/she wants. Further, to avoid sudden changes that cause fear, for those who live in the new confederation at its establishment date, each state may limit the number of people moving to their state from the other state to 10,000 per year. Each state shall have the right to accept more residents from the other state or remove the quota all together. The quota shall not apply to people who move for employment purposes.
Initially, the national government should have limited powers similar to the United States government in the early days of the Union. As time progresses and both Israelis and Palestinians feel more comfortable with each other, the power of the national government be increased.
On economic matters, Israel and Palestine shall act as one nation in all instances with no exception. They shall have the same currency, no tariffs and complete free trade. No state shall have the authority to benefit its local industry to the detriment of the other state. In the early days of the national government, its goal should be to promote unity and 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.
However, the economy will have more than tourism to secure its prosperity. The technical know-how of Israel, the available wealth 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.
As to military, there shall be a national military and each state may have a national guard. In the beginning, the Israeli military may be dedicated as the national guard of Israel to calm the fears of Jews from the Union. The national military should be treated as a protector of the nation and promoter of unity. It should be divided equally between Jews and Palestinians.
This proposed solution will give Palestinians and Israelis most of what they want while allowing both people to keep their individual identity and feel secure. Moreover, with this solution, Jerusalem becomes a non-issue and borders become less relevant. This solution will basically take Israelis and Palestinians back to the time before the first intifada (uprising) began in 1987 with rights and equality that they never had under the occupation.
To summarize, we are asking the Palestinians and Israelis to reach out to each other and say the following:
Palestinians to Jews
"We understand why the state of Israel is important to you. 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 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 visit and to reside in Palestine. 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?"
Jews to Palestinians
"We understand why Palestine is important to you. We are fully aware of the suffering the Palestinians have experience over the last 100 years and the necessity of having a safe haven for Palestinians. We also understand that Palestinians have historical, religious and emotional ties to Israel/Palestine. We believe that every Palestinian shall have the right to move to Palestine and become a citizen immediately. We also welcome the Palestinians to visit and to reside in Israel. We want the Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors, friends and countrymen. In return, what we want is permanent security, equality and the freedom to be Jews. Will you meet us half way?"
We are Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims who want to live together as brothers and neighbors in Israel/Palestine. We have dreams of creating a new promise land. We want to drive to Jerusalem for breakfast and Amman for lunch. We don't want to destroy Israel nor do we want to persecute or torment the Palestinians. We want a better Israel that joins with Palestine to form a more perfect union of hope and an example for mankind.
We know that our vision will prevail because a two state solution will never lead to peace.