Israel/Palestine and Gaza

December 30, 2008
Kamal Nawash

Once again the Palestinian/Israeli conflict spirals out of control and unless a permanent solution is found the violence will continue to increase in severity until the conflict ends tragically.

What makes this conflict even more dangerous is that three billion people (Jews, Christians & Muslims) are emotionally, historically and religiously attached to the land known as Israel/Palestine. This fact was demonstrated in the last few days as demonstrations erupted in more than 50 countries. As a result of satellite TV many of the interested people of the world are now exposed to 24 hour graphic coverage of this conflict. The emotional coverage is inspiring the masses which in turn are putting enormous pressure on governments to intervene in favor of one side or the other. For example, Egypt received so much negative media coverage for not opening its border with Gaza that People throughout the Arab and Muslim world started calling for the overthrow of the Egyptian government and demonstrators attempted to attack Egyptian embassies in several countries. The pressure on Egypt was so intense that the Egyptian president was forced to hold a press conference to explain his government's position and to distance Egypt from Israel. Similarly, the friendly nation of Jordan came under so much pressure for not breaking diplomatic relations with Israel that King Abdullah held a publicity stunt in which he was seen donating blood for the people of Gaza and for the first time in recent memory he referred to Israel as the Enemy.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will only become more dangerous with the passing of time. No conflict has the same global impact as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Because of the potential for global instability, the entire world must do all it can to bring peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. The question is can this conflict be solved being that neither war nor peace has worked until now? The answer is YES.

Today there are three solutions to this conflict and two have been attempted and failed. The first is that the Israelis and Palestinians can continue fighting until one submits to the other, a plan that has been tried and failed. The second is a plan where both people separate by creating two separate sovereign nations. This plan is referred to as the two state solution and all attempts to implement the two state solution have failed miserably. The third solution is based on integration of both people in one nation and is the only solution that has proven successful.

During the Clinton administration, the Palestinians and Israelis spent nearly ten years trying to hammer out a deal based on the two state solution but failed to reach an agreement. Immediately after the failure of that peace process, Israelis and Palestinians blamed each other for the failure; and the rest of the world sided with either the Palestinians or the Israelis. When President Bush took office, he distanced the United States from the Clinton era peace efforts and that also failed.

However, 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 nations by dividing Israel/Palestine was and still is a difficult pill to swallow for both 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. Consequently, it is highly unlikely that permanent separation will lead to permanent peace. The sooner that Palestinians and Israelis understand this reality the sooner they can solve their conflict.

In light of the above facts some may think that a solution is impossible. NOT TRUE. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict can be solved like any other conflict as long as both sides give up the notion that there is a military solution to this conflict or that one side is superior to the other and deserves exclusive control of Israel/Palestine.

In light of the attachments that both parties have for the same territory, the solution is not in separating but in coming closer together. Many Israelis and Palestinians seem to agree that the land they call Israel/Palestine is indivisible. Thus, the solution lies in keeping the land that Israelis and Palestinians call home as one nation while at the same time providing both sides with the security they would have if they had their own separate nations.

What is being proposed here is a Two State-One Nation solution based on equality and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. The idea behind this solution is the creation of two sovereign states similar to New York and New Jersey that together make one nation similar to the United States of America. However, rather than being a federation it would be a confederation. The main difference between a federation and a confederation is that the states in a confederacy have much more sovereignty than in a federation.

The benefit of this solution is that neither side has to give up its attachment to Israel nor Palestine while at the same time both can achieve the security that has escaped them for the last 70 years.

To illustrate further, note that after occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel could have annexed and integrated those territories into Israel by providing the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. However, Israel did not do this and instead chose to treat the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel physically without providing the Palestinians in those territories with citizenship, political rights or civilian rule. Israel did not integrate the Palestinians into Israel because Israelis were afraid that the Palestinians may one day outnumber the Jews and vote Israel out of existence. While this is a legitimate concern, those Jews who fear giving the Palestinians equality assume that they cannot give the Palestinians equality and at the same time have a secure Jewish state. This is a false assumption.

Integration can be done by creating a confederation of two states united by a federal type government with limited powers. The country can be called the United States of Israel & Palestine (USIP). While both states could have the right to limit immigration and migration within their borders, the principles 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 migration can be avoided by having votes counted in the respective state of the voter regardless of where the voter lives. This approach will totally avoid the demographic fear that Israelis have by making certain that migration of people does not dilute the political power of Jews in local and state politics.

As to the national government, Israel and Palestine can each contribute 50% to the national parliament regardless of their populations. With this solution, the Israelis and Palestinians do not have to fear political dilution from potential demographic changes.

As to the President or Prime Minister of the national government of the United States of Israel & Palestine, he/she 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 side. This will guarantee that no Palestinian or Israeli extremist can become president or prime minister of the United States of Israel & Palestine.

Initially, the national government should have limited powers. As Israelis and Palestinians feel more comfortable with each other, they may chose to give the confederation more authority. In essence the early days of the national government should resemble an entity more like the European Union than the U.S. federal government.

On economic matters, Israel and Palestine shall act as one nation. They 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 would 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. Moreover, a peaceful nation made up of Palestine & Israel may also bring economic prosperity to the entire Middle East.

This solution may not be perfect. However, this proposed solution gives Palestinians and Israelis most of what they want while allowing both people to keep their identity and be 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 the only difference being that the Palestinians will have rights and equality that they never had under the occupation.

As proof that integration can work, consider that Israel has one million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who are often referred to as "Israeli Arabs." It is important to note that they are not demonstrating, throwing rocks or initiating violent acts. Why is this? The only difference between Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is that one group has freedom, political and civil rights while the other has nothing.

To summarize, Israel and its neighbors have fought numerous wars and no side has given up on its claims. For the last 20 years both sides have tried to separate by creating two separate nations but this approach has failed miserably because all sides have attachments to Israel and Palestine. The only solution that has a record of success is integration as demonstrated by the Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

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