Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A federated state for Israelis and Palestinians

Source: A federated state for Israelis and Palestinians

Emphasis is mine.
[...] If Netanyahu manages to forge a new coalition that would have the middle-of-the-road Kadima party as a major component and leaves the Jewish religious and nationalist extremists on the parliamentary sidelines, he may escape the pressure constantly bearing down on him from the West Bank settlers who constantly seek territorial acquisitions.

Theoretically, he could then launch a process that would require the dismantling of a substantial number of settlements and the removal of unauthorized outposts further to the east.

A proposed exchange of territory that might enable many of the settlements to remain intact already has public support from Kadima. Its newly elected leader, Shaul Mofaz, is on the record as favoring a deal of this kind. But the transfer of thousands of hard-line settlers from the West Bank to ante bellum Israel would be a daunting if not politically impossible task.

This apparent fact of life bears out the contention that the permission given by the incumbent government and several of its predecessors for 350,000 to 500,000 Jewish settlers to move into the West Bank was a major mistake.

The financial cost of relocating them would be prohibitive, not to mention the fury of the inevitable social backlash in ante bellum Israel that would be a by-product.

All of these considerations suggest that it would be wise for Netanyahu, his party and the electorate as a whole to consider seriously whether there indeed are alternatives to the seemingly inoperable two-state solution.

One of them may be the hitherto unthinkable one-state solution: Annexation of the West Bank and extension of Israeli citizenship to its Palestinian inhabitants on the basis of total equality and political freedom.

This notion has been resisted in the past by Orthodox religious politicians who fear that it would set the stage for intermarriages between Jews and Arabs. But where and when did such an esoteric issue like intermarriage form the basis of any country’s political program? That has not been the case in Ireland, Ceylon or Nigeria where rival ethnic or religious groups also are required to live under one political roof.

In the local case, the one-state solution would take the form of a federation made up of two entities – one primarily Jewish and the other primarily Arab (in demographic terms).

Each entity could have its own parliament and governmental administration.

The state as a whole could have a federal government which would be responsible primarily for national security (for the entire territory of the federated state) – foreign policy and economic affairs including a common currency for both entities (as already exists in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). The federal government’s personnel and leadership would be drawn from the two entitities.

Ironically, annexation was originally proposed by the late Chaim Herzog when he served as the first military governor of the West Bank immediately after the Six Day War.

He was opposed then by the National Religious Party which was destined to spawn the ideological core of Gush Emunim and other Jewish settlement movements.

Its rationale then too was that annexation would foster intermarriage.

It all boils down to the likelihood that the prospective election will give Netanyahu a chance to implement domestic reforms, especially in the economic and social spheres.

These should include a more equitable distribution of private income so as to reduce or (preferably) eliminate the phenomenon of so-called “tycoons” lording it over the rest of the economy, and reduction of the cost of new or suitable housing so that young couples will be able to afford it and the deterioration of overcrowded neighborhoods can be stopped.

The winner (presumably Netanyahu) also might be in a better position to rehabilitate the tens of thousands of Africans who entered Israel illegally in the past five years, by integrating as many of them as possible and facilitating the emigration or deportation of those who cannot adjust to Israeli society to alternative destinations elsewhere in the world. These steps certainly are preferable to letting them converge on neglected urban areas, especially south Tel Aviv, and turning them into crime-infested slums.

The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.

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