Monday, May 17, 2010

Two Peoples - One Land

A very interesting book by Daniel J. Elazar:
Federal Solutions for Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan

Here is the preface (emphasis mine):

The land known to Jews as Eretz Yisrael and to Arabs in recent times as Falastin is the home of two peoples -- Jewish and Arab -- with the latter defining themselves as Palestinians. At present it is divided among two states -- Israel and Jordan -- plus territories inhabited principally but not exclusively by Palestinian Arabs whose political fate has not yet been settled. These two peoples, weary of several generations of conflict, are now seeking a way to coexist and share the land between them for their mutual security and prosperity.

Since the time of the British Mandate, the leading elements on both sides sought coexistence and security through successive partitions of the land, between Palestine and Transjordan in 1921-22, and again west of the Jordan in 1947-48. Partition, however, has not brought an end to the conflict or sufficient satisfaction of the claims of all parties. Now it is time to find a way to share the land without an exclusive reliance on partition. This book is dedicated to the proposition that the only way to do so is through some form of federal solution which will secure for each party a polity of its own but in such a way that all three must share in the governance of the land's common goods. It is this writer's deep and considered belief that the federal option is the only option for peace.

Federalism combines self-rule and shared rule. It is a coming together of equals in such a way that they can remain separate yet be joined, as appropriate. The federal option rejects solutions imposed by force and conquest or the establishment of government through power pyramids. Rather it is based upon reflection and choice, and mutual consent among equals to establish a new governmental matrix within which all will find their place without foregoing their separate characters and cultures and their desire for independent development.

There are many different ways of combining self-rule and shared rule, offering greater or lesser independence for the partners to the federal bargain, more extensive or less extensive common institutions, and different degrees of separation and sharing depending on the function or task to be accomplished. Finding the appropriate federal option for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, Israel and Jordan, is the most urgent task confronting the peoples in this land in their search for peace and comity. This book is one effort to advance the federal idea, explore the available options, and, where possible, advocate appropriate solutions to our mutual problem.

It is recognized that the achievement of peace in this shared land is a difficult, even daunting, task that requires strong commitment on all sides to a peaceful solution and the requisite political will to make the solution work. All of us are painfully aware of the conflicting claims of the parties to the conflict that until now have been considered by many to be so mutually exclusive as to permit of no compromise. All parties must recognize that however legitimate they believe their claims to be, none can be exercised fully and that the federal option allows all parties to preserve some fair share of their claim by sharing in its exercise with those who are today their antagonists. Once the parties are prepared to take this step, we are confident that they will find the way to make things work. If they are not prepared to do so, we fear that the conflict will continue indefinitely to the very great detriment of us all.

This book is unashamedly written from the Israeli point of view and reflects, first and foremost, Israeli interests in a secure peace that will enable the Jewish state to survive and thrive and to fulfill its Zionist mission. Saying that is not to say that it does not consider Palestinian Arab interests seriously. Quite to the contrary, the virtue of thinking federal is that in a true federal bargain all parties must gain. One who is seriously concerned with Israel's interests would have to be very foolish not to recognize that those interests are bound up with a fair response to the interests of the other people in this land. A federal solution is a way for all parties to try to have their cake and eat it too. Amazingly, that can be done and has been in many parts of the world. Given the conflicting claims with which we are dealing, it is the only way to do so in this case.

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