Sunday, September 5, 2010

The State of Israel-Palestine

I have discovered an interesting article who expose ideas nearly identical to mines.
Its author is Mark A. LeVine, an Professor in Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California.
Here is the article (emphasis mine):

Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor)

The State of Israel-Palestine
As things get worse in the current war between Israel and Hezbollah, and Palestine keeps slipping further into despair, I have finally decided to put forward my solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, it's a “one-state” solution, which might automatically place me in the dog house with most of my fellow Jews, not to mention Palestinian friends who've invested their careers in a two-state solution. And some Islamists out there might be smiling and thinking that finally, Palestine can become the “waqf” that God intended it to be.

Whatever the reason you might oppose or support a one-state solution in theory, I ask you read on and then send your comments, as this is only my idea, not informed by the long literature on binational solutions or confederations, which have been flying around the ether ever since Brit Shalom was (sort of) popular back in the 1930s. I'll also admit that I just spent a bit of time in Switzerland, and seeing how nice Italians, French and Germans get along there (well, they don't necessarily get along, but that's the point, they don't have to...), I was inspired finally to set something down on paper, although I should state that I haven't the vaguest idea how the canton system actually works, much to the dismay of my good Swiss friends, who can't understand why I can't understand such a simple and efficient political arrangement.

1. The Name: The State of Israel-Palestine, in Hebrew: Eretz-Yisra'el-Palestina, in Arabic: Filastin-Isra'il. (Why is it Israel-Palestine and not the other way around in English? Because in both ancient and modern history “Israel” existed before “Palestine” as a political and geographical category.)

2. The Territory: The territory of the state would encompass all of the territory of Mandatory Palestine; that is, the internationally recognized borders of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

3. The Political-Geographical arrangement: My basic idea is, not surprisingly, that the country would be split into two administrative “cantons,” that would follow the current division of the territory of the country. Of course, Jerusalem would be the capital of both the State and the two cantons. Geographically, there would obviously be at least three cantons. I say at least, because areas within Israel or Palestine (such as Jewish settlements or the Palestinian majority areas of the state of Israel in the Galilee) that would like to be administratively part of the “other” canton could vote to join it. This is the arrangement in Switzerland, where Italian, French and German enclaves exist within the territory of a canton whose majority is of one of the other two language groups. The best part of the canton system, according to my Swiss friends, is that most of the tax revenues remain at the local level, which increases the power of local communities to develop along the lines most suited to them. This I think would work quite well for Israel-Palestine as well.

4. Governing the state, rights of citizens: Here is where the metal hits the road. In order for such a system to work, the following provisions, at a minimum, would have to form the basis of any system of governance:

A. A Federal legislature would be created, either by choosing or electing members from within the existing Knesset and Palestinian Parliament structures, or through direct national elections, that would establish the relevant committees and political infrastructure to administer the State at large. The exact structure, functions and power of this body would be determined through negotiation by the two sides and would be enshrined in the national constitution.

B. All citizens, Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza, would have to be governed under one federal constitution that would guarantee all the same basic political, civil and religious rights no matter where they lived.

C. All citizens of the state could live anywhere within the borders of the state. One of the great injustices of the two-state solution was that it would prevent, on the one hand, Jews from living in a city like Hebron, which as the second-holiest city in Judaism is more important theologically to Jews than Jerusalem is to Palestinians. At the same time, to say to Palestinians that they cannot live in Jaffa, Safed, the Galilee or any of the hundreds of villages occupied and/or destroyed by Israel after 1948, is equally unjust. The simple fact is that for historic, political and religious reasons, both Jews and Palestinians have the legitimate claims to live anywhere within the borders of Mandatory Palestine. But not as occupiers--as citizens who obey all federal, canton and local laws.

D. The Right of Return applies to all Jews and Palestinians for all of Israel-Palestine. Jews should be able to live anywhere within Palestinian cantons, while Palestinians should be able to live anywhere within the territory of Israel. Members of both diasporas should be able to return home, obtain citizenship, and live wherever they can afford. If a Palestinian wants to live in Tel Aviv, or a Jew in Gaza, and they can afford to find a suitable dwelling, they have the right to do so. But in doing so they have to abide by the local laws in force in the canton, and their taxes would go to the government of that canton as well as to the central treasury. However, no federal tax revenues would be used to settle immigrants. Such funds would be drawn from the taxes at the canton-level and donations from private sources, both domestic and Diaspora. This would make it most likely that most returnees moved within the canton(s) of their ethno-religious group.

E. Regarding Jewish settlements established since 1967, through negotiation the two sides would agree which ones would be retained by Israel and which ones returned to Palestinian administrative control. The Israeli state would allot to the federal treasury two forms of compensation (to be determined by through negotiation and with the help of an international commission set up to collect and analyze the relevant data): first, for the land and property it has confiscated since 1967 and the destruction of homes, olive groves, agricultural land, etc. during this period; second, for the market price of the lands outside the 1967 borders of Israel that remain within the Israeli canton. This money would be allocated strictly for the development of the Palestinian canton(s). Similarly, the Palestinian treasury would agree to a level of compensation for acts of terrorism committed by Palestinians against Israeli Jews.

5. The Economy of the State: One of the most important, but least discussed reasons why the Oslo peace process failed was the disastrous economic logic underlying it, which sought to close off the Occupied Territories physically from Israel, leaving them a captive market for Israeli goods and the workers with little choice but to work as low paid labor in the liberalized Israeli economy in maquiladora type industrial zones (if they weren't forced into even more degrading employment as laborers in the Jewish settlements). Thus one of the first acts of the new State would be to develop and implement a development policy that would improve the standard of livings of poor Palestinians and Israeli Jews, while also integrating the formerly distinct (at least in principle if not in practice) economies in a manner that would strengthen the comparative advantages of both sectors while insuring a living wage and working conditions for all citizens.

At the same time, issues related to resource usage, especially water, would have to be harmonized so that all citizens of the state had the same basic access and rights to water and other infrastructure and social services, such as schooling, healthcare, roads and sewage. Since at present this would mean a drastic reduction in Israeli water consumption in order to equalize Palestinian access to water, an international aid package would help develop alternative methods of increasing the availability of potable water for all citizens. Finally, as part of the process of economic reform, the hundreds of thousands of foreign guest workers in Israel would gradually be phased out of the economy (with suitable compensation, and in a manner that does the least harm to them given the valuable service they have provided to Israel for a generation) in order to make space for jobs for Palestinians.

6. Security of the State: The five-hundred pound gorilla in the room here is of course security. How can Israeli Jews trust that in such an arrangement Palestinians wouldn't gradually take over the state as their demographic percentage of the population increased, producing a Lebanon situation where wealthier Christians wound up at war with poor but numerically greater Shi'ites? The first answer is through the constitution, which would guarantee a basic set of rights that could never be changed by future amendments or changes. Secondly, the armed forces would be structured in such a way as to ensure that neither group could ever use them to attack or control the other. Guaranteeing such an arrangement would the permanent presence of at least 100,000 NATO troops whose mandate would be to prevent the local armed forces from being used for any internal purpose, and to prevent any foreign army from attacking or otherwise threatening the country. The State of Israel-Palestine would become a member of NATO, and would be under the nuclear umbrella of the United States. Its nuclear weapons would be transferred to NATO control and would eventually be dismantled as part of a “Nuclear-Free Middle East” initiative that would include the simultaneous dismantling of the nuclear weapons programs of Iran, and if possible, Pakistan and India as well.

7. Reconciliation and a Common Future: Even if the above six measures could be implemented the State of Israel-Palestine could not work unless Jews and Palestinian Arabs came to see one another as part of the same larger community, with a shared history of pain and wrong-doing that must be acknowledged, accepted, and rectified in order to be transcended. Toward such a goal, the new state would commission a new school curriculum and other public education measures designed to educate all the people of the state about the most accurate understanding of the history of the country and its two peoples. If possible, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Along the lines of the South African or Salvadoran models would be established to facilitate this process. At the same time, the principal premise of all legislation and government policies would be the promotion of reconciliation and sustainable development that would create a healthy economy where workers rights were protected, a basic standard of living and universal health care were guaranteed, and entrepreneurship and investment in the private sector were encouraged and supported by the State.

Concluding thoughts: I have no illusions as to the “practicality” or “realisability” of my idea. But then again, the practical, pragmatic and realizable solutions haven't exact born fruit. What I do know is that the current reality is not working, that the two-state idea is dead, and that the only alternative to finding a way to live together is war. I appreciate any thoughts on my humble suggestions.

Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2006 at 11:53 PM