Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One state, two state, three state, four

BY Michael Omer-Man, a journalist based in Jaffa, Israel, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a particular interest in grassroots initiatives on both sides. He has an academic background in conflict resolution.

This is a very interesting and comprehensive article exploring alternatives to the two-state solution.
However it is unclear on the distinction between federation and confederation. This results in confusions between internal state borders and mere limits of national districts, for example.

Omer-Man discusses too the parallel states model, although it seems unrealistic:  what happens to the sovereignty of two overlapping states having the same territory?
The interesting point in this model is the decoupling of  sovereignty  from territory, which nullify the demographic threat.

At the light of those descriptions, my model can be defined as a mix of federation, one-state and " parallel states ": it decouples the nation-states from territory, as the whole territory is under exclusive federal sovereignty; the nation-states rule on their respective citizens, and geographic demography gives their autonomy a territorial basis: regionally in administrative districts where the population is nationally homogeneous, locally in interspersed areas.
There are three level of administration with different competences: local, national and federal. Laws are the same for all at the local and federal levels; they keep a different national or religious coloration at the national level.

Emphasis is mine

One state, two state, three state, four – Part I

More than two decades since the start of the peace process, the two-state solution has become the only acceptable path for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in contemporary discourse. But while the two-state solution may be the only one currently sitting on the table, many others continue to linger around it, waiting for someone to pick them up. The most recent such attempt was the One State Conference held at Harvard University earlier this month, promoting the idea of one liberal state for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The conference was derided by all colors of Israelis and American Zionists as “delegitimizing” Israel. Discussing a one-state solution, some said, “is a euphemism for ending the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

The likes of World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Dan Diker, along with various Israeli and world Jewish leaders, dismissed the conference as "anti-Semitic theater." Jerusalem Post columnist Martin Sherman, though decrying the two-state principle as "the source of [Israel’s] de-legitimization," wrote that allowing others - presumably non-Israelis - to lead the discussion about a one-state solution would "invite a new Pearl Harbor."

But while the international mainstream discourse discounts the legitimacy of anything other than the two-state solution, many within Israeli society are pushing back against that notion and openly discussing alternatives. Almost two years before the conference at Harvard, a member of Knesset from the Israeli government’s ruling party lamented: "The taboo that forbids talk about any option other than the two-state solution is almost anti-democratic. It's like brain-gagging."

Accusing both the Right and Left of disillusionment, or at best of having disconnected views of the land they live in, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely told Haaretz that unlike others, she "do[es] not ignore the fact that there are Palestinians here. Both the Left and the Right choose to shut their eyes to the fact that there are human beings here."

However, Hotovely and a small but growing number of right-wing Israelis who advocate a one-state solution do not share the same vision of the future as those who gathered in Cambridge this month. Unlike the Israeli far-right, the one-state solution advocated by left-leaning Palestinians, Israelis and others is a vision based on the liberal concept of a state of all its citizens.

Hotovely and others, including former Yesha Council head and Netanyahu bureau chief Uri Elitzur, do recognize a moral and political imperative to grant full inclusion in the Jewish state to (most) Palestinians currently residing west of the Jordan River. The main difference between them and views aired at the Harvard conference is that they stop short of giving Palestinians any ownership in that state.

"I want it to be clear that I do not recognize national rights of Palestinians in the Land of Israel. I recognize their human rights and their individual rights, and also their individual political rights - but between the sea and the Jordan there is room for one state, a Jewish state," Hotovely told Haaretz.

While the left-wing, liberal one-state camp may actually stand closer to the more mainstream two-state camp in its recognition of Palestinian national-political rights, right-wingers like Hotovely, Elitzur and even Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin all have a vision that is closer functionally to that expressed by hundreds at the Harvard conference - one state for both Jews and Palestinians.

But those differences are large enough to keep the two discussions separate for the time being.

Although Israeli politicians like Hotovely and Rivlin would not likely be welcomed at the Harvard conference, perhaps it is time Israelis start listening to them -- if for no other reason than to begin openly discussing alternatives to the long-stalled two-state solution. If no fresh and creative thinking is introduced into the long-stalled peace process, the conflict risks true intractability or a solution imposed by one side that secures its goals and needs while abandoning the other’s.

One state, two state, three state, four – Part II

Many supporters of the two-state solution are apprehensive that its failure would eventually lead to one state, bringing to an end its Jewish character. However, there are several well-articulated alternatives that should be examined.

The two-state solution has faced a number of problems that appear to be becoming more and more insurmountable. The question of territory and geographic boundaries lies at the heart of many of those concerns. Israel’s continued settlement enterprise eats away at the territory slated for a future Palestinian state. Furthermore, much of mainstream Israeli thought says that withdrawing to the 1949 Armistice Lines (the Green Line) would leave Israel with “indefensible borders.”

Equally important is the question of whether an independent Palestinian state within the Green Line would actually be viable. The lack of territorial contiguity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is highly problematic. While the most commonly accepted solution to territorial contiguity is an under- or above-ground safe passage between the two territories, that too is far from ideal and in many ways falls short of truly linking the two regions of a future Palestinian state.

For these and a number of other reasons, no matter what the territorial arrangements reached in negotiations resulting in a two-state solution, the borders will likely result in a situation where one party sacrifices far more than the other. In the modern nation-state model (based on Westphalian sovereignty), those boundaries define what a government controls, and are therefore of great importance.

One of the options being discussed as an alternative to the one-state and two-state solutions is confederation.

A federal model can mitigate much of the win-lose nature of sacrificing territory in order to reach the end goal of a resolution to the conflict, or as Israelis refer to it, the land-for-peace model.

In his paper on a federal option, Daniel J. Elazar writes:
“Although borders would be expected to remain open under a federal arrangement, they still must be agreed upon. In drawing the borders, someone wins and someone loses. Yet under a federal arrangement rights beyond the borders are designed to compensate for actual territorial loss.”

Most models for federation between Israel and Palestine acknowledge the intimate and geographically small nature of the land, while addressing the desire or need for national self-determination or self-rule for the different communities and ethnic groups.

Most viable models envision a number of administrative regions – cantons or larger units ranging in number from 3 to 12 – which are given a large measure of local rule while but are subordinate to a federal government whose jurisprudence is limited in scope to those areas of shared concern. The sovereign concept of territorial control is maintained, while removing the limitations of two separate states. Furthermore, the federal model addresses the interspersed Palestinian and Israeli populations and would obviate the need for further transfers or one becoming a demographic threat to the other.

Some examples of various types of federations are the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

The federal model also offers an interesting solution to the question of Jerusalem. Just as Washington DC is the seat of the American federal government and essentially an administrative district beyond state control of any of the states, so Jerusalem could serve such a function. If the holy city is put under the control of a joint Israeli-Palestinian federal government, it would inclusively satisfy both nations’ demands that it be their capital.

In the model propagated by the 1947 UN Partition plan and rehashed ever since, Jerusalem was slated to fall under the control of a third party. In the federal model, it would be jointly controlled by Palestinians and Israelis.

The federal model has many problems, perhaps the largest of which is that mutual consent and trust must precede its implementation. Another issue is the great disparity in economic might between Israeli and Palestinian populations as they are constituted today. A third question is who controls the military, its role and what restrictions are placed on it.

But while these unanswered questions can be used to discredit the viability of a federal solution to the conflict, it is important to note that any model, including the two-state solution, is burdened with hurdles that must be overcome.

One state, two state, three state, four – Part III

his is the third and final part of a three-part series exploring alternatives to the two-state solution in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Part one examined attitudes and approaches to the one-state solution. Part two looked at the option of an Israeli-Palestinian federation.

Prospects for a two-state resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have dimmed in recent months and years. Over 60 percent of both Palestinians and Israelis think it is unlikely a Palestinian state will be created in the coming years, according to a recent poll. An equally large majority on both sides opposes accepting the other’s conditions for returning to negotiations toward that goal. Frustrated that interim stages have become a permanent status quo and lamenting the lack of any process, Oslo peace process architects Yossi Beilin and Ahmed Qurei, have both recently called for the dismantling of their design.

Meanwhile, the one-state solution is cast as the only alternative, one that negates both current Zionist political thought and the goals of the Palestinian national movement. Other alternatives are rarely discussed, even as the conflict appears increasingly intractable.

Alternatives to the two-state solution, like the Oslo process itself and any other model for conflict resolution, need not be accepted as absolute prescriptions. Although not necessarily viable, the model outlined below, “parallel states,” offers new ideas for resolving the conflict that can be mined and applied in other ways to advance the all-but-dead peace process. Its radical and creative approach can be valuable in helping to reimagine certain fundamentaly flawed approaches of the two-state solution that have contributed to and perpetuated its failure.

Parallel states

The parallel states model is actually easier conceptualized as overlapping or superimposed states. Its basic idea is that two states, Israel and Palestine, can exist not side-by-side with territorial and demographic boundaries between them, but rather in the same land.

As described by the Parallel States Project:
Can one imagine a scenario with a two state solution, one Israeli state and one Palestinian state in parallel, each for the whole area and with civil rights to all, Israelis and Palestinians, built upon existing political, economic and physical structures? Such a scenario would mean a decoupling of the exclusive link between state and territory, and the notion of two state structures parallel with each other, or “superimposed” upon each other. Both state structures would cover the whole area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

The people in the whole area would be able to choose freely which state to belong to and at the same time have the right – at least in principle – to settle in the whole territory. Citizenship would be the result of the individual’s free choice and thus follow the citizen, not the territory.
The concept addresses some of the deepest pitfalls of the Oslo-conceptualization of a two-state solution: Both Israelis and Palestinians claim and want more territory than can be divided in such a small land, and; both demand the right to live in territories that would fall on the other side of the border in a two-state solution.

By removing the traditional territorial boundaries encompassed in the modern concept of state sovereignty, those issues become much smaller, all the while satisfying both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ deeply invested desire in the quest for national self-determination, albeit in an alternative and less exclusive manifestation.

Citizens can choose to be citizens in the state they feel most associated with and represented by, which would carry separate national symbols and identities. Reality on the ground would be much closer to a one-state solution.

Palestinians could live in Israel proper and Jews would be allowed to live in the West Bank. As citizenship is decoupled from territory, the idea of demographics threats to a state whose character is defined by the religion and ethnicity of the majority of its population can be cast aside: The increasingly difficult prospect in Israel of balancing “Jewish and democratic” would become irrelevant.

Some areas of governance not necessarily linked to geographic control could be placed under the separate jurisdictions of respective Palestinian and Israeli states, including overseas diplomatic representation and some areas of civil and family law. Other areas of governance, such as security, infrastructure, policing and taxation would be conducted jointly.

Admittedly, the idea is far fetched and has more problems than can be touched upon in such a topical examination. But by reimagining the model for post-conflict coexistence, new ideas for resolving the conflict can be gleaned.

After nearly 20 years of failed attempts at finding and implementing various models for a two-state solution, there can be no harm in examining other, new and even admittedly unviable alternatives. Although its advocates will continue pushing to advance the two-state solution with hopeful stubbornness, one must also recall a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

Follow Michael Omer-Man on Twitter: @ConflictedLand

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