Opinion — They say that the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is dead. Good. Partition was never the right way out of the conflict. The two peoples need to be reconciled: keeping them apart, each limited to only a part of the land they consider to be their homeland, would increase hostility, not reduce it.
Israel-Palestine is a small place, with limited natural resources. During the Mandatory period, it was developed as a single state with an integrated infrastructure of roads, railways, water supplies, power, etc. Management of this infrastructure jointly by two sovereign governments, with a history of conflict, and with a sovereign border between them, would present many practical difficulties and inefficiencies.
Israel-Palestine is also the Holy Land of the three monotheistic faiths, of importance to millions of the world’s citizens. It would be a tragedy to permanently divide it, and especially to divide Jerusalem.
What ‘they’ sometimes forget, or ignore, is the fact that the two States of Israel and Palestine already exist. The State of Palestine was created in 1988 by the same process of declaration, and recognition by other states, that created Israel in 1948. It is also recognized as a state by the UN. True, the government of Palestine controls only a part of its territory, but that is not its fault. Palestine has as much right to live in peace and security as does Israel.
It is inconceivable that either State would go to the United Nations and declare itself out of existence. The only possible route to a one-state solution is for the two existing states to agree to unite to form a single sovereign state: let us call it the United State of Israel and Palestine.
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This does not mean that Israel and Palestine would disappear. They could continue to exist as largely self-governing nations within the United State. This idea is inspired by the example of England and Scotland within the United Kingdom: two formerly independent nations, with a history of conflict, united into a single sovereign state, but retaining their national legal systems, educational systems, cultural institutions, and established churches; in short, their national lives and identities.
Following are some ideas as to how this could work in practice.
The United State would have a parliament elected by all citizens. The State parliament and government would be responsible for such matters as external affairs and defense, control of the currency and economic policy, citizenship and immigration, infrastructure and resource management; and would have taxation powers to support these activities. Jerusalem would be the State capital territory housing the State parliament and government offices.
The territory of the State would be divided into two national areas, Israel and Palestine, with a defined but open border between them: the line of the border to be determined by a Boundary Commission under independent chairmanship.
The two nations of Israel and Palestine would have a large degree of autonomy, with residents of each electing their own parliament, and with a government responsible for matters such as education, health, welfare, housing, local economic development; and with taxation powers to support these activities. The character of each nation would automatically reflect the character of its majority population, but all residents would be treated as equals without any discrimination.
The State parliament, being sovereign, would act as an upper revising chamber to the two national parliaments, in particular, to ensure that the national parliaments or governments do not discriminate against their minority communities.
All Jews and Palestinians living outside the United State would have a right to migrate into Israel and Palestine respectively and establish citizenship and residence, subject only to a proviso that the rate of immigration may be limited to that which can be economically absorbed, with stateless refugees having priority.
All citizens would have a right to change residence from one nation to the other, subject to two provisos: first, that this applies to single families, not to organized nationalistic groups; and second, that each nation would be able to petition the State parliament to allow it to limit inward migration if it felt this was necessary to preserve its national character.
The root of the Israel-Palestine conflict is the fact that both nations have claims to the same territory: all of former Palestine. The governance scheme described above is the only proposed ‘solution’ to the conflict that gives sovereignty over all of former Palestine to both Jewish and Arab nations, on a shared basis, and is, therefore, the most likely to lead to a just and lasting peace. More details about the proposal can be found by an internet search for “The One-State-Two-Nations Proposal”.
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Top photo | The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is seen in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 15, 2017. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
Dr. David Gerald Fincham is a British retired academic scientist, now researching and writing about the relationships between religion, science and the achievement of peace. He is a contributing writer to Mondoweiss.net. His website is religion-science-peace.org