Toward a Federal United States of Israel & Palestine?

By David Gerald Fincham

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 worlds 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.
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”.

Authors Bio:
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

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Al Jazeera English: “Palestinian Christians: ‘Jerusalem is for the three religions'”

11 Responses

  1. The specific nature of the single state remains to be determined, but this is a good suggestion. The “two state solution”, even if it was ever a real possibility, is now definitely dead. The only other possibility, the continuation of the apartheid state, is just totally unacceptable to most of the world and increasingly so to the American public, especially the young who have not been subjected to decades of brainwashing on the issue. Once the craven US politicians are forced to accept the reality and the US ends its financial, military and diplomatic support of the current regime, it cannot continue. Like South Africa, world economic pressure will be the key. Hopefully, transition to the eventual single, secular, non-nuclear state will be achieved as peacefully as in South Africa. All we need now is the Israeli/Palestinian Mandela.

  2. And which side would control the umbrella state? This sounds like Muslim Bosnia vs. the Serbian part of Bosnia.

    Maybe the pope can be included as a tie-breaker!

    • Zla’od: there will not be ‘two sides’. The State will be controlled by the parliament which is elected by all its citizens. I suppose there will be a majority of Arab parliamentarians. If this proved to be a problem (I don’t think it will, because the state-wide matters considered by the state parliament have nothing to do with Arabness or Jewishness) then it is possible to create voting systems that give more equal representation.

      • Why would Israelis ever agree to be entrust their sovereignty to an Arab-majority parliament? And even if the umbrella parliament has no jurisdiction over issues of cultural identity in the two subregions, it would at least control the military, right?

        I dimly recall seeing a blue-sky proposal sort of like this, except with Jordan incorporated as a third component territory.

        • The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has had a long history in the West Bank, even after militarily withdrawing from the region during the Six Day War in 1967.

          The Kingdom of Jordan up to 1988 administered the West Bank simultaneously while the Israel Defense Forces occupied it, making welfare benefits available to those residents until the State of Palestine was declared on November 15, 1988.

          West Bank Palestinians had received Jordanian passports and had unelected representatives hold seats in the Jordanian parliament. The declaration by the P.L.O. of statehood in 1988 supplanted Jordan administration of the West Bank.

          Today Jordanian dinars, along with Israeli shekels and U.S. dollars are the predominant currencies used by the public in the West Bank.

    • Javed: “Israel will never agree”. I have talked to Israelis about this, and the best estimate is that it will be 50 years before they agree to anything. I am less pessimistic than that, but I do not expect quick agreement. In fact, both sides will gain. They will both have sovereignty over the entire land through the State parliament, albeit on a shared basis. Jews and Arabs will both have the right to return, and will be able to settle anywhere within the land, subject to only a few restrictions designed to preserve the two national identities. No other proposed ‘solution’ achieves this. Please read the complete proposal for more information about how this would work.

  3. Several years ago, I authored the “Koroi Plan” which I had felt that if implemented would be an economic boon to both sides and would lead to a lessening of tensions between the factions. Key provisos included:

    (A) the West Bank and Gaza, along with Israel using pre-1967 “Green Line” borders would merge into a single economic union, as envisioned by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, commonly referred to as the “Partition Plan” and there would be a single currency, no trade barriers and an otherwise completely integrated economy, akin to the European Union;

    (B) the West Bank and Gaza would merge into a single sovereign state with the Palestine National Council as its governing body and its own national security force, partially integrated with Israeli security forces into a joint body to administer Palestinian-controlled areas with the current hated “Civil Administration” dissolved and the also despised IDF military tribunals disbanded as they affected Palestinian Arabs;

    (C) a joint administration of Jerusalem by Israeli and Palestinian governments would occur;

    (D) there would be freedom of movement of both Israelis and Palestinians with residents having their choice of which state they wished to be citizens of, with both Israel and Palestine being fully sovereign and honoring a “right of return” to both Jews and Palestinian Arabs currently residing abroad – this scenario allaying fears that Israel would lose her “Jewish” character;

    (E) a joint Israeli-Palestinian body with very limited jurisdiction would administer binational matters, mostly dealing with security, commerce and other economic issues affecting both nations.

    This is a hybrid of the one-state and two-state solutions.

    • I authored the “Zla’od Plan” in which Israel gets to divide the territory any way it likes, then the Palestinians get to pick which half they want.

  4. This sort of arrangement, where there are two sovereign states, with an open border between them, and close co-operation economically and in other ways, is often called a confederation. Since we are starting with two states, such an arrangement is essential, at least as a transitional arrangement while the two parties work out an agreement on their future together. My view is that a full union will be more appropriate in the long run, for reasons which I explain in the the One-State-Two-Nations Proposal.

    One point on which I differ with you is the question of the border. The Green Line gives 78% of the land to Israel, and 22% to Palestine. Given that the Jewish and Arab populations are roughly equal in number, this would be an injustice to the Palestinians of monumental proportion, and could not lead to a contiguous and viable Palestinian state. Palestine needs much more territory than that, which can come from the Negev.

    • “This sort of arrangement, where there are two sovereign states, with an open border between them, and close co-operation economically and in other ways, is often called a confederation…..”

      Agreed.

      America began as a confederation and eventually adopted its Constitution in 1787 which created a federal government which had very limited powers in certain areas such as taxing and spending, raising an army, coining money etc. but eventually expanded through constitutional amendment and judicial rulings into a powerful central government that exists today. The European Union is doing the same thing to its member states.

      Given the extensive distrust and acrimony between the Israeli government leadership and the Palestinian Authority, confederation is the best alternative as a starting point with a stronger federal governing body developing over time as the two sides ameliorate their relations toward eventual merger into a single state.

      “One point on which I differ with you is the question of the border……….this would be an injustice.”

      My reasoning in adopting the “Green Line” is that it reflects the reality of disparate bargaining power between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority – in other words, granting meaningful autonomy to Palestinian Arabs will require a price – that price being exacted from the Palestinian Authority will likely take the form of land concessions to Israel approximating the Green Line borders with certain land swaps to reflect practical demographic realities. Currently the Palestinian Authority is a quisling government owing its existence to Israel; at worst, it has been compared to the Judenrat of the Warsaw Ghetto.

      The economic damage to both sides has been staggering. The Israel Chamber of Commerce estimated that the Second Intifada cost Israel 25 to 35 billion dollars in losses. Social welfare program allocations in the Israeli government’s budget have been scavenged to finance the ongoing occupation.

      The proportionate economic damage to Palestinians has been even more extensive, highlighted by massive unemployment and child malnutrition in Gaza.

      Ending the current occupation and implementation of an agreed-upon viable peace plan would likely increase the standard of living for citizens on both sides.

Comments are closed.