Short introduction to the topic by Mazin:
All observers know that there has been significant changes in the political, cultural and economic landscape that are forcing a reexamination of assumptions about peaceful outcomes. For example, there are now 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers in the areas Israel occupied in 1967. Those areas represent about 20% of historic Palestine and these are the same areas envisioned to be the future Palestinian state. There is thus a revival of the consideration of a one state outcome (whether a binational state, a confederation, or a secular democratic state for all its people). The forum is interested in a respectful discussion of the merits of these outcomes (some may call solutions but others disagree with the terminology which implies that there visions are mere solutions to manufactured problems). We urge you to focus discussion on just and peaceful outcomes and we will remove postings which suggest perpetual conflicts as inevitable or that denigrade religions or ethnicities. In your comments please focus on the issues (which are political) and not the persons and try to understand different perspectives. You may start by referring to these questions or as you like, please be aware to group guidelines and help us maintain productive and dignified discussion.
Why do you think people can or can't exist in a unitary state of all people regardless of their religion? What do you think is the biggest obstacle to getting people to recognize the inherent dignity and equality of all other people?
I shall be glad to oblige
Belgium is considered a bi-national state, and it seems that it is not very successfull for they are always on the verge of breaking apart. Great Britain is considered tri-national or 4-national and seems quite successful - though it wasn't in the past, of course, and for a very long time. Switserland is considered in Israel as a 5-nation state, but this is a mistake.
Closer to the Israeli-Palestinian case, I believe, are Sri-Lanka and Lebanon. Both these countries are described as ethnic-national states in which nationality is equated with ethnicity. We all know how it goes there. The former Yugoslavia also consisted of several ethnic-nations, and we all know how it ended there. There are many differences, of course, between all these and the Israel-Palestine case, and these differences must be considered before conclusions are drawn.
Also, there are other questions that pertain to the bi-national state solution that must be addressed before any meaningful discussion thereof can be launched. First amongst them is the question, what are the two nations in question? The Israeli and the Palestinian? or the Jewish and the Arab? or the Israeli-Jewish and the Palestinian-Arab? Or what? I for one, cannot see how this question can be honestly treated as unimportant. Then there are these: what will be the nationality of the Christian-Palestinians? the Palestinian Israelis? Non-Israeli Jews? and so on.
In this context Allow me to applaud both you and Anat, the former writer above, for she raises some serious and heavy questions that all belong to the same topic. The norm in Israel is that raising such questions is an expression of aversion - thus people raise questions regarding the political programs that they oppose and ignore all questions regarding the political programs that they support. I thank you for giving us an opportunity to try a different path.
I am not sure I understand: on the one hand you seem to oppose nationalism as such, but then you seem to embrace American nationalism which is - as you rightly state - pluralist, liberal, multicultural and multi-religion and so on. This is the model of nationalism also referred to in literature as civic or civil nationalism, as it is defferentiated from ethnicity, religion etc, and is based on citizenship instead. It is the Western democratic model, and our refusal to accept it, I believe, is at the root of all our disasters. It is far from perfect - as you rightly stress - yet theonly viable option. I personally think that we may easilly agree that cosmopolitanism, the idea of the siblinghood of humanity - the nation of all humans - is what we should really be after. Yet this is not yet viable: hopefully it will be soon. Civic nationalism is a step in that direction. Many radical cosmopolitans refuse to admit this and, consequently, reject nationalism as such. They thus leave the field to the monopoly of tribal, religious, ethnic nationalists, thus defeating their own noble cause.
I oppose nationalism and believe in replacing it with concepts of citizenship. But that is too broad a statement and one must be careful. I have a US and a Palestinian citizenship. I do not believe in patriotic narrow chauvensitic nationalism (ala Republican flag waving in the US or the nationalism of flag waving here). There is also a difference between the nationalism born and grown in response to colonialism and the nationalism that is colonialism. Thus I am more sympathetic to those who waved the Algerian flag when their country was colonized/occupied by the french than I am to those who waved the French flag egging on the occupation and colonization. The same here. When I gave the example of the US society it was a very narrow example of people of various religions and backgrounds coexisting. I would not want us to mimic the US in its other areas (e.g. its nationalism based on oppression of native people, its neocolonial, neoliberal, neoconservative attempts to shape the rest of the world)! But I actually have to think more to articulate better areas that are positive in the US (e.g. separation of church and state) and areas taht are negative (e.g. unfettered capitalism) and in any case this is way beyond our topic here ;-)
I think that those of us participating in this exchange could live happily in a unified state based on one person, one vote, which is definitely the most logical solution to our situation. Sadly, we are a small minority of most Israeli Jews and Palestinians. In the current situation there is too much fear and distrust, so the one-state solution, whether binational or unitary, won't work at this time.
The two-state solution will only work if Israel pulls back from all the territory taken in the 6 Day War of 1967 and that isn't going to happen. Land swaps etc. are unrealistic. Nobody has actually spelled out where the land that Israel gives to Palestine in exchange for the "settlement blocs" exists. Also so many of the flagship Jewish settlements, Elon Moreh, Ofra, Gilo, Kaddum--not to mention Ariel and Maale Adumim are deep in the heart of the future Palestinian state.
So both the one state and the two state solutions won't fly.
What remains is the three-state solution: a confederation of Israel, Palestine and Jordan ("Isfalur" is the name Lova Eliav suggested.) Initially this would be VERY unsatisfactory from a Palestinian point of view, but it might well be the best way forward. The Jordanian regime may be worried about putting its head into our joint wasps' nest, but it cannot isolate itself and its interest, in the long run, is to be involved in the solution.
Initially, Isfalur would be jointly ruled by Israel and Jordan, but moving toward a democratic federal structure will in due course give the Palestinians their rightful place in the entity. I fully understand Palestinian reluctance to accept yet another postponement of their freedom and self determination, but surely my proposal is more hopeful than the current deadlock?
It doesn't, Roni, you are right, but it might be a way toward bringing this about. The main problem is mutual suspicion, a lack of trust. Bringing in the Jordanians now will make things safer. Anyway they have to be part of the ultimate solution. The Palestinians will lose out initially, but they are losing badly at this moment. I think a tripartite confederation creates the possibility of moving forward toward what Mazin calls a "paradigm shift," and I call a "quantum leap." These things take time. Meanwhile what are we going to do tomorrow morning?
I have written in Haaretz to suggest that at least the unmanned roadblocks be removed "tomorrow morning." If Jordanian army units are brought in to cooperate with Israeli and Palestinian security forces, this is more likely to be implemented. We have to do something NOW to break this logjam. If we get things moving, we can think about the constructive ideas of Mazin and others.
Have Palestinians living in Jordan (since 1948 or those who may have emigrated there in recent years due to hardships here) developed a sense of that being a "home" for them?
Might a three state federation with free access, work opportunity etc. help develop a feeling of "home" and national fulfillment even when living off the native village?
I agree with Daniel that this three state solution has its benefits. But i don't see how all of the settlements he lists as being stumbling blocks in the two state solution are non-problematic in the three state solution..
Thank you for the excellent comments. I am still trying to catch-up on emails, readings etc and do want to comment on some of the issues you raised. I will do so shortly. But let me start by sharing with you an article that Sam Leibowitz and I put together for publication. I would also be interested in your comments on this
Sam Leibowitz and Mazin Qumsiyeh on a durable peace in Israel/Palestine
Attorney Sam Leibowitz is an Israeli civil rights lawyer who has litigated dozens of cases on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli courts. Dr. Qumsiyeh is a professor at Bethlehem University and the author of the book "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle"
This year, just as the solemn fasts of Ramadan ended and Islam rejoiced in its renewed connection with God by celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Jewish people celebrated Rosh Hashana --the Jewish New Year-- and entered into the 10 Days of Awe and Returning to that same God, culminating with the holiest day of the year - Yom Kippur. That Jews and Muslims worldwide were concurrently celebrating their holiest days with prayers and acts of forgiveness and reconciliation gives us cause for reflection.
For many centuries in our history, we have lived together, sharing knowledge and resources and enriching each other's religion. However, since the founding of the State of Israel, our relationships have been embittered and poisoned.
But why? Why has the State of Israel viewed the Palestinians' different religions as a reason to treat them as strangers and enemies? Why are we using another community's religion to justify dispossession and discrimination instead of learning to coexist together in a political framework which can accommodate all?
We need a paradigm shift. In the face of repeated failures to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with talk about a "two-state" outcome, it's time to revisit our most basic assumptions. Indeed, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are going back to the drawing board and reconsidering other solutions, questioning the justification and feasibility of partitioning the land into two separate and discriminatory religion-states. Instead, they are discussing the details of a "one-democratic-state" solution - a plan to establish a single, democratic and secular state, which will grant equal rights to all its citizens regardless of their religion, while encouraging religious autonomy for each community.
The concept of coexistence in a binational or unitary, secular and democratic state is not new. In the early days of the Zionist movement, it was promoted by Albert Einstein, philosopher Martin Buber, and Rabbi Judah Leib Magnes who argued that an exclusive "Jewish state" would cause such deep injuries to the indigenous Palestinians that it could never become a truly safe haven for Jews. Sadly, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict up to this day proves their predictions were true.
In a world that is becoming globally interconnected and interdependent, the economic well-being, personal health, and security of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Moreover, since they both view the whole land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as their homeland, they will never live in peace and security unless both learn to accept the other people's attachment to the whole land, and figure out how to share its economic and natural resources together.
Israelis and Palestinians have changed over the past 60 years. Polls show the majority in both societies now understand that the concept of separation of state from religion – that cornerstone of American democracy - is a key to peaceful coexistence. Just as it has guaranteed domestic peace in the United States despite the clashing cultures of mutually exclusive religions and secularism, it holds the power for Israeli and Palestinian societies to successfully coexist in the same land. That is, provided we have a constitution modeled after the American one - guaranteeing civil liberties while promoting religious freedom.
Certainly, it will be no easy feat to educate both societies, after decades of wars, oppression, colonization, and violence against civilians, to respect the human and civil rights of each other.
A shared homeland will no doubt transform Israel. But this will be a positive transformation repairing truly destructive aspects of present-day Israel. Today's Israel has failed to uphold the best of Jewish values and has in fact perverted them by making Judaism an adjunct of a discriminatory and brutal state ideology. It is a strange but manifestly true irony that for Judaism and Israel to become really compatible, Israel must become a democratic, equalitarian, and tolerant place.
In 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, the international community proclaimed the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all human beings by adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This human rights instrument outlines the fundamental freedoms that must be guaranteed in secular Israel/Palestine. We need to take this historic Declaration and turn it into a binding document on both societies, and what better way than to adopt it as the constitution for an Israeli-Palestinian homeland.
It is time to engage each other with creative and meaningful solutions. Rather than convening futile peace conferences that regurgitate the same old, failed proposals and ignore human rights obligations, politicians would do well to get us, Israelis and Palestinians, to sit down and start drafting a constitution for a shared, democratic homeland. That is the real road-map to a durable and just peace.
I agree with this, Mazin (though I wouldn't use the whole UN Declaration...not the parts reserving rights to the UN particularly...but it is the right kind of basis. The US Constitution would be closer for various reasons, but that is a side point...)
"We need to take this historic Declaration and turn it into a binding document on both societies, and what better way than to adopt it as the constitution for an Israeli-Palestinian homeland...It is time to engage each other with creative and meaningful solutions. Rather than convening futile peace conferences that regurgitate the same old, failed proposals and ignore human rights obligations, politicians would do well to get us, Israelis and Palestinians, to sit down and start drafting a constitution for a shared, democratic homeland. That is the real road-map to a durable and just peace." - is very well put.
I wish we could hear also other Palestinians on this discussion, I for myself am quite confused but I must admit the idea appeal to me, I have two basic problems and therefore need yet to listen and think a lot
1. As far as I see many examples where two people live together fall apart when there are problems, the artificial imposed glue does not hold the pieces together (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and others on the way), so the glue should be more than mere 'no other option'
2. Losing my Israeli identity is not an easy thing for me, we still bear the memories of holocaust and the need to always have a shelter for Jewish people.
I know every argument above has counter argument, I also feel sometime closer to my Palestinians friends than to people from my own ethnic group, but still it is not an easy debate (internally and externally), and I wish to hear from Palestinian colleagues why do they think one state solution soluiton, is it good only because otherwise they will be left with smaller part if the land or are there other reasons behind.