- No Place Like Homeland
Decades of failed Near-East
negotiations all started out from one unproven premise - that
Palestine must be split into two states, one Jewish and one
The remedy is proving worse than
the disease. Could both parties achieve their political aims
and still be better off within a federation?
To analyze this, we have to go
back to the dilemma of Zionism - it had several goals, each in sharp
conflict with the others:
1. to establish a new state
where Jews will always be safely in the majority.
2. to do this by colonizing a
heavily populated, mainly Muslim and Christian country
3. to make it a big enough
state to encompass sensitive Jerusalem, even though the Jews are not
strong in numbers
4. to make the state a
democratic, open society
Despite the most energetic
military and public relations offensives Israel can muster, these internal
contradictions are just too extreme to sustain indefinitely.
The current sticking point is
the right of return. Israel itself was founded on this very idea - the
right of all Jews to "return", after going on 100 generations,
and even if they are not ethnic Hebrews. Can Israel be a democracy and
deny this right to refugees who are still alive and waiting in camps after
two generations? It cannot afford reparations, either - Israelís economy
is far smaller than Germanyís.
Looking closer at the above
Zionist objectives, however, a modus vivendi becomes visible.
1. The conflict between a
Jewish majority and the Arabsí right of return can be solved, because
residence and voting rights are two separate issues. The refugees could
return to their home villages in "Israel", if their votes were
counted in another part of the federation.
3. Demographically, Jews will
always be in the minority over the whole country. The most advantage
compromise between 1) and 3) is for them to leverage their voting power in
a three-state solution: one, the ethnically Jewish coastal area,
"Israel"; two, the remaining Arab "Palestine"; and
three, an ethnically-mixed buffer state in the middle - perhaps call it
"Canaan". It would include Jerusalem and Aqaba, and physically
separate the Jewish and Arab states.
The three states ought to be
roughly equal in size and population. This would make the Jewish state
smaller than todayís Israel, thereby ensuring a permanent Jewish
majority. On the other hand, the entire country and especially the central
region would be very much in Israelís political and economic sphere of
The federation should have a
special constitution aimed to provide stability through careful checks and
balances, in spite of ethnic tension and diversity. Here are some ideas on that:
Permanent residence rights:
Every citizen gets this right where they now live, or in the state of
their ethnic group. Arab returnees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries
get this right anywhere in the federation. (But many will prefer to stay
close to their ethnic group.)
Voting rights (citizenship)
Votes of persons not now residing
in the other ethnic state, who later take up residence there, whether as
returnees or otherwise, would count in their own ethnic state, or in the
middle state. (Special rules could be agreed for descendants of parents of
different citizenship status.)
Travel rights. Any federal
citizen may travel between the middle state and their state of residence
or citizenship without undue formalities or visas.
New immigrants (i.e., not
returnees). The rules for admitting immigrants, and the right of citizens
to move to another state, could be decided by each state, or agreed by a
convention between the states.
Capital city: to be Jerusalem
for the federal republic and the middle state, administration of the
ethnic states could be at Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
Old City of Jerusalem -
religious sites. Should be administered by a religious council with 40%
Muslim, 40% Jewish and 20% Christian seats. Simple majority of all three
religions required to pass decisions.
Bicameral legislature. Lower
house by popular vote. Seats in upper house apportioned one third to each
state, requiring a simple majority of delegates from each state to pass
Military and security -
initially on basis of cooperation between states.
A constitutional law against
Such a federation will achieve
Ben Gurionís objective, to establish permanent peace and security based
on acceptance of Israel by its Arab neighbors. The peace dividend could be
enormous, helping Israelis to invest profitably in their own or
neighboring states of the republic.
This proposal embodies a huge
concession on the part of the Palestinians: loss of citizenship in the
land of their fathers, and a permanent acceptance of its takeover by
For Israelis, it obviously
means a total re-think. Yet I hope it is an idea whose time has come, if
it is not already way overdue. Too much more delay, and the fate of South
African racism and apartheid could overtake Israel, too.
An Arab Saying "I order you to assist any oppressed person,
whether they are Muslim or not." Muhammad
Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors
by the same author: