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"How About a Federalist Solution" Print E-mail
By Jay Bushinsky
August 27, 2007


JERUSALEM -- Is there an alternative to the 'two-state' solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute?
 
In theory, at least, the answer must be, 'yes.'  It cannot be that there is only one way to go -- that President Bush's visionary espousal of this dubious and potentially dangerous premise for peace in the Holy Land gives it a political monopoly.
 
There are other models for co-existence such as those developed by Canada and Belgium in which two nations that speak different languages and have different religious allegiances live under the same governmental roof.
 
The first step could be the convening of a constitutional convention in which competent and trusted Israelis and Palestinians would discuss, debate and develop a federal system composed of two entities, one predominantly Jewish and the other predominantly Arab, each enjoying home rule, but arrogating overall authority to a joint administration in which both nations would be represented.
 This would coincide with a second step in which the artificial constraints that prevent the development of a common economic structure capable of assuring sustenance and, preferably, affluence, to the entire population would be removed.
 
 After all, geographical and historic Palestine indeed is a single topographical entity.  It is much too small to be cut up into two politically-separate sectors, one of them controlled by Israel and the other under the Palestinian Authority and its projected successor, a Palestinian state.
 
 Under normal circumstances, bereft of the terrorist nemesis, this country comprises a single labor and commercial market.  Its Palestinian Arab and Israeli Arab components, the latter concentrated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are eager to work wherever jobs are available and regardless of whether the employers are Arab or Jewish (as they did  immediately after the Six-Day War).  This attitude prevails among Israel's Arab citizens who stem from the same ethnic, religious and cultural roots as the Arab-speaking population on the other side of the 1949 armistice line.
 
 The third concurrent step would be to thrash out the political and historical disputes that have divided Jews and Arabs here for the past 125 years if not for the past millennium or more.  Peace-oriented Arab leaders would have to evince  understanding if not acceptance of the fact that the Jews have been attached and committed to 'Eretz Yisrael' (the Land of Israel) since the days of the Hebrew patriarch, Abraham.  They would have to concede that their parallel reverence for him as Ibrahim, who they regard as their ancestor as well, cannot  supersede or de-legitimize his Jewish connection.  And they would have to accept the fact that the Jews' return to Zion, which became a mass movement in the 20th century, was not a  campaign to expel or replace Palestine's Arab population, but the fulfillment of their prayers and national aspirations.
 
By the same token, peace-oriented Jews would have to acknowledge the fact that this country's Arabs have an equal right to live here, that their Muslim and Christian beliefs bind them to it irrevocably and eternally and that the flight of the Arab refugees during the 1948-49 war was a national tragedy for them.  Instead of expressing unequivocal rejection of what the contemporary Palestinians call 'the Right of Return,' Israeli leaders should convey sympathy for their plight while insisting that the clock of history is irreversible and that their mass repatriation is impossible -- socially, economically and politically. 
 
The federal constitution would have to conform to the basic tenets of Zionism -- that Jews have an inalienable and permanent right to immigrate to this country, that Hebrew must be the primary language with Arabic enjoying equal standing in the Arab sector and recognized as an official language of the federated state as well and that these and other principles cannot be abrogated or modified due to fluctuations in the country's demography.  It is conceivable that Jews would be able to settle everywhere in the Holy Land with the proviso that this be contingent on an agreed ratio by which former Arab residents or their descendants (an agreed quota of refugees) could be repatriated to parts of Israel on a proportional basis, i.e. so many settlers for so many refugees.
 
 It would require a scholarly book rather than a brief newspaper column to spell out all the relevant details and explain the historical underpinnings of this formula.  But the overall objective should be understandable even in this limited format.  It must be based on a common desire to live side by side in peace -- not in two separate political frameworks, but in one.
 
 On the other hand, if the Palestinian politicians are averse to this alternative and insists on statehood should be regarded as a cause of worry rather than relief, at least on the Jewish side.  A Palestinian state would be a potential cause of trouble for Israel in its current configuration.  Its inherent economic disabilities would generate resentment and extremism.  Its insistence on having armed forces of its own -- openly or secretly -- would lead to military friction.  And above all, its political instability coupled by a constant undercurrent of revanchism or irridentism would tempt other extremist or militant states, be they Arab or Muslim, such as Syria or Iran, into making it a dangerous puppet.
 
 In the latter case, the best choice would be to prolong the status quo.  This would enable the Palestinian Authority to use its resources and manpower for the social, cultural and economic welfare of its citizens.  It also would allow time for the rump Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip to collapse under the weight of its inability to satisfy the basic requirements
 of its hapless population.  Otherwise, the ill-considered 'two-state solution' might evolve into a 'three-state solution.'
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