Sunday, January 22, 2006

A workable two-state solution

In this blog in the past I have commented on the desirability of the "binational solution." It would be useful to note that such a solution is not favored, as a large majority both of Israelis and Palestinians desire their own states. However, my argument has been predicated on the inevitability of such a solution given the lack of political mobility on both sides and the demographic situation which prevails in the Occupied Territories as well as within Israel itself.

But there is another possibility: a workable two-state solution that recognizes the existence of Israel/Palestine as one land under two political leaderships. This is a two-state solution that stresses working and living together on the land while recognizing the right of each group to self determination within national boundaries.

As such, the principal tenets of such a solution would be:

*The agreement on final borders. Palestine includes the West Bank and Gaza (with East Jerusalem), excluding settlement blocs on the borders which are annexed to Israel. However, Arab areas north of the West Bank, including Nazareth, are annexed to Palestine. Certain areas deep within Palestinian territory are put on long-term sovereign lease to Israel (including Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim, and Qiryat Arba). The two parts of Palestine have a transportation connection.

*The agreement on security. Palestine agrees not to have a navy or air force, and an army of limited size for a certain period. Additionally, a transitional period will take place, under international supervision and with a peacekeeping force stationed in Palestine, to ensure stability.

*The agreement on refugees, return and citizenship. Everyone who is an Israeli citizen in areas coming under Palestinian control has the option of citizenship in Palestine or permanent residency while retaining Israeli citizenship; the opposite is true of Palestinians in areas coming under Israeli rule. Palestinian refugees born before 1948 may return to Israel as permanent residents (not citizens), but not with any descendants. All Palestinian refugees may return to Palestine as defined under Palestinian law. [However, right to live in Israel for all Palestinians as noncitizens is contemplated below, in a longer-term scope.]

*The agreement on Jerusalem. While Jerusalem is under two sovereignties, there is a Jerusalem Municipal Authority with representatives of the two municipal administrations to coordinate urban planning, and freedom of movement within the city.

*The agreement on holy places. Holy places are administered by the most appropriate religious authority, and open access is guaranteed both to residents of both countries and to pilgrims.

*"One land for two peoples". In places of "one country for two peoples," there is "one land." Split political sovereignty, but shared land. In that spirit, the long term goal of the agreement is to allow citizens of either Israel or Palestine to have permanent residency rights in the other, much like the European Union today. Such a goal is dependent upon improvement in economic conditions in Palestine, which will help with the other necessity, an improvement in the security situation. This end goal does not mean that citizenship and political rights will be obtained by one group in the other's country, but it means that a Jew can live in Hebron or Jerusalem or Nazareth or Tel Aviv or wherever, and a Palestinian Arab can live in Ramallah or Jaffa or Acre or Gaza or Safed... while preserving the separate political identity and statehood of each, in a piece of territory that really is too small to divide with walls and barriers.

Such an agreement would require daring on the part of both political leaderships, but if they wish to avoid being caught in the one-state solution, would be the best step. We have seen that "trust-building" steps always break down on the demands of one political constituency or another. What is needed is a bold initiative on the part of Olmert and Abbas to reach a permanent status agreement that will unite, rather than divide, the land, and tear down barriers rather than erect new ones.

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