The POSTman Knocks Twice: Separate, intertwined and united

Two peoples in one state, especially when there are linguistic and religious differences and opposing narratives, do not live together successfully.

Israeli armored personnel carrier (APC) near the border with the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli armored personnel carrier (APC) near the border with the Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas has placed itself beyond the pale. Now is the time to create a new reality in Israel, Judea and Samaria, that negates Hamas’s influence.
Like it or not, dear Zionist reader, the Palestinians are here to stay. Like it or not, dear Palestinian reader, the Zionist entity, Israel, is here to stay. Our history and geography are intertwined, so let’s see how we can separate and yet have our very small land area accommodate two interacting, free peoples with intertwined destinies.
Since neither side trusts the other, a visionary solution must be created which gives both sides what they want, and imposes tangible, evenly balanced reciprocity on what must be shared.
The bottom line would be a land stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan where Israelis and Palestinians would live in states determined by the consent of the governed, existing side-by-side in de facto unity.
This plan would create, after five or seven years of peaceful implementation, a quasi-federal structure of two sovereign states with freedom of movement between them. Two states with separate international status but combined over-all cooperation in issues relating to both.
The states will define their borders by direct negotiation without mediation.
This is based on a reciprocal principle: Arab inhabitants living over the Green Line may elect to become citizens of Palestine, and Jewish citizens living over the Green Line may elect to remain citizens of the State of Israel.
Citizens of Palestine will cease to receive social services, health insurance and other benefits from Israel. Gaza is not part of this plan until its relationship to a competent Palestinian government is clear. Its residents will not have the option of choosing Israeli citizenship.
Specific localities with a majority of Arab citizenship, within areas such as east Jerusalem, will have direct access to the West Bank, while specific Jewish citizenship areas will be connected to the Jewish state. Palestine can choose an area contiguous with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The future Old City’s combined sovereignty will be negotiated after a suitable agreed period of experience with this general proposal (say two to three years). It must ensure free access to all holy places for all faiths.
So what is new? Both sides must declare an end to terrorism. All citizens of each state will be seen as undertaking to observe this. Imprisonment for terrorism should be in a joint facility manned by specially trained personnel to ensure that equal punishment and equal, fair prison conditions shall be maintained.
The two states will exercise a shared sovereignty over all roads and border crossings, manned by specially trained units of Israel and Palestine police. A Joint Israel-Palestine Cooperation Authority, with delegated members from each side, will deal with economic and financial matters, customs, free ports or areas, police, transportation, water supply and agriculture, industry, health, etc.
Now take a deep breath and examine some underlying facts.
Menachem Begin did not join the Arab League, I wrote in my last column, nor did Anwar Sadat take out membership in the World Zionist Organization. The balance of deterrence and terrible bloodletting led Sadat to say “No more war. No more bloodshed.”
The biblical and Mishnaic borders of the Land of Israel changed and adapted to political, military and diplomatic situations from time to time. (An example: For centuries, Judea-Israel was mainly what we call the West Bank and the hills up to Philistia). The Mishna teaches us that conflicting claims on property should lead to dividing it.
The Palestinians have adopted the mirror image of Zionism, molded to their needs and advantage. Thus they see themselves and cleverly present to others the image of the victim, in need of a safe haven. We should introduce an old-new principle: the consent of the governed.
This is a principle enshrined in America’s history, and acted upon internationally since 1917.
Two peoples in one state, especially when there are linguistic and religious differences and opposing narratives, do not live together successfully. See, for example, former Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Ireland. Look at the strains between Scotland-England, Quebec and Anglophone Canada, and Flemish and Walloon Belgium.
A single binational state of Arabs and Jews might turn out to be one state with a Jewish majority. Prophets and prophetesses base their calculations on projections of birthrates. This ignores two factors: the mutable rate of ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men and women joining the labor force and the army and the unpredictability of history. Therefore it might just as well turn out to be one state with an Arab majority.
The Oslo Accords are 25 years old and do not reflect today’s realities on the ground. The international consensus and the Arab League peace offer speak of the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiation. Obviously this is nonsense, but that should not faze Israel negotiators.
Israel can insist that we enter negotiations with no preconditions, and expect the same from the other side.
A little practical hypocrisy (oops, ‘diplomacy’) helps, because essentially the Arab negotiators, our negotiators, and the Quartet know pretty well what the lines will be and which blocs will remain in Israel.
The Middle East is in turmoil. The Palestinians and Jordan will need protection from the Islamic State, from al-Qaida and other anti-democratic extremists. The line along the Jordan River will be manned by Israel alone for the protection of Palestine and Israel, and perhaps to provide support for Jordan, if so requested or required.
The State of Palestine must be devoid of any kind of military.
It should have a capable and professional police force.
Utopian? In Hebrew we say “What logic can’t accomplish, time will.”
Avraham Avi-hai studied applied statecraft under David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol as well as at Columbia University.
He has been a leader of the World Zionist Organization and has written several books. The latest, A Tale of Two Avrahams, is a novel published by Gefen.
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