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The two-state solution can be achieved through a confederation
By YOSSI BEILIN
09/09/2019
The Israeli-Palestinian “A Land For ALL” movement, which is hoisting the flag of a confederation, proves by its coexistence how vital is such a structure for both sides.
The two-state solution is the one the world has adopted for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is the solution promoted by the Arab Peace Initiative, as it has the plurality support among Israelis and Palestinians alike. But there is a majority on both sides which doesn’t believe this solution is still realistic.

Among many Palestinians, the view that Israel is not genuine in its quest for peace is the prevailing sentiment. The general view is that there is no partner for peace on the Israeli side, which prefers to build settlements rather than to compromise on land. Among many Israelis, the prevailing feeling is that previous Israeli governments suggested very generous ideas to the Palestinians, including more than 94% withdrawal from the West Bank, land swaps and two capitals in Jerusalem, but all was rejected by the Palestinian leadership, which means there is no partner on the other side.

Much, of course, will depend on leadership change, but the facts on the ground will have to be tackled, and they become more and more difficult to solve, such as the large number of Israeli settlers who will find themselves beyond the new border in peace time. That will be the biggest impediment for the Israeli decision-makers who would like to pay the price for peace. On the Palestinian side, the new reality of Islamist groups like ISIS, which are used to settling in the weakest areas in the Islamic world and operating from there, are a threat on an entity which agrees to be non-militarized.

In my view, a confederated structure may enable the two-state solution by referring to the above-mentioned issues and to some others. It can also replace a slogan like “We are here and they are there,” which was invented by the Israeli peace camp in order to convince the skeptics in Israel that peace is needed and practical even from their point of view. A confederation, rather than a federation, consists of separate independent and sovereign states which prefer to exist in a joint framework and which determine together the scope of their cooperation.

THE IDEA isn’t new. Actually, the Partition Resolution (UN General Assembly 181) has been suggesting an economic confederation for 10 years, and when one takes into account the very small area to the west of the Jordan River, it seems very artificial for two totally separate entities to plan their infrastructures separately, and to deal separately with joint challenges like agricultural diseases among many others. Cooperation and coordination is indispensable.

I’m not speaking about a joint super-parliament or about some kind of a rotating leadership, but about joint authorities in agreed-upon sectors, and about arrangements which may make the lives of both peoples much more convenient. The issue of settlement can be solved so that Israelis to the east of the new border will be allowed to remain in the settlements, if they wish so, as Palestinian permanent citizens who obey the Palestinian law. These settlements won’t be exclusive Israeli villages or towns anymore, but no Israeli should be evacuated from his or her home. The same number of Palestinian citizens should be allowed to live in Israel as permanent residents, vetted by Israel.

On the security issue, there can be a division of labor, so that the Palestinians will be totally in charge of their internal security (and the IDF won’t be allowed to knock on the doors of Palestinians and apprehend them in the middle of the night), while Israel (at least for an agreed-upon period) will be in charge of strategic defense, against threats from third parties.

The borders between the states can be very strict at the beginning, and much more permeable when the situation is safer and more stable. The Old City of Jerusalem may host some of the joint authorities, and by that I mean allow the implementation of creative ideas to solve there the sovereign issue (like dual sovereignty).

Some of my Palestinian colleagues tell me that they prefer to have their own state first, and only then to form a confederation. I think that they fully deserve it, and it is quite possible to establish the joint framework later on. What is important is to take into consideration the confederation on the horizon, because that will have a significant impact on the negotiations between the two parties.

The Israeli-Palestinian “A Land For ALL” movement, which is hoisting the flag of a confederation, proves by its coexistence how vital is such a structure for both sides.

Yossi Beilin has served as justice minister.
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