University of Maryland professor of Israel Studies, Paul Scham, a longtime pro-Israel peace activist (as in J Street), has co-authored a new op-ed article in The Forward, “Moving on From Two-State Solution,” with his Israeli colleague Edy Kaufman. It lays out six options, including a two-state solution, which the authors see as “increasingly politically impossible.” I don’t quite agree.
I still see two independent states (with some cooperative, bi-national elements) as the best and most realistic alternative, but options #3 and 4 seem vaguely possible and I don’t have a problem with this kind of discussion. Yet the concept of a “confederation” makes more sense than a “federation.” A confederation is a loose union binding together co-equal sovereign entities. A federal union consolidates more power in a central government than either Israelis or Palestinians would be likely to accept. Even so, these options are fraught with questions, as the writers themselves note:
3) A binational state. The model here is Belgium or Canada. There are innumerable possible variants, but each nation would retain its own symbols, narrative and cultural autonomy. Perhaps the state would be divided along geographical lines, or else allow both Jews and Arabs equal access to the land but stipulate that they vote on the basis of ethnicity or some other principle. Perhaps this could work, but would Israelis be willing to assume that a more populous Palestinian nation would respect the original separation? On the other hand, some degree of trust is essential for any agreement whatsoever.
4) A federation. This would be a new political entity that would include Israel and Palestine, and perhaps eventually Jordan. Federations are usually formed by the decision of independent states to join under certain conditions, ceding some degree of sovereignty to the federal government (e.g., the original 13 American colonies). Citizens can work and live freely in other parts of the federation with no barriers along the internal borders, but can vote only in the country of their citizenship, with each government retaining a considerable degree of autonomy. Would Palestinians choose to enter such a federation? Would Israelis accept the consequences of sharing control over the land with another autonomous power?
Read more: http://forward.com/articles/164095/moving-on-from-two-state-solution/?p=all#ixzz29ZA4gDlO
A Haaretz editorial notes that an official Israeli statistical report now estimates slightly more Palestinian Arabs than Israeli Jews between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, thus acknowledging a de facto condition of “apartheid.” Yet Haaretz also notes that this does not subtract the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip who are not technically subject to Israeli rule (although are clearly confined in their everyday lives by Israel’s strict control of imports and travel there due to the ongoing armed conflict). And even Akiva Eldar, the Haaretz columnist who disclosed this report and brought up the “a” word, still argues vehemently for the possibility and necessity of a two-state solution. In another article, Eldar looks at current polling of Israelis and Palestinians, which shows solid majorities of each still wanting two independent states (even as they don’t expect to see this anytime soon):
… 61 percent of Israelis and 52 percent of Palestinians said they supported the two-state solution, with 36 percent of Israelis and 46 percent of Palestinians opposing such a resolution to the conflict.
Mr. Eldar is one of the prominent Israeli and Palestinian personalities whom the Partners for Progressive Israel “Israel Seminar” will meet with beginning this Saturday evening. Since Ron, Lilly and I will be together in Israel for the next week (I will stay on for another week), we cannot promise to keep up our blogging during this period. But we will see if we have the chance.