In the course of time, I dropped the word “federation”. I had come to the conclusion that it frightened both sides too much. Israelis feared that it meant diminishing the sovereignty of Israel, while Palestinians suspected that it was another Zionist ruse to keep up the occupation by other means. But it seems clear that in a small land like historical Palestine, two states cannot live side by side for any length of time without a close relationship between them.
It must be remembered that the original UN partition plan included a kind of federation, without using the word explicitly. According to the plan, the Arab and the Jewish states were to remain united in an economic union. . . .
A federation between Israel and Palestine … will have to find its own character, according to its unique circumstances.
But the main point is timing.
Since [Avraham] Burg likened his proposal [for a federation] to a building, it follows that it must be built floor after floor, from the bottom up. That’s how I see it too.
The first floor is the two-state solution. This must be implemented first of all. Any idea about what may come after is meaningless without it.
This means the foundation of the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as a free, independent and sovereign nation-state of the Palestinian people.
As long as this basic idea is not implemented, and the solution of all the connected problems (“core issues”) agreed upon, nothing else has much meaning. . . .
‘Federation’ as tool of peacemaking — No panacea
As concerns understandably grow that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not in the offing (illustrated but again as Israel announces new construction in settlements), there is growing talk of a federal union or confederation as a way to bridge the gaps between proponents of one state versus two. The veteran radical peace activist Uri Avnery sallies forth in this vein with “A Federation — Why Not?“
Fellow doves Bernard Avishai and Carlo Strenger have also broached this notion, as has at least one voice from the right (Hillel Halkin). But there may be more form than substance in this idea, as the vital Jewish need for Israel to remain a sovereign expression of Jewish peoplehood remains — at the very least as a secure haven for Jewish minorities whenever they may again be subject to discrimination or persecution. If Jews could rely upon a future Palestinian majority within a federal or confederated union to guarantee this Jewish “right of return” (now secured under Israel’s Law of Return), there might not be a problem; but this is hardly likely, given the Palestinian and Arab history of intolerance toward Jews and other minorities. (Yes, there was something of a golden age for Jews in Muslim Spain, but that was over 500 years ago, and Jews were never truly equal to Muslims nor secure even there.) Along with this, the same knotty questions persist of security and the rights of minority populations (whether Arab or Jewish) living within the state or sovereign entity of the other.