“One hundred years ago, could you imagine Protestants and Catholics marrying each other, or Jews and Christians could marry each other? Seventy years ago could you imagine Germany and France leading Europe together – with an open border? No, but look at it now!”
Thus Avrum Burg entreated his audience to consider the possibility of a confederation-style state as the most likely possible outcome for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than the standard liberal position of two states for two peoples.
Burg stated that the two-state solution is dead in the water. A two state solution is no longer the answer to the conflict, if it ever was. Instead, he laid out a confederation model that would include elements of both the two-state and one-state solution.
The bottom “floor” would be the guarantee of civil rights of every person between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the basis for all future cooperation and healthy civil society. Burg reminded us that equality does not exist, neither within Israel, nor in the Occupied Territories.
The second “floor” would be two national entities – one Israeli and the other Palestinian. These entities would see to the individual and collective needs of their respective populations.
The third “floor” would be the “roof” of this consociational power-sharing model. The two entities would share responsibility of ensuring constitutional rights, security, and environmental concerns.
Over time other local states in the area could join this power-sharing cooperative umbrella, to eventually form a new sort of collaborative structure in the Middle East.
Some doubted this rather utopic vision, and asked for guarantees that a Jewish minority in such a growing structure would be safe. Burg answered that there is no guarantee in any form of government; but any group of people, anywhere in the world, once offered civil liberties and freedoms is reluctant to relinquish it. And thus you see over time, the number of democracies in the world has only grown, while the number of totalitarian states has declined. And the alternative to slowly building this new cooperative state is the continuation of the Occupation – an inherently oppressive and anti-democratic venture that poisons Israeli society and oppresses the Palestinians.
Burg reminded us of the old dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai when it came to the lighting of the Hannukah candles. Where Shammai wanted to start with eight candles and decrease over the course of the holiday, Hillel chose to start with one, and increase up to eight during its course. Hillel was an optimist: he believed that the amount of light in the world was growing until all is illuminated and complete. But the first step is to light that single candle to chase away the darkness.
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