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It seems that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians would agree that the two-state solution is no longer a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also seems clear that there is no other solution that has been presented that seems viable. Equally unviable is the status quo of the bi-national non-democratic reality that includes the military occupation of the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza, which essentially imprisons more than two million people. Within the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, half the population defines itself as Palestinian and the other half defines itself as Jewish-Israeli. At the root of this conflict has been a majority of people on both sides demand for the right to attain a territorial expression of their collective identity. This demand has been mainly expressed by the use of force and violence to achieve that right, and also to deny the other side its right as well.
There have also been times over the past decades when there seemed to be a small majority on both sides willing to recognize the collective national rights of the other side, while significant minorities within both communities have insisted that no such right exists. I do not know what the solution to this conflict is, nor do I profess or support any particular rendition of a solution. I came into this conflict as a graduate of a Zionist youth movement. I immigrated to Israel when I was 22 years old, already recognizing then that there were two peoples living in this land.
In 1978, my first year living as an Israeli, I began my search for equality and for peace. I spent my first two years in Israel volunteering as a community worker in the Israeli-Palestinian town of Kafr Kara. I knew that in order for there to be a solution to the conflict, there has to be mutual recognition of collective national rights. Denial of the existence of one of the peoples and their national narrative leads to the continuation of the conflict and the inability to converse with the aim of searching for modalities of how to live on the land in peace between the River and the Sea.
Recognizing the opposing narrative does not necessarily require accepting it as truth and legitimizing it in its entirety. It does mean placing a benchmark and accepting the existence of the other people and that the other people also has a right to self-determination on the Land. Merriam-Webster defines self-determination as: “determination by the people of a territorial unit of their own future political status.” There are definitions of self-determination that include sovereignty, but sovereignty has many forms, and the concept of sovereignty has evolved over the centuries and has taken on different political realities.
For Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians who have suffered more than a century of acute conflict over control over the land, some form of self-determination and sovereignty is essential, and neither side is willing to give up their right to control their own destiny. Both sides have the need to ensure their identity and to provide security for their people and their land. No solution to the conflict can exist that will prevent or limit opportunities for economic growth, prosperity, equality, and free movement.
The economic disparities between the sides today are a function of the conflict, and the Israeli control over the territories and the economy of the Palestinians. The prevention by Israel of allowing the Palestinians to fully utilize their own land and resources is unacceptable in any possible solution. The lack of ability to make claims on previously owned land and properties by Palestinians is also something that must be addressed in finding solutions to the conflict, especially while Jews have the right to claim lands and properties in east Jerusalem and elsewhere from before 1948.
The Oslo two-state solution was based on the formula that the Palestinians would create a state on 22% of the land while Israel would be recognized on 78% of the land. The disproportionate partition formula was devised because the Palestinians failed to accept the partition resolution of the United Nations in 1947. The cost of non-recognition by the Palestinians was losing a large amount of the land area that they could have received within the framework of the resolution. According to the UN plan, which was also disproportionate granting the small number of Jews a larger share of the land, both states would have had large minorities of the other people within their state.
In the absence of the two-state solution, and in the wake of the failure of Oslo, the territorial parameters may have changed, and there may be a need to come to terms with the 50:50 population breakdown and the territorial aspects of large Palestinian populations within the green-line in the Galilee, the Little Triangle and the Negev. This does not necessarily mean the delineation of hard state borders on different lines, but in redefining the concept of self-determination and collective rights. In a federal model, all residents of the whole territory could hold more than one type of identity documentation including “citizen of the federal state” and “citizen of a sub-autonomous-unit” within the federal state. Semi-autonomous zones could be created in which cultural expressions of identity are available that are state supported on an equal basis, and self-governing representative bodies are elected to provide services.
In a confederal arrangement, there could also be several possibilities for different types of identity documentation. It could be based on a two-states model on the June 4, 1967, lines, in which there could be a possibility to hold citizenship of both states which could be relevant for the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Jewish citizens of Palestine. The first point of reference for citizenship would be the physical residence of the individual, and then a second possibility for requesting to hold citizenship of the second country. All citizens could be citizens of the Confederated State in the same way that citizens of the 27 countries of the EU hold their nation-state passports that are also EU passports.
These issues are important, but at the end of the day the most important questions relate to control and security. What is the source of authority, and who has the right to mobilize and utilize physical force? Here there is no solution that does not include mechanisms owned and operated by both sides together. That is also the basis to finding solutions that will make life in relative peace on this land possible – it can only be done together with all relative parties at the table. The process of stepping out of the box of failed solutions is tedious and challenging, but it one that we must engage in, and the sooner the better.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Investment Bond.