The failure of the peace process for more than 20 years and the understanding that the status quo of no solution is bad for Israel and for the Palestinians has led to a number of new initiatives.
One plan is the so-called “two states in one homeland” in which all of the settlers would remain where they are. This is certainly the most expedient solution for settlers who believe that the basic relations between the two peoples must change yet insist on remaining where they are.
This proposal automatically legalizes and legitimizes all of the settlements and then calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel in numbers matching the number of settlers that will live over the green line in a Palestinian state. The most positive element of this plan is its recognition of the importance of the whole land of Israel to Jews and the importance of the whole land of Palestine to Palestinians. This is a plan that advocates the separation of residency rights from citizenship and sets up a system where hundreds of thousands of people, on both sides, will be living in a country in which they have no representation at the national level. This is the ultimate system of taxation without representation.
The search for new solutions is good and we should always be thinking about how to resolve problems and conflicts. Sometimes we should look to history for those solutions as well. Recently several articles bringing back to life the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation have appeared on several Palestinian news websites. Last week Mubasher 24 (a Palestinian website in Arabic) claimed that discussions on this are taking place in Amman and Ramallah. The old formula, which had been articulated many times in the past by Yasser Arafat, in which first Palestine would achieve independence and then enter into a confederal arrangement with Jordan, is repeated in this article.
The confederation would share a common economy, a joint parliament, two regional governments and a central government of the confederation. Both east Jerusalem and Amman would have capital status. Security issues would be controlled by the confederation with a clear leaning toward the main responsibility being on the Jordanian side with continued Israeli cooperation.
The article suggests that this would also be the best formula to reach peace with Israel as the broader confederal framework expands security and stability and provides much more significant chances for economic success.
King Hussein and Yasser Arafat also both used to speak about a regional Benelux (the original heart of the European Union – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) as a model to follow in creating a trilateral confederation of Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
It makes a lot of sense, especially after Jordan and Palestine create the first stage of a confederation between them. In general, confederations are agreements between states in which they agree to give up large parts of their sovereignty in favor of the larger political body being created. Giving up parts of sovereignty is a sovereign decision which is important because when it occurs it is done as a conscious decision for positive reasons, and not a concession forced out of a lack of choice. Palestinians have to have sovereignty first, however, before they can decide to give up parts of it.
This is an essential element of peacemaking and also a key to successful Palestinian political maturity. Palestinians must take responsibility for themselves and the decision to enter into confederal arrangements first with Jordan and then possibly with Israel would be a wise step and would benefit all three countries.
Throughout my life there have been two constant themes: that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to be found in the formula of two states for two peoples, and that real peace will be established through the cooperation of people and institutions on both sides of the conflict lines. I continue to believe that the roots of the conflict are in the desires and preparedness of both sides to fight, kill and die so that they can have a territorial expression of their identity.
This has been a conflict over territory and its identity.
That has not changed in the past 100 years and seems that it will remain for the coming decades. As such, there is no “one state solution” because that is not a solution which provides the warring parties what they have been so willing to fight for.
In the framework of the two-state solution, I have never supported the separation paradigm which is based on walls and fences which prevent the interaction and cooperation which I believe is critical to the development of real peace. The desire of both sides not to see the other side, whether through the imposing of walls, fences and checkpoints, or through the senseless and damaging anti-normalization campaign is easily understandable given all of the violence and suffering that both sides have experienced. Even the Israeli Left, which I believe truly wants peace with the Palestinians, has become the loudest advocate of the separation model. There will never be peace, even with a peace agreement, that places people in cages and prevents or discourages interaction and cooperation.
Of this is am sure. That why it is so essential to break down the myths of separation. The geography of fear has bred hatred and racism and has deepened the conflict for both Israelis and Palestinians and this must be challenged by Israelis and Palestinians together.
Peace between Israel and Jordan since 1994 has remained secure, even with the many regional challenges facing the Middle East. It is clearly in the interests of both sides to maintain the essentials of the peace treaty, even when it comes to the very sensitive issue of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Al Aksa compound.
Jordan has steered away from efforts to serve as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, mainly because of the large Palestinian population in Jordan.
But facing the long stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians and the dangers for all of not having a solution, the idea of confederation reemerges and is probably the best solution for all. Even if the requirement will have to be that first Palestine will be recognized as an independent state, a bilateral Jordanian-Palestinian confederation backed by the international community can be ready to go the day after Palestine achieves independence. The agreements between Israel and the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation could also be prepared to kick into motion immediately following. The security apparatus, economic agreements, mechanism for cooperation across the borders – all aspects of the relations between Israel and the confederation could be planned and negotiated in advance and the end result would be a much more secure peace for all.
The author is founder and co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives. www.ipcri.org.