There is a Solution to the Conflict: Two States-One Homeland

Ella Taylor-Fagan

In the wake of Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, I have once again been thrust into the same debates with friends and family about the Israel-Palestine conflict as a whole. All too easily, these conversations grow tense around the same points – how to deal with the well-established settlements, how to enable Palestinian freedoms yet mitigate violence, how to ensure that both Palestinian and Israeli cultures can sustainably thrive – and most topically – how Jerusalem will be shared and governed.

Typically, these discussions end unproductively, culminating in both parties simply expressing their support for a simplistic model of a two state solution and resigning themselves to the familiar conclusion that it is ‘complicated.’ Indeed, throughout my entire Jewish education, many of my questions about Israel-Palestine were answered with this familiar response.

The two-state solution is clearly the most workable model, but it is clear that the issues facing the conflict cannot be solved simply by drawing a line on a map. The settlements demonstrate this. Absorbing every settlement bloc into Israel would make a Palestinian state geographically untenable. Forcing people to leave where they live based on their ethnicity would be tantamount to ethnic cleansing. Just drawing on a border is necessary, but it is not quite sufficient. A two-state solution needs to take account of these issues and be more flexible if it is to reconcile the difficulties for which blood, sweat and tears have been spilled over the last century.

‘Two States, One Homeland’ is a forward thinking, solution orientated plan which aims to solve the issues over which the debate has been stalled for a number of years. The plan is fundamentally based on two sovereign states – Israel and Palestine – and their borders demarcated by the 1967 ceasefire lines. It retains, therefore, the fundamental foundations of a two-state solution. In these states, both nations would be able to realise their right to self-determination. This would end the occupation for the Palestinian people, and ensure that Israel retains its political and demographic identity as a Jewish state.

A key difference, however, is that both states would be committed to a wider vision of one land, within which citizens of both states have the right to travel and live. By making a necessary separation between residency and citizenship, and ensuring all residents in the land have citizenship in at least one state, it allows for the two-states to retain their historic and necessary identities as Jewish and Palestinian respectively, but accepts that both identities transcend the eventual national borders. Of course, in order to limit huge population shifts and mass violence, there would be some form of limitation on movement, as between any sovereign states and this would be agreed on by the respective authorities of each state.

Furthermore, both states would have the right to internally define their own laws of immigration and naturalisation. The State of Palestine would be at liberty to naturalise Palestinian refugees if it so wished, and Israel would be able to continue and keep the Law of Return. This would resolve the persistent angst about what would happen to the law of the ‘right of return’ which for so long has prevented progress in the peace process.

By necessity, there would be joint decision making between the two states on key issues. One of these is ensuring that a nascent Palestinian state is strong enough to exist. Another lies in some fulfilment of an overlooked clause of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the creation of some sort of economic union of the whole Land of Israel, to co-ordinate trade and make major bilateral economic decisions.

In this way, the plan offers a resolution to the vexed question of Jerusalem. The principle of joint governance within the framework of two sovereign states is one which lends itself easily to compromise and co-operation over the city. It suggests that the holy sites will be jointly managed by faith representatives, with the aim of guaranteeing freedom of worship to all.
The plan makes accommodations for the existential concerns on both sides: Israeli security needs on the one hand, and Palestinian desires for return, on the other. It offers creative solutions without compromising the fundamental framework of two, independent, sovereign states that both realises national aspirations, and is the most workable framework.

These ideas cut the Gordian knot of many of the key issues in the conflict. Not by ignoring the genuine concerns and desires of both sides, nor by forcing compromise, but by adopting imaginative answers that work within the eventualities created by the conflict.

For Umm al-Kheir, Awareness is Resistance- By Ben Reiff

Umm al-Kheir is under attack. You probably haven’t heard that the village has been on the receiving end of rocks thrown by settlers for more than 30 consecutive nights, or that Ta’ayush activist Guy Butavia was attacked during a solidarity visit to Umm al-Kheir last month after confronting the settlers about their harassment, or that the IDF came to erect a razor wire fence to cut off the villagers from even more of their own land. And yet none of this is new; Umm al-Kheir has been under attack for a long time.

The Israeli Civil Administration has been threatening this tiny village, home to 150 Bedouins, with demolition for more than two decades, while settler violence here has also been a commonality. What makes Umm al-Kheir such a target for demolitions and violent attacks? The primary factor is geographical: the village sits adjacent to the settlement of Carmel. Or rather, the settlement of Carmel sits on the land of Umm al-Kheir, purchased by the Hathaleen family – 1948 refugees from the Negev – in the early 1960s.

The Israeli government began the construction of several settlements in the South Hebron Hills (including Carmel, Maon and Susya) in the early 1980s, with no regard for the rights of the Palestinians in the region whose lands it was expropriating. The subsequent division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C at Oslo saw the villagers of Umm al-Kheir’s misfortune double; due to the cluster of recently constructed settlements, many of the small, rural Bedouin communities in the region found themselves under full Israeli control in Area C.

Hence, by the mid-90s, the villagers of Umm al-Kheir had lost not only a large chunk of their land but also the ability to build on that land, for with Oslo came an almost total prohibition on Palestinian construction in Area C, despite some 50% of that land being privately owned by Palestinians. According to B’Tselem, stated Israeli restrictions automatically block Palestinian construction in 70% of Area C (with 36.5% designated as “state land”, 30% firing zones etc), but this doesn’t mean the remaining 30% is available for unrestricted construction; the Civil Administration has exclusive authority over planning processes, and has refused to approve any master plans for more than 90% of the Palestinian villages in Area C. As such, it is almost impossible for Palestinians there to obtain building permits, making all construction (even on their own land) illegal and thus liable to demolition. Meanwhile, expansion in the settlement of Carmel continues.

What does the international community have to say about all this? The efforts of activists (for example the recent Center for Jewish Nonviolence-led Global Shabbat Against Demolitions to pressure the government into ending the demolitions in Umm al-Kheir and Susya in the West Bank as well as Umm al-Hiran and al-Araqib inside Israel, or the ongoing attempts to restore life to Sarura) have helped to raise the profile of these villages and put them on the international agenda somewhat. The Obama Administration was critical of the demolitions but failed to apply any real pressure on Netanyahu’s government, while the EU has funded structures to replace those that have been demolished. Still lacking the Civil Administration’s approval for building, however, these face the same risks of demolition as Palestinian-built structures, and Israel doesn’t hesitate to destroy these too.

In an attempt to add a carrot to the sticks of demolition threats and settler violence that are pressuring the residents of Umm al-Kheir to leave their lands, the Civil Administration has fully connected another village, a kilometre or so away, to the water supply and provided building permits for construction on site. Presently, Umm al-Kheir’s residents are unable even to dig water wells since this would constitute construction, forcing them to illegally tap into the system at the nearby village in order to fill up their own tanks. The settlers of Carmel have regularly been flying drones over Umm al-Kheir to spy on any secret construction the Palestinians might be attempting, ready to report any developments to the Civil Administration. But even in these conditions, the villagers see acquiescing to Israeli pressure as completely unfathomable, refusing to allow the government free rein to expand Carmel further onto their lands.

Regardless of their desire to remain, the situation for the residents of Umm al-Kheir, much like the situation for the residents of nearby Susya, is very grave. The recently erected fence cutting them off from their lands is another obstacle to grazing sheep, with settler harassment already preventing them from wandering freely with their flock. The reduction in the size and health of their flock that this has provoked has taken its toll on the villagers’ ability to be self-sufficient, forcing them in recent years to adapt to a new way of life.

One manifestation of this change has been a focus on education for the younger generation in the village, which in turn has led to a greater ability among residents to tell their story to a larger, global audience. With the Jewish Agency deciding that it doesn’t want young diaspora Jews collaborating with Palestinians on their programmes anymore, it is even more important to ensure that the story of Umm al-Kheir (and the many others like it) doesn’t fall on deaf ears.