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.