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TWENTY YEARS ON: "TWO STATES, ONE HOLY LAND"

From: John Whitbeck
Date: Jan 25, 2008 1:31 AM
Subject: TWENTY YEARS ON: "TWO STATES, ONE HOLY LAND"
To: Undisclosed-Recipient


 
TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
 
Twenty years ago today, the LOS ANGELES TIMES published my "Two States, One Holy Land" framework for peace. It was subsequently published a further 39 times, in various lengths and in the Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German and Hebrew languages, between then and 2000, after which Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush came to power and hope died.
 
In November 1993, two months after the "Oslo" Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn, my framework for peace was the subject of a three-day conference in Cairo, attended by 24 prominent Israelis and Palestinians, including four Knesset members and Palestinian foreign minister Nabeel Shaath, under the sponsorship of The Middle East Institute (Washington). Since it was clear during this conference that my "condominium solution" for sharing Jerusalem in a context of peace and reconciliation, an integral component of my framework for peace, was difficult to comprehend, I developed an article elaborating on how it could be structured and work which was itself published 49 times, in various lengths and languages, between 1994 and 2000.
 
As discussions of the relative merits and potential attainability of a "two-state solution" and a "one-state solution" have become more animated and urgent among friends of the Palestinian people, it is worth noting that, in reality, there are at least two conceivable types of two-state solution -- decent (in compliance with international law and relevant UN resolutions) and indecent (less than a Bantustan) -- and at least three conceivable types of one-state solution -- democratic (free of all forms of discrimination and with equal rights for all), apartheid (essentially the status quo stripped of pretense) and genocidal (carrying the Zionist project through to its logical conclusion by completing the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population).
 
In this context, and with the "Roadmap" and the "Annapolis process" evidently leading nowhere, the "Two States, One Holy Land" framework for peace, which consciously sought to reconcile the better aspects of one-state and two-state approaches to achieving peace with some measure of justice, might conceivably be worth another look. While a democratic one-state solution would clearly be the most just and desirable solution for all concerned, a negotiated settlement closer to this hybrid framework might be more likely to be acceptable to Israelis -- but only AFTER the Palestinian leadership has first changed its publicly proclaimed goal from a decent two-state solution to a democratic one-state solution.
 
Indeed, twenty years on, and particularly with more than three times as many Israeli colonists living in the portion of Palestine occupied in 1967 as was the case in 1988, my venerable framework of peace strikes me as being extraordinarily generous to the Israelis. However, since most Palestinians cannot imagine Israelis ever agreeing to either a decent two-state solution or a democratic one-state solution, and since the other alternatives -- an indecent, less-than-a-Bantustan two-state solution, an apartheid one-state solution and a genocidal one-state solution -- would be infinitely worse for Palestinians, perhaps Palestinians can afford to be generous.
 
One of the last publications of "Two States, One Holy Land", in MIDDLE EAST INTERNATIONAL (London) in 1999, is transmitted below. I will gladly send a late publication of "Sharing Jerusalem: The Condominium Solution" to anyone who would like to receive it.
 
 
*************************************************************************************************
 
 
Version published on August 20, 1999 by MIDDLE EAST INTERNATIONAL (London)
First of 40 publications: LOS ANGELES TIMES (January 25, 1988)
 

"TWO STATES, ONE HOLY LAND"

By John V. Whitbeck

 

 

          As the Israeli-Palestinian peace process struggles to move forward again, what is most sadly missing is any compelling vision of how a Holy Land at peace could be structured in the new millennium so as to enhance not only the physical security of Israelis and the human dignity of Palestinians but also the quality of day-to-day life for both peoples.

 

          While Yitzhak Rabin never revealed his vision (if any) of what "permanent status" might actually look like (even, according to her own admission, to his wife), Ehud Barak has given a glimpse of his own vision.  It is based on the principle that "tall fences make good neighbors" and aspires to reduce the number of Palestinians working in Israel to zero.  It features a 47-kilometer-long elevated highway between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank - elevated so as to prevent any Israeli-Palestinian contact or contamination.  Its key word is "separation" (apartheid in Afrikaans).  It is a profoundly depressing vision, far from the goal of a "historic reconciliation" proclaimed in the Declaration of Principles so optimistically signed on the White House lawn in September 1993.

 

          Can Israelis and Palestinians really do no better than this?  Is there really no middle ground between "Greater Israel" and apartheid?  Or might it still be possible to blend the practical and psychological necessity of a two-state solution with some of the best aspects of a humane one-state solution to produce a vision of a possible future so bright that both Israelis and Palestinians would be inspired to act on their hopes and dreams rather than their memories and fears and to seize this future together and make it a reality?

 

          Sharing the Holy Land is not a zero-sum game in which any development advantageous to one side must be disadvantageous to the other.  One can envisage a society in which, by separating political and voting rights from economic, social and residential rights in a negotiated settlement, both the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and the legitimate security interests of Israelis could be simultaneously satisfied.

 

          The non-negotiable minimum for both Israelis and Palestinians is their own self-determination as peoples and nations, that they can have a state of their own in the land that both love, including at least some share of Jerusalem, and that never again will anyone else govern them.  This is not impossible.  The Holy Land could be a two-state "confederation", a single economic and social unit encompassing two sovereign states and one Holy City.  Jerusalem could be an Israeli-Palestinian "condominium", forming an undivided part of both states, being the capital of both states and being administered by an umbrella municipal council and local district councils.

 

          All current residents of the Holy Land could be given the choice of Israeli or Palestinian citizenship, thus determining which state's passport they would carry and in which state's national elections they would vote.  All citizens of either state could vote in municipal elections where they actually live, a matter of particular relevance to Israeli Arabs opting for Palestinian citizenship and to Israeli settlers choosing to continue to live in Palestine.  Each state could have its own "law of return" conferring citizenship and residential rights within that state on persons not currently resident in the Holy Land.

 

          Borders would have to be drawn on maps but would not have to exist on the ground.  The free, non-discriminatory movement of people and products within the Holy Land could be a fundamental principle subject only to one major exception: to ensure that each state would always maintain its national character, the right to residence in each Holy Land state could be limited to that state's citizens, to citizens of the other state residing there on an agreed future date and to their descendants.  (In this way, deeply felt principles could be maintained.  Israelis could have the right to live in all of Eretz Israel - but not all Israelis in all of Eretz Israel.  Similarly, Palestinians could have the right to live in all of historic Palestine - but not all Palestinians in all of historic Palestine.)  A common currency (perhaps printed in Hebrew on one side and Arabic on the other) could be issued by a common central bank.

 

          To ease Israeli security concerns, the Palestinian state could be fully demilitarized, with only Palestinian police allowed to bear arms within its territory.  As an essential counterpart to the absence of border controls within the Holy Land, Israel could conduct its own immigration controls, at the same time that Palestine conducts its immigration controls, at the frontiers of the Palestinian state with Egypt and Jordan, with any non-Palestinian visitors restricted to the Palestinian state by the Israeli authorities facing penalties if found in Israel.  The settlement agreement could be guaranteed by the United Nations and relevant states, with international tribunals to arbitrate disputes regarding compliance with its terms.

 

          The status of Jerusalem poses the toughest problem for any settlement plan, causing many to assume, for this reason alone, that no settlement acceptable to both sides can ever be reached.  When the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 in 1947, it addressed the problem by suggesting an international status for Jerusalem, with neither the Jewish state nor the Arab state to have sovereignty over the city.  Yet joint undivided sovereignty, while rare, is not without precedent.

 

          Chandigarh is the joint undivided capital of two Indian states.  For half a century, Sudan was a condominium of Britain and Egypt, officially named "Anglo-Egyptian Sudan".  For more than 70 years, the Pacific Islands state of Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides Condominium) was under the joint undivided sovereignty of Britain and France.  For more than 700 years, until a 1993 constitutional revision, the Principality of Andorra was under the joint undivided sovereignty of French and Spanish "co-princes".  In March 1999, the arbitrator appointed by the International Court of Justice ruled that the contested Bosnian municipality of Brcko should be a condominium shared by Bosnia's Serb Republic and its Muslim-Croat Federation.

 

          As a joint capital, Jerusalem could have Israeli government offices principally in its western sector, Palestinian government offices principally in its eastern sector and municipal offices in both.  A system of districts or French-style arrondissements could bring municipal government closer to the different communities in the city.  To the extent that either state wished to control persons or goods passing into it from the other state, this could be done at the points of exit from, rather than the points of entry to, Jerusalem.  In a context of peace, particularly one coupled with economic union, the need for such controls would be minimal.

 

          In a sense, Jerusalem can be viewed as a cake which could be sliced either vertically or horizontally.  Either way, the Palestinians would get a share of the cake, but, while most Israelis could never voluntarily swallow a vertical slice, they might just be able to swallow a horizontal slice.  (Indeed, by doing so, Israel would finally achieve international recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.)  Jerusalem is both a municipality on the ground and a symbol in hearts and minds.  Undivided but shared in this way, Jerusalem could be a symbol of reconciliation and hope for Jews, Muslims, Christians and the world as a whole.

 

          Such a framework would address in ways advantageous to both sides the three principal practical problems on the road to peace - Jerusalem (through joint sovereignty over an undivided city), settlers (through a separation of citizenship rights from residential rights in a regime of free access to the entire Holy Land for all citizens of both states under which no one would be compelled to move) and borders (through a structure of relations between the two states so open and non-threatening that the precise placement of borders would no longer be such a contentious issue and the pre-1967 borders - subject only to the expanded borders of Jerusalem, under joint sovereignty - might well be acceptable to most Israelis, as they would certainly be to most Palestinians).

 

          For Jewish Israelis, the threat of one day living in a state with a majority of Arab voters or an inescapable resemblance to pre-1990 South Africa would be replaced by the assurance of living in a democratic state with fewer Arab voters than today.  The Israelis' security would be enhanced by assuaging, rather than continuing to aggravate, the Palestinians' grievances.  By escaping from the role (so tragic in light of Jewish history) of oppressors and enforcers of injustice, Israel would save its soul and its dreams.

         

For all Palestinians, human dignity would be restored.  They would cease to be a people treated (and not only by Israelis) as pariahs uniquely unworthy of basic human rights.  For those in exile, an internationally accepted Palestinian citizenship, a Palestinian passport and a right to return, if only to visit, would have enormous significance.  And if the Palestinians themselves accepted a settlement, few, if any, Arab states would continue to reject Israel.  If a Palestinian flag were peacefully raised over Palestinian government offices in Jerusalem, few Arab eyes would still see Israel through a veil of hatred.  The immovable obstacle to a lasting region-wide peace would have been removed.

 

          While implementation of such a framework for peace would be relatively simple, its acceptance would require a moral, spiritual and psychological transformation from both Israelis and Palestinians.  Yet, given the decades of hatred, bitterness and distrust, any settlement would require such a transformation.  Precisely because such a transformation would be so difficult, it is far more likely to be achieved if both peoples can be inspired by a truly compelling vision of a new society of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and human dignity, in which both peoples are winners, than if they are left to contemplate painful programs for a new partition and an angry separation in which both peoples must regard themselves, to a considerable degree, as admitting defeat.

 

          Israelis, Palestinians and the true friends of both must now raise their sights beyond the minutiae of the Wye Memorandum and pursue a compelling vision of a society so much better than the status quo that both Israelis and Palestinians are inspired to accept in their hearts and minds that peace is both desirable and attainable, that the Holy Land can be shared, that a winner-take-all approach produces only losers, that both Israelis and Palestinians must be winners or both will continue to be losers and that there is a common destination at which both peoples would be satisfied to arrive and to live together.

 

          Peace is unimaginable on any other basis.

 

 

 John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who writes frequently on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
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