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Alternative Palestinian Agenda

Alternative Palestinian Agenda

http://www.ap-agenda.org/initiative.htm

Proposal for an Alternative Configuration in Palestine-Israel – by Nasser Abufarha

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it” — Albert Einstein


The Proposal

A bi-national state would necessitate a reconfiguration of the shared space of Palestine-Israel. This proposal outlines the political and territorial configuration of two sovereign states, but in one political and economic union, namely the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel. This reconfiguration is based on the current demographic distribution of both populations and the need to accommodate the returnees from the exiled Palestinian population.

Under this arrangement, areas predominantly inhabited by Palestinian are recommended to be included in a Palestinian state and areas predominantly inhabited by Israelis are recommended to be included in an Israeli state. Areas that are lightly populated and can sustain population are recommended to be included in the Palestinian state in order to accommodate Palestinian refugees. Jerusalem would fall under a separate shared district and would constitute the capital of the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel.

The Palestinian state would include the population of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Galilee (al Jalil) in the north, the centrally located areas known as the Triangle, and the Bir es Saba’ region in the south. The Palestinian state would absorb the bulk of exiled Palestinians based on a new territorial configuration that reflects the current demographic distribution of Israelis and Palestinians. Similarly, the Israeli state would comprise those areas where Israelis compose the majority population. Each of the states would have sovereignty over its territories and have its own legislative council. Residents of each state would fall under the jurisdiction of that state regardless of their ethnicity.

A transitional period would allow for the implementation of the new configuration and the achievement of stability between both states before permitting residents from either to establish residency across states. However, residents of either state would fall under the jurisdiction of that state regardless of ethnicity. These two states would represent a federal, political, and economic union, which would encompass political representation, external security, and interethno-national relations of its citizens.

The district of Jerusalem would include both East and West Jerusalem, the city’s suburbs, and the city of Bethlehem. This district would have its own council that would be independent of either state’s legislative councils. The Council of Jerusalem would govern the district’s affairs and would represent the district’s residents. The Council would develop measures regarding the establishment of residency in the district that would treat Palestinians and Israelis equally. The Council would also oversee provisions for visitation and pilgrimage for all religious parties and communities around the world that are connected to Jerusalem.

What follows is a detailed description of the main components of the proposed configuration: state and federal political composition and structure, ethno-national relations, internal and external security, territorial distribution, and boundaries. This proposal is meant to provide an explicit framework for addressing the concerns and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians that could lay the groundwork for resolution of the conflict that would pave the way for reconciliation and the development of a multi-ethnic civic society.

Political and Economic Union

This proposal calls for a political and economic union for the administration of all matters of common interest in order to enable the two peoples to share the land and its resources and peacefully interact in light of the new territorial configuration.

Senate. The Senate would constitute the highest legislative body of the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel. The Senate would be composed of an equal number of seats for each state regardless of the population and the district of Jerusalem would be represented by an additional 25% of the respective state’s representation in seats. For example, if the Senate is composed of 45 seats, 20 would be representative of the Israeli state, 20 of the Palestinian state, and 5 of the district of Jerusalem. Members of the Senate would be elected by the residents of each respective state regardless of ethnicity. Residents of the district of Jerusalem would elect its representatives.

Parliament. The Federal Union of Palestine-Israel would also have a parliament that would be elected by all citizens of the two states and the District of Jerusalem based on the proportional distribution of the population. Under the supervision of the Parliament and the Senate, there would be an Executive Administration of the Federal Union of Palestine-Israel elected by the Parliament that would be approved by the Senate.

Executive Administration. The Executive Administration would administer areas of common interest to both states. These areas would include the following:

  • Political Representation: the Executive Administration of the Federal Union would represent the union of Palestine-Israel at the regional and international level and set the union’s foreign policy and external affairs.
  • External Security: a unified army under the Executive Administration of the Federal Union would oversee all matters of external security and international border protection. This army would recruit its members from the citizens of both states on a voluntarily basis.
  • Customs: a joint customs system would be administered under the Executive Administration of the Federal Union and control all aspects related to imports and exports of both states. Customs authorities would collect a single rate tariff on goods imported by either state and the proceeds of these tariffs would help fund the government of the Federal Union.
  • Infrastructure: the Executive Administration of the Federal Union would administer departments that provide services to both states such as energy and power facilities, water and irrigation, interstate highways and transportation, postal services, communications, and economic development and immigration.
  • Ethnonational Relations Commission: The Executive Administration of the Federal Union would form and administer an Ethnonational Relations Commission that would regulate social, civil, economic, and interfaith relations between the two societies.
  • Refugee Returnee Commission: the Federal Union would form a special commission in order to address the placement of refugees wishing to return as well as the loss of property and incurrence of damages to refugees and their descendents. The majority of the Palestinian returnees would be accommodated in the proposed Palestinian state. Returnees wishing to resettle in territories designated for the Israeli state would have the right to do so based on feasibility and regional planning. Individuals whose return to their previous property is impractical would file claims with the Refugee Returnee Commission.
  • Supreme Court: The Executive Administration of the Federal Union would form a supreme court that would serve as the highest court of justice in the land.

Language. The Arabic and Hebrew languages would both be the official languages of the Federal Union. All documents, records, announcements and publications would be published in both languages.

Currency. The Federal Union of Palestine-Israel would introduce a single currency system and administer one central bank.

Trade. There would be completely free trade within the Federal Union, between the two states, and between either state and the district of Jerusalem.

Federal Employees. Operation of all departments that falls under the Federal Union would be staffed by employees recruited from both states or from the district of Jerusalem on a non-discriminatory basis.

State Authority

Citizenship. All permanent residents of each state would have the right of citizenship of that state. Residents of a state may elect to maintain citizenship of the other state, but are subject to the judiciary system of the state in which they establish permanent residency.
Language. Each state would have its own language as the official language of the state. All documents, publications, announcements, and records would be published in the official language of the state.
Flag. Each state would have its own flag and national anthem.
National Holidays. Each state would adopt its own national holidays and celebrations.
Legislative Council. Each state would have its own legislative council elected by all citizens of that state regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.
State Government. The elected state council would form an executive state government that would administer the following areas:

  • Police and Internal Security: All matters of internal security, maintaining order and law enforcement would be conducted by the local state police.
  • Education: Each state would provide education for all of its citizens in its own language. Each community would reserve the right to maintain its own private schools for the education of its members in their own language, while conforming to the local state educational requirements and general regulations, shall not be denied.
  • Social Services: Each state would be responsible for providing health care and social services for its citizens.

Natural Resources. Each state would utilize the natural resources of its territories and be responsible for preserving the environment and natural beauty of the country.
Economic Planning. Each state would initiate and implement its own economic planning and development projects.
State Tax. Each state would collect state income tax from the permanent residents on its territories. Each state would develop special provisions regarding the income tax of residents of a state who are employed in the other state.
Urban Planning. Each state would administer its local municipalities and develop its own urban planning programs.
State Highways and Transportation. Each state would administer its local traffic, transportation, and local state roads.
Judiciary System. The legislative council of each state would set its own laws and regulations that respect the civil, social and religious rights of all residents of the state on a non-discriminatory basis.

Palestinian Cities to Retain under Palestinian Sovereignty

Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the cities of Akka, Jaffa, al Lyd, al Ramla, and Bir-es Saba’ were included in the territories 64%. The areas which are part of what is now Israel that are proposed here to be included in the Palestinian state areallocated to the Arab state. Under this new configuration, the three cities of Jaffa, al Lyd, and al Ramla would fall under the territories allocated for Israeli sovereignty. However, these cities still have a fairly large Palestinian population living in the old cities. Consequently, the old towns of Jaffa, al Lyd, and al Ramla are proposed to fall under Palestinian sovereignty. The boundaries of these towns would be drawn to the limits of the developed areas of the cities as of 1948. All of these cities still have Palestinian neighborhoods that are vacant, which could be renovated to help accommodate Palestinian returnees that are originally from there.

Overall Territorial Analysis of the Final Status

This new configuration will give the Palestinians sovereignty over an estimated 36% of Mandate Palestine and the Israelis nearly 64%. The areas which are part of what is now Israel that are proposed here to be included in the Palestinian state are approximately 3,000 square kilometers and have the demographic configuration shown in the table below.
Table. Demographics of territories proposed for the Palestinian State that fell under Israeli control between 1948-1951

Palestinian Population

Note: These figures do not include the Palestinian population of the cities of Jaffa, al Lyd, al Ramla or the Israeli population of the cities of Natsrat Ilit and Karmi’el. The Bedouin population in the south and the population of Palestinian villages unrecognized by Israel are also not reflected in these figures. The information furnished by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics with respect to the Bedouin tribes does not provide this information, nor does the Bureau provide statistics on the unrecognized Palestinian villages.

Table. Demographics of territories proposed for the Palestinian State that fell under Israeli control between 1948-1951.

Region

Palestinian Population

Israeli Population

al Jalil

471,100          

33,991          

District of Tabaria

1,060          

2,308          

Bisan Plateau

8,104          

2,343          

Marj ibin Amer

3,580          

2,996          

Upper Triangle

99,232          

4,635          

Lower Triangle

77,240          

0          

The South Region

27,340          

4,103          

Total

687,656          

50,376          

Source: State of Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, List of Localities,
Their Population and Codes, 31 XII 1998, Jerusalem 1998.
The current residents of these territories are:(*)
Palestinians
687,565
93.2%     
Israelis
50,376
6.8%     
Total Population
738,032
Note: These figures do not include the Palestinian population of the cities of Jaffa, al Lyd, al Ramla or the Israeli population of the cities of Natsrat Ilit and Karmi’el. The Bedouin population in the south and the population of Palestinian villages unrecognized by Israel are also not reflected in these figures. The information furnished by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics with respect to
the Bedouin tribes does not provide this information, nor does the Bureau provide statistics on the unrecognized Palestinian villages.District of Jerusalem

The district of Jerusalem as described in Exhibit B of UN Resolution 181, November 29, 1947 is proposed to be separate from either state authority and to be the capital of the Federal Union of both states. This proposal recommends the same arrangement whereby the district would run its affairs separate of either state. The boundaries of this district as shown in Map 3 include the city of Jerusalem, its suburbs, the neighboring villages, the city’s destroyed villages, and the city of Bethlehem. These are the same boundaries that were adopted in UN Resolution 181. These territories also include the sites of five Palestinian destroyed villages, four of which would be redeveloped. Due to the special status the city holds for all, such allocation will guarantee equal access to the district and its holy sites for members of all faiths.

Conclusion

Previous discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has focused on the power structures of relevant parties rather than the concerns and aspirations of Palestinian and Israeli society. Moreover, such discussions have ignored the historical context of the conflict as well as the current realities of the shared space of Palestine-Israel. Negotiations have set the Palestinian refugee problem aside, left the concerns of the Palestinians in Israel for ‘internal’ Israeli consideration, overlooked the severity of the demographic crisis in Gaza, and failed to recognize the now native born Israeli population as a fundamental change in the dynamics of the conflict that seeks regional acceptance.

Just as Palestine is the historic homeland of the Palestinians, Israel has become the homeland of a new native Israeli society. Together, these historical truths have given rise to Palestine-Israel, the homeland of the present day Palestinian and Israeli society. These two societies comprise the shared space of what has become Palestine-Israel. This new reality lends itself to the political expression of a Federal Union that guarantees access to the whole space of Palestine-Israel, and at the same time protects the national identity and cultural expression of both societies through sovereignty over designated territories based on the natural landscape and current demographics of this shared space.

This proposal is born out of historical necessity. Failure to address the concerns and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians has led to a state of tragic misery and chaos that blinds both sides from recognizing the historical destiny of a common future. Certainly the historical aspirations of both Israelis for Israel and Palestinians for Palestine are emotionally charged, but without recognition of current realities which demand accommodation of the other, the state of Israel will continue to be challenged in the region, and Palestinians will threaten to re-inscribe the very injustice they suffered in their pursuit of ‘liberation.’

This proposal addresses the concerns and aspirations of both Israeli and Palestinian society and thereby would effectively end a decades long conflict of local, regional, and international significance. It is not intended as a political statement, but rather to lay the grounds for a responsible, rational, and practical discussion at the people’s level in order to demonstrate the prospects for a political arrangement that will facilitate constructive relations between Israeli and Palestinian society. Resolution of the conflict depends on creating acceptance of one another. Such acceptance can only come through democratic relations and mutual recognition. Only under such a healthy state of interaction can the conflict come to resolution. The final resolution is not a political arrangement that can be drafted. It is a process in which both societies must engage. This proposal offers guidance toward initiating that process.

Review Maps

Map 1 – 1947 UN Partition Plan

Map 2 – Proposed Territorial Configuration for Palestine-Israel

Map 3 – Boundaries of the Proposed District of Jerusalem

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