SPEAKING FREELY A federal path to Middle East peace
By Wong Syuh-jeun
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
Semite, n., a member of any of the peoples supposed to be descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen.10:21 ff.), including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1995).
A futile war of attrition in the ancient land of Palestine continues without end. Previous peace-settlement initiatives have all failed because they did not address key philosophical issues.
For instance, for present-day Israelis, returning to the pre-1967 boundary would mean that their fallen soldiers and civilians had
died in vain during the past 45 years. For Palestinians, the right of return of the refugees who were dispossessed in 1948 must never be extinguished.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was created in 1949 is a relief and human development agency. It was originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief for 652,000 Arabs who fled or were expelled from Israel during the fighting that followed the end of the British mandate over Palestine.
In 2013, there are approximately 5 million refugees recognized by UNRWA. The principal UNRWA refugee camps are located in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The operating budget of UNRWA is more than US$1 billion annually. This highlights that resolving the Palestinian right of return by mass re-settlement of Palestinian refugees in a third country such as Australia and Brazil - as some have suggested - is absolutely nonsensical.
After more than 20 years of peace negotiations under the 1993 Oslo Accord between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, there is no apparent path forward. Neither side can agree to any major territorial and political concessions.
In the early 1990s, the "two-state solution" somehow gained the ascendancy among key interested parties in "The West". Yet the mere creation of two states will not resolve the critical issues of the unalienable right of return of Palestinian refugees to existing land inside the State of Israel, and the insatiable expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
In reality, the hackneyed "two-state solution" has become increasingly impracticable as Israel continues to expropriate ever more choice land in the West Bank which is under the nominal jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. The North Atlantic polities never had any mediation plan beyond sponsoring more endless rounds of negotiations. The underlying issue has always been "what will be negotiated equitably with the continued creation of more 'Jewish facts on the ground' by the present state of Israel in the West Bank?"
Only an entirely new approach can overcome these and other intractable demographic and theocentric obstacles. The guiding principles in developing a new reconciliation plan would include the recognition of symbiotic economic and social-political realities in the land inhabited by modern-day Semites.
The creation of a federal state, ie, the Federal Republic of Semites, could reconcile most of the opposing philosophical positions of the contestants. The Federal Republic would include the territories of the present State of Israel, West Bank and Gaza. The Golan Heights and the Shebaa Farms should be returned unilaterally and unconditionally to Syria and Lebanon, respectively. For the Jewish nationalists, the new federal boundary would meet their longstanding goal of realizing Eretz Israel. For the Arabic nationalists, the new federal boundary would encompass historical Palestine as it had existed in the early part of the twentieth century.
The proposed Federal Republic would have two constituent separate states. The boundary of the constituent State of Palestine should be set at the internationally-recognized pre-1967 border. The practical model could be essentially similar to that of the functioning former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia before it was destroyed irrevocably through a series of misdeeds committed by "the West" in its incessant psychopathic war against global communism. The presidency of the Federal Republic would alternate between the elected leaders of the two constituent states. The capital of the Federal Republic would be Jerusalem which would be designated as a federal capital territory. With this new geo-political arrangement, ardent theo-centric nationalists of all sides could be placated.
The basic laws of the Federal Republic would protect the rights and privileges of all citizens equally. In particular, there would be unrestricted rights of commerce, employment, settlements and movements for all people. The existing Jewish settlements in the present West Bank could remain undisturbed. However, the establishment of new Jewish settlements and expansion of existing Jewish settlements in the constituent State of Palestine would henceforth comply with applicable non-discriminatory laws of the constituent State of Palestine.
The Palestinians in the Diaspora would also have the unfettered right of return to re-settle in the territory of the present and future constituent State of Israel. In resolving the issue of current occupancy, the Palestinian property claimants would be compensated fairly and adequately by the constituent State of Israel, for any claimed land properties that are not available immediately for re-settlement.
If all Palestinians in the Diaspora were to return to reside in the new Federal Republic, the ethnic balance between Jews and non-Jews would become approximately equal to permit equitable electoral representation in the Federal legislative assembly.
Under the federal system, the specific Jewish character of the constituent State of Israel would remain largely intact. Concomitantly, the social, economic and cultural aspirations of Arabic and other non-Jewish citizens in the constituent State of Palestine as well as in the constituent State of Israel would be able to flourish without hindrance.
Upon the founding of the Federal Republic, the military forces of the present State of Israel and of the present Palestinian Authority must be re-organized into a single federal armed force in which all citizens of the Federal Republic could participate voluntarily. Substantial disarmament could be undertaken concomitantly in view of the natural disappearance of any "existential threats" from without. Each constituent state could establish a police force for maintenance of civil order only. In this fashion, confidence of non-belligerency among all parties concerned could be entrenched firmly.
For the sake of political peace, the affected people should have the absolute democratic right to decide directly. In order to ensure the widest level of popular support for the founding of the Federal Republic of Semites, a referendum must be held among those adults who are residing presently within the boundary of the State of Israel, and those adult Palestinians residing in the West Bank, Gaza and UNRWA-operated refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The threshold for referendum approval might be set above 60%, within each of the two electoral groups. In this fashion, the current political leadership would not and could not be accused of selling out their people through political expediency. A second referendum for continuation of the Federal Republic should be held on the tenth anniversary of the first referendum. This provision would afford an unequivocal affirmation of the federal system, or an amicable termination in the event that either side has become dissatisfied with the functioning of the Federal Republic of Semites.
The time required to draft the referendum documentation might need only three to four months. Adequate public discourse leading up to the referendum might require another four months. If everything goes well, the establishment of the Federal Republic of Semites could be promulgated within 12 months after the start of the proposed remediation plan. Upon the founding of the Federal Republic, substantive re-construction of the constituent State of Palestine must be undertaken based on the model deployed for the reunification of the two Germanys during the 1990s. Project funding could be provided largely as monetary reparation for the decades of pains and sufferings endured by the Semitic people of Palestine as inflicted by various foreign geopolitical interests.
After nearly five decades of multiple false starts, many shattered hopes, and continual wars of attrition, it is long overdue to consider an alternative strategy to resolve the contemporary conflicts in the ancient land of Palestine.
When there is no justice, there will be no peace.
The original article was written in 2002-2003, and was offered for consideration to Tikkun (USA), Haaretz (Israel), the Globe and Mail (Canada) and the New York Times. No response was ever received from any of above publications. Ten years later, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains totally unresolved.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Wong Syuh-jeun, a social-justice researcher, is based in Vancouver, Canada.