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A Unique One-State Solution for Israelis and Palestinians

A Unique One-State Solution for Israelis and Palestinians
(Kobby Dagan/Dreamstime.com)

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 05:49 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Two recent developments make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less likely than ever. Donald Trump announced that the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem, outraging Palestinians who want to locate the capital of any future Palestinian state there. And Israel's parliament decreed that a two-thirds majority will be needed to cede any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

Thanks to these developments, more Palestinians are now thinking more seriously about a one-state solution. But many Israelis fear that a single state combining Israelis and Palestinians would produce a country in which Jews would ultimately be outnumbered. A choice might therefore have to be made about whether to keep Israel democratic — one person, one vote — but no longer be a Jewish state, or to remain a Jewish state, which would require an undemocratic apartheid-like regime in which Palestinians were subordinated. The latter option would not produce a stable country where everyone could prosper and live peacefully.

European history shows some clear examples of how poorly combinations of church and state tend to work. Wars inspired by Catholic-Protestant hostility only ended when attempts to maintain religious uniformity in each country were abandoned. The United States Constitution codifies this unhappy historical lesson by guaranteeing free exercise of religion and prohibiting establishment of a national religion. Hostilities between different branches of Islam remind us that the danger is a continuing one.

Lecturing Israelis about this danger, however, will fall on deaf ears unless a single democratic state can be organized so that an ultimate majority of Palestinians cannot abuse Jews. For Israelis, memories of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust will understandably be stronger than an appeal to mere theoretical principles.

What kind of deal could establish a single democratic state acceptable to both Jews and (largely Islamic) Palestinians? Clearly to answer this question will require imagination and a willingness to think "outside the box."

Let me offer my own proposal, which at first glance may appear crazy, in hopes that it might have some appeal or at least inspire other people to come up with better ideas:

  • Greater Israel would be a single state operating on the democratic principle of one person, one vote.
  • There would be two separate electorates, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, and the two electorates would conduct separate elections to the national legislature. (People belonging to neither group could choose which group they prefer to belong to.)
  • Each group would elect representatives proportional to its total population.
  • But only members of the Jewish group would be eligible to be nominated and elected by the Palestinian voters, and only members of the Palestinian group could be nominated and elected by the Jewish voters.

Given this arrangement, every legislator would be sensitive to both Jews and Palestinians. Each legislator would be "representative" in two different senses: a person chosen by voters to act on their behalf and accountable to them, and also a person who reflects the sex, race, religion, or perhaps other characteristics of a part of the general public.

The Soviet parliament was representative in the second, shared characteristics, sense, reflecting proportionately the numbers of women, young people, and national minorities in the country, but not in the first sense since voters were offered only one candidate for each post. America's Congress is representative in the first sense but not in the second because, for example, 50 percent of its members are not women. Here legislators elected by Palestinians would also represent Jews by virtue of their Jewishness, and those elected by Jews would also represent Palestinians, since they would all be Palestinians.

Under this system Israel could be considered the national homeland of both Palestinians and Jews and there should be no problem in moving the capital to Jerusalem since this is desired by both groups.

Modern physics is full of strange ideas. Neils Bohr once told another famous physicist, "Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true." Is my proposal for a single Israeli-Palestinian state crazy enough to be possible?

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Two recent developments make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict less likely than ever.
israel, palestinians, peace, elections
Tuesday, 30 January 2018 05:49 PM
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