A proposal for an Israeli democratic future

Until  major organizations such as J Street , IPF , NIF, APN, and B’Tzelem join in convening a First Congress to Explore the Architecture of a Bi-National State of Israel fully securing and guaranteeing her unrestricted cultural and religious expression of Jewish and Arab homelands to be eternally preserved in a genuinely democratic state, according to articles of law, in a congruent structure, we are failing to stop the rapacious deformity masquerading as Zionism under Netanyahu and the governing rightwing’s theo-fascism.

In the spirit of moving the dialogue forward, I am offering a new Peace Plan for ending the Occupation. This alternative model for reconciliation brings to the table a viable,  two-state future and, equally important, narrows the schism between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.

A statement of purpose

Most current two-state plans offer no inherent and compelling respect for Arab history in the pre-1967 land of Israel, the history of that very Arab population which, along with its descendants are to be unceremoniously separated by the terms of the two-state agreement. Consequently, if any of the current  envisioned plans are enacted, the Nakba will remain a festering memory, and even the spirit of the Hamas Charter will continue to find life in many Arab quarters.

The following plan, significantly different from any prior proposal, encourages Palestinians living in the new state of Palestine to exercise a direct, interactive relationship with the State of Israel, revitalizing their historic connection to the land, including pre-1967 Israel, sharply reducing their sense of being an apartheid-ghettoized People.

1. The following concept seeks to resolve several conflicting needs of inhabitants of Israel within the pre-1967 borders, and the Arab inhabitants of the region now occupied by Israel, as well as the Jewish population of settlers in the “settlements” established along the border after 1967, as well as Palestinians in their own diaspora who may wish a return to the region being considered in this plan.

2. The plan leaves  sovereignty as it relates to East and West Jerusalem to final negotiations, as well as the “Old City” which should be resolved separately.

PART ONE

Opening agreement by all parties:

I.

It is recognized that Israel’s pre-1967 borders constitute the borders of a Jewish homeland, born of a historic right to exist, with such purpose to develop as it sees fit, its own religious, cultural and social practices as it chooses without any interference from within or without, fully excepted from existential challenge by international or national debate other than by its own laws and decisions according to Jewish law.

II.

It is recognized that Israel’s pre-1967 borders constitute the borders of an Arab Muslim and Arab Christian homeland, born of a historic right to exist, with such purpose to develop as it sees fit, its own religious, cultural and social practices as it chooses without any interference from within or without, fully excepted from challenge by international or national debate other than by its own laws and decisions according to Muslim law and Christian traditions.

PART TWO

I. “The State” of Israel will comprise the two homelands described above. Her borders, with the exception of the annexed  Golan Heights and Jerusalem (to be decided by separate negotiation) shall be her pre-1967 borders.

The Knesset shall be numerically elected by votes counted toward parties as they are now, with the same system in place. 

A significant change shall accrue to the status of those votes cast by West Bank settlement Israelis which from the adoption of this accord shall NOT be counted toward any party enabling it to gain a sufficient number of seats to participate in Israel’s governing coalition. In other words, such votes as may be from settlement Israelis shall be denoted with an asterisk so that even if the total seats in the Knesset of a coalition is 61, that number of seats must reflect votes based on ballots for parties having no asterisk.

PART THREE

Regions now outside the pre-1967 borders.

I. The West Bank and Gaza

Arab residents of these areas shall become citizens of a new state of Palestine. 

A. The new state shall have its own legislature and leadership according to whatever provisions it may choose to enact. The state shall maintain its own security with an active defense force.

Arab citizens of Palestine may ultimately have the ability to travel in pre-1967 Israel, much in the manner of one whose visa permits visiting. Time and trust will shape the course of these salutary changes, but they shall be encouraged whenever there are family ties between residents of Palestine and Israel.

B. The land. 

The settlements will be regarded as Israel. 

All land in the currently occupied areas, other than the settlements will be deemed “Palestine.” 

C.  Ownership of Property 

The property outside the 1967 border which is the habitation of an Arab resident(s), and is either owned or rented for such purpose, or is occupied for the purpose of doing business, becomes, under terms of this agreement, Palestine. Taxes on the property will be due the Palestinian administrative authorities, and income tax based on income generated in Palestine, likewise.

II. The Jewish population in the settlements and occupied areas

Jews in these areas will have the right to either move to pre-1967 Israel, or to remain where they are. If they do not return, their votes will be limited as described above. 

FURTHER: Settlement Jews may exercise the same Right of Return as Jews of any other nation in the world, and make pre-1967 Israel their home and homeland. But there is an important proviso should they choose to do so: Under no circumstances will they be able to keep their ownership of their settlement habitat, nor will it be saleable to others inhabiting the settlements. By design, the settlement families are to have a finite lineage and not become a separate nation. If a settlement residence is vacated, compensation will be provided by Israel or Palestine, and it may be purchased by the State of Israel and maintained as unbuilt land  with an option to purchase by the new State of Palestine.

PART FOUR

The Palestinian Diaspora

I. Palestinians who can demonstrate prior ownership of land or houses within pre-1967 Israel shall have the right of first refusal when and if such property is placed on the market for sale by its owner. In the event the property is purchased by a Palestinian, he or she may take full proprietorship and residency, with consequent requirement of allegiance to the State of Israel as a new citizen.

II. Palestinians may return to the currently occupied regions, to become “Palestine,” in whatever number the new State of Palestine permits.

PART FIVE

Jerusalem

General observation:

East Jerusalem is an Arab area. It has numerous Arab villages and homes–and there have been no Jewish residences to speak of. Recently the demolition of Arab houses and confiscation of East Jerusalem land to presumably make it a habitation for observant Jewish families is plainly contrary to any reconciliation. 

Therefore:

East Jerusalem should be kept as it is, and may become the “capital” of the new state of “Palestine.” The fact it does not include any Jewish holy sites frees it from the potential issue of such a religious conflict ever arising. As a part of Jerusalem, agreed law should require that there should be no hindrances placed upon Jews seeking to visit East Jerusalem, nor should there be hindrances placed upon Palestinians wishing to visit West Jerusalem

Regarding the Temple Mount and contested areas in the “Old City”: A creative formula for sharing administrative cooperation remains a challenge. The issue of sovereignty over the four quarters of the “Old City”  is not resolved in this agreement.

The scheduling of prayer services to prevent disturbing others is a simple courtesy. Observing the protocols of keeping polite distance from sacred shrines is as well.

If  religious leaders of good will join in thinking through these sensitive differences, accommodation will be achieved. Rotating sovereignty is not incomprehensible. It is a matter for joint discussion and peaceful resolution.

PART SIX

Security

If this plan is enacted,  Arab and Jewish neighbors now living under occupation may share a table for dinner, one an Israeli citizen, the other a citizen of Palestine; no longer at war or filled with fear and hate. 

The police, at least for an interim period, might be comprised of both Arabs and Jews, for the first time with hope that the future will be bright.

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religion and Biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and has a screen credit as Historical Consultant for "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. His other books include, "The Historical Haggadah," "The Matthias Scroll," "A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity," and most recently, "The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition." Abram invites communication on his FB page: "Abram Epstein" or "Abram's Historical Writing."
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