All options on the table

I went to work last Tuesday, and found that the parking lot was occupied by a large marquis; the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) was holding its annual conference. The world now knows about the revelations of the Sarin in Syria and the Torch of Mr. Lapid’s Equity but some might wonder on the pondering at the coffee point. One of the topics under fierce discussion was the various options to the peace process; where one alternative to the two-state solution is confederation; an option well analyzed, debated and published on but always in need of mention.

The bottom line is that the Jewish nation has a sovereign state, Israel, and seeks that this state is recognized as the national home of the Jewish nation; while Palestinian leadership negotiate for something that they might already have; the other state of a two-state solution. The newly elected Government in Jerusalem together with American shuttle diplomacy and the Palestinian leadership are focusing on the two-state solution. However all options should be on the table; including confederation; not for any other reason than negotiations on the two-state solution seem to have become rather protracted; this August will be the 20th anniversary of the Olso Accords.

Of course, one state, Israel already exists so the negotiations actually pertain to the other one. Some say that Jordan is already the second state; well at least it was once called Palestine and now it has a majority population of Palestinians, while others suggest that Gaza is Palestine since the 2005 Israeli withdrawal or it could even be called the second Palestine state after Jordan; and that Judea and Samaria may be the third state; where the ultimate goal is yet another Palestinian state including Akko, Haifa, Tiberius and Tel-Aviv. That may mean four states whose majority population are Palestinian, yet with different leadership; Jordan is a Kingdom ruled by the minority Hashemite; Gaza by Hamas; Judea and Samaria by Fatah; and the Palestinian State of Akko, Haifa, Tiberius and Tel-Aviv by a yet to be born new radical movement that will struggle for Palestinian state-hood once all the other splinter groups have theirs.

Here lies the suggestion that confederation may be the alternative to the two-state solution; and indeed it will offer the various nations, tribes, clans and families a life of peaceful harmony and coexistence. One part of the confederation will be the national home of the Jewish nation and the other part of the confederation will be for Palestinian population irregardless of their disparate leadership and irregardless of territorial continuity. Indeed territorial continuity between Gaza and Judea and Samaria has always been a stumbling block in previous negotiations. Indeed a confederation would ensure access to all religious sites to all residents so the stumbling blocks in negotiations will be resolved about Jerusalem, Hebron and even Kever Aharon near Petra in Jordan.

Such a suggestion of confederation may thus sound good for the population and their aspirations for peace, harmony and stability. Israelis and Palestinians alike can continue to live where they currently live; there is no need to dismantle settlements; all will share the resources of all; there will be a free movement of people, goods, services and technology; and culture, religion and language will be preserved. For any doubtful or skeptical reader may I suggest consulting the European Union model of confederation that has resolved centuries of war between its over 100 tribes. These tribes now recognize that they were deceived in following philosophies and ideologies immortalized into political and social movements calling for each tribe to have their own piece of land at the price of millions of war-dead. Share and share alike is a European win-win.

Of course, observations of the European Union confederation model, show that some leaders are skeptical, hesitant and sometimes blatantly recalcitrant to maintaining the confederation fearing that it is just a step to a federation, or the model of the United States of America. A confederation could be any of a number of political unions between the two or more bodies. The term differs from a federation, which features semi-independent states ruled by a single central government. A federation means that current leaders loose their power.

Interestingly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has placed all the options on the table advancing a plan for confederation of Judea and Samaria with Jordan. The Jordanians are particularly sensitive to the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian union since Jordan officially relinquished its claim to the West Bank in 1988. Among many fears are that Jordan would become the preferred homeland for the Palestinians of Syria and Lebanon. Some of Abbas’ colleagues are apprehensive that the idea of confederation would mean that Jerusalem would be lost forever. Hamas in Gaza is not available for comment as it has eyes on Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. So while the war weary are grateful for American shuttle diplomacy that perseveres; the new Israeli government, The King of Jordan and the various Palestinian groups in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere should be given prodding that if the two-state solution is not bearing fruit; then confederation should be considered. All options should be on the table.

Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.


About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.