Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

Many Possible Palestines

Representatives of member countries vote on a resolution that would have recognized the Palestinians as a full UN member state, during a Security Council meeting at UN headquarters, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

How countries voting for a Palestinian State at the UN treat minority nationhood within their own borders

On Thursday, April 18, the UN Security Council nearly passed a resolution backed by the majority of the world to recognize a State of Palestine. Less than a week before our own holiday of liberation, the world’s message to Israel is clear: they want us to let those people go. Given the carrot of regional normalization led by the Saudis, and the stick of global sanctions, Israelis, legitimately concerned about the creation of a Palestinian political entity given the horrors of October 7 are running out of time to influence the structure of such a State. Perhaps it would be helpful to examine how other countries championing the Palestinian cause have structured similar relationships with distinct national peoples, so that we may apply the model best suited for our particular context.

Starting with the country granting the least rights, China, Israel can suggest it follow the Tibetan model for Palestine. Tibet, invaded by China in 1949 and conquered in 1950, has been thoroughly settled by Han Chinese in an effort to Sinicize the region, adding another 280 thousand in 2015. Tibetans as individuals almost have the same rights as the rest of China’s citizens, with a few additional restrictions shared by other national minorities under Chinese rule. While this would certainly be a setback for Palestinians as individuals in terms of rights and protections, it would conform with the norms set by a major player in the international community and Israel could legitimately claim its current government is following in its footsteps.

Since most Israelis and Jews would instinctively reject the Chinese model of governance, perhaps more fitting would be the model the Catholic Kingdom of Spain adopted to control national minorities it conquered over the centuries. For example, the Basque People have an autonomy called Basque Country, with its own parliament and system of government. The Basques do not have an armed force, or any form of international political representation, yet do send representatives to the Spanish national assembly which, as of 2023, finally showed flexibility in their own nation-state law and now allow the Basque language to be officially used (among the languages of other conquered peoples). The Basque are citizens of Spain. Were Israel to take up this arrangement, all Palestinians would be granted citizenship, Palestine would be able to send representatives to the Knesset (or at least a special house developed for regional representation), and Palestinians would mainly be left to manage their own civil affairs.

If granting the Palestinians representation in parliament is too much for Israelis, we can always propose to adopt the Puerto Rican model used by the United States since its military occupation of the Island in 1898. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but Puerto Rico is not a State of the Union. They do not have voting representation in Congress. Nor can they vote for the American president who serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the only armed forces that protect them. Puerto Ricans are, however, afforded rights protected by the US, and budgets from its Federal Government. Were Israel to follow the Puerto Rican model for Palestine, Israel would annex the territories won after being invaded by Egypt and Jordan in 1967, and Palestinians would more or less remain as they are today in terms of political representation in Knesset, while becoming Israeli citizens and granted Israeli passports for all other intents and purposes.

Finally, Israel could suggest Palestine become an independent nation-state in the footsteps of Slovenia, who won its independence in 1991 and whose parliament includes special rights for ethnic minorities who remained within its territory. Given the circumstances, Israel could suggest Palestine be modeled after Costa Rica, an independent state demilitarized since 1948 living at peace despite its location in a belligerent neighborhood. If Israel were to suggest the Slovenian/Costa Rican model, Palestinians would have an independent State, Jews living within the borders would be given special rights, and the Palestinian State could spend their collective funds on civil development as opposed to military adventurism.

There are a plethora of other models Israel can choose from to reflect how countries voting for Palestinian independence treat their own citizens. But since many of those countries are brutal dictatorships or illiberal democracies who grant little to no rights to their peoples, some actively engaging in ethnic cleansing as they vote for Palestine, I don’t think Israel should consider following in their footsteps.

We now have the opportunity to seize the historic moment to solve two major problems Israel has faced since its establishment: our relationship with the non-Jewish inhabitants of our ancient homeland, and our relationship with our neighbors in the broader region. Both hinge on Palestine. If we dither, both opportunities can turn to crises: the world may back a Palestine with aspirations from the River to the Sea, and the region may once again see us as a liability, not an asset. By presenting our own position on Palestine, and framing it in the context of existing models, we may find that this terrible period of history was but the desert we needed to march through to finally arrive at peace in our promised land.

About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.
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