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The Two-Legislature Solution (Short Version)

Can a power sharing arrangement that has lasted for over 600 years work for Israel-Palestine?

It has been said that the only way for Israel to remain both democratic and Jewish is to partition the land into two states and that keeping all the land together in one country can only result in either elimination of democracy to maintain control by a minority Jewish population, or elimination of Israel as a Jewish state when the non-Jewish portion of the population becomes a majority.

But what if there is a third alternative? What if everyone could share all of the land, living in a democratic state where all are citizens that have the right to vote, but where Jews are guaranteed a permanent role in governance?

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England and became king. He left an occupying force of about 8,000 to rule over a population of about 2.5 million. In response to revolts by the English, within 20 years King William systematically dispossessed all of the English elite of their lands and titles and replaced them with Normans who instituted military control. For the next 120 years the Normans battled among themselves and with their neighbors for supremacy in England and on the European continent. Through a series of wars and marriages this resulted in an empire extending from the border of Scotland to the Pyrenees Mountains. Their emphasis on continental possessions meant that England was held mainly as an occupied territory whose kings did not speak English and resided elsewhere.

But in 1204, William’s successor King John lost most of the Norman possessions on the continent to the French and was forced to view a future living only in England. His obsession with regaining continental possessions required raising taxes on and military support from the Norman barons in England who responded by forcing King John to sign Magna Carta in 1215, effectively creating the institution of Parliament in which the Norman ruling class would have a say in how the country would be run.

King John was succeeded by his son, Henry III, who continued his father’s efforts to revive the continental empire. To finance these ambitions, Henry realized that to collect additional taxes he would have to involve the common people and in 1254 instituted a system in which elected representatives from the rural shires (knights of the shires) were included in the Parliament. In 1268 this system was expanded to include elected representatives from the towns and boroughs (burgesses).  Although these elected representatives were required to have the power to speak for their entire constituency in confirming actions taken by the Norman nobility and could not propose actions, this was the first time since 1066 that some of the English were included in the government of their own country and membership of elected commoners in the Parliament has continued to the present day.

This joint Parliament functioned as a single chamber until 1341, midway through the reign of Edward III, at which time it separated into two chambers, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The result was to create two legislatures for the same area of land that must agree in order for proposals to become law. Membership in the two legislatures is determined by the members of the House of Lords which includes only nobles and bishops and represents less than five percent of the population. All others are relegated to participate in the House of Commons. This system has operated successfully for over 600 years and resulted in a country that values both its English and Norman heritage.

Israel-Palestine faces a very similar problem. How can two groups of people share all of the land, intermixed, without one group dominating the other and creating laws that favor one group over the other? Applying the English model, the answer would be to restructure the government to include two legislative houses; the Knesset for the Jews and another house for everyone else. In order for any proposal or budget to become law, both houses would need to agree ensuring that no law regarding a lessening of the rights of either group would ever pass and institutionalizing the Jewish nature of the state as a permanent and irrevocable aspect of the nation. In adopting this new system, the Knesset would not be voting to give up power, but rather voting to secure Jewish power regardless of the future demographics of the country.

About the Author
Mr. Ashley is a Mining Engineer with 36 years of experience in the mining industry. He holds a B.S. in Mining Engineering, an M.S. in Mining Engineering (Geostatistics), and an MBA. He is also a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Nevada (Retired). He has worked on evaluation and development of more than 50 mining projects located in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Peru, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Suriname, Thailand and the USA, involving commodities as diverse as aluminum (including bauxite and alumina), coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, kaolin, lignite, nickel, oil shale, potash, silver, uranium and zinc. Since his retirement he has dedicated his life to supporting causes that promote sustainable peace and development for all and working within his community to support democracy and good government doing such things as working on the Civil Grand Jury in his County and working as a Poll Worker and Trainer of Poll Workers.
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