The Two-Legislature Solution vs. Confederation

One solution to the problems of unequal treatment of Jews and Palestinians within the whole of the territory currently controlled by Israel and the potential minority position of Jews in a democratic Israel is confederation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines confederation as “a political union of sovereign states united for purposes of common action”. In this instance, confederation would consist of two democratic states, one a Jewish majority binational state and one a Palestinian multicultural state, that cooperate in the allocation of resources, the development of infrastructure, mutual defense, and possibly a common currency.

While some confederation proposals go no further than setting this as a goal to be negotiated during an extended period of ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians, others, such as A Land For All (See: A Land For All | A Land For All), delve deeply into the details of how such a confederation would work. One of their keys goals is, “Two states should be established in this region between the Jordan and the sea – two independent, sovereign states, within the June 1967 borders, in full control of their territories, without one people occupying or controlling the other.” This will be achieved by, “The two states will share institutions of a confederate nature, to decide on joint matters.The two states will decide on the powers granted to these institutions and the issues to be managed by each state individually.” Under the premise that, “This land, between the sea and the Jordan River, is one geographical and historical unit, which both people consider their homeland. You can draw borders in it, but you cannot put up walls. Instead of dividing it, both nations should share it.” And the issue of the Right of Return would be addressed as, “Borders will be set between the two states, but they will be open. Israelis will be allowed to live in Palestine as Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents. Palestinians will be allowed to live in Israel as Palestinian citizens and Israeli residents.”

Under the proposed system, citizens who live in either Israel or Palestine would vote for the government of the country of which they are a citizen. As in most countries, those who are only residents would not have a vote for the government of the territory in which they live, although they would be expected to pay taxes there.

Development of a set of institutions that will have say over “joint matters” will be complex, but it has been done before, such as in the fledgling United States between 1782 and 1789. The greater difficulty will be for those items that are not “joint matters”. If the government of a territory were to take discriminatory actions or make discriminatory laws against non-citizens, those residents would have no recourse other than to complain to the officials in the other country who could not intervene in issues that are not “joint matters”.

Two somewhat mundane examples: Potholes and Hijabs

  • If potholes appear in the street in front of your house the usual reaction is to complain to the government agency responsible for road maintenance. However, allocation of funds for such maintenance is in the hands of politicians who are generally most responsive to the voters who elect them. As residents do not vote, it is likely that the areas where they live will get less service than those areas where more voters live, which can result in ghettoization and the unequal treatment confederation seeks to resolve.
  • Each sovereign state has the right to define appropriate dress or what they believe to be indecent exposure. If the government of the State of Palestine were to determine that showing a woman’s hair in public is not allowed and therefore the wearing of a hijab is required outside the home, this would apply not only to Palestinian citizens in Palestine but to resident Jews, even within settlements populated only by those residents. Jewish women who do not wear a hijab could be fined and/or arrested by the Palestinian authorities. While this might upset Jews in Israel, there would be no recourse through the mechanism of confederation.

These are just two examples of the kinds of problems that would be encountered in a confederation that seeks to share the land but without mechanisms for ensuring the rights of non‑citizens.

On the other hand, the Two Legislature Solution ensures that all citizens of Israel: Jewish, Palestinian, and others, all have the clout of being voters to whom government agencies are equally responsible and all have equal input in matters where cultural norms might be given the force of law. And this would be accomplished without special interstate institutions whose authority would extend only as far as each state agrees at any given time.

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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