Kevin J. Ashley

The Two-Legislature Solution vs. The Two State Solution

First and foremost, I want to say that I hope and pray that all of the parties involved in negotiating peace in the Middle East can bring about a Two State Solution that results in sustained peaceful relations not only between Israel and a new Palestinian State, but between these two states and their neighbors.  The Two State Solution is definitely one way to end the current rounds of violence, promote economic and social development, and end an oppressive occupation that has gone on far too long.  That said, I am concerned about the form this Two State Solution will take and whether it will address the underlying issues, needs, and desires of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

The most recent offer of a Two State Solution made by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 was regarded by many Israeli and international diplomats as going farther than even Yitzhak Rabin considered before he was assassinated.  This solution was based on total physical separation of the two states and, for the most part, the two peoples.  Most Israeli settlements in the West Bank would be absorbed into Israel through a series of land swaps and the residents of the others would be evacuated back to Israel.  Passage between Gaza and the West Bank would be via a tunnel under Israeli control.  Jerusalem would be split between Israeli and Palestinian control with the holy sites in the City left under the control of an international administration.  The Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to areas within the borders of Israel would be limited to 1,000 persons per year but only for humanitarian reasons such as family reunification.  Palestine would have no military and Israel, or an international force, would have the right to patrol its borders and to pursue perpetrators of violence in Israel into Palestine at any time.  And Palestine would not have the sovereign right to make defense treaties with other countries.

Ehud Olmert wrote later in a Washington Post op-ed “Stop Focusing on the Settlements to Achieve Peace in the Middle East,” Washington Post, (July 17, 2009): “To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them… It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions.”

While I cannot speak for the Palestinian leadership, it seems apparent to me that one reason for rejecting a solution based on complete separation is that it ignores one of the driving forces of the current impasse – the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

The Two State Solution has been described as a divorce between two parties that can no longer live together.  But what party to a divorce would readily accept a settlement where the other party gets to keep the eight-bedroom mansion while they get only the caretaker’s two-bedroom cabin.  Where the first party gets to maintain the security system and limit who the other party can have in their home. And where the second party gets no visitation rights to the children or property where they have lived all their lives. From this perspective I don’t think it is difficult to understand the rejection of this deal.

Some who have reviewed the Two Legislature Solution have responded that it would not work because both sides will want “a strong measure of geographical sovereignty”.  While this may be true for those who desire to build functioning governments based on some amount of land somewhere, this ignores the desire of both Palestinian refugees to return to land inside the proposed boundaries of the State of Israel where they and/or their parents once lived and the desire of many Israelis to return to land in the West Bank (historical Judea and Samaria) where their ancestors once lived.  There is no separation boundary that can be drawn across the land that can satisfy both of these desires.

This is my concern; that as long as this yearning for return remains within a significant portion of both Palestinian and Israeli populations, there will always be factions that will seek to fulfill that wish, and through violent means, if necessary.  I fear that only when that urge is satisfied will the people in both groups be able to overcome violence through social disapproval.

The Two Legislature Solution solves this problem by allowing both sets of refugees to have all of the land without forced separation.

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.