Steven Balkin
Inspired by Martin Buber and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Three States – Three Futures – One Peace

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Three States – Three Futures – One Peace

According to most observers, except for the Netanyahu government and its allies, the road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories will require a path to a Palestinian State.

There are many objections to one state and two state solutions.  A three state solution, of the type proposed here, is more sustainable and gives better matching between the ideological preferences of the different groups and the constitutional framework of the place they would be most comfortable living in. At the same time it would be promoting a durable peace between Jews and Muslims; and between Liberals and Conservatives.

I grew up living in a tight Jewish neighborhood in Detroit, where the reigning joke was: Two Jews are stranded on a desert island and they immediately build three synagogues – one for the first guy, one for the second, and one that neither of them would be caught dead in.  I like the idea of that joke: conflicts can be avoided by separating and being in an environment that most suits one.  The three state solution proposed here is no joke. It is a framework that can be the basis for stopping the present Gazan War now and saving lives.

The three state solution proposed here is Theocratic Jewish Israel, Theocratic Moslem Palestine, and Liberal-Pluralistic Israel-Palestine (LPIP), arranged in a loose confederation using the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a constitutional framework. Its 75th Anniversary was December 10.

Theocratic here means a form of government in which “a deity is recognized as the supreme ruling authority, giving divine guidance to human intermediaries who manage the government’s daily affairs. … The term was initially coined by Flavius Josephus in the first century AD to describe the government of the Jews.”

However, Theocratic Jewish Israel and Theocratic Moslem Palestine, would not be pure theocracies because imposed on their sovereignty would be (1) the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which would take precedence over laws generated from the Torah and the Quran; (2) a prohibition on laws and educational programs and materials that incite violence or promote antisemitism or islamophobia; and (3) laws and policies that provide the superstructure for a minimalist linking confederation to do fiscal sharing, rules for border permeability, and provision for a common defense against external enemies.

Each of three states are to become city-states on the model of Singapore.  Each of the three states would borrow Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) that defines the following as punishable offenses: urging force or violence on the basis of religion, or against a religious group or its members; inciting feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility against a religious group; and insulting the religion or wounding the religious feelings of another person.

Sorry, no Don Rickles allowed. But, maybe in the future, there will be a maturing of feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood where comedic ethnic and religious insults can be allowed.

Even though Theocratic Jewish Israel would be a mostly Theocratic State, but not a pure Theocratic State, it would comport with the concept of Zionism: that Judaism is a nationality as well as a religion, and that Jews deserve their own state in their ancestral homeland. It would be more Jewish in character, culture, and religion than the present State of Israel.

All three states would be democracies where the official voting inhabitants would decide how to structure their government within the constraints above.  The theocratic states may vote in a Supreme Rabbi or Grand Mufti to create their laws or they may have a full-fledged parliament to legislate.  In the theocratic states, legal systems could be religion-based (Sharia law and courts in Palestine and Halacha law adjudicated in Batei Din in Israel) if that is what voters want.

Noticeably absent, in this presentation about a Three State Solution, are definitions of borders, their degree of permeability, the extent of rights of return, and revenue sharing. Those can be worked out in future negotiations.  Prime Minister Netanyahu articulated his prerequisites to peace in a recent (December 25, 2023) Wall Street Journal OP-ED.  They do not seem unreasonable but they should not imply a rejection of a sovereign Palestinian State.  His three prerequisites are: “destroy Hamas, demilitarize Gaza, and deradicalize the whole of Palestinian society.”  This makes sense as steps following a war initiated by a brutal massacre that generated a military response resulting in a high civilian death toll.  Of course, the PM cannot control minds but laws can provide for penalties for behavior that promotes violence against anyone or any group in the confederation. A start would be to ban capital punishment and vigilante justice in all the constitutions.

This is similar to what the allied forces did in Japan and Germany after WW2; and, as in that post WW2 situation, unoccupied non-aggressive states may require a few years to build.  PM Netanyahu says, “Every territory we pull out from, we get terror, terrible terror against us.” My response is: “Dear PM, thank you for trying to protect us but don’t just pull out: think of Maimonides and Tzedaka (charity towards generating self-sufficiency), think General George C. Marshall and the Marshall Plan, think W. Edwards Deming, think nation building, think allyship, and think hab nisht keyn meshugah kup (don’t have a crazy mind).

To help one imagine this three state solution, here is my initial list of possible names for the three state confederation: The Union of Israel, Palestine, and Israel-Palestine; The Confederated Union of Holy Land States; The Confederation of Levantine States; The Confederation of Eretz Yisroel, Dawlat Filastin, and Israel-Palestine.

To protect each state from aggressive action from the other states in the confederation, states may have only local municipal and state police forces for law enforcement along with a state militia, similar to the state units of the National Guard in the USA, that serve under the command of their state governor for responding to natural disasters and other state emergencies. In addition, there must be strong weapon control laws for civilians and law enforcement which permit only conventional non-automatic weapons. No bombs; no rockets; and no suicide vests. To provide an extra layer of defensive protection in the early years of this new confederation, each state should be linked to an existing ally protector nation state. For example, the Theocratic Muslim State of Palestine, could be linked to Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia. For the Theocratic Jewish State of Israel its protector nation can be the USA or Canada or Great Britain; and for LPIP it can be Norway or Germany or France.

The states would satisfy sovereignty preferences in the sense that no amount of Muslim population growth and military acquisition would be allowed to dilute Jewish political power and cultural dominance in the Jewish Theocratic State; and no amount of Jewish population growth and military acquisition would be allowed to dilute Muslim power and cultural dominance in the Muslim Theocratic State.  No amount of demographic imbalance in LPIP could push it to adopt a state religion.  The philosophy underlying the constitution for LPIP is to be the European enlightenment (reason and pure science) and its derivatives, for example: utilitarianism, existentialism, and feminism.

It would be permitted for Muslims to live in Theocratic Jewish Israel and for Jews to live in Theocratic Moslem Palestine, but outsiders would not be able to vote in State elections. An advantage of this new three state configuration is it allows for strongly religion-focused Jews and Muslims to separate themselves from each other, while allowing members of these groups who desired to live in integrated and more secular settings to be able to do.  Minorities such as the Bahai, Druze, Samaritans, Black Hebrew Israelites, Atheists, Christians, Feminists, Domari, and LGBTQ as well as Reform Jews and Moderate Muslims would likely choose LPIP.

Writers and scholars have claimed that, due to demographic imbalance, it is impossible for Jews and Palestinians (Israelis + Gazans + West Bankers) to live in one bi-national state with the same rights and still be a democratic Jewish state.  In my three state solution, it is possible for there to be a forever Jewish state (tolerated by Muslims), a forever Muslim state (tolerated by Jews); and a secular state.  People may discover that these tolerated states have more cross-cultural commonality and symbiosis than expected. I have visited the 19th Arrondissement neighborhood in Paris and found Jews and Muslims living harmoniously side by side.

A three state confederation, as suggested here, would be more acceptable and more sustainable than the two-state solution as presently conceived in the Oslo Accords. We could find this out in a poll or quick focus groups.

I have done ethnographic research about religious groups and cults related to economics topics such as microenterprise development and the viability of intentional communities. Most of the religious groups I studied have had their own internal arrangement for creating, modifying, and monitoring the rules that structure their religious communities as micro theocracies. I visited the State of Utah, controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons, and the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasids, a Jewish ultra-religious group, dominate. I enjoyed being in both places though I would not want to move to either place because of the tight restrictions on the social behavior that is allowed.

Scholars and activists have tried to specify configurations of Jews and Muslims sharing space in what is now Israel and the Palestine occupied territories.  I applaud those who have devised innovative two state solutions and I would whole-heartedly support those as an alternative to conflict and war.  But I assert that the version of a Three State Solution, as presented above, allows the swiftest and most durable path to peace while also strongly fulfilling the nationalist desires of Jews and Palestinians. There would be separation for some Jews and Palestinians and integration for others.

I appreciate all those readers who gave me critical feedback and all those writers that influenced my thinking about this topic.

About the Author
Dr. Steven Balkin is a Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University in Chicago where he teaches courses in economics, social justice, and criminal justice. His PhD. is from Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the author of many articles and a book: Self-Employment for Low Income People. His research focus is on violence prevention, international development, entrepreneurship, and cultural preservation. He is a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group.
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