Friday, April 09, 2010

The Real Two-State Solution: Let the people choose
By Fred Leder
Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 1:06 PM EDT

Has there ever been a country whose very existence has been subject to more intense scrutiny than Israel? Other considerations aside, there is one thing that should be apparent to any objective observer: everything proposed over the past 60 years has not worked. The Arab world has rejected each and every proposal that includes a Jewish State between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Instead of acknowledging that very obvious truth, third parties close their eyes to it and insist on hopeless wishful thinking that is divorced from reality. Today's manifestation of that wishful thinking is the 'two state solution' and the only means of implementing it is by using force to impose it on the populations involved on both sides of the divide. Far better would be a solution that puts its faith in the strength and dignity of the individual by creating a single entity: one democratic state accepted by all those who want to be its citizens.

Israel is already a vibrant and functioning democracy. The method of their approval is well defined: they'd vote. The putative partner-state is a seething cauldron of grievance, animosity and violence. One has to believe that there are, however, residents in the non-Israel areas who would be amenable to a solution that allows them freedoms they now are deprived of. They can't embrace this proposal under the circumstance in which they live today but once free from the violent gangs that shape their world they'd be able to make choices that are now unavailable to them.

This kind of solution would be based on the realities that exist and not the wishful thinking. One democratic state between the Jordan and Mediterranean would provide a place where its citizens can live in freedom and peace because inclusion in it would be voluntary. If living in a democracy isn't acceptable to some of the population there now, for whatever reason, they can choose another way to live. Absent third party meddling, most would choose to be part of the new entity.

Here is what one state would look like. Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights would be united with Israel. Gaza, which was never an integral part of the Jewish homeland, would be excluded.

Politically derived estimates of Arab population in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem run as high as 2.6 million, but the likely number of Arabs in this area is no more than two million. There are some estimates of the Arab population that are much smaller than even this number. In addition, Arabs in Judea and Samaria who don't feel they can live in a democracy besides Jews, Muslims and Christians would be offered cash incentives to leave.
There are 1.2 million Arabs who live in Israel proper now so that a new state would contain about three million (or fewer) Arabs. There are slightly over five million Jews in Israel today and once Israel's borders are secure, one might anticipate another million coming from Europe in the not too distant future. This would mean that the new state of Israel would have three million or so Arabs and six million Jews.

The character of a Jewish state can be maintained at that level especially since Jewish fertility rates are now about the same as the Arab's. The mantra projecting a demographic time bomb in Israel has always been refuted by the facts in every decade since 1948. However, there are constituencies that continue to promote this narrative and the myth persists.

The Arabs in Judea and Samaria would be offered full Israeli citizenship and would be granted all of the rights and responsibilities that come with being part of a democracy. A bill of rights for all citizens can be a valuable safeguard for Jews and non-Jews alike. Those who decline the privilege of citizenship and remain would be resident aliens with local autonomy over their own affairs but with none of the rights and obligations of a citizen.

Gaza would be considered a separate Arab state. The second state if you like. They are free to negotiate their southern border with Egypt if they feel the need to expand.

This path to this plan is short and could be put in place quickly. Its parameters, once outlined, should be clear so that individuals can choose their own way forward. The key to this proposition is that democracies function with the consent of the governed and if the nine million people of a newly constituted Israel consent to their governance, we could soon see Jews, Muslims and Christians living side by side in peace with mutual respect for each other's rights. There is no reason that the American model cannot be sustained in the land that gave the world the rule of law and has always championed the sacred uniqueness of every individual.

This solution is not the implementation of wishful thinking by force. It is the recognition of the realities of people finding their own way by living the life they choose for themselves and their families.

Frederic Leder, Ph.D. is a retired oil company executive now living in Westport. (Thanks to Ted Belman.)

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