A Binational Confederation
A Response to"The Case for Binationalism"
Jerome M. Segal
Binationalism, as a general category, need not be equated—as Lama Abu-Odeh equates it—with the specific proposal for a binational state as opposed to a two-state solution. Presented below is a three-state framework that is also a species of binationalism. It is offered as an idea to consider, as a possible solution, not just to the problem of self-determination of both peoples, but also to the issues of refugees, Jerusalem, and security. It does this while preserving the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
1. The Confederation of Israel-Palestine
There will be three distinct states:
a) The Jewish State of Israel
b) The Arab State of Palestine
c) The Binational State of Israel-Palestine
2. The confederal government
The confederal government shall have various administrative functions. It will be governed by representatives of the three states with each state exercising veto power.
3. Confederal citizenship
Any citizen of a member state will automatically also be a citizen of the Confederation.
Citizens of the Confederation will have the right to work and travel anywhere within its borders. They will also have the right to own property anywhere within the territory of the Confederation, though this may be subject to regulation by a member state.
4. Member state citizenship
All citizenship in the Confederation's member states will require a choice of citizenship by the adult populations. There will be opportunities for joint and tri-state citizenship.
The Jewish State of Israel
Citizenship will be open to any current citizen of Israel (Jewish, Palestinian or otherwise). Israel will determine its own immigration policy and naturalization requirements. Some opportunities for citizenship will be offered to Palestinian refugees. Permanent residency status will be guaranteed to all current citizens of Israel and their descendants, whether or not they opt to become citizens of Israel. Such residency rights will remain, regardless of whether these individuals opt for citizenship in Palestine or the Binational State. Permanent residents shall have equal access to social programs and enforceable rights under law. Israeli citizenship will continue to be required for voting in Israel's national elections. Voting rights in local elections will be extended to all permanent residents.
The Arab State of Palestine
Citizenship will be open to all Palestinians, whether residing in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, Israel, or outside, whether refugees or not. At the discretion of the Palestinian state, citizenship opportunities may be offered to Israelis currently residing within the original territory of Palestine (e.g., settlers).
The Binational State
Citizenship will be open to anyone eligible for citizenship in either state, but citizenship in one of the two states will not be required for eligibility. Thus, some Israelis and Palestinians may be citizens only of the Binational State, whereas others may enjoy dual or even three-way citizenship.
5. Sovereignty and territory
The original sovereignty of Palestine shall include all of the Gaza Strip and all of the West Bank, with the exclusion of East Jerusalem, which shall be outside the original sovereignty of either state. The original sovereignty of Israel shall consist of the territory under Israeli control prior to the 1967 war.
Both Israel and Palestine will contribute equal amounts of territory to the Binational State from their areas of original sovereignty. It is expected that the State of Palestine will contribute to the creation of the Binational State much of the areas presently occupied by Israeli settlers. It is expected that Israel will contribute to the Binational State areas of equal size from within its pre-1967 borders. Over time, by mutual agreement, the two national states may contribute larger areas.
6. Palestinian refugees
Palestinian refugees will have both a right to citizenship in the Binational State and in the Palestinian state. Within the areas contributed to the Binational State by Israel, refugees will have a priority for the establishment of communities. Israel will also offer opportunities for refugees who are citizens of either the Binational State or the Palestinian state to become permanent residents within Israel. Some opportunities for Israeli citizenship will also be offered.
7. The Old City and religious sites
No state will exercise sovereignty over the Old City or its religious sites, these being said to fall under "the sovereignty of God," or simply, under confederal sovereignty. Overall administration of the Old City will be in the hands of the Confederation of Israel-Palestine; this might extend to all of East Jerusalem. All three states will be entitled to have their capitals in Jerusalem, should they so choose.
The Western Wall and the plaza before it shall be under the control of such authorities as the State of Israel shall appoint. The Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount shall be under the control of such authorities as the State of Palestine shall appoint. Neither state may excavate behind the wall or under the mount without the agreement of the confederal government.
a) The Binational State will be demilitarized.
b) Palestine will have only a limited armed force.
c) No state may enter into military agreements with any state not at peace with the other members of the Confederation.
d) The Confederation may enter into a defense agreement with the United States.
e) The Confederation may maintain monitoring forces on its external borders.
The above is put forward as an exploratory framework; something worth discussing; something, no doubt, in need of modification. It seeks to use the idea of a binational state and a confederation to give Israelis and Palestinians who wish to be citizens of a binational state an opportunity to do so. It offers a way for some refugees to return to lands within current Israel without threatening the demographic balance among Israeli citizens. It further offers a way of circumventing the problem of Israelis' and Palestinians' sovereign claims to the Old City and its religious sites. And it may provide a way of dealing with the long-term demographic challenges facing a Jewish state that aspires to the values of democracy.<
Jerome M. Segal is senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies, and the president of The Jewish Peace Lobby.
Return to the forum on Binationalism, with Lama Abu-Odeh and respondents.
Originally Published in December 2001/January 2002 issue of the Boston Review