So show your love for the stranger or foreigner, for you were foreigner in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
With the two state solution losing traction, at least in the US and Israel governments, is there a possible one state solution?
If every Palestinian in the occupied territories is given equal rights by incorporating the West Bank and Gaza into Israel, the country would become an Arab majority country and lose its Jewish character, a reality not acceptable to most of the Jewish citizens of Israel.
As he stood on the podium next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was open to new ideas that would bring Middle East peace. With that, he opened the door to a whole new maze of complexity and risk.
By uttering the phrase “one-state” – rather than a two-state solution to the conflict, the bedrock of international diplomacy for two decades – he went where past presidents and most leaders feared to tread, knowing the loaded implications.
The creation of a binational or single state that encompasses both Israel and Palestinian territories is not a viable option for most Israelis and Palestinians for religious, political and demographic reasons.
“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said with an almost offhand air, emphasizing that for him the main aim was “to see a deal.”
“I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”
Reuters news agency reported that Israel’s central bureau of statistics released new population figures in 2015, as it does every year before the Jewish holidays, showing that the number of people in Israel has risen 1.9 percent in the past 12 months to 8.4 million.
Israeli newspapers were full of upbeat headlines about the 168,000 babies born and a 35 percent increase in Jewish immigration, particularly from France, Russia and Ukraine.
But behind the figures lie profound questions about demography and Israel’s ability to remain democratic and Jewish, as set out in its declaration of independence.
The numbers show that while 74.9 percent of Israel’s population is Jewish (6.3 million people), 20.7 percent (1.75 million) are Arab, both Muslims and Christians, made up of Palestinians who remained in Israel after its founding in 1948. The remainder are mostly non-Arab Christians.
This leaves Jews with a clear demographic edge, even if Arab population growth is slightly higher.
But the picture gets complicated when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is taken into account, as well as its relationship with Gaza, which was occupied until 2005 and remains tightly controlled.
The Palestinian population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was 2.79 million in 2014, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. In Gaza, it was 1.76 million. That gives a total of 4.55 million in the areas that the Palestinians seek for their own independent state.
Coupled with the 1.75 million Arabs in Israel, that is 6.3 million people of Palestinian origin in Israel and the Palestinian territories – the same number as there are Jews. Given that the Palestinian figures are a year old, the number of Arabs may well already exceed that of Jews.
So, here is the Muslim Times proposed solution to this mind boggling dilemma.
The secret to make one state solution a success may lie in the example of the Declaration of Independence in USA from July 4, 1776 that has brought all Americans together over the last 240 years. If Israel’s constitution defines some characteristics of it being a Jewish state that are pleasing to the majority of the Jews and also defines reasonable rights for the Arabs and Palestinians that it is a step up for them, may be enough of them will buy into it.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America from July 4, 1776 read:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
When the Declaration said that we hold these truths to be self-evident, ‘that all men are created equal,’ it was not immediately and precisely true, blacks and women did not have the rights to vote, for a long time to follow, but, it did set a high and an agreeable ideal, which gradually became a reality over decades and centuries. The ideals may not be perfectly true in practical life, even today, if you ask any of citizens who belong to the minority of being African American, Hispanics or Asian Americans, yet there is enough momentum in the positive direction, so that almost every one can buy into the Declaration and the eventual constitution that flowed from it.
If the new Israel constitution cannot be changed without 60-70% support in the Knesset (legislating body) in future, in this way those with strong Jewish sentiments can feel reassured about the future and can also become resigned to the possibility that if the support of their ideas erodes in future, their future generations will find peace and hope in the new realities and it will be a source of prosperity for every one in the holy land, whether a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, an agnostic or an atheist.
Once such an agreed upon document is created, all Jews and Arabs within the present Israel territories, who are already citizens, will have voting rights and those in the occupied territory, who will sign onto this document, will begin to get voting and additional rights as defined in the constitution, for the citizens.
Those Palestinians in the occupied territories who do not sign on will have some basic rights, like the green card holders in USA, but if they sign on their situation becomes significantly better, as they become citizens.
Gradually, more and more Palestinians will sign on and we will have a peaceful one state solution. The state of Israel will provide security and peace for citizens as well as those, who will have a status equivalent to green card holders, with an easy pass to citizenship, by signing the new constitution of Israel.
Suggested Reading to find a suitable one state solution by understanding Judaism and Islam better