Israeli-Palestinian Confederation A road map for peace
On February 26, 2006, the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation will hold a major symposium at UCLA. The subject of the symposium is " whether it is possible to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a confederation government". The moderator of the symposium is John K. Van de Kamp (the previous attorney general for the State of California). The panel includes the following experts:
1) Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard University
2) General (retired) Shlomo Gazit from the Israeli Defense Force
3) Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council
4) Prof. Jeffrey Albert, The Aquaqya Institute
5) Prof. Saleem H. Ali, University of Vermont
6) Prof. Nancy Gallagher, UC Santa Barbara
7) Prof. James Gelvin, UCLA
8) Prof. Mahmood Ibrahim, Cal State Polytechnic
9) Prof. Mehran Kamrava, Cal State Northridge
10) Prof. Trevor Le Gassic, University of Michigan
11) Dr. Hisham Shkoukani, Palestinian Economic Council
This will be likely a very lively debate about a new concept which has been described as a "breakthrough" approach and "out-of-the-box thinking" to help solve the conflict. Most objective observers, says M. Josef Avesar, agree that a political solution is the only viable method to solve the conflict. Military means have proven to be unsuccessful.
In 2005, M. Avesar created the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation. The group made of individuals of various backgrounds agrees that creating a confederation through private election is a good method to establish a mechanism to resolve the conflict. A confederation will create new dynamics to extricate the Israelis and Palestinians from the never-ending cycle of violence. This is the plan proposed by the group:
A. UNDERLYING REQUIREMENTS
The Palestinian and Israeli governments would remain independent, sovereign governments with the same authority they have had in the past. They will continue to have jurisdiction over their peoples and institutions. Both Palestinian and Israeli governments will continue to maintain their respective institutions. A Palestinian citizen will remain under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian government and an Israeli citizen will remain under the jurisdiction of the Israeli government.
B. ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFEDERATION
The group proposes that 300 delegates represent the population of the entire area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Each representative would be elected by the district in which he or she resides. If, for example, there were nine million combined Israelis and Palestinians, each representative would act on behalf of 30,000 people.
Given current demographics, the population in the subject area comprises approximately 60% Israeli citizens and 40% Palestinian citizens. So, in the current paradigm, 180 of the representatives would be Israeli citizens and 120 would be Palestinian citizens. These 300 representatives would pass legislation addressing daily issues facing Israelis and Palestinians.
Let us notice, by the way, that theses percentage figures suggested by M.Avesar group may be a little inaccurate. For as everybody knows, the demographic trends are not favorable to Israel in the area; and if we add the number of Palestinians living in the refugees’ camps, it is impossible that the above figures express the demographic reality on the field. Anyway, the Palestinians will probably never agree to be underrepresented, while they are much more numerous.
In order to pass legislation, four major criteria would have to be met:
- The legislation would have to be passed by 60% of the 300 representatives.
- 25% of the minority would also have to agree to the legislation.
- The Israeli government would be given an opportunity to veto the legislation. If the Israeli government vetoed the legislation, the bill would not pass.
- The Palestinian government would be given an opportunity to veto the legislation. If the Palestinian government vetoed the legislation, the bill would not pass.
C. NATIONAL DIRECTOR
The group of M. Avesar proposes that the Confederation will have a National Director and a Vice Director. The National Director will be elected with his Vice Director. They will have to run as a team. One will have to be Palestinian, and the other will have to be Israeli. They will serve their term by rotating their office. The first will be the Director for the first half of the term and will become the Vice Director for the second half. The Vice Director will serve half of the term as Vice Director and will then become Director for the second half.
A non-citizen may be elected to become the National Director. The group proposes that in the event a non-Israeli or non-Palestinian is elected as a National Director and provided his or her Vice Director is also non-Israeli or non-Palestinian, he or she will serve the full term.
This is also a little unrealistic: Why should the Palestinians or the Israelis agree to have a non-citizen (a foreigner, that is) as National Director of their confederation?
D. ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFEDERATE COURT SYSTEM
The National Director would appoint an equal number of Palestinian and Israeli judges who would be responsible for adjudicating issues of the Confederation. These judges would have to be approved in accordance with the 60% majority, 25% minority formula, and, again, they would be subject to Israeli and Palestinian government vetoes.
E. HOW DOES THIS PROJECT GET STARTED?
According to M.Avesar, it gets started by just doing it. This means organizing and implementing a private election for a federal representative system, independent of the existing governments. M. Avesar’s group believes that with a relatively modest investment of $35 million, the elections could be set up on a private basis.
Once the private election process took place, it would create a momentum unparalleled in the history of the Middle East. Israelis and Palestinians would realize that there are more positive ways of dealing with each other. The genie would be out of the bottle, and no amount of diehards would be able to squeeze it back in. Age-old prejudices would soften, and accusations hurled by both sides would diminish. The public would be so galvanized by the success of the election and its attendant optimism that both sides would pressure their governments to cooperate with the federal system.
To make this proposal a reality, only a few hundred individuals are necessary, according to M.Avesar. At this point, a consensus of the majority is not critical; rather, it is the willingness of only a few to get the program off the ground. The human experience is replete with watershed events generated by the gargantuan efforts of a small group. Once the bulk of the populace sees that a new system can work and can substantially enhance people’s lives, there will be a groundswell of support. The group hopes that people will be able to assist the project either through monetary donations or by volunteering time and services to promote this wonderful idea.
Now, the project is quite ambitious. Yet, some questions remain unanswered: Where such elections would take place, and who would allow them? Would the population on both sides take the issue seriously? What would be the reaction of the extremists on both sides, whereas some of them have influence and power? And last, but not least, there is one recognized state in the area (Israel), and an authority – very shaken and even dubbed as “terrorist” by the Israeli government. Is it possible or realistic to make a confederation out of an “entity” and a “non entity”? The confederation should first grant fair equality to both sides, so that nobody feels deprived of its rights or dispossessed. This is so far the feeling of the Palestinians. Why not start by changing this fact first?