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The new framework presented in the “Two States in One Space” project proposes the creation of two independent states that enter into a voluntary union with greater flexibility and cooperation than the separation paradigm. This offers a more realistic response to history and the present, and allows for a resolution that demands less sacrifice and trauma than other models. In such a vision, Israel and Palestine would exist as two sovereign nation states, Israel on 78% of the land and Palestine on 22%. Jerusalem would remain one urban space and a capital for the two countries. Evacuation of over a hundred thousand Jews would be prevented. A real answer to the Palestinian refugee issue would be given. A guaranteed Jewish state with a Jewish majority would also be ensured.
The papers we present to you in this book are the product of the political deliberation, scholarly research, and fact-based soul-searching of Israelis and Palestinians working to ignite political imagination, both their own and that of their national collectives. In their research and deliberations, the groups found sustainable political frameworks that open up the horizon and offer possibilities to get over the current impasse. While the political structures, concepts, mechanisms, and programs offered in these papers are hopeful and encouraging, each group identified significant obstacles that must not only be directly acknowledged, but also demand further research and deliberation into their possible solutions. Overall, research is necessary to develop mechanisms and institutions that will replace the less inclusive and more repressive ones that exist today in every field of governance, as well as to further understanding of the social and economic gaps that exist as well as the possibilities to ameliorate them. We briefly outline the obstacles encountered by the research groups mostly linked to the existing asymmetry between the two groups and indicate the type of research needed to promote the suggested models and solutions.
The Citizenship group offers a model that introduces multiple categories of political membership, which entails both political promise and internal obstacles. Citizenship becomes exclusionary for the resident minority, as it privileges the political agency of citizens. Citizens can participate in political decision-making that shapes the society s/he lives in at the national level, including distribution of resources, while residents are prevented from influencing political decisions at the national level that impact his/her life in many aspects. Moreover, the model currently does not include a mechanism for the children of residents to become citizens, which has raised grave concern particularly among constitutional lawyers.
These obstacles lead us to an internal conundrum of the proposed model. On the one hand, granting the basic political rights to vote and be elected is critical to a resident whose life is centered in the other state. On the other, granting these political rights risks blurring territorial sovereignty of the two states and giving rise to fears that demographic changes will threaten the core values of each state.
The Right of Return group stresses the importance of regulating the distribution of new or returning resident populations, which demands further research and the development of administrative mechanisms. The group recommends considering not only population quotas for residency, but cautiously determining geographic distribution of new resident populations. The regulation of returning population, particularly of Palestinian refugees exercising their right of return, will be a demanding task. Studies show that after conflicts, ethnic populations attempt to return to areas in which they will be an ethnic majority or significant minority, which is precisely a major fear of the existing majority. This must be addressed and managed.
Members of the Security research group focused on the pre-existing gap in capabilities between the Israeli and Palestinians. Indeed, the existing asymmetry in the Israeli and Palestinian security sectors could simultaneously contribute to reinforcing Israeli reluctance to relinquish control and view the security partnership with Palestine under terms of equality, while also encouraging at best a state of dependence on the Palestinian side, or at worst, undermining the process of state-building. Therefore, future research needs to delve further into processes and mechanisms to address the present gap in capabilities while still preserving the equality and sovereignty of both parties.
The research group on Governance sees the asymmetrical power relations between the two countries, as well as deep social and economic gaps, as posing a significant challenge. While joint governance institutions might be a key toward transcending and transforming these structures, a more detailed mapping of the existing gaps is needed. In addition, this challenge necessitates the careful design of relevant institutions and processes—from economic agreements to state intervention in order to strengthen the Palestinian social protection net to bi-national or regional development cooperation to international investments in Palestine, among other possibilities.
Second, the processes of decentralization and strengthening of local authorities proposed in our paper, including the establishment of metropolitan or regional-local governance, would require research into the appropriate political and geographical demarcation of these institutions. This is particularly crucial in regards to Israeli settlement in Palestine, where issues of local governance are particularly complex. Lastly, the socio-psychological dimension of the conflict and deep mistrust among the two societies might limit the possibility of developing, establishing, and maintaining any joint governance institutions. Further research is required into possible national policies and processes aimed at addressing these questions.
The research group on Holy Sites and Jerusalem sees the question of restorative action in the urban scale, particularly issues of housing and infrastructure that will address the current symmetry, as the main obstacle that needs further research and deliberation. Finally, a major difficulty that demands resources is reaching a consensus regarding policing arrangements in the holy sites.
In retrospect, we now can say that the task that we took upon ourselves with this effort was more than a project of this scope and funding could handle. The project builds extensively off of much work that has been done already, but also considers the realities on the ground, which pose the greatest obstacles to realizing the original vision. Instead of attempting to erase such obstacles, we envision and put forward creative suggestions for adapting to them while preserving the vital components of the still-necessary separation. Therefore, this vision still includes the most vital component of most plans, which are two sovereign nation states, each on the pre-agreed 78%/22% of the land. However, the issue of freedom of movement—what we see as a first step of agreeing to go towards a union required significant changes and adaptations. An Israeli-Palestinian union raises new premises, issues, challenges and, perhaps most importantly, advantages that have to be taken into account. A union, which will naturally require a high degree of ongoing and lasting cooperation, also requires us to consider a vast number of relationships, interactions, influences, and multi-faceted issues if this plan is to be adopted.