Parity for Peace in Israel/Palestine
Two States on the Same Land, with Bilateral Governance
Juggling the conflicting claims of two nations for the same piece of land is a major challenge. All existing proposals for peace between Jews and Palestinians leave one side or the other feeling shortchanged with respect to the land and its resources. This proposal, called Parity for Peace, starts by asking what people in each nation want and then seeks to meet as many of these wants as possible in the fairest possible way.
1. “Proposal” here does not mean an official offer but an idea for a solution.
2. This proposal stretches the conventional notion of statehood; it is out of the box.
This proposal distinguishes between Israelis and Jews because 20 percent of
Israeli citizens are of Arab (Palestinian) ethnicity and some of their
interests are not the same as those of Jews. Furthermore,
1. The continued existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state
2. The power of statehood (as a Jewish state) to provide a haven for Jews after many centuries of discrimination and persecution, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust
3. Self-determination and cultural expression as a Jewish state
4. An undivided Jerusalem as the capital of their state
5. The ability to settle in and have internationally recognized sovereignty over the historic heartland of their ancient kingdom
6. The ability to access and maintain sites that are sacred to Jews
7. Physical and economic security
8. International acceptance
9. Control over their destiny
1. Self-determination after centuries of occupation and empire
2. Physical and economic security.
3. A state in which they can express their culture and developing sense of nationhood
4. Acknowledgment by Israel of its role in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem
5. Free exercise of their refugee rights as expressed in UNGA Resolution 194, the Declaration of Human Rights, and other international law
6. The ability to reclaim their homeland
7.The ability to access and maintain sites that are sacred to Islam and Christianity
8. Jerusalem as the capital of their state
9. International acceptance
Thesis: The best way to produce a lasting peace is to satisfy as many of these wants as possible.
A binational, secular, democratic state:
1. Jews would soon be outnumbered by Palestinians and would thus lose control over their destiny in a democratic state.
2. Jews would no longer have a Jewish state.
Transfer of Palestinians to a state to be carved out of one or more Arab states:
1. No Arab state has offered land to the Palestinians, nor is one likely to do so.
2. Palestinians do not want their state to be outside the territory in which their forefathers lived for many generations.
3. Forcing millions of Palestinians to move would be extremely expensive and traumatic.
4. Many in the international community would consider the wholesale, forced transfer of Palestinians to be morally unacceptable (in contrast to the transfer of settlers out of land the settlers knew from the beginning was in dispute).
Two states, with enforcement of UN resolutions:
1. If all refugees who wanted to return were allowed to do
so, it would upset the demographic balance in
2. If Jews were required to withdraw to the pre-1967 border, they would lose control over the heart of their ancient kingdom, with its historical and religious associations.
3. If Jews were to withdraw to the pre-1967 border,
4. Relocating settlers would be very expensive and traumatic.
5. Palestinians would be left with 22 percent of the land they once thought of as theirs; the division would seem unfair.
7. Israeli Palestinians would continue to live in a Jewish state in which they are second-class citizens because they are not Jews.
Two states along the lines of the
1. Palestinians could return to
2. Jews would be giving up the heart of their ancient kingdom, with its historical and religious associations.
4. Relocating settlers would be very expensive and traumatic.
5. Palestinians would not have full control over their borders or airspace.
6. Palestinians would have only 22 percent of Mandate Palestine; the division would seem unfair.
7. Palestinians would be asked to trade fertile land for desert on a 1:1 basis.
8. Israelis of Palestinian ethnicity would continue to live in a Jewish state in which they are second-class citizens because they are not Jews.
Two states as apparently envisioned by the Israeli government:
1. Palestinians would be left with an even smaller fraction of Mandate Palestine (10–15 percent instead of 22 percent), making the division of land seem extremely unfair.
2. The Palestinian “state” would likely not be viable: (a)
There would be insufficient land to absorb refugees. (b)
3. Because of
4. The Palestinian claim to a right of return would be met, if at all, in only a token way, leaving many Palestinians unsatisfied.
5. Israelis who live on the Palestinian side of the Wall or Fence would feel isolated and vulnerable; the same would be true of Palestinians living on the Israeli side.
6. Moving settlers from
7. Jews who feel that God has given all of Mandate Palestine
8. Palestinians who feel that God has given all of Mandate Palestine to the Arabs would feel bereft.
9. Israelis of Palestinian ethnicity would continue to live in a Jewish state in which they are second-class citizens because they are not Jews.
In sum: Implementing existing proposals would leave major groups dissatisfied. The conflict would remain unresolved, and violence would likely continue.
(1) Two democratic states—Israel and Palestine—on the same land, each state encompassing all of Mandate Palestine
(2) Bilateral (50-50) governance in all matters of joint concern
(3) All individuals to have equal access to resources
(4) Religious sites to be managed by the clerics of the religions involved
(5) Both Jews and Palestinians to have the right of return and the right to live in any part of Palestine or Israel subject to nondiscriminatory land law.
(6) Amnesty for all political and military prisoners who agree to live in peace
(7) A publicly funded program to heal psychological wounds, arrive at common understandings, and promote goodwill so that the two nations can be reconciled
(1) Two states on the same land: The
psychological and practical benefits to each nation of being able to claim the whole
of Mandate Palestine for its state are tremendous. Jews and Palestinians could
now rejoice in what they have rather
than lament over what they have lost or are about to lose. Because the
boundaries of each state would be internationally recognized as going from the
Mediterranean Sea to the
Each state could express its nationalism through the usual
trappings: flag, anthem, holidays, the issuance of passports, and so on. Jews
could call the whole place
Each state would have a legislature, a head of state and a
head of government (or a single position combining both) and representation in
the United Nations. The legislature of each state could pass laws where
uniformity with the other state is not required, such as laws on marriage.
Within narrow areas, people might even be able to choose between sets of laws.
Upon reaching voting age, children of mixed marriages could choose which state they wanted to belong to.
(2) Bilateral (50-50) governance in matters of joint concern: Because of the intermingling of the populations, the two states would have to agree on laws affecting everyone, for example, laws regarding traffic, commerce, taxes, natural resources, land use, the environment, immigration, and government expenditure. To ensure equal application of the law, executive and judicial branches of the bilateral (as opposed to state) government would need to be fully integrated, with positions of power rotated between the states at every level as often as every six months.
As in other institutions of international governance, for example, the General Assembly of the United Nations, each state would have equal power regardless of the size of its population. Each nation would thus have sufficient power to protect its interests but not enough power to dominate the other state. Jews would no longer have to worry about demographics. They would retain enough power to ensure that Israel remained a haven for Jews and a place where Jews would never again be at the mercy of a government that chose to discriminate against them. Some mechanism, such as international arbitration, could be worked out if there were a true deadlock between the two states, but on the crucial issue of human rights (“Never again!”), it can be assumed that international arbitration would decide in favor of human rights.
Laws could be passed in one of two ways: the two legislatures, which would be of equal size, could meet jointly and pass laws with a majority (or supermajority) vote, or a system could be set up whereby a bill would have to be passed by both legislatures to become law. The former is less likely to lead to gridlock.
Although it would be up to the Jews and the Palestinians to decide how to manage the joint civil and judicial branches of government, the following is suggested:
At fixed intervals, say, every four years, each state would select a head of government from a slate of candidates presented by the other state. This would encourage moderation. The two heads of government chosen would rotate positions, say, every six months, with the alternate serving as deputy during the same period.
The two heads of state and the two heads of government would then select one person from each state for each cabinet position and to head the judiciary. The two persons chosen would also rotate positions as head and deputy, and at any one time, there would be equal representation between the two states in the cabinet. These principles of rotation and equal representation would apply to all management positions in each section of the government. Senior-level positions would require approval by the legislatures, meeting jointly or separately.
Foreign policy would be handled jointly by the two states
because of the need for uniformity in immigration, trade, and matters of war
To avoid the influence of big money or money from outside interests, campaigns for elections in both states would be paid for by state funds.
(3) Equal access by all individuals to resources: This is a matter of equity and is fundamental to an enduring peace. Water resources have to be allocated so that each person gets his fair share. Israelis and Palestinians as individuals would have equal access to state land, currently 80 to 90 percent of the entire area of Mandate Palestine. Offering Palestinian refugees state land would help to compensate them for the economic losses they incurred in 1948 and 1967 and would enable them to reestablish their villages if the land were still available and they agreed to live in peace. Peace would free up money for bringing water, sewers, schools, and other essential services to Palestinian areas.
(4) Management of religious sites to be determined by the clerics of the religions involved: The clerics know what is involved to make the sharing of religious sites work and are probably more inclined to be conciliatory than the politicians are, assuming they are people of the Spirit. Furthermore, clerics have the ability to make whatever they decide (if they need to bend some rules) sound as if it were God’s will, thus bringing the people with them. They are better able to lead in religious matters than the politicians are; politicians look over their shoulder and try to figure out what will be tolerated, whereas clerics can set policies and get people to follow them.
(5) Both Jews and Palestinians to have the right of return and the right to live in any part of Palestine or Israel subject to nondiscriminatory land law: Sorting out land claims would be a challenge, one that would probably require third-party involvement. Not only Palestinians but also Jews lost property, with some Jews who lost property in their countries of origin having subsequently acquired the “abandoned” properties of the Palestinians and perhaps improved them. Compensation from the countries of origin could be given to these Jews, if they have not already received it, and the original owners given back their property. In other cases, Palestinian refugees could be financially compensated and, in addition, be offered several options: the right of first refusal to buy back their properties when the properties are put on the market; the opportunity to build on state land (needless to say, all covenants restricting land to a particular ethnic group would be have to be removed); or the opportunity to live and work in other countries either as citizens or as permanent residents with citizenship in Palestine.
(6) Amnesty for all political and military prisoners who agree to live in peace: This would follow the customary practice of releasing prisoners at the end of a war and would signal a new beginning. A further advantage is that many of the Palestinian prisoners have learned Hebrew and furthered their education in prison. These prisoners could be an asset in the bilateral government.
(7) A publicly funded program to heal psychological wounds, arrive at common understandings, and promote goodwill so that the two nations can be reconciled: This would entail Living Room Dialogue Groups on a massive scale, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the pairing of Palestinian and Jewish families, and a conscious effort to develop skills in compassionate listening and forgiveness. Such programs already exist, but they need more funding to make a difference. Both in schools and in society at large, Palestinians would be taught the Jewish narrative, Jews would be taught the Palestinian narrative, and every attempt would be made to come up with a common narrative about the history that has affected both peoples. To facilitate communication, all schoolchildren and government workers would be taught Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Language courses would be available to other adults as well.
This proposal recognizes the rights of both nations to the
land and asks the same concession of each: that each nation give up exclusive
control of the land in exchange for peace. By meeting the key needs of each
nation and coming up with a solution that is fair, the root causes of the
conflict are removed. As a result, Jews and Palestinians can expect a peace
that endures. This proposal also recognizes the current reality: an
intermingling of populations in the
1. What if there is a bloodbath?
If key wants for land and self-determination are met on both sides, there is no need to destroy the other to achieve these wants. Once the plan is agreed to and implemented, anyone who continues to resist, or who seeks revenge through killing, can be apprehended and dealt with through the courts. People are less likely to kill others if there is another mechanism for settling disputes, which the judicial system provides.
One advantage to an integrated police force and judicial system is that people who harm and harass other people would be more likely to be arrested and tried than is now the case: for example, injury and harassment of Palestinians by settlers is largely ignored by the Israeli police and military officials; this would not be the case if Palestinians had the power to arrest them as well.
Taking care of conflicts as they arise would help to keep them from blowing up into larger conflicts. A publicly funded effort to heal psychological wounds, arrive at common understandings, and promote goodwill (the last element of the plan) would help to reduce the hostility that now exists. Respect for each nation’s sensitivities would have to be a part of the framework. For example, drawing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed or drawing swastikas would need to be outlawed from the very beginning.
Agreement to the plan would in itself bring a great feeling of catharsis among those who feel victimized and would replace despair, which leads to violence, with hope. If both sides can see steady progress being made in implementing the plan, the frustrations that have led to violence can be avoided.
Special care would need to be taken at the beginning to prevent possible exuberance from descending into lawlessness. The presence of a large number of trained, nonviolent peace workers could help with conflict resolution, especially during the transition phase.
2. What is to persuade Israel, which now has the upper hand, to agree to the terms of this proposal?
3. What is to persuade Palestinians, who never agreed to the Zionist enterprise, to agree to the terms of this proposal?
4. How can such a tiny area absorb the return of Palestinian
refugees, especially considering the shortage of water and the Jews’ own need
As part of an overall settlement, other countries could
offer citizenship to Palestinian refugees, reducing the number of refugees
returning to Israel/Palestine.
5. Why should power be shared 50-50 instead of proportionally?
Both the Jews and the Palestinians have experienced powerlessness, although at different times, and both nations have a strong need to control their destiny. Parity for Peace enables each nation to have enough power to protect its interests without fear of domination by the other nation.
Giving each state equal power has precedent in the setup of
the General Assembly of the United Nations. Parity between Palestinians and
Jews as nations was even suggested by some Zionists before the creation of
6. Aren’t we really talking about a binational state?
The concept of a binational state has changed since some Zionists first proposed it in the 1920s and early 1930s. Back then, when Jews were a minority, parity between the Jews and the Palestinians was as an inherent aspect of the proposal for a binational state. More recently, mention of a binational state usually assumes a one-person, one-vote arrangement within a single state. Parity for Peace recognizes the psychological importance to Jews and Palestinians alike of each nation having a state of their own and does not call for the destruction of any state that already exists. Allowing each state separate representation in the United Nations gives each state legitimacy as a state.
7. Is there any precedent for shared sovereignty?
Yes, there is. Under international law, two or more states
can formally agree to share sovereignty over a political territory equally
without breaking up the territory into zones. This kind of arrangement is
called a condominium. The
Under Parity for Peace, two entire states would form a condominium. This would be a first, but just because there have never before been two states with the same borders and bilateral governance does not mean that this political framework could not be instituted. The conflicting and legitimate demands posed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unique and call for a unique response.
All human institutions arise to meet a need. When the
thirteen colonies in
8. Didn’t the cartoon controversy (the worldwide Muslim uprising over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed) show that nations with different value systems cannot live and work together?
Both nations will have to show sensitivity to issues that inflame the other. Some countries have laws against “hate crimes” or “incitement to violence.” Palestinians and Jews could do the same, specifically stating what actions will be considered unacceptable. Sensitivity must include a willingness to hear the other side’s grievances. The cartoon controversy became a worldwide uprising because Danish officials initially refused to meet with local Muslims who were upset about the publication of the cartoons.
The Jewish community in
Historically, Muslims have been relatively tolerant and
hospitable. Before the advent of political Zionism, Jews were treated better in
Muslim countries than in Christian ones, and in pre-Mandate
Justice is an important value for all three religious groups as well as secularists and can be a unifying principle.
9. What if Jews and Palestinians don’t want to live together?
They won’t have to. Although forced segregation will not be allowed, people may naturally choose to live with people of their own nationality simply because they feel more comfortable being surrounded by their own kind. If Palestinian communities receive the same services that Jewish communities do, and if they have the same right to expand that is currently given to Jewish communities, Palestinians will probably choose to remain in their own communities or form new Palestinian communities, and Jews can continue to live in Jewish communities.
10. How might Parity for Peace be implemented so as to build up confidence in its workability?
First, both nations must commit to three interlocking principles of Parity for Peace. These are (1) two states with identical borders, encompassing all of Mandate Palestine; (2) bilateral, 50-50 governance in all matters of common concern; and (3) equal access by all individuals to resources. Omit any of these, and the plan will not work. The first provides the carrot for people whose chief desires are left out of the two-states-side-by-side solution; often, these are the people who disrupt peace efforts. The second protects the interests of each nation as a whole. And the third protects the rights of individuals to their fair share of infrastructure and resources, because the population of the two states is likely to be imbalanced.
Commitment to the above principles should see an immediate reduction in the incentive of Palestinians and Israelis to commit violence: Palestinians will feel that they have reclaimed their land and their rights, and settlers will know that they can settle anywhere (although perhaps not right away, because land laws will need to be worked out). This reduction in violence will make it easier to do in a humane way what must be a priority: providing security so that people’s other needs can be met.
Joint Palestinian and Israeli border patrols should be set up at international border crossings to ensure that no arms are smuggled in, to ensure that all necessary supplies are allowed in, and to facilitate commerce. It is suggested that border crossings be manned primarily by civilians, as done in other countries.
The easiest way to get a uniform set of laws would be for Israeli law to be extended to Palestinians, but with all laws discriminating against people of different ethnicity eliminated. The Israeli secular judicial system could be adopted and modified, if necessary, and then the courts integrated so that the law can be uniformly applied.
As with other countries, dealing with internal violence should be a police matter, not a military matter. Joint Palestinian and Israeli police patrols should be set up so that troublemakers can be arrested and tried.
An early release of Palestinian prisoners who agree to live in peace might provide civil service personnel who are able to converse in both languages.
Ensuring that everyone has equal access to water should be one of the first tasks of the bilateral government. As Palestinians see their access to water and other elements of infrastructure improve, their confidence in the new government will increase, just as the confidence of Jews will increase as they see their security needs provided for.
The relocation of refugees will need to be phased in, with citizenship offered to refugees who prefer to stay in other countries.
11. What if the Palestinians and Israelis commit themselves to Parity for Peace and after trying it out decide they don’t like it?
Depending on the terms agreed to by both states, Parity for Peace could be rescinded or modified by a majority (or supermajority vote) of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, in separate plebiscites conducted on the same day. If it is rescinded, then an alternative plan would have to be presented to the voters to vote on during the same election, and this new plan would have to be agreed to by a majority (or supermajority) of each nation.
12. With so much fear and hatred between the two peoples, wouldn’t it be better to wait before trying to share the land and its governance?
Palestinian terrorists believe that if they terrorize the
Jews, they will leave, and the Israeli government believes that if
Israelis ask: Why have Palestinians responded to the
Any peace agreement that does not address the Palestinians’
underlying issue of dispossession will leave the Palestinians with the feeling
that the conflict has not been resolved. Yet dealing with this issue, painful
as it may be, is the Jews’ best chance for obtaining the peace, security, and
moral standing that they crave for
To move from a constant state of belligerency to a state of peace requires political will. It will not be easy. It requires a shift in thinking, in which each nation focuses not only on what it needs and wants, but also on what the other nation needs and wants. If Palestinians and Israelis cannot do this for themselves, then other nations must help them, for no other conflict causes more instability in the world than this one. The world cannot afford to wait while this conflict continues to drag out, and neither can the Palestinians and Jews.
Peace requires political will.
Parity for Peace has been suggested by an American woman who is neither a Jew nor a Palestinian. The proposal is a work in progress, and this version was posted on August 24, 2009. If you have suggestions, comments, or queries, please contact the writer-editor of this site. Attachments will not be opened. For other peace plans, visit www.ApproachesToCoexistence.com.