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New Ideas Series: ‘Two States, One Homeland’

6/19/14 -- Boston, Massachusetts

Michael Zank teaches his course, The Holy City: Jerusalem in Time, Space, and Imagination June 19, 2014. 

Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography
By TTN Blog

The Third Narrative (TTN) sees promoting creative thought and discussion about possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — particularly during difficult times like these when violence, intolerance and fear are rampant — as a core mission.  As part of this work, TTN will be featuring proposals and advocacy campaigns that aim to break the dead-end status quo.  While TTN does not necessarily endorse all aspects of these proposals, we believe a robust debate about ways forward can offer hope to Israelis, Palestinians and all those who care deeply about the region.

This is a contribution from Michael Zank, Professor of Religion at Boston University, with most of  this post at the “Jerusalem-Blog”:

While in Jerusalem this blustery January I sat down with Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport, Fatah political council member Awni al-Mashni, British businessman and member of the House of Lords Andrew Stone, and social entrepreneur Avner Haramati who had brought us together. In this gathering I learned about a new grass-roots initiative called “Two States, One Homeland.”

This initiative has been around for about a year and it has as yet to find the open support of any of the political parties on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side. In fact, at this stage, the program is attacked from all sides, which means it does not fit comfortably in any of the usual categories of Left and Right, secular and religious, settlers and peaceniks. Since it does not advocate for a removal of the settlements it seems to Palestinians and BDS activists to promote normalization and acquiescence in the occupation. At the same time, it would require of the settlers to give up their privileged position in the framework of a confederation that confers the same freedom of movement and settlement anywhere in Israel-Palestine to the Palestinians, including those currently residing outside the country. Just as Jews from all over the world enjoy the right of return and are encouraged to claim Israel as their patrimony, Palestinians from all over the world would enjoy the right of return and should feel welcome to make their home in Israel-Palestine. Israel would remain a Jewish state in its historic homeland that comprises the entire Land of Israel, just as Palestine would comprise the entire territory now depicted on every Palestinian map. In other words: two states, one homeland.

The plan recognizes that the attachment of the Jews to their land is not a right-wing issue but an issue of Jewish religious and historical sentiment. The initiative requires for Israelis to accept that Palestinians as well claim all of historic Palestine as rightfully theirs. In place of a physical or geographic division of the land, which would be a loss to both sides, the plan thinks of the division in the legal terms of citizenship and institutions, not place of residence.

The initiative takes into account some of the big obstacles that have hitherto stood in the way of any peaceful resolution of the conflict, most notably the Israeli settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Right now, most Palestinians object to accepting any Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line as legitimate. As Awni al-Mashni points out, however, it is unrealistic for the Palestinians to think that 350,000 settlers would ever be evacuated under any peace agreement. He also believes that Israelis will need to come to terms with the fact that the Palestinians will not go away. The urgency of this initiative arises for him from the fact that Palestinians tend to think that Israel is a temporary entity, that it will eventually collapse or be defeated and that the Palestinians can simply wait until that happens. For al-Mashni, this is a self-defeating, fatalistic, and troubling attitude that will result in many more years of needless Palestinian suffering. Palestinians, he says, will have to accept that the settlers won’t go away and that Israel won’t go away. Palestinians will have to learn that Jews have as much right to access and residence near the Tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron as they do. By the same token Israelis will need to recognize that Palestinians have every right to seek residency in Jaffa, the “pearl of Palestine,” without therefore needing to claim citizenship in Israel.

As a matter of policy, Two States/One Homeland decided not to accept foreign funding. They made this decision even before the recent push in the Knesset to Israeli human rights groups that receive financial support from foreign governments. They are nevertheless interested in raising international awareness for their initiative. Andrew Stone is planning a working session of the group at the House of Lords in March and the initiators are also planning to visit the US and speak to interested parties in New York, Boston and D.C. According to Lord Stone, the most important piece that is missing is a draft constitution that can help skeptics envisage how such a confederacy might be enacted. His own advocacy for a political solution takes into account that economic opportunity and aid alone will not be sufficient to build up Palestinian society. In his view, in order to become persuasive, the idea of a confederation of Israel and Palestine will require a workable legal framework, something he wants to encourage some of his colleagues in the British parliament to get in involved in producing.

A cursory search for this initiative on Google yielded this article by Lily Galili, as well as a video documenting the founding conference (see HERE). The group is also on Facebook.   . . .

(Click here for Prof. Zank’s post about the March conference in London at the House of Lords.)

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