The Palestinian Political Crisis
Since the Nakba in 1948, the Palestinians have struggled under conditions that have jeopardized their very existence, in addition to the alarming fact that their leadership is still suffering from lack of vision and shortcomings that prevent it from addressing what is needed, deepening the political crisis on all levels. Currently the Palestinians are at a dangerous crossroads, and this crossroads has two ways out: Either Palestinian leaders continue stumbling with a rhetoric detached from the Palestinian reality while regurgitating the past with its political and revolutionary vocabulary until they disperse, or they move forward with a clear political strategy that defines the parameters of a new stage and face the attempts to diminish and neutralize the Palestinian legitimate struggle for freedom.
The impasse of the peace process has left the Palestinians searching for a way out of this downward spiral into which they found themselves plunged. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership failed to articulate an alternative political program to breakthrough that impasse or build a new path to replace it. They continued with the strategy of sowing hope based on illusions such as that the upcoming Israeli elections would bring a leadership more open to a solution! The hope that the Israeli peace camp, after they have perished, will emerge from death and be reborn again! The hope that the U.S. elections outcome will produce a U.S. president who is willing to put pressure on the occupation! The hope that the European Union will play a more active role in the Middle East and use its good relations with Israel to put pressure on it, etc.
Given the significant changes on local and international levels, the Palestinian political leadership faces several crucial questions, and answering them would help determine their strategy for the next stage: Is the two-state solution still possible, and is there a partner on the other side who shares the Palestinian vision of resolving the conflict? Does this solution satisfy the national aspirations of the Palestinian people? What are the mechanisms and means available to the Palestinian leadership to reach a satisfactory solution for the Palestinian people? Is it time to put forward a new offensive political program as an alternative to the two-state solution, which has failed?
In order to find a way out of this crisis, it is necessary for the Palestinian leadership to answer the above questions frankly and know where they are going.
What is the Alternative That Can Be Put Forward?
The assumption here is that any future solution to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict must be based on the principle of a “win-win” for both sides.
The proposed solution must give each of the parties to the conflict the feeling that they did not give up basic issues and did not cross the red lines entrenched in the collective awareness of their respective peoples. The emphasis on the solution’s benefits would give leaders the strength and positive energy to present and campaign for the political solution with the least amount of opposition, and would also enable significant advancement toward reaching an acceptable solution to the conflict.
The solutions which were put forward in the past, including the twostate solution, were based on the principle of compromise between the two parties. It was very natural for the two parties to feel that they would not obtain all their demands through the course of the bargaining, which would always puts them in a weak, defensive position in front of their masses.
The bargaining process between the Palestinians and the Israelis have reached a dead end, and the two sides are at an extremely dangerous juncture. The Palestinian right to self-determination and refugees’ right of return has become unattainable, and the Palestinian cause has lost its place in global and regional politics, and efforts to minimize the issue and “shrink the conflict” to eliminate it from the global agenda are evident on the ground day after day.
This dead end constitutes fertile ground for radical forces that will do everything in their power to seize control. The Palestinian radical forces will aim to restore the glory of the revolution to what it was, while the Israeli radical right-wing forces will accelerate their colonial project in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and their denial of Palestinian national rights, putting themselves on the path to a complete apartheid regime. This path will be embarrassing for Israel’s friends in the Western world and the Arab world and will inevitably have negative and destructive repercussions on Israeli society.
Against this bleak picture, it is necessary to start thinking out of the box to draw the parameters of another solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — a solution based on the principle of win-win.
Here I will share with the readers my vision and understanding of the solution of one federal democratic state on the land of historic Palestine.1
Basic Preliminary Details of the Federal Democratic State Solution:
1) Historical Palestine is divided into eight provinces: Galilee, Haifa, Negev, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Jerusalem, Southern West Bank, Northern West Bank, and Gaza Strip. The exact geographic division of the provinces will be left to the experts of surveying, geography, and economics.
2) The future state is a state of all its citizens; the right of return will be implemented equally including Palestinian refugees and displaced persons, their families, and new Jewish arrivals.
3) The official languages of the country are Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages will be taught in all schools from the third grade, while education in the mother tongue language starts from the first grade.
The Central Institutions of the Future State2
1) A central Federal Parliament elected every four years by all citizens of the state. The principle of full proportional representation will be applied, and with a voting threshold not exceeding 4%. This parliament will be steered by a federal government composed of coalition parties and headed by a federal prime minister. On a macro level, the federal constitution defines the jurisdictions of the federal parliament, and decides the powers of its government. On a micro level, it regulates the relationship of federalism with the provinces and their respective parliaments.
2) A Provincial Council of representatives of the provinces. The number of representatives from each province is set according to a key code in the federal constitution (i.e., a minimum of three, with the number increasing according to the province’s population); these representatives may change with changes in the provincial governments. The federal constitution determines the jurisdictions of the Provincial Council. In this context, it is important to apply structures found in the constitutions of federal states such as Germany or Austria to determine the powers and scope of work of the Provincial Council versus the provincial parliaments and the federal parliament.
3) A Federal Constitutional Court in which judges are appointed by the federal government.
4) A president of the federal state who has only official representative powers and elected every five years by a special council. This special council consists of members from the Federal Parliament who will be selected in accordance with the principle of full proportional representation.
5) Provincial parliaments elected in each province to compose its provincial government. The functions of that parliament and its government will be defined by the special provincial constitution that does not contradict the federal constitution. The provincial government consists of the usual ministries (finance, economy, construction and infrastructure, agriculture, environment and energy, education and culture, health, transportation, interior). The provincial governments do not have foreign or security defense ministries; only the federal government has the powers for such.
6) An internal federal intelligence service affiliated with the federal Ministry of the Interior and monitored by the Interior Committee of the federal parliament.
The Constitutional Rules of the Future State: The Constitution of the Federation and the Constitutions of the Provinces
The foundations of the constitution are formulated in accordance with the internationally known methods. Each of the federation and the provinces has its own constitutions which will take into consideration that:
1) The provincial constitutions do not conflict with the federal constitution, as each province has its cultural and religious peculiarities that are part of the national identity of its residents. This must be considered and embodied in the provincial constitutions.
2) Foreign policy and defense security policy are the functions of the Federation, and provincial governments may not interfere with them.
3) It is established by the federal constitution that the state army and its armament have only a defensive objective, and the army is made up of professional soldiers and not by compulsory conscription.
4) Education in all its forms, grades, and curricula is the entitlement of each province, but must be conducted in full coordination with the federation and other provinces. Educational certificates are bound to mutual recognition in all provinces.
5) The Federation is a secular state that does not have a central religion. Each province is entitled to decide within its territory the form of relationship between the religion to the state and the society.
6) It is instituted in the constitution of the federation and the constitutions of the provinces that no province is allowed to leave the federal structure.
7) The jurisdiction to accommodate Palestinian refugees or new Jewish immigrants is assigned in the provincial governments’ constitutions. In each province there is a special ministry for absorption, or this file can be allocated separately to another existing ministry. Federal government has no jurisdiction to conform, it is only responsible for the financial management of absorption.
8) Economic structure: The constitution of the Federation ensures the principle of vertical economic cohesion between all the provinces and the federal structure,3 and a horizontal economic cohesion across all the provinces. While the provincial constitutions ensure economic cohesion between cities and villages in each province.
9) The constitutions of the provinces and the constitution of the Federation safeguard the freedom of every citizen to dwell in any place of his choice within the borders of the Federation.
10) Each provincial government is responsible for the police and public security within its borders. The Internal Security Services cooperate with the Federal Police and the Federal Crime Service, but it has no right to build its own intelligence services.
11) The Federations has the right to set up defensive military barracks in all provinces in cooperation with the provincial governments.
12) The provincial constitutions protect the rights of ethnic minorities in each province by giving them cultural, religious, and political representation.
The Responsibility of the International Community Towards the Federal State and Ending the Conflict
Since the Zionist movement announced its intention to build a “homeland for the Jews” in Palestine, the international community has been part of the problem and therefore bears a great deal of responsibility for the aggravation with regard to the Palestinian cause — from the Balfour Declaration to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias in Palestine. Turning a blind eye to — or worse, tacitly supporting — such actions, the international community, with all its institutions, has been content during the past seven decades with managing and sustaining the conflict rather than resolving it permanently. The countries and peoples of the region have paid a heavy economic, development, and human price because of this conflict. The countries of the world have not been immune to the effects of the conflict in the Middle East and the proxy wars waged due to the intensification of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.
Therefore, the responsibility of the international community and the regional community in the Middle East is to support a federal state solution to end the conflict. The responsibility begins with initiating an intensive diplomatic campaign to pressure the parties to the conflict and their allies in the region to accept this federal solution and conclude it with the signing of a peace agreement under the umbrella of the United Nations, with the participation of the world’s great powers, and the League of Arab States, along with the European Union. The responsibility continues with providing significant economic support through a UN support fund to prepare the needed infrastructure to accommodate refugees and their integration into the new state.
The international and regional community will be required to lend a helping hand to the new state in building and consolidating its new political system and bureaucratic administrative system and to ensure its development and consolidation in all segments of society.
Ending the Zionist-Palestinian conflict in a way that meets the aspirations of both parties and achieves their dreams will reward the Middle East region with economic and social prosperity and open the door to end other regional conflicts that have erupted in one way or another because of this conflict. Ending the conflict will bring security and political calm to all.
The Advantages of a Democratic Federal State Solution in Historic Palestine
This solution contains many positive outcomes for the parties to the conflict and their peoples. It bypasses many political and geopolitical problems that in the past prevented reaching a satisfactory and acceptable solution.
This solution ends the ongoing debate on the status and ownership of Jerusalem and the holy sites as well as the debate on the borders of the two states, their spheres of influence and ownership of natural resources. The solution proposes a satisfactory and mutually acceptable solution to the right to return. The solution of a democratic federal state — Palestine-Israel — opens the door wide to a new Middle East that will spread peace and tranquility to all the peoples of the region and facilitate the building of relations of trust and prosperity for all the countries of the region.
Ending the Palestinian-Zionist conflict directly brings good and safety to the whole world that has been engulfed in the flames of this conflict for a century.
1 The name of the future state is left open because this is not a priority for resolving the conflict. To this dilemma there are several solutions, the best of which may be a common name as adopted in the Balkans in the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2 The German federal model is used here in Germany. There is a long profound experience in federal coordination and in controlling the disengagement of the provinces from federalism, which has proven its worth throughout decades of development, unlike other federal countries such as Spain. This model can be used to build a democratic federal state on the historical land of Palestine., It can be amended to suit the reality in this country, considering that future conflicts between Palestinian ethnicity and Judaism will ignite from time to time as in Belgium.
3 For example, the economic cohesion structure in Germany