The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have reached a critical stage which demands serious thinking on the continuation of the peace process and the direction of the negotiations. What is the best possible future of the two peoples - the Palestinian and the Israeli? How can they best move together towards a comprehensive, moral and lasting solution?
As academic researchers seeking alternative ways of thought and action, we would like to raise for discussion an old-new option. This can serve as an alternative to the current discourses based on the Oslo process which apparently leads to a political separation between Israel and Palestine.

Breaking the Freeze

This is not an ideal proposal and neither does it necessarily represent our personal beliefs and ideologies. However, at this point, it seems to us more timely and realistic than the alternatives, and its very discussion could serve as an ice-breaking tool to the present freeze in uninhibited thinking.
Several factors led us to reconsider the old and not-yet implemented slogan of "Two states for two peoples." If this is not attainable, we must seek more appropriate and practical solutions which would fit the new realities on the ground:
• The Oslo accords, which are at present the only framework for negotiations, do not present the permanent solution, and actually leave open different options. This requires long years of debating over details which in the meantime are becoming irrelevant. An example can be seen in the negotiations over an arrangement in Hebron: both sides agree that even when it is concluded and implemented, the agreement will not bring peace, security and mutual trust in the city.
• The Israeli side - be it headed by a rightist or a Labor government ¬would not accept the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian State. On the other hand, anything less than full independence would not be acceptable to the Palestinians.
• The current Israeli government does not intend to evacuate the settlements, and the settlers, backed by the government, have no intention of leaving their homes. The opposite is true - there are plans for more building and "thickening" of the settlements. On the ground, the results of such a development will prevent the implementation of separation into two states.
• Any suggested solution to the question of Jerusalem would bring about an explosion. At present, there is no existing plan for a settlement in Jerusalem which could satisfy both sides. We can assume that such a solution will not be found in the foreseeable future, due to the current mistrust and suspicion between the sides.
• The character of the Palestinian National Authority and the regime developing within its territories raises gloomy thoughts concerning the future of the independent Palestinian State when it is established. Neither the Palestinian public nor Israeli neighbors could settle with a regime that showed signs of authoritarianism and corruption. It is our obligation as people committed to human rights and freedom to warn against such tendencies.
• Current processes at work among the Palestinian-Arab population inside Israel indicate that the solution of two states for two peoples will neither satisfy nor solve the problems of the Palestinian citizens in the state of Israel. The framework of the Oslo agreements does not take into account this community and does not suggest ways to cope with their distress.
• The ideas raised every now and then to exchange the Arab Triangle villages in Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the negative responses they arouse, reinforce our belief that the solution of two states will not solve the existing complexities and would probably open a Pandora's box of new problems.
• Issues like water, ecology, economics, transportation and many others should be dealt with by maximal overall centralization and with the utmost coordination. Two separate states and separate bureaucracies would not be able to cope with these issues.
• Finally, the two peoples - Jewish and Palestinian - regard the whole country as their respective homeland and believe in their natural right to rule over the whole territory of Eretz Yisrael/Filastin. Any line drawn to divide it would be artificial and leave dissatisfied elements on both sides, dreaming of change and struggling for it.

A New Direction

In view of the above points, we wish to propose a new direction for discussion, even though we are aware that this path could engender sharp criticism from all sides. We believe it is the task of academia - Israeli and Palestinian alike - both to recognize and point out the difficulties and to present unorthodox ways of coping with them.
We suggest the following as the final goal of negotiations: the establishment of one sovereign state on the entire territory of Eretz Yisrael/Filastin. In this state, the two communities will live side by side and maintain complete autonomy. The Palestinian community will include those Palestinians who are now citizens of Israel. Both communities will be completely autonomous in their internal affairs, such as education, culture, religion, language, media, ways of life, etc.
Sovereignty and government will be shared, with all that implies: foreign affairs, joint economy, joint security services, based on the current coordination already existing. The barriers and fences will be removed, the Green Line will be erased and new joint institutions will begin to operate. Jerusalem will be the joint capital, with special arrangements for the holy places. The settlements will remain where they are. It seems to us that in order to avoid unnecessary tensions, and allow each community maximal autonomy, it is undesirable to mix populations beyond what exists today. In later stages this could be changed.

A Shared Civil State

It is not our intention at this preliminary stage to relate to all the problems this idea inevitably raises. These demand deeper thinking and wider study. We can use existing and theoretical models around the world which have been developed by political scientists.
We should not ignore the fact that, during the early stages, the Jewish community will dominate almost all areas in the mutual state, but it is possible to gradually, attain economic equality and a more egalitarian division of power and government. This will not be easy and will demand a revolution in the thinking and ideologies of broad sections of both peoples.
It is our belief, however, that this land which procreated original and revolutionary ideas throughout the generations, can establish a successful model of a civil state shared by two communities. Despite the deep differences between Jews and Palestinians, there is also a great deal in common between them, and their love for their shared homeland can overcome differences rather than foster hostilities and war. We suggest that now is the time to move in a new direction in order to save lives, energy and resources, in the hope of bringing peace and harmony to this tormented land.