After 72 years of conflict, it is time for Israel and the Palestinians to realize that while a two-state solution remains the most viable option, there are irreversible realities on the ground that can be addressed only jointly in the context of a confederation. The contours of such a confederation are dictated by these realities, the resolution of which requires both sides to fully and permanently collaborate on many levels. The question is, why must Israel and the Palestinians reconcile these realities as a prerequisite to reaching a peace agreement, and how should they go about it to maintain the integrity and independence of their respective states?
I begin with the premise that the Palestinians will never give up their right to establish an independent state of their own as was codified by the UNSC in 1947 and in several other international resolutions that followed. Furthermore, the one-state solution, which is being floated as an alternative, will never be accepted by the Israelis as that would compromise the state's Jewish national identity and undermine its democracy.
Confederations are defined as "voluntary associations of independent states that, to secure some common purpose, agree to certain limitations on their freedom of action and establish some joint machinery of consultation or deliberation."
Such a confederation would join independent Israeli and Palestinian states together on issues of common interest that cannot be addressed but in collaboration. Their previous failure to come to an agreement on these issues explains why the conflict became increasingly intractable, as both sides sought concessions to which the other could not acquiesce. A confederation would be able to jointly address and manage the following common issues along with others, such as freedom of movement for all people, the administration of Jerusalem, and national security.
The interdispersement of the population
The fact that the Israelis and Palestinians are interspersed and anchored in their current places of residence makes it simply impossible to separate them. There are roughly 2.5 million Palestinians and an estimated 400,000 Israelis in the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem, there are 328,000 Palestinians and 215,000 Israelis.
Although some Israelis living in small settlements can be relocated to larger ones, the vast majority of settlers will stay in place. As was agreed in previous negotiations, the Palestinians will be compensated through land swaps to make up territorially for this, especially the three large blocs of settlements in the West Bank along the 1967 border.
There will still be other settlements, such as Ariel, which will undoubtedly remain on Palestinian land. The Palestinians have no choice but to accept that many Israelis will continue to live in settlements in the West Bank, and their demand to remove all settlements outside the three blocs is a non-starter.
The interdispersement of Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem suggests three things. First, it will be impossible to erect a hard border between the two sides, as there will always be Israelis and Palestinians living in each other's territory; hence physical separation will be impossible.
Second, since uprooting Israelis or Palestinians from their current places of residence is impossible, there will be the need for extensive collaboration in relation to security and economic development, which will render the border simply a political line.
Third, people and goods will move freely in both directions, which in any case is necessitated by their close proximity. However, this free movement does not infringe on their mutuality of independence, but allows them to fully cooperate on every level.
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