Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Israel and the Middle East

Now More Than Ever is the Time for a Federal Solution

Two Peoples--One Land:
Federal Solutions for Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan

Daniel J. Elazar

On December 8, 1987, a minor traffic accident near Gaza set off a chain of events that led the Palestinian Arab residents in the Gaza District, Judea, and Samaria to begin the disturbances known to the world as the intifada (the literal meaning of that Arabic term is "shaking out"). The image given to the world is of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli-occupying forces limited to the use of non-lethal weapons. For Israelis who know as well as the Palestinians involved that stones, molotov cocktails, axes and knives can and do kill, it is a perplexing and explosive issue. For the Palestinians it has been a heady experience that has fostered a sense of pride and self-satisfaction that they have been able to stand up to the Israeli enemy, even though the more sober among them know that if Israel had the heart to use the force at its disposal, the intifada could have been suppressed as similar activities have been suppressed in the neighboring Arab states.

At first it seemed that the intifada was going to lead to a new kind of stalemate as the only voices heard from the Palestinian side once again called for throwing the Zionists into the sea and establishing a Palestinian state in all of what they have come to call "Falastin." In the first few months of the intifada an increasing number of Israeli Jews, out of exasperation and frustration, were willing to consider almost any means of getting rid of the Palestinians, even at the price of giving away most of the territories. No Palestinian voices came forward to catalyze that frustration and take advantage of the opportunity they had created for themselves. Nevertheless, the intifada continued with Israeli opinion much divided as to how to deal with it.

Then in July 1988, King Hussein dramatically withdrew Jordan from all formal connection with the territories. This led, in turn, to a PLO peace offensive climaxing in the PLO Algiers resolutions adopted on November 15th by the Palestinian National Council as the "Palestinian Declaration of Independence" and Yasser Arafat's statement to the press in Geneva a month later on December 14th "recognizing" Israel's right to exist, which opened the door for U.S. talks with the PLO. Increasingly it became clear to one and all that the status quo ante had been altered, that the Palestinians would have to be treated as more of a factor than either Israel or the United States wished, that with all the ambivalence in the PLO's actions there was a change in the Palestinian position, murky and halting as it might be, that offered new possibilities for a negotiated peace settlement.

Over twenty years of Israeli administration have brought general prosperity and improvement of living conditions for the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza in virtually every respect, but did not bring political satisfaction to the indigenous population. The disturbances in the territories have shocked everyone by their extent and intensity and by the fact that they extended also to East Jerusalem and to a few Arab villages in pre-1967 Israel. Outbreaks of adolescent anger a year ago were transformed into organized aggression that knocked the Israelis off balance, seriously changing the images of both Israel and the Palestinians and leading to great uncertainty with regard to the future at home.

King Hussein's formal withdrawal from the territories west of the Jordan and the recent declaration of a Palestinian state by the Palestinian National Council meeting in Algiers have only added to that heady feeling. But heady feelings are not enough to change the situation on the ground. In the short run the Palestinians cannot dislodge the Israelis from what they refer to as "the occupied territories." While in the long run, whatever they may achieve, they cannot expect to be rid of either a Jordanian or an Israeli presence.

This combination of realities has served to move leaders and thinkers among all the parties toward a more serious consideration of federal solutions. Among Israelis, hardliners began to talk about a confederal relationship between Israel and Jordan, with the Palestinians integrated into a Jordanian-Palestinian state. Middle-of-the-roaders began to talk about an Israel-Palestinian confederation that would leave the Palestinians with an entity but not a state, while those on the left began to speak of an Israel-Palestine confederation involving two states, or perhaps an Israel-Palestine-Jordan confederation involving three.

Palestinian moderates called for a two state solution in which Israel, Palestine, and Jordan would form a semi-confederal relationship like the Benelux countries or a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation leagued with Israel. Yasser Arafat, pressed by Egypt's Mubarak and the United States, actively, if reluctantly, sought King Hussein's approval and support for a Jordan-Palestine confederation. While each party and group had its own ideas of what kind of federal solution would best serve its interests and needs and in many cases their thoughts were still relatively unformulated, these developments have to be seen as a major breakthrough and movement toward reaching a common field of discourse, which in itself could constitute a giant step toward resolution of the conflict.

All this is still in the category of a first step. We know from the experience of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots that common commitment to a federal solution does not mean that the parties will easily reach agreement as to what that solution should involve. Both parties to the Cyprus dispute agree to the ultimate achievement of a federal Cyprus, but the Greeks see federalism as a means to reintegrate the Turkish-occupied sections of the island within a very strong Greek-dominated state, while the Turks see a federal solution as a means of establishing a confederation to allow them maximum autonomy without partitioning the island.1 Right now, even those Israelis and Palestinians interested in federal solutions are talking at similar cross-purposes. Thus the need before us is two-fold: to strengthen the growing acceptance of a federal solution as the only possible one that will do sufficient justice to the claims of all parties involved, and to define the right federal solution.

In a sense the present convergence around federal solutions is the next step in twenty years of movement in that direction. Almost immediately after the Six-Day War, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres called for what they termed a "functional solution" to the problem of the territories. While they never precisely defined what they meant by a functional solution, it became clear over the course of the next decade that it was akin to Option 9 -- shared Israeli-Jordanian rule over the territories with local autonomy for the inhabitants. At approximately the same time, Professor Raanan Weitz, then head of the Jewish Agency Settlement Department, proposed a cantonal solution similar to federal Option 3 -- a proposal which Shimon Peres later embraced as one possibility.2 Professor Andre Chouraqui raised the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation (Option 2) in his book Letter to an Arab Friend at roughly the same time.3 In a memo prepared in 1970 and published as an article in 1972, this writer listed three options to be considered: an Israeli-Palestinian federation similar to Option 1, a federation of cantons (Option 3), or a consociational federation like Option 8.4

At approximately the same time that my article was published, King Hussein formally proposed a Jordanian-Palestinian federation or confederation based on Israel's return of all of the territories occupied as a result of the war and excluding Israel from any formal role in the resultant polity.5 For many years rejected by the PLO, in the 1980s they were brought to formally accept it as a result of pressure from Egypt and the United States and perhaps other Arab states as well.6

While a number of Israeli voices were raised on behalf of one or another of these federal options from time to time, the first serious exploration of the options was initiated by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs early in 1976, stimulated by Shimon Peres, then Minister of Defense, who was interested in identifying all the possible options for a federal solution, and Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem, interested in the specific Jerusalem situation. Identifying the eleven options presented in Chapter Four, the Jerusalem Center initiated a round of international conferences and publications involving Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Canadians and Europeans to bring the possibilities of a federal solution before the publics involved and to develop a systematic understanding of the possibilities and limitations of each. Through those conferences and its publications, the JCPA laid a firm and thorough scholarly groundwork for subsequent thinking on the subject and, through its efforts as a thinktank, actively brought its ideas to the attentions of Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian, and Jordanian policy-makers. Those efforts reached a climax in the form of a report of the Center-sponsored Study Group for Israel-Arab Peace, made public in June 1983.7 After Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and the successful conclusion of the Camp David talks, other Israelis, in particular Professors Yoram Dinstein and Ruth Lapidoth, undertook explorations of the autonomy process called for in the Camp David Accords.8

Reagan, Hussein and Begin Opt for Shared Rule

In retrospect, the turning point may have come in 1982 when Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, King Hussein of Jordan, and President Ronald Reagan of the United States all came out in one way or another for a federal solution. The active support of Reagan and Hussein for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation was headline news in September 1982. What is less well-known is that Begin also came out for a federal solution even earlier. No later than February of that year, he proposed that, some time after the establishment of autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs in the administered territories, Israel and Jordan be linked in a confederation which would enable the Palestinians to strengthen their ties with Jordan while retaining the links between the territories and Israel. Begin stated this position publicly on several occasions during 1982 and 1983 but his statements were not treated seriously by the press. He is even responsible for the best concise definition of federalism available: the combination of self-rule and shared rule, which he offered during that period.

In fact, they were very serious indeed. In addition to his own statements, Arye Naor, former cabinet secretary of the Begin government, almost unambiguously speaking for Begin, published an article in the Israeli periodical Gesher entitled "From Autonomy to Confederation" elaborating on Begin's proposed confederal solution.9 Naor, describing Begin's initiative, stated "it is a program built on a conception of peace as a dynamic process and not a static 'given' that assumes the revision of position, tactual stances, and priorities, from which flows a pragmatic perspective which at times comes into conflict with an ideological one," whereby time would be used to achieve compromises presently unobtainable. Begin's program was designed to take into account "not only Israel's desired national goals but also international realities" and Arab aspirations.

Echoing the earlier work of the Jerusalem Center, Naor presented four possibilities for resolving the problem of territories: Israeli annexation, full Israeli withdrawal, territorial compromise (repartition), or shared rule, and concluded that only the latter was feasible, given the conflicting Jewish and Arab claims and demographic and political realities. The first step would be the autonomy plan, the only immediate step that did not foreclose other options. It would be generous but carefully limited to preclude unilateral actions to establish a Palestinian state. Autonomy, he suggested, could only be an interim solution, designed to end the state of conquest in the territories and foster an atmosphere of cooperation that would ultimately lead to a more permanent solution in the form of an Israeli-Jordanian confederation that will resolve the ambiguities in the status of the Palestinian Arabs resident in the territories (i.e., the sovereignty issue) while protecting Israeli rights. For Begin and Naor, sharing the land and its governance was the only way to achieve peace.

When none of the foregoing trial balloons received proper attention, Ehud Olmert, one of the up-and-coming young leaders of Begin's Herut party published an essay on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times calling for the same thing.10 It is a curious example of the bias in the West that this important thrust on the part of the Begin government was so thoroughly ignored. Just to drive the point home, this writer published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times pointing all this out.11

A federal solution of one kind or another was implicit in the Camp David Accords. For nearly fifty years, beginning with the separation of Transjordan from western Palestine by the British in 1921-22, the first of the many attempted solutions to the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Eretz Israel/Palestine, the thrust was toward a resolution of the conflict by partitioning the land. Indeed, the original partition was devised by Winston Churchill to satisfy both parties by giving each a potential state in Eretz Israel/Palestine -- a land considered one by both parties, then as now.

The Jews were forced to accept an even smaller share of the land in order to gain a state in 1948. Had the Arabs recognized Israel at that time, either the 1947 UN partition boundaries or the armistice lines established as a result of Israel's War of Independence would have become binding and accepted by all parties. In fact, Israel made no effort to change these boundaries even at the opening of the 1967 war, until King Hussein of Jordan refused Israeli overtures to stay out of the fighting. Then events took their own course and the end result was the Israeli army sitting on the banks of the Jordan River.

Some in Israel, like the late Yigal Allon, were prepared for a repartition of the land west of the Jordan River, albeit on terms more favorable to Israel's security interests. But there were no takers on the Arab side and great reluctance among many Israelis as well.

What emerged out of this new reality was a situation in which the territory of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines was more or less recognized by all but the Arab world as the legitimate territory of the Jewish state. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan east of the Jordan River had long since been recognized as an Arab state, while neither Israel nor the Arabs were prepared to relinquish control over the territory in dispute between the two states. This set the stage for a return to consideration of federal solutions, namely some combination of self-rule and shared rule.

It is a sign of Israel's concern for its own integrity as a Jewish state and the democratic rights of the Palestinian Arabs that Prime Minister Begin came up with an alternate plan suggesting an Israel-Jordanian confederation as the stage beyond the autonomy. Had the Palestinian Arabs in the territories been willing to assume Israeli citizenship, Begin would have been fully ready to grant it to them. He said as much consistently since first proposing his plan in 1977. But, recognizing their refusal to do so, he came up with an alternative which would enable them to be citizens of an Arab state even while maintaining their connection with Israel by virtue of their place of residence.

In 1982, each of the various federal solutions proposed was ignored or implicitly rejected by one or more of the parties involved. Now all parties seem to be willing to reconsider the matter.

From Israel's point of view, a proper federal solution would provide the Jewish state with appropriate security guarantees, provide protection for the Jewish settlements in the territories, and a share in the land's common resources, particularly water resources. (Since the entire land of Eretz Israel/Palestine represents a single water reserve, the latter is particularly important.) These are three absolute necessities in the minds of virtually all Israelis, however they interpret the way to achieve and secure them.

For Hussein and his Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, such a plan offers an opportunity to regain a foothold west of the river including, I would imagine, a presence in Jerusalem, plus such advantages as port facilities on the Mediterranean which would come with Gaza. Does Jordan still want to be involved? Despite King Hussein's dramatic announcement and subsequent actions designed to speak even louder than his words, less than three months after the presumed severence of the Jordanian involvement he and Yasser Arafat had resumed discussions of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, first under the auspices of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and subsequently on a bilateral basis in Amman.

The Palestinians stand to benefit at least as much, if not more, than either of the other parties. There remains a strong Palestinian interest in being linked with their fellow Palestinians east of the river located in territory which, according to the PLO platform, should be part of any future Palestinian state. Whatever concessions the PNC made toward recognizing Israel's right to exist in its Algiers declaration, they made no concessions whatsoever with regard to Jordan's right to exist. Their original doctrine continues to apply undiluted to the East Bank.

If so, why is Yasser Arafat so reluctant to accept Hussein's suggestions for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation? Part of the reason, of course, is his own desire to head any state that would emerge for the Palestinians without playing second fiddle to any other party, but in part it is because the Palestinians know full well that a simple Jordanian-Palestinian federation would leave them at the mercy of the Hashemite rulers and the Jordanian army, who have crushed them in the past and have promised to do so again in the future if necessary. After all, federations require some measure of republican, if not democratic, rule to be stable. In 1989, Hussein began to move toward a republican form of government, with an elected parliament, political parties and competition, although real power in Jordan remains in the hands of the king and his appointees, who sit at his pleasure. In light of this positive step, the Palestinians must ask themselves what they can realistically expect in the future.

The only way in which a Palestinian link with Jordan would protect the Palestinians is if Israel were involved as a third party. An Israeli counterbalance to the Hashemite ruler would indeed be a powerful guarantee of Palestinian self-government. Only the folly of approaching the issue with certain preconceptions which exclude an Israeli role a priori has kept this from being seen.

Of course, the Palestinians can reject all options other than a fully separate and independent state of their own. In my opinion, it is foolish to believe that any Israeli government in the foreseeable future will allow such a state to come into existence west of the Jordan River. Even the PLO leaders understand that, with a few exceptions, even that segment of the Israeli population willing to withdraw from territories occupied by Israel in 1967 is not prepared for a separate Palestinian state that is not linked with Jordan in some serious way.

The Palestinians have also hinted that they understand the need for a continued connection with Israel as well, even if they get their state, at the minimum out of economic necessity. Most Israelis understand this as well. Certainly it is accepted doctrine among Israeli policy-makers, even those who are prepared to make the maximum territorial and political concessions to the Palestinians. The idea of closing off any territory of the historic Land of Israel to Israeli Jews or of dismantling the Jewish settlements established in the past twenty years is rejected by the vast majority of Israelis and both major parties. Since it would be impossible to maintain settlements and access and, even more important, serve Israel's defensive needs under a situation where there was a complete separation between the Jewish and Arab states, such links are as inevitable as they are desirable.

Thus, the Palestinians, to gain a reasonable measure of self-determination, must accept a federal solution and find the appropriate partner or partners for it. Since neither Israel nor Jordan is acceptable alone, perhaps the Palestinians can be brought to realize that what is good for them is a combination of both -- just as Israel has come to realize that since it will not be allowed simply to absorb the territories, such an arrangement would be the lesser of two evils for it. Since Jordan has no other option, it will have to come to the same conclusion. What this means is that a federal solution is necessary not only to link the Palestinians with Jordan but with Israel as well.

This is not to suggest that federal solutions are inevitable -- nothing is inevitable in politics and, however desirable certain alternatives are, people and polities do not necessarily correctly perceive their own self-interest. In these matters, more often then not, people are moved by emotion, symbols, and astute or bad timing rather than rational considerations.

The Appropriate Federal Solution

What kind of federal solution can be constructed that will satisfy the legitimate demands and needs of all parties concerned when among those demands and needs is that of maximum separation of Jews and Arabs when it comes to matters of self-government and preservation of their respective cultures. While there are many kinds of federal solutions, one seems to be particularly appropriate at this juncture: a Palestinian-Jordanian federation in new boundaries that will reflect Israel's security needs, overlaid by a confederation with Israel.

A Palestinian-Jordanian federation would mean one over-arching general government for the territories within it, both east and west of the Jordan River, divided into two or more constituent states (either Jordan-Palestine or Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza), at least one of which would be controlled by the Palestinian Arabs west of the river. It is not for Israelis to dictate the form of government that such a federation would take other than to require that it be republican -- at least as a constitutional monarchy. Israel's role in that federation will be primarily as a guarantor to both sides that the other lives up to its federal obligations as determined in the peace settlement and the constitutional bargaining between King Hussein and the Palestinians. Israel's principal concern will be that a real federation between the two parties is involved so that for purposes of international relations there will be only one Arab state in the historic Land of Israel/Palestine, albeit with at least two component federated states with substantial powers that will together share in the common federal government.

The Nature of an Israeli-Jordanian/Palestinian Confederation

In order to better be able to play its role as guarantor and to protect its own rights in the land, the State of Israel, with its boundaries adjusted to include those segments of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza needed for security purposes or so intensively settled by Israeli Jews as to be appropriately part of the Jewish state, will enter into a confederal relationship with the Jordanian-Palestinian federation. Whereas in a federal relationship a single polity is created with one overarching government, in a confederation the states that come together preserve their full political and juridical personalities while establishing certain permanent joint bodies to serve their common needs. This is particularly the case in the confederations that have emerged since World War II, first and foremost of which is the European Community.

Such a confederal arrangement will provide for Israel and Israelis to continue to have rights in and access to the territories they relinquish and a share in determining critical decisions regarding those "goods" and resources such as water which are common to the entire country and do not respect state boundaries. It could involve extraterritorial status for both Jewish and Arab settlements on one or another side of the new border and obviate the necessity to either dismantle Jewish settlements or to establish entirely contiguous links between them and pre-1967 Israel. Among the tasks that could be entrusted to the confederation would be security in the West Bank and Gaza other than local police, control and distribution of common water resources, economic and fiscal coordination including the maintenance of an open labor market, and the promotion of economic development.

How would such a confederation be governed? One way would be through a council whose members would be appointed by the parties involved either through the two states or, perhaps more effectively, by Israel and each of the federated states of Palestine/Jordan. If the former, voting could be on the basis of parity. In the case of the latter, the voting would have to be weighted so that the Israeli vote would equal that of the Arabs.

Another would be through several single or multi-purpose functional authorities of a more technical character that could be expanded or contracted as conditions change.

The functions assigned to the confederation can be conducted by the confederation government or authority directly or assigned temporarily or permanently to one state or another. Thus, for example, Israel could be made solely or principally responsible for security matters for a set period, after which if things work well, security could become a shared function. A confederal arrangement of this kind would provide for maximum separation while maintaining the links needed by all the parties involved. The capital of the confederation could be located in Jerusalem and the Arab presence in Jerusalem could be acknowledged in an appropriate manner. Moreover, any territorial concessions would be based on an allocation of jurisdiction rather than decisions on ultimate sovereignty, either indefinitely or for an interim period.

In sum, such a federation-confederation combination could give all the parties involved not only the peace they seek but their other demands as well. The Palestinians would get their state, albeit as a federal state rather than a separately independent one, and also a guaranteed share in the common governance of the Arab state. Jordan would continue to have a standing west of the river. Israel would get secure borders, recognition by its Arab neighbors, and a continuing relationship with those parts of the historic Land of Israel not within its full political jurisdiction. Most of all there would be peace, which by now the vast majority of the people involved seriously want.

A Possible Governmental Structure

The plan presented here concentrates on three main aspects: 1) possible structures for a successful federal solution; 2) the functions of the political and administrative organs; and 3) the institutional dynamics that should animate the structure. Basic to the plan is that the instruments of governance include not only territorial but also functional and personal dimensions in a manner befitting the Middle East situation. Thus, for example, while the organs designed for exclusively or principally Palestinian control would be confined to their jurisdiction, the joint authority handling transportation and communications could also control Palestinian access to Israel's Mediterranean ports for the benefit of both Palestine and Jordan.

An appropriate framework for the confederation would comprise two spheres of government: political and administrative.

The Political Sphere. The principal organ in this sphere would be the Confederation Joint Council (CJC), which should be composed of an equal number of Israeli and Jordanian/Palestinian representatives. Each state -- Israel and Jordan/Palestine -- would select its own representatives. At least one-half of the Jordanian delegation should be composed of Palestinian residents of the territories. The representatives of each state should serve at the pleasure of their appointing governments. The council would appoint a secretariat and, for day-to-day business, would be linked to Israel through the prime minister's office and to Jordan/Palestine through an appropriate counterpart.

The council would be the only body whose jurisdiction is simultaneously territorial, functional, and personal. It would be directly responsible for four functions within its sphere of competence: enactment of ordinances and by-laws, budget and fiscal management, planning, and legal coordination.

The Administrative Sphere. An indeterminate number of mixed authorities would be established to administer those functions related to the territories best shared by Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians on a trilateral or bilateral basis. Included among such functions would be security, immigration and naturalization, holy places, foreign trade and tourism, refugee rehabilitation, land and water resources and development, banking and currency, and posts and telecommunications. The management of each of these authorities should be vested in a board composed of representatives of the parties constituting each. Each functional authority should have jurisdiction over all people and territories served by its particular function. Because the "service sheds" of different functions are necessarily different, several functional authorities are necessary rather than one multipurpose authority.

Formally, power would be shared not only between the constituting states but also among the various institutions composing the confederation. Informally, power could flow in various directions, depending on the mechanisms that would emerge, the relations between the constituent states, the new entities that may be created, and other developments. In any event, the distribution of power among various institutions opens a wide variety of options for the future while securing at least the minimum needs of each party.

Security Dynamics. Movement toward parity in responsibility for security between the parties should be a gradual process. The general direction, depending on the stability of and relations between the governments, should be from Israeli dominance towards parity through a reduction of Israel's overall military presence. Gradually, these areas could become free of heavy artillery and tank units. Thus the Jordan-Palestine federation might never be allowed to station armored forces west of the river, and Israel would gradually pull out its armored units as well. In the final stage, both sides could maintain specially trained joint or mixed units to keep order. Local order should be maintained by the police force of the Palestinian federated state.

Economic Dynamics. The economic integration of the territories with Israel and Jordan should be maintained and even strengthened. This process would increase the interdependence of the constituting states within the confederation. Economic development should become a tool for strengthening the common interests shared by the parties involved and for the solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. Interdependence may be increased by functional sharing of crucial sources of water and energy and through the provision of other services through joint entities. Such a system of cross linkages would increase the mutual interest in maintaining the status quo.

How to Achieve It

How do we get there from here? Israel and the Palestinians must begin the process through direct face-to-face negotiations. The issue of the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization is critical. Not only has the center-right in Israel rejected any direct involvement of the PLO, but so too has a good part of the center-left. At the same time, the Palestinians, almost to a person, publicly declare the PLO is their sole legitimate representative. Some way will have to be found to "finesse" this problem, perhaps by bringing in Palestinian negotiators from the territories with PLO connections for the first stages. On the other hand, unless the Palestinians themselves develop alternate leadership, Israel will have to at some point consider the possibility of negotiating with their chosen figures, however distasteful that may be.

The end result of the negotiations should be a covenant between the parties which: 1) states and recognizes the claims of each; 2) agrees on how these claims will be exercised; 3) establishes appropriate authorities for the governance of the territories; 4) provides for processes of governance and adjudication in the territories and between the parties; 5) fixes the new boundaries of the Palestinian entity to be formed. Accompanying this covenant should be an agreement regarding the stages of implementation of Palestinian self-rule within the shared rule framework and the procedures for moving from stage to stage. This covenant should be the cornerstone of the evolving constitutional relationship between Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan, and in due course could become the source of sovereignty over the territories.

If indeed a shared-rule solution will eventually lead to a more stable system than partition, the question remains how to overcome the difficulties that stand before such an approach. Realistic shared rule has to be implemented through a series of steps in which the inhabitants of the territories acquire an appropriate framework for self-government and then are upgraded from subordinate status to partnership in a broad power-sharing arrangement.

The development process itself could involve three stages, beginning with administrative autonomy and moving into condominium and ultimately to a complete shared-rule arrangement, involving both federation and confederation. The principle of stage development could be an element of the initial agreement, but actual movement from each stage to the next would depend upon the agreement of all parties to the arrangement that appropriate progress has been made. This mutual veto would, on the one hand, ensure for all parties -- especially Israel -- that their security interests will not be sacrificed, and on the other hand would begin to build the cooperative environment that is a basic requirement of any federal bargain.

In the first stage, a representative administrative council could be established in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza region and the military government withdrawn. The Palestinians would gain internal home rule within the framework of Israeli rule. They would then be in a position to build their own instrumentalities of governance and develop an indigenous political leadership. Thus they could use home rule to develop the wherewithal to become serious partners in the next stages.

A council would be elected by the Palestinian Arabs resident in the territories. It would control such functional departments as education, construction and housing, agriculture, health, labor, and social welfare. The heads of the departments could be nominated from among the members of the council. Within its sphere, its jurisdiction would be limited to the Palestinian Arabs or to the municipalities they control, since its primary purpose would be to give the Palestinian Arabs scope for self-rule.

Should the plan be implemented in one area first, for any reason, the territories could be divided into two or three regions for administrative and judicial purposes: for example, Gaza and the West Bank as a unit or divided into Judea and Samaria. Under such an arrangement each region would have its own council instead of a single overall Palestinian council. The regional councils would possess the same powers as the larger body.

At some point during this first stage, as matters progress, Jordan could be invited to join with Israel in establishing a condominium council. This council could assume supreme responsibility for overall legislative, planning, budgeting, and judicial functions for Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza region. It would be composed of equal Israeli and Jordanian representation, with the Palestinians guaranteed full representation in the Jordanian delegation, and would become the supreme authority for the home rule council. At that point, certain functional authorities could be established on a bilateral (Israel/Jordan or Israel/Palestinian) or trilateral (Israel/Jordan/Palestinian) basis to give the Arabs a larger governing role. For example, security, immigration, and citizenship issues could be handled through bilateral authorities, and economic development and refugee resettlement through a trilateral body. Israeli or Jordanian citizenship would be a matter of individual choice, and municipal functions would be handled by existing local authorities.

For the Palestinian Arabs, this condominium arrangement would be another step toward an equal role in determining their future. For Israel, it would involve a relinquishing of exclusive control over certain powers in return for great legitimation of its authority in the territories on a shared-rule basis. For Jordan it would formally restore a political role west of the Jordan River. Successful implementation of the condominium would fully establish power-sharing as authoritative basis for a long-term solution and also begin to develop the mechanism and techniques necessary to translate principle into practice. The condominium should continue to exist until all parties are prepared to agree to a permanent solution.

Regarding the last stage, while all options should be left open as long as they remain within a shared-rule framework, the final result would most likely be a broad shared-rule arrangement, such as the federation/confederation arrangement suggested above or, if real peace is secured, a confederation or a community of two or three states more or less along the lines of the European Community. Alternatively, they could end up with a narrower power-sharing agreement, such as a continuation of the condominium or a federal arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians, with functional cooperation with Jordan. Time, events, and the relationships involved will no doubt point to the appropriate model.

There has never been a better opportunity for doing this than now. The clear signal that Israel has sent regarding its rejection of an international conference or simple separation of the West Bank and Gaza from its domain and the new spirit of compromise, however murky it may be, to be found among the Palestinians offer previously unparalleled opportunities for moving ahead. Let us hope that there will be sufficiently imaginative statesmanship among all the parties to do so. What is needed is to come to the bargaining table under the leadership of a skilled negotiator who could gain consent to the general principles and then work out the details with the parties involved. This can be undertaken through the good offices of the United States or, for that matter, Egypt.

Linking Peoples: The Political Dimension

The legal and technical aspects of a federal solution are easily dealt with. There is so much accumulated experience in the world to draw upon. More important by far are the political barriers to implementing such a solution. For in the last analysis, peace is a political problem, not a legal or a technical one. As a political problem it can only be achieved when the parties perceive a political advantage in achieving it.

What does a staged solution offer for the various parties in the long run? The crucial test for any staged plan is whether it will create movement toward a full and comprehensive settlement. It is here that the differences between the territorial compromise approach and a federal plan become most apparent. In the case of the former, the first step is also the final one, that is to say, a refusal to agree upon a territorial compromise offers no possibility for going any further, while agreement requires a decision on the final territorial arrangement now. In the case of a federal plan, a "no" would also close the doors to movement, while a "yes" does not require a final solution immediately but, rather, creates a framework for movement that could lead in any number of directions. More than that, a federal plan offers the possibility of building toward results which may be mutually satisfactory for all parties, even if the final result offers less to any one of them than they would prefer.

Take what is for most Israelis the worst possible case, namely the creation of a Palestinian state. If things came to that pass as a result of the staged arrangement, they are likely to come to that pass whatever Israel does. The overwhelming pressure of the Arab states plus the rest of the world will prove irresistible in one way or another. Under such circumstances, a staged arrangement could provide a basis for learning to live together in such a way that a Palestinian state would be neutralized as a threat and change its direction toward a more pacific approach to coexistence. Moreover, sufficient linkages between the two states could be developed and institutionalized so as to provide greater security for Israel even with this scenario.

On the other hand, take the worst possible case from the Palestinian perspective, namely full absorption of the territories into Israel. Even under such circumstances, absorption could only take place in a way that continued a meaningful framework for self-rule as long as the Palestinians wanted it, thereby securing their status as an entity no matter what. In essence, if the arrangement works at all, it could prevent excessive damage to either side in either of the worst case situations.

Steps Toward Negotiating a Solution

The achievement of a federal solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict is an extraordinarily difficult proposition. The only thing that would be more difficult would be to achieve any other kind of solution. Given their preferences, the Palestinians and their Arab brethren would like Israel and the Jews to disappear, certainly from their region. For many, if they had the power they would force the issue and destroy Israel, in a bloodbath, if necessary. Their willingness to even consider living with Israel's presence is a matter of necessity which realists among them are beginning to recognize.

Israeli and other Jews do not wish similar kinds of destruction on the Palestinians or any other Arabs. Still, they would like to be rid of them and they do not look forward with joy to power-sharing. Were it is possible to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians and Jordan that would safeguard Israel's security and Jewish national interests on the basis of separation, most Israelis would be prefer to do so, even at the cost of some historic rights. But the latter seems to be no more a possibility than the former. Reality dictates that both peoples must find a way to live together, agreeing to maintain the maximum possible separation, since that is what both desire, but at least a minimum of political linkage to make peace possible.

The first step along this difficult path must be a recognition on the part of both sides of this reality. The second must be the mutual recognition of each other's legitimate existence, fundamental interests, and needs. The third step involves a recognition that there has to be a way to have one's cake and eat it too, that the only way to allow each party to secure its minimum fundamental interests and needs is through sharing certain basics; that is to say, to forego futile demands for exclusive power in some spheres in return for a share of the authority and power in most.

Under such circumstances, negotiations can begin. Who should be party to such negotiations? Israel has a right to insist that whomever the other side puts forward, they should have recognized Israel and renounced terrorism. In addition, Israel should require them to explicitly recognize that the Jews are a people with a right to self-determination. "Recognition" of Israel in the manner that Yassir Arafat did in November 1988 can easily be interpreted away by the Arabs as taking official notice of the reality of a state without any commitment to its continued existence as a Jewish state. Indeed, the PLO continues to insist that while the Palestinians are a people, the Jews are merely a religion and, as such, not entitled to self-determination, an absurdity with regard to one of the world's oldest peoples. The Arabs must make it clear once and for all that they do not dispute the peoplehood of the Jews.

Israelis, in turn, must recognize that the Palestinians are also entitled to a place in the sun. While not an historic people like the Jews and clearly a self-proclaimed part of the larger Arab nation, in the twentieth century circumstances have given the Palestinians an identity of their own that by now is real enough and must be accommodated if peace is to be achieved. Jordan, a totally artificial creation, has also acquired a reality of its own do to the diligent efforts of its Hashemite rulers. Mutual recognition of these realities is necessary for negotiations and no group that does not recognize the reality of the other and agree to desist from aggression against them is a fit partner for negotiations.

The negotiations must recognize that separate politically sovereign statehood in the classic European mold is not the only way to secure self-determination and that within this framework the Palestinians will have to achieve self-determination through federal arrangements. The negotiations must lead to a federated statehood that is real for them, which means that while they will not have complete self-rule, they clearly will have a meaningful share in every aspect of their governance, if not immediately, than ultimately. Progress toward peace will have to be in stages, but there must be a commitment on the part of all parties that if the earlier stages go well, later ones will follow as agreed. This is something less than current Arab demands that Israel must concede to eventual Palestinian statehood in the early stages of the negotiations, if not before, or the demands of some Israelis that no commitments be made to go beyond autonomy.

The negotiations should provide for phasing in shared responsibility for each function or group of functions at its own pace. So if the Palestinians gain responsibility for their own domestic affairs, they can do so before they gain similar responsibility in security matters. Moreover, part of the commitment to federalism is a commitment to differential shares of responsibility at the end, since some functions will remain shared as part of the end solution, while others will be allocated to the individual entities.

In the last analysis, none of this can occur without an increasing measure of will and even good will to achieve a solution. Federal arrangements are far from being matters of legal formulas. As already indicated in this volume, the legal formulas are often the last step. At some point, federalism to succeed must involve mutual trust and comity. This is a tall order in a situation where mutual distrust has prevailed for so many decades. It is true that while every solution requires trust, federal solutions require a somewhat larger measure since they involve day-to-day interaction. In a sense, the ability to reach a solution that demands fewer irrevocable concessions is balanced by a demand for greater ordinary trust. Since it is clear that neither side is willing to make the concessions demanded, they must decide whether they want to try for the trust or simply to continue the war in a world that will be progressively less tolerant of that possibility.

What Role for the United States?

Today, the United States seems to be committed to a policy designed to lead to repartition, with the only issue open to negotiations being the precise character of the Palestinian entity. Under these conditions, there is no incentive for the Arabs to explore any other options or for the Israelis to be more forthcoming. Were the United States to shift its policy and proclaim that a return to partition has lost its validity and that a stable solution requires a new structure of relationships, the present situation would change dramatically. The United States could then advise all concerned sides that the framework proposed here is a step toward a broader shared-rule arrangement encompassing the Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, and develop a policy with that in mind. It could then initiate an overall examination of particular issues, such as Jerusalem, water resources, land, etc., that have proved absolutely unresolvable as long as partition is assumed to be at the end of the process.

It is time for the United States, the preeminent pioneer in the development of federal solutions for itself, to break out of the straightjacket of conventional international relations and to begin "thinking federal." By doing so, the Americans could open a whole new range of possibilities for Israeli-Arab peace.

No one can or should minimize the difficulties involved in pursuing a self-rule/shared rule solution. The present Israeli government, which has expressed a positive stance toward the idea, still sees Palestinian self-rule in very limited terms. The Palestinians have been unable to express any positive position in regard to negotiations with Israel for a host of reasons, and Jordan is standing aside, playing a waiting game. Trust at present is so low among all parties that we are still seeking the way to the first step. Under these circumstances, only a great power conveying to all disputants that there is no other way can set things in motion. In a parallel development, only when Anwar Sadat concluded that peace was the only way out did he come to Jerusalem. From the extremities of failure, progress can be made.

What Role for Europe?

Until the early 1950s, Great Britain and France were the major Western powers in the Middle East. Then, forced by the necessities of postwar recovery at home and decolonization abroad, they abandoned the field to the United States. For nearly forty years Europe has been relegated to a minor role in the region. Today, however, the European Community is on its way to becoming a superpower in its own right and the Middle East is its neighbor.

The European Community is by its very nature a Mediterranean power and has already developed special relationships with the states of the southern and eastern Mediterranean including Israel. This has been possible because the European Community itself has moved towards federal unity through a new-style confederation. The European Community, originally touted as "merely" a functional solution to certain economic problems, has developed new devices for confederation in a very creative way. It can truly be said that the European Community is to federalism in the twentieth century what the United States was to federalism in the eighteenth. The United States invented modern federation; Europe has invented postmodern confederation. Consequently, if the United States must draw upon its federal experience to help Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan to find the right road to peace, the European Community has even more of a reason to draw upon its federal experience, whose relevance is more immediate in this situation.

Unfortunately, Europe seems to have also followed the partitionist path of least resistence, advocating the establishment of a separate Palestinian state without a real consideration of Israel's security needs or the problem of three states in so small a country. As Europe moves toward 1992, it is appropriate for its leaders to reexamine their position and to lend their support and counsel for a federal solution in Eretz Israel/Palestine. Because of their own immediate experience and their proximity to the region, that shift could be of decisive importance in setting the conflict on the course of a peaceful resolution. The end result would be a more secure Mediterranean back door for Europe as well, one that offers great promise for a future of peace and prosperity for all the countries and peoples involved.

A Final Word

There are basically two reasons to enter into a federal arrangement: One is optimistic, to have one's cake and eat it too. The other is far more sober, as a kind of mutual insurance society whose members are covered by a system of mutual protection and indemnification that exceeds their own unaided capacities.

Both reasons are important in the context of the Jewish-Arab conflict over Eretz Israel/Palestine. Both sides very much seek to have their cake and to eat it too. Both claim the entire land and only reluctantly concede any part of it to the other, recognizing that necessity is the mother of concession. At the same time both seek to preserve some connection with those parts where they are not to be the primary rulers, some way in which they can continue to claim to have a share in the land.

Federal solutions are ideal for such a situation but the desire to have one's cake and eat it too is not enough to enable a federal solution to work. The more sober need for mutual insurance adds that dimension. In this case, each party needs to be insured with respect to the others and with respect to certain outside forces that threaten them all. The desire to have one's cake and eat it too makes a federal solution possible in this particular context. The need for mutual insurance makes a federal solution necessary. What is not clear is whether two together are sufficient to overcome differences in political culture and problems of federal will and political aspirations that stand in the way of easily adopting a federal solution.

The history of the founding of the Swiss confederation is especially relevant in this regard. Today the world looks upon Switzerland as the most successful example of a peaceful polity, so peaceful as to be considered dull. More than that, Switzerland is perceived as being without real enemies and in a protected part of Europe. Its experience is viewed as utterly irrelevant to those contemporary conflict situations where federal solutions have been proposed.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. The peaceful, neutral Switzerland of today had to struggle for 600 years for its present privileged position. From the mid-thirteenth to the mid-nineteenth century its future was in doubt. Not only was it either occupied or surrounded by great powers, usually hostile to the interests of the inhabitants of what is today Switzerland, but since it controlled the mountain passes which represented the principal links between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean world, it was considered a strategic asset that had to be controlled by the great powers of the time or at the very least prevented from falling into the hands of rival powers.

If that were not enough, within its territory were successively different groups of antagonists, pastoral mountain people versus aggressive commercial city-dwellers, French-speakers versus German-speakers, and later, Protestants versus Catholics. At different times each of those divisions was as intense and real as the division between Arab and Jew today. In the end, the Swiss confederation was born and survived because the Swiss valued their independence above anything else and discovered that the only way to gain and retain that independence was to confederate, to overcome deep-seated conflict and burning rivalries and jealousies to find a way to live together, yet not so together that the various parts would lose their identities.

This took a long time to achieve. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, three mountain republics developed along the main ridge of the Swiss alps, controlling the area of the principal north-south passes. Each struggled alone against Austrian domination until they found that they could better struggle together, so they formed the Swiss confederation in the pact on the field at Rutli overlooking the road to the St. Gotthard Pass in 1291. Not only did they continue their struggle against Austria but also against the lowland Swiss cities, particularly the city republic of Zurich. Only sixty years later, in 1351, did Zurich adhere to the confederation, which it did primarily to safeguard its political interests.

This linkage was not undertaken without reservations. Indeed, Zurich had first negotiated with Austria, but the latter power was unwilling to give the city sufficiently good terms. The city fathers chose the embryonic confederation more than partly in hopes that they would then be able to renegotiate better terms with Austria. Only in time did Zurich discover that linkage with the confederation was the best option for the preservation of its liberties.

The expansion onto the Piedmont at the northern base of the Alps gave it the economic base necessary for the confederation to survive. Was the issue settled so easily? Nearly a hundred years after 1351, Zurich fought a civil war with the other cantons, clashing over political and economic interests and then another in the following century over religious concerns, before settling down to comfortable membership in the confederation.

Much the same reasoning was connected with the adherence of the other Swiss republics to the confederation. In almost every case it was a matter case of considering the alternatives and choosing the least worst at the beginning and then to discover that the least worst was indeed the best. Still, the Swiss confederation had its enemies and however independent its constituent republics were in practice, it was not until 1648 that Swiss independence was recognized by the surrounding powers. Nor did that end matters. Sporadic fighting continued, culminating in Napoleon's conquest of Switzerland at the end of the eighteenth century.

The restoration of an enlarged confederation in 1815 led to a period of internal tension over the form it should take, climaxing in the adoption of the federal constitution of 1848 after a near civil war, but not culminating until the 1870s when civil war was again narrowly averted through a constitutional renegotiation. Nor was Switzerland prosperous in those years. It was only after it solved its political problems that it could turn its attention to mobilizing the intelligence and ingenuity of its people to create a shared prosperity in a country with virtually no natural resources.

The lessons of Switzerland should be clear to us all.


1. On the Cyprus dispute, see Criton G. Tornaritis, Cyprus and Federalism (Nicosia, 1974); James H. Wolfe, "Cyprus: Federation Under International Safeguards," Publius 18:2 (Spring 1988); N.M. Ertekun, The Cyprus Dispute and the Birth of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Nicosia: K. Rustem, 1984); Polyvios G. Polyviou, "Cyprus: What Is To Be Done?" International Affairs 52:4 (1976): 582-597.

2. Raanan Weitz outlines his federal plan in his book, Facing the Future; Outline of a Development Program for Israel Compatible for Possible Political Solutions (Jerusalem, 1973).

3. Andre Chouraqui, Letter to an Arab Friend (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972).

4. Daniel J. Elazar, "Israel and the Territories: Toward a Workable Federal Solution," Jewish Frontier (October 1972): 17-23.

5. On King Hussein's March 1972 peace offer, see Zvi Elpeleg, King Hussein's Federation Plan: Genesis and Reaction (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1977) (Hebrew); E.R.F. Sheehan, "Visit with Hussein, Palestinians and Golda Meir," New York Times Magazine (August 27, 1972), pp. 10-11; Keesing's Contemporary Archives 1971-1972 Vol. XVIII (London: Keesing's Publications Limited), p. 25191; "Hussein's Peace, Launched and Promptly Shot Down," US News and World Report 72:60 (March 27, 1972).

6. On pressures on the PLO to accept Hussein's offer, see Keesing's 1973, p. 26158 and Keesing's 1975, p. 26926.

7. Daniel J. Elazar, Shared-Rule: The Only Realistic Option for Peace (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 1985).

8. Yoram Dinstein, ed., Models of Autonomy (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Books, 1981); Ruth Lapidoth, The Camp David Process and the New U.S. Plan for the Middle East: A Legal Analysis (University of Southern California: The Law Center, Fall-Winter 1982-83), "The Autonomy Negotiations," Jerusalem Quarterly No. 24 (Summer 1982), and "Some Reflections on Autonomy," Melanges Reuter (Paris: Pedone, 1981), pp. 379-389.

9. Arye Naor, "From Autonomy to Confederation," Gesher 1/106 (Winter-Spring 1982).

10. Ehud Olmert, "Sharing with Jordan," (Op-ed) New York Times (September 10, 1982).

11. Daniel J. Elazar, "A Federal Solution for Palestinians? Linkup with Jordan, Israel Even Has Begin's Backing," (Op-ed) Los Angeles Times (December 16, 1982).

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