Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Israel and the Middle East

What is to Prevent a Federal Solution?

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

Daniel J. Elazar

If the ideas presented in the foregoing chapters are so good and the approach so reasonable, why have the parties to the conflict not embraced them already? In part, of course, it is because rational solutions are not necessarily practical ones in the real world of political conflict. More than one people has preferred protracted conflict to surrendering cherished hopes, expectations, or ways. More than one nation has opted for misgovernment by their own kind rather than better government involving outsiders. Politics generally is far more a matter of managing symbols and emotions than in proposing abstract rational plans. If that is generally so, how much more so is it in the case of intense political conflict of the kind that has engaged Jews and Arabs in this land at least since World War I.

Symbolic and Emotional Demands1

A major obstacle to a federal solution is its failure to meet the symbolic and emotional demands of one or another of the parties, right now, principally the Palestinians. Since the beginning of the Zionist enterprise, the Palestinians have insisted on their dream of removing Israel and the Zionists entirely from their midst and gaining political control over the entire land. That is one of the major reasons why the various proposals for federal solutions in the inter-war period made by one or another Zionist leader across the entire spectrum from Hashomer Hatzair on the left to the Revisionists on the right were rejected by the Palestinian Arabs, who were simply unwilling to compromise in any way, manner or form. That is why they also rejected the Peel Commission recommendations for partition in 1937 and the United Nations partition plan in 1947.

Only now are there serious signs that some segment of the Palestinian population and leadership are willing to give up their cherished dream, at least to relegate it to the status of a vision for the end of time rather than a practical political platform upon which to base the continuation of the "armed struggle," as they call it. Many of those Palestinian moderates are now speaking in terms of a confederation, either between Palestine and Jordan, or between Palestine and Israel, or linking all three. But even they are essentially demanding Palestinian statehood first and foremost, with confederation as something of a cosmetic cover that will give them an opportunity to have what they see as their cake and eat it too.

It is for this reason that the Israeli hardliners reject federal solutions since they are not convinced that the Palestinians are prepared for real peace with Israel based on the abandonment of their dream. They are not willing to risk giving the Palestinians anything like statehood, even in a controlled context, believing, like the Palestinians, that the federal framework will be at most cosmetic, thus posing an intolerable risk to Israel and for many of them what is more important, forcing Israel to cut its connections with part of historic Eretz Israel.

In a curious but understandable way there seems to be greater understanding of Palestinian aspirations among Israeli hardliners than among the moderates, in the sense that the hardliners can put themselves in the Palestinians' place and assume that what the Palestinians are seeking is what they would be seeking in the same situation, namely a separate state. Thus, rather than treating the apparent willingness on the part of an increasing number of Palestinians to compromise on the issue as a starting point, to be brought along further through negotiations, they treat it as the absolute "bottom-line" position, rejecting both a separate state and any negotiations with those who advocate it.

On the other hand, those hardliners raise another obstacle having to do with the symbols of statehood. The Israeli government has been adamantly opposed to granting the Palestinians any symbols of statehood, ranging from flying a Palestinian flag to using the term "state" in the designation of their entity. The Palestinians, on the other hand, seek the maximum in symbolic satisfaction to the point where the symbols may play more of a role than the reality. If a federal solution is to be reached it will have to include appropriate symbolic satisfaction for the Palestinians. It will require an Israeli reassessment of its fears. In an age, when every football club, not to speak of every city, has its own flag and song, and where there are more than twice as many states within federations known by that term or a symbolically equivalent one than there are internationally recognized politically sovereign states, it need not be that difficult but it will be.


A second factor is timing. In politics, timing is of the essence. The best idea coming at the wrong time is doomed to be rejected. Among the options proposed in the previous chapter are several that could have worked had the timing been right but which now are no longer viable because their time has come and gone. More than that, where there is more than one separate party involved, the timing of all must be synchronized if there is to be resolution of the conflicts between them.2

The history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been punctuated by unsynchronized timing. To give only a few examples, when the Jews were prepared for partition between 1937 and 1947, the Arabs were not and the partition plan failed. When the Jews were reconciled to a state within the boundaries established by the 1949 armistice agreements, leaving the rest of western Palestine in Jordanian or Egyptian hands, the Arabs were not and launched the Six-Day War which ended that status quo. Now, when a growing number of Palestinians seem to be ready for partition, it is too late, while those who would like to return to the status quo ante June 5, 1967, find that it is also too late.3 Today the signs are very strong that all parties are converging on some kind of a federal solution after having exhausted every other possibility, which offers the hope that perhaps their timing can be synchronized. Even now, unsynchronized timing is more likely than anything else to prevent a solution of any kind, not only a federal solution.

Political Culture

The third barrier to a solution is that of culture. It is actually a two-fold barrier. Do the parties involved have a political culture sufficiently open to federal solutions and capable of living with them in the proper spirit of cooperation and compromise? Are the cultures of the specific parties involved sufficiently compatible to enable them to live together? These are extremely difficult questions to answer, in theory as well as in practice.4

Scholars of federalism generally agree that there is such a thing as a federal political culture and that the most successful federal systems are those whose population is informed by that culture -- Switzerland, for example, or the United States. On the other hand, there are successful federal experiments where the people involved do not have a clearly federal political culture but have a political culture that is sufficiently predisposed to enable federal institutions to take root and function. Not a single member state of the European Community, for example, has what can be referred to as a clearly federal political culture and, for that matter, none has a political culture unambiguously sympathetic to cooperation and sharing. Some have political cultures that are downright antithetical to federalism -- France, for example. Others have mixtures in which the antithetical elements have all too often been dominant -- Germany, for example. Others have tendencies towards anarchism -- Spain, for example, -- or ethnic exclusivism -- Belgium, for example. Even Britain and the Netherlands, the two countries perhaps most predisposed, have rejected federalism at one time or another in their histories, relying instead on a kind of mild decentralization which seems suitable to their respective political cultures. Nevertheless, the European Community is developing well. It has moved forward from a league to a loose confederation and is now about to become a more united confederation, and has shown itself to be able to live with the political cultural problems that it has inherited.

After all, culture, like everything else, changes, even if it does so slowly, with great effort, and only under the right circumstances. While culture is one of the most stable of human forces, one that molds laws and institutions, it is also molded by laws and institutions -- and circumstances.

Still, there are some political cultures which are unlikely to ever be amenable to federal arrangements. Unfortunately, Arab political culture seems at first glance to fall into this category. Certainly, twentieth century experiments with federalism in the Arab world have, with one exception, the United Arab Emirates, all failed, if they ever went beyond paper proclamations in the first place. Nor has the history of Arab empire and state building suggested anything other than a very hierarchical and personalistic approach to governing, both antithetical to constitutionalized power-sharing. Arabic political thought includes nothing that even approaches a theory of federalism. Rather it tends to emphasize the realities of hierarchical and personalized rule, more concerned with how hierarchical rulers can be brought to be just than with how ruling hierarchies can be constitutionally limited, not to speak of being replaced by federal or confederal structures.5

That is not the whole story, however. Among Bedouin tribes there is a kind of confederalism that is organic to their interrelationships and necessary for the preservation of inter-tribal peace. Scholars have studied Bedouin leagues and confederations and have uncovered the elements that make them possible including an interesting combination of the principles of kinship and consent whereby tribal confederations are justified through the identification of common ancestors, so that all the tribes involved become, for example, the bani yakub or bani yusuf (sons of Jacob or sons of Joseph).6

These Bedouin patterns were systematically surpressed with the formation of the Arab empires, or, more recently, states whose traditional hierarchical patterns were in modern times reinforced by European conceptions of centralized statehood, convergent with traditional ideas on the subject. Thus modern Arab states have been notably centralized and hierarchical wherever they could be.

As noted above, the one exception is the United Arab Emirates, a confederation labelled a federation. It is worth closer examination, especially in the context of this discussion.7 The UAE is essentially a Bedouin confederation in contemporary dress. It is almost a personal union of sheikhs or, in its case, emirs. Moreover, rather than erecting an extensive overarching governmental structure, the confederal institutions are confined to a few collegial bodies in which all of the rulers are involved, while common tasks or functions are assigned to different emirates to provide for all. The exceptions are where the balance of power would be threatened, as in the case of the armed forces where each emirate contributes its share to a decentralized military force, or where sufficient confidence and consensus have been established to allow the federal institutions to actually carry out limited tasks.

More recently there have been some political thinkers in the Arab and Islamic worlds that have advanced the idea that the Arabs are by their very nature a federal nation, that is to say a single nation divided into peoples and states without losing their common nationhood. This view has deep historical roots as well as contemporary manifestations and is, in its way, also an extension of the Bedouin foundations of Arab society. Thus Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis and others speak of themselves as peoples within a common Arab nation. The names of their states reflect this self-understanding, e.g., the Egyptian Arab Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic. The history of the Arab League and other efforts at joint action among the Arab states reflects both the reality and the problematics of this understanding. Like Bedouin tribes, Arab states will engage in conflict with one another even to the point of war without losing the sense that they are part of a common nation or umma, even as they preserve their separate wataniya or peoplehood.8

What of the Palestinians in all of this? It is clear that Palestinian nationalism as it has developed has not been to create a separate Palestinian nation as distinct from the Arab nation as a whole but to develop the separate identity of a Palestinian people within the Arab nation. This dual identity is legitimate within the context of Arab nationalism.

In theory this should predispose them toward federal solutions but as we have seen the Arab nation itself has been unable to create mechanisms to resolve its internal conflicts, much less find a connection with non-Arabs. Indeed, Islamic doctrine almost prevents anything other than a superior-subordinate relationship with non-Muslims. Traditionally, Jews and Christians may live in a Muslim society as dhimmi, protected inferior peoples, because they are "peoples of the book," i.e., recognize scriptures holy to Islam, but they are not equals nor are they potential partners in governance. Of necessity, federal arrangements are based upon covenants or compacts. In Islam, covenants are invariably hierarchical, regulating or regularizing the relationship between superior and subordinate as in the Covenant of Omar which established the status of the dhimmi.9

On the other hand, in more prosaic ways traditional Palestinian society was highly decentralized, with each village essentially self-contained within the context of whatever external rule was imposed on the land. Rule was shared among the dominant hamulot (clans) and leadership was in the hands of the heads of the notable families. All adult males were part of the village militia and could be called upon to defend village interests or to war with adjacent targets of opportunity. As such they had a share in village affairs.10

This system prevailed through the 1948 war and indeed was the basis for Palestinian resistance to the establishment of the Jewish state. It was effectively destroyed when the Palestinian villages came under either Jordanian, Egyptian or Israeli rule. The villagers were disarmed and more formal systems of local government were introduced, embracing elements of the older system only insofar as necessary.

In the interim, in Jordan, the oldest form of Arabic state rule had been reconstituted in more modern form. The ruling Hashemite family is the oldest ruling family in the Arab world and King Hussein is very conscious of the family's past glories. Hashemite consolidation of power in Jordan was based on the ability of Hussein's grandfather, Abdullah, to win over the Bedouin tribes, make them the basis of his army, and thus retain power even in the face of the influx of Palestinian Arabs after 1948. Hussein has continued in this tradition and Jordan in many respects is a benign garrison state whose military character is hidden in the trappings of Arab traditionalism.11

Where does that leave the possibility of a federal solution? As Arabs, both the Palestinians and Hashemite Jordan are not easily open to federal arrangements with non-Arabs, especially since the latter are also non-Muslims. Hashemite Jordan will be the toughest nut to crack, since the Palestinians do have a certain tradition of informal power-sharing between village and state. At the same time, semi-formal arrangements are not entirely foreign to either and circumstances may be such that appropriate institutions can be constructed that will not so contradict the political culture of the Arabs involved as to be doomed to fail.

What of the Israeli Jews? As Jews they come out of a long tradition of federalism and a deeply federal political culture going back to the Bible with its tribal federation and covenants. Most diaspora Jewish communities were built on federal principles preserving that political culture as an integral part of the Jewish political experience. Elsewhere I have written of this at length. Thus in terms of political heritage, Jews are predisposed to constitutionalized power-sharing.12

Nevertheless, Israeli Jews confront a major problem in that the Zionist movement drew so heavily from European sources, particularly European conceptions of the centralized reified state, that Zionism has fostered a monistic ideology even as it built a movement on consociational principles which were basically federal in character. So when it comes to political relationships Israelis "think federal" while in their ideology of statehood they are extremely monistic.13 The results are visible within the Israeli polity in the dysfunctional relationship between the formal state hierarchy and the highly individualistic bargaining behavior of the Israelis -- even those within the hierarchy.14 Relatively speaking, this is a modest and far from insurmountable problem. In this case Jewish political culture is a powerful force for overcoming ideology if circumstances warrant.


Yet another factor is leadership. All the favorable conditions can be present and the timing right, yet without leadership bold enough to take the necessary steps at the right moment, the opportunity is lost. There is little question that without David Ben-Gurion the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel would not have accepted partition. It was his vision, authority, and power that cut through the fears and reluctances of the people including many of his closest and most influential colleagues. It was a lack of the right kind of leadership on the Palestinian side that brought them to disaster after disaster when they had the advantage over the Jews.

Whether or not Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan will be blessed with the right leadership at all and if so all at the right time is an open question. In the last analysis, however, it may be the most critical question of all. In political affairs, public sentiment tends to be quite flexible, shifting as leaders direct it, at least within very broad limits. People take their cues from their political leaders, especially in matters where they are not confident enough to make their own critical judgements without outside points of reference. It is true that there is a delicate interplay here between public attitudes and the possibilities of leadership, but as we saw in the case of the Israel-Egyptian peace, a dramatic gesture of Sadat, fostered by prior quiet gestures by Menachem Begin, transformed Israeli and Egyptian attitudes overnight. That is leadership at its most powerful.

At the moment none of the recognized leaders of the three parties has shown that he is capable of that kind of boldness, but even that is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Political Will

Finally and perhaps most important of all, there is the matter of will. As in anything else involving politics, the will to act or not to act takes precedence over almost all other factors, although it is clearly influenced by the others. Studies have shown that the success or failure of federal arrangements depends heavily on the presence or absence of the will to federate or the ability to foster such a will. Indeed, federal arrangements may depend more upon matters of will than some other forms of political arrangement since such arrangements are in the last analysis dependent upon the active consent of the parties involved.

In the long history of the conflict over Eretz Israel/Palestine, there have been literally dozens of proposals for federal solutions, going back at least to 1917. None have gone beyond the occasional pamphlet or meeting of do-gooders because there has been no real will for such solutions, whether involving federation, confederation, binational consociation, cantonization, or what have you on the part of either side. Only if that reality changes will the federal option become a serious possibility.

To date not only has the will to federate not been present among the parties but there has been a very strong contrary will, particularly among the Palestinians. At this writing there seems to be some change in that posture on the part of all three, again particularly among certain Palestinians. That is the key to the future.

The Demographic Problem

There are some very real objective ones as well. Perhaps first and foremost is the demographic problem which works in both directions. In the mid-1980s in all of western Eretz Israel, Jews constituted 65 percent of the overall population and non-Jews 35 percent. The latter, however, accounted for 55 percent of the natural increase, with Jews accounting for only 45 percent. That is not the whole story. The world over, as people prosper, they have less children. Hence the fertility level among the non-Jewish population has been declining rather rapidly for a number of years following the natural processes familiar in other parts of the world, while that among the Jews has stabilized at a higher than expected level, reflecting some measure of consciousness of Israel's need for more children.15

At least equally crucial as a variable is immigration and emigration. For nearly two decades following the Six-Day War, Arab emigration from the territories was continuous and substantial as young Palestinians headed for the Arab oil states and elsewhere in search of economic and career opportunities. In the mid-1980s this process was reversed. The decline in oil prices led to a decline in oil production, with a lessened need for workers. In addition, the Gulf states decided that the Palestinians were potential trouble-makers and preferred to import more docile workers from the Indian subcontinent. Not only did emigration slow, but there was a return of Palestinians to the territories. Since the outbreak of the intifada, Arab emigration again rose as some people seeking relief from the disturbances turned elsewhere.16

On the Israeli side aliya (immigration) to Israel had slowed considerably by the late 1970s, while yerida (emigration) increased. Whereas emigration in the past consisted primarily of earlier immigrants who either went back to their countries of origin or on to try their luck in other countries, after the 1973 war, the principal source of emigration has been native-born Israelis. Even according to the most cautious estimates, if all the Jews who have left Israel since 1948 had remained, together with their offspring, the current Jewish population would be at least 15 percent and probably closer to 20 percent higher. This situation had more or less stabilized by the mid-1980s. Then the Soviet Union opened its doors and the great Soviet Jewish exodus began, causing panic in the Arab world and suggesting to the Jews that the Jewish majority in Eretz Israel would gain strength.17

In sum, there are too many variables to predict an Arab majority west of the Jordan River as many of those advocating Israeli withdrawal from the territories do. On the other hand, it is unlikely that the Arab percentage of the population west of the river will be less than what it is now. If all or most of those Palestinians became Israeli citizens, as would have to be the case if the territories were simply absorbed into a democratic Israel, they would hold the balance of power in such a way that Israel would be a binational state, demographically even if not constitutionally.

On the one hand, this situation encourages Israel to find a way to extricate itself from the dilemma of having to either rule over a million and a half Palestinians in the territories without removing itself entirely from the territories themselves, or to incorporate them into their polity as full citizens along with the territories. On the other hand, a federal solution, if not properly designed, can end up linking Israel with an Arab population larger than its Jewish population if Jordan is part of the solution. Yet without Jordan most Israelis believe that too much would have to be conceded in the way of separate statehood to the Palestinians and Israel's security would be jeopardized.

Add to this the Palestinian refugees, at least some of whom would find permanent homes in the territories west of the Jordan River, and the demographic issue takes on additional force. No doubt the refugee issue will be of major concern in any negotiations. Under what conditions, if any, will Israel allow any refugees to permanently cross the river from east to west?

The Influence of the Palestinians on the Israeli Arabs

We are already seeing what is in effect the binationalization of the Land of Israel demographically through the growth of the Arab population west of the Jordan and politically through the reawakening of Palestinian consciousness among Israeli Arabs. Many Israeli Arabs now have four identities: Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, and, for most of them, Islamic as well.18

Since 1967, the Palestinian Arab leadership in the West Bank has come to set the tone for an increasing number of Israeli Arabs. There are those Palestinians who see this as a positive good. It is their view that, in the long run, the reunification of Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the old "green line" and the Arabs' favorable balance in the population growth rate means that within a generation or two the Palestinian Arabs will reach parity with the Israeli Jews and will begin to surpass them in numbers, at which time they could make their move toward regaining control over all of "Falastin." whatever the value of these long-term prospects, the younger generation of Palestinians is not prepared to wait.

Elimination of the "Green Line" has affected Palestinian Arabs on both sides in three areas: Nationalist institutions have emerged to link Palestinians on both sides of the former border. New channels of communication have developed, especially through the East Jerusalem press whose newspapers are circulated throughout the land. In recent years these newspapers have increased their coverage of Israeli Arab affairs. Finally, both groups now share common political symbols.19 This has been fostered by the growth in Palestinian Arab educational attainment. In the first fifteen years after 1967, the high school population in the territories increased by 108 percent while the general population increased by only 23 percent. This growth has continued. Proportionately, more Palestinian students pass the Jordanian and Egyptian matriculation exams than Israeli students pass the Israeli equivalent.

Under Jordanian rule the West Bank was not allowed to develop any universities. Under Israel's rule six have been established along with nineteen other post-secondary institutions recognized by the West Bank Committee for Higher Education. Altogether they have well over 20,000 students, a post-secondary student population proportionately almost as large as Israel's and far greater than that of France or Britain. This is the highest proportion of post-secondary students in the Arab Middle East.

This drive for education is paralleled among the Israeli Arabs. Whereas in 1970 less than 30 percent of the Israeli Arabs eligible attended high school, in the early 1980s over half of those eligible did so. This tide has now gone on to Israel's universities, helped by the fact that Israeli Arabs do not have to serve in the Israeli army.

It is these students who form the militant cadres in the territories who have taken the lead in the intifada, and in the Arab villages in the Galilee and the Little Triangle. Indeed, the correlation is so clear that in many cases students have marched out en bloc from their classrooms to stone Israeli cars and buses. These students have their choice of four frameworks for activism -- the shabiba or youth committees for social work, a youth movement aligned with the Fatah mainstream in the PLO (the scout movement is also under Fatah's control); the Palestinian Communist party's Federation of Secondary School Students, with its youth committees for voluntary work; the youth movements of the more radical factions in the PLO including George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Naif Hawatmeh's Democratic Front. Finally there are the Muslim fundamentalist youth movements that have become so powerful in the Gaza District and have grown in power in Judea and Samaria. At least three of these divisions overlap into the ranks of the Israeli Arabs -- the Communist youth federation; the youth movement of the Progressive List for Peace, the PLO-front organization; and the fundamentalist youth movements.

The West Bank universities are not only hotbeds of Palestinian nationalism but of fundamentalism as well. The first campus Islamic bloc was formed at Al-Najah University in Nablus, the West Bank's largest, in 1979 at the time of the Khoumeni revolution in Iran. Hebron University, as a sharia college specializing in Islamic law and letters, developed a strong fundamentalist component from the first while the Islamic University in Gaza, founded in 1979, was entirely fundamentalist from its founding. By 1982, Islamic blocs had been established in at least ten other institutions of higher education in the territories. In six they controlled the student bodies. After 1983, Islamic fundamentalists began to lose ground because the rest of Palestinian society did not respond to them, but they have remained a powerful force, as seen in the intifada.

Not only is a federal solution not likely to please these extremists but it will put Israel in a position of having to deal with them or, at the very least, their influence among the Arabs within the pre-1967 borders. This is not a pleasant prospect although it is a necessary risk.

Palestinians' Fears of Jordan (and Vice-Versa)

Another problem that is often overlooked is the degree of animosity between the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, including and especially Jordan. By and large the Palestinians feel abandoned and persecuted by their Arab brethren. In fact, the forging a separate Palestinian identity is in great part due to the response of other Arabs to the Palestinians' plight and the unwillingness of the other Arab states to absorb them or even to treat them well, or to support their cause beyond a certain minimum.

Moreover, from time to time the other Arab states including Jordan have attacked and persecuted the Palestinians on the grounds that the Palestinian agitation for a return to Falastin was leading to agitation against the other Arab regimes. Nor are the Arabs wide of the mark on this. Jordan, in particular, has much to fear since the Palestinians have made no secret that they believe that it constitutes eastern Palestine. King Hussein has been highly sensitive to any nuance of movement among the Palestinians living in his kingdom and has reacted swiftly, surely and brutally against same.

It is in Israel's interest to link any settlement with the Palestinians to a joint Palestinian-Jordanian arrangement. But it is not necessarily to the Palestinians' liking, although they have indicated that they would accept such an arrangement if they had no choice. So, while not insurmountable, this very practical matter constitutes another barrier that must be overcome.

On the other hand, it may also offer possibilities for an Israel-Palestinian agreement without Jordan, should the Israelis be prepared to accept that. The Palestinians frequently suggest that they are the "Jews of the Arab world," persecuted by their brethren as the Jews have been in the past by the West. To date, they have not convinced the Jews of this, in part because of their not-so-hidden hostility toward the Jewish presence in what they claim as their land.

Settlers and Borders

Another problem is that of borders. As indicated in Chapter 3, there are federal options which could make this question irrelevant, but they are the least likely to be acceptable at this stage of the game. Those that are likely to be acceptable will require the demarcation of borders, which means that Israel and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement as to where the borders will be, even if they are to be open borders as would be expected in any of the federal solutions being discussed.

The drawing of borders in this case is, in the last analysis, a zero-sum game. One side gains and the other side loses. Indeed, the introduction of federal arrangements is principally a means to prevent the zero-sum game from being the only game, that is to say, to compensate for the zero-sum aspects of border delineation by creating rights beyond the borders in question. A federal solution can be seen as one that makes possible the sharing of territorial rights, even if one party to it has primary rights and the other secondary ones. The borders to be drawn will not fully satisfy either side, but they will not only be open under the terms of the federal arrangement but each side will have rights across its primary borders in the larger territory of the federal entity.

This brings up the question of how such rights would be made operational and protected: Who will have access to what? Under what conditions? The matter of Jewish settlers will be an issue for the Arabs. Jordan continues to exclude Jews from living within its boundaries, while the Palestinians now have a large number of Jewish settlements in their midst, with a substantial population, which have to be accommodated one way or another. Israel does not want to take back Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians are uncomfortable with Jewish settlers in their midst. The settlers do not want to be under Palestinian or any other Arab rule. In each of these cases the tendency is to insist on a win-lose solution when what is needed is a win-win arrangement, which is what federalism offers.

Power-Sharing and Sovereignty

Any arrangement requires an institutional framework to make it operational. In a federal arrangement the institutional framework will involve power-sharing. In the case of this conflict, the question is: What kind of power-sharing? In connection with what functions? And over which people and territories?

Will only the territories in dispute be subject to power-sharing or will power-sharing extend to Israel and Jordan as well, at least for some purposes? One assumes that there will have to be different degrees of power-sharing, and they will have to be determined in negotiations among partners who seek to make the fewest concessions with regard to their territories and acquire the most with regard to the others. What rights will Israeli Jews, Palestinian and Jordanian Arabs have in each other's primary territories? How will they relate to their own primary territories if they are living outside the territorial borders but within the confederation? What kind of access will they have, daily and long-term? In other words, who will be able to work, move and settle where? What about Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the two diasporas outside of the land?

How will shared functions be administered? Who will determine what is to be shared? Take the issue of water resources. Will Jews and Arabs have an equal vote? If there is a three-unit confederation, will there be three votes -- Jordan, Palestine and Israel -- which will leave Israel at risk of being left permanently in the minority on difficult issues. The control of security would be another serious problem, although perhaps less serious than some of the apparently more mundane issues that are connected with the "sense of sovereignty." In each of these and functional questions there will have to be very hard bargaining and the resolution of each puts the whole enterprise at risk.

Jerusalem is seen by most observers to pose the most difficult potential problem. In that case, federal solutions can be said to offer the only real opportunity to find a way out of the dilemma of who has what kind of presence in that city.

Finally, there is the issue of "sovereignty." Were all parties to the conflict not addicted to modern European and post-modern Third World notions of exclusive political sovereignty, this would not be a difficult issue to resolve, but, alas, they are. It may bring all efforts to naught as a result. Nevertheless, if there is the will to federate, solutions can be found to the sovereignty problem, including vesting sovereignty in the people involved or in the covenants or other documents that establish the relationship between them. There are precedents in international law for these and other arrangements, but the issue remains a difficult one given the predispositions of the parties.


1. On the influence of symbols and passions in political decision-making, see Murray Edelman, Symbolic Uses of Politics (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1964); Martin Wishnatsky, "Symbolic Politics and the Origins of the Cold War." Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the America Poltical Science Association, 1971.

2. On the influence of timing on political decision-making, see Robert Daniel Tshirigi, The Politics of Indecision: Origins and Implication of American Involvement with the Palestine Problem (New York: Praeger, 1983).

3. On the history of the Palestine conflict, see Donald Peretz, Israel and the Palestine Arabs (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1985); J.N. Moore ed., The Arab-Israeli Conflict, 3 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Nadav Safran, From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confrontation 1948-1967 (New York: Pegasus, 1969); Shlomo Avineri, ed., Israel and the Palestinians: Reflections on the Clash of Two National Movements (New York, 1971); Walter Laqueur, The Road to Jerusalem: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (New York: Macmillan, 1968) and ed., The Israel-Arab Reader (New York, 1968).

4. On federalism and political culture, see Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View from the States, 3rd ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1984); Federalism and Community: A Comparative View, special issue of Publius 5:2 (Spring 1975); Frederick A.O. Schwartz, Jr., Nigeria: The Tribes, The Nation or the Race (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1973); Ivo D. Duchachek, Comparative Federalism: The Territorial Dimension of Politics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970); John Kincaid, ed., Poltical Culture, Public Policy and the American States (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1983); William Livingston, Federalism and Constitutional Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956).

5. On the Arab approach to government, see Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, 5th ed. (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1975), and Politics and War in Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); George Lenczowski, ed., Political Elites in the Middle East (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1975), and ed., The Poltical Awakening in the Middle East (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1970); Jacob Landau, ed., Man, State amd Society in the Contemporary Middle East (London: Pall Mall Press, 1972), ed., Middle Eastern Themes: Papers in History and Politics (London: F. Cass, 1973), and ed., Electoral Politics in the Middle East: Issues, Voter and Elites (London: Croom Helm, 1980); Michael C. Hudson, Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy (New Haven and London: University Press, 1977).

6. On Bedouin tribal federations, see G.J. Obermeyer, Leadership and Transition in Bedouin Society: A Case Study. Prepared for a conference on "The Desert and the Sown: A New Conceptualization," March 17-21, 1972, at the American University in Cairo, and "The Ritual and Politics of Oath in Tribal Society," Al-Abhath (American University of Beirut) XXVI (1973-1977); Shirley Kay, The Bedouin (New York: Crane Russak, 1978).

7. On the United Arab Emirates, see Ali Mohammed Kalifa, The United Arab Emirates: Unity in Fragmentation (London: Croom Helm; Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1979); Kevin Fenelon, The United Arab Emirates: An Economic and Social Survey, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 1976); Muhammed Morsy Abdullah, The United Arab Emirates: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm; New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978).

8. On the Arab concept of federal nationhood, see Adel Daher, Current Trends in Arab Intellectual Thought (Rand Corporation, 1969); "Federalism-Arab" in Yaakov Shimoni and Eviatar Levin, Political Lexicon of the Middle East in the Twentieth Century, rev. ed. (Tel Aviv, 1974) (Hebrew), p. 291; Gabriel Ben-Dor, Federalism in the Arab World (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies, 1978).

9. On the Covenant of Omar and the Dhimmi, see Bat Ye'or and David Littman, Protected Peoples Under Islam (Geneve: Centre d'information et de documentation sur le Moyen-Orient, 1976); Bat Ye'or, Dhimmi Peoples: Oppressed Nations (Geneve: Editions de l'Avenir, 1978).

10. On Palestinian village society and government, see Joel S. Migdal, et al., Palestinian Society and Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980); Richard T. Antoun, Arab Village, A Social Structural Study of a Transjordanian Peasant Community (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1972.

11. On Jordan's Hashemite goverment, see Anne Sinai and Allen Pollack, eds., The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the West Bank: The Middle East Confrontation States (New York: American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East, 1977); Ministry of Information, Government in Jordan (Amman: Jordan Press Foundation, 1978); Raphael Patai, The Kingdom of Jordan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958).

12. See, in particular, Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart A. Cohen, The Jewish Polity: Jewish Political Organization from Biblical Times to the Present (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985); Daniel J. Elazar, ed., Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and its Contemporary Uses (Ramat Gan: Turtledove Publishing, 1981), and People and Polity: The Organizational Dynamics of World Jewry (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989).

13. On the monistic characteristics of Zionist and Israeli thought, see Eliezer Schweid, "The Centrality of the State of Israel in Jewish Life," Gesher 102-3 (Fall-Winter 1980).

14. Cf. Gerald Elliot Caiden, Israel's Administrative Culture (Berkeley, California: Institute of Governmental Studies, 1970).

15. Yosef Levite, "Demographic Profile of Eretz Israel," Jerusalem Letter 79 (27 March 1985).

16. Hillel Frisch, "Arab Population Growth in the Territories -- Decline in the '70s, Upswing in the '80s," Survey of Arab Affairs 10 (23 November 1987).

17. Levite, "Demographic Profile."

18. Rafi Israeli, "The Arabs in Israel: A Surging New Identity," Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints 82 (1 January 1989).

19. Hillel Frisch, "The Binationalization of the Land of Israel," Jerusalem Letter 77 (20 January 1985).

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