Last week, as I was sitting in a brightly lit auditorium in central Jerusalem listening, admittedly skeptically at first, to a presentation from the newly formed group, Two States, One Homeland, something occurred to me about the peace process. The crux of peace, as we think about it now, is two states. It is the end of the occupation, and the fulfillment of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. In this way, it is a peace to be inscribed in the sacrosanctity of borders, a peace defined by separation – of Israel and Palestine – and disengagement – of the Israeli army and Israeli citizens from the West Bank. It is a peace of leaving the other alone.
To be sure, this peace sounds much better than the status quo. It is a peace commensurate with international law, with ideals of democracy, human rights and self-determination. But, in being so, it is a peace of politicians rather than a peace of peoples. It is a peace where “the other” remains “the other,” and where walls don’t get torn down, but instead they can be lawfully built up. It seems ironic to promote initiatives that bring Jews and Palestinians together, when the ultimate goal of two sovereign states is more likely to keep them apart. As I sat in the auditorium listening to the people from Two States, One Homeland speak, I began to wonder, as each of them has been wondering: If we are dreaming, why are we dreaming of being apart?
Two States, One Homeland is a joint initiative of a group of Israelis and Palestinians that has developed a new vision for lasting peace in the land of Israel/Palestine. It does not do away with the two-state model, but acknowledges that two states, separate, divided, wishing to have as little to do with the other as possible, makes for a very shallow peace. If we are dreaming, why not dream of being together?
Recognizing that peace cannot be built into walls or borders, found on a piece of paper or written into a law, Two States, One Homeland, has placed reconciliation, rather than separation, at the heart of its vision for peace. They have developed eleven founding principles (English here) that together envision a homeland, open and shared between two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, and two peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians. The official borders would be based on the 1967 lines, and a sovereign and democratic Palestine would be able to naturalize Palestinian refugees as it sees fit, while a sovereign and democratic Israel would continue to be able to naturalize diaspora Jews as it sees fit.
The innovation – and strength – of the Two States, One Homeland initiative is that it plays with questions of residency, as well as citizenship. No Israeli citizen currently living in the West Bank would be forced to leave his or her home; instead, Jewish residents of the West Bank would become permanent residents of the new Palestinian state (if they so choose), while remaining Israeli citizens. Conversely, a number of Palestinian refugees would be able to return to Israel as permanent residents, while becoming citizens of the new state of Palestine.
Recognizing further that both Jews and Palestinians have “profound historical, religious and cultural ties” to the entirety of the land, the Two States, One Homeland initiative emphasizes that, despite the desire for two sovereign political entities, the land itself should be open, one homeland in which citizens of both states have the right to travel, work and live in all parts of the land. It also envisions a formal union between the two states with joint institutions that will cooperate on issues of common concern, such as infrastructure, security, natural resources, and the economy.
More profound than a political “solution,” the Two States, One Homeland initiative attempts to look beyond the moment of establishment of two states to envision a future not only free of conflict, but also ripe for reconciliation. This is a peace that does not allow for separation, division, or continued distrust of “the other.” It is a peace that is meant to transcend borders, rather than be inscribed in them.
To those who are skeptical – and I speak to myself as well – to those who cannot imagine this land of conflict becoming a land of union, I ask: At what point in the centuries of conflict, violence and war in Europe would anyone have been able to envision the European Union?
Find Two States, One Homeland on Facebook