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An innovative proposal for long-term Semitic harmony in the Middle East based on ideas from hundreds of ordinary people — 2,000 words (or less!)
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THERE’S A celebrated tale that provides insight into the wisdom of Solomon (Shlomo/Suleiman), son of David (Dovid/Dawoud), King of ancient Israel, and builder of the Temple of Jerusalem:
A newborn was brought before the King in his judgment of a case between two women, each of whom claimed to be the mother of the infant.
Though a judge of the rarest quality—and despite having conducted a series of tests—Solomon could not determine who was telling the truth. Seeming to be stumped, he called for his swordsman to evenly divide the baby between the women, whereupon one of them tearfully begged the King to spare the child’s life and award it to the other.
By this mercy he discerned the identity of the true mother.
Despite its great antiquity, Jerusalem is easily imagined in the role of the child. The world stands divided over it, some battling for sole custody, some pleading for a split, and all appearing eager to receive their due. However, according to Solomon’s judgment, and as reflected in modern-day family case law, any such critical decisions must clearly favour the interests of the child.
Imagination, pragmatism, love and divine inspiration will surely be central to the creation of any successful plan for enduring peace, but who would have the authority (and the right) to judge the merits of such a case? In the absence of Solomon and his legendary wisdom, it would have to be ‘the people’.
Each individual is a well of possibility and a reservoir of sacred sovereignty. United in common purpose, even the impossible seems somehow less so.
– the editors
|Land of the Covenant|
|States in the Balance|
|Mutually-Independent Rights of Return|
|Representation and Taxation|
|Basic Services, Education & Health Care|
|Rights of Passage|
|The Jerusalem Capital Region|
|The Old City|
|Security, Order & Defence|
I. Land of the Covenant
Let us imagine: two states, conjoined in peace; and two peoples, bound by blood and by a shared love for Jerusalem (Yerushalayim/Ursalim), the place so deeply revered by their common patriarch Abraham (Avraham/Ibrahim).
It was in Jerusalem, upon the Mount (Har haBayith/Haram Ash-Sharif), that the angel stayed Abraham’s hand, as G‑d dramatically (and forever) repudiated ritual human sacrifice — a torturous test of a man’s utter devotion to G‑d and a stirring, implied decree to guard against the senseless forfeiture of life.
The foundations of the Arab and Jewish peoples were both laid in Jerusalem, where Abraham circumcised his son Ishmael (Yishmael/Ismail) and his son Isaac (Yitzhak/Ishaq).
Isaac’s son Jacob (Ya’acov/Yacoub), also known as Israel, would father twelve tribes (B’nai Yisrael/Bani Israil) and become namesake to the modern Jewish state. The destiny of Ishmael (though a Jew by patrimony and rite) would carry him South, to sire the twelve tribes of Arabia.
II. States in the Balance
To mitigate problems arising from inevitable demographic shifts over time, a special permanent resident class (endowed with rights of residency that are irrevocable but renounceable and non-inheritable) should be established in Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) and in the new Arab state, such that:
This arrangement should limit the need for physical population exchanges upon execution of a final agreement while allowing Israel to democratically maintain its character as a uniquely Jewish state that guarantees political participation for its citizens and permanent residents — and freedom of worship for all.
The new Arab state, herein provisionally referred to as Dawlat Ismail (State of Ishmael) or simply as Ismail, would enshrine similar guarantees of religious and secular freedom in its founding charter.
A child born in Israel or Ismail to a special permanent resident of that state would inherit citizenship from his/her parent(s) and, upon attaining age of majority, might opt to become a citizen of the state in which s/he was born.
Each state would pledge to make every reasonable effort to accommodate the safe passage of pilgrims, tourists and other visitors between the two states.
Each state would vow to serve and protect the personal and collective interests of the people under its jurisdiction, regardless of religion, race, gender, political affiliation or citizenship.
III. Mutually-Independent Rights of Return
Each state would be free to set its own policy for the return of its people from the diaspora, with all future “returnees” (Hebrew: olim; Arabic: waa’ilin) becoming resident citizens of whichever state repatriates them.
A “returned citizen” of either nation, once established in his/her new homeland for two years, could petition for residency in the other state, with the approval of both governments, and with priority being given to requests from waa’ilin who resided in present-day Israeli territory prior to 1948. Urgent humanitarian cases would be considered on an expedited basis.
IV. Representation and Taxation
Citizens would vote in the national elections of their respective homelands but would vote in municipal and district/governate elections based on residency.
Revenues from income taxes paid by individuals who are citizens of one state, but who are special permanent residents of the other, would be divided equally between the two states. Tax would be calculated using the methods established by the state in which the income is earned.
Given the disparity between average incomes in Israel and those in the West Bank and Gaza, this revenue splitting arrangement should provide significant economic stimulus for Dawlat Ismail and help to fund the settlement of those making the Arab “ruqia” (Hebrew: aliyah; English: ascent).
Property tax would be paid to the state, district/governate or municipality in which the property is located.
V. Basic Services, Education & Health Care
The enhanced tax base of Dawlat Ismail, along with an expected surge in foreign investment and donations, should contribute substantially to the development of critical infrastructure for the diffusion of services across Ismail’s numerous, fast-growing communities.
State-funded education programs (on either side of a future border) would be required to openly publish their curricula in order to encourage fairness and accuracy of content.
VI. National Borders
The division of territory between the West Bank and Israel is seen as generally agreeing with the path of the “Green Line”, with any deviations and associated land-swaps to be negotiated by the parties to a final-status agreement.
The Israel-Gaza border is well-defined, having effectively gained international recognition via the 1949 Egypt-Israel Armistice Agreement, but this proposal suggests a modest expansion of Gaza by gifts of territory from Israel and Egypt, as a gesture of goodwill, and to contribute to the security of these nations by distancing Gaza’s extensive tunnel network from its newly-enlarged borders.
VII. Rights of Passage
Israel would apportion lands for the creation of road and light rail corridors (above- and/or below-ground) to facilitate travel, commerce and social links between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Security at both ends of each pathway would be jointly managed by Ismail and Israel, with security of the intervening distance (in-corridor) being managed by Ismail and remotely monitored by Israel. The efficacy of this regime should be reviewed periodically to improve system effectiveness and eventually obviate the need for Israeli inspection of rail & motor passengers at the termini.
Commercial goods passing through such conduits would be subject to on-going inspection by customs officials of both states.
Recognising the importance of these corridors to Ismail’s culture and economy, Israel would undertake to minimise delays or closures associated with imminent security threats, health or weather emergencies, natural disasters, etc.
Sovereignty over all such apportioned lands would remain with Israel.
VIII. The Jerusalem Capital Region
Jerusalem is the national capital of the modern state of Israel and remains, as ever, the singular direction of prayer (mizrach/qibla) for all Jews worldwide.
Jerusalem and its many surrounding communities (on either side of an agreed border) would constitute the Jerusalem Capital Region and share in a common infrastructure network for meeting such basic needs as water, power and waste management.
This network would be directed by a proposed Jerusalem Stewardship Board dedicated to ensuring the highest quality of life for all Capital Region residents. The Board, half elected by the residents of the Capital Region, half appointed by the governments of Israel and Ismail, would shepherd the implementation of appropriate planning, building and environmental codes.
Ismail’s capital would be established in an eastward expansion of Jerusalem contiguous to the Old City along some measure of its easterly perimeter. The exact determination of this contiguity (as well as the basic configuration of the Capital Region) would be decided between the negotiating parties, taking into account matters of culture and faith, geography and demographics, as well as concerns related to the land and its waters, and to the preservation of peace upon them.
There would be a city council and mayoralty office for each side of the border.
IX. The Old City (less than 1 km² of land)
Rising above Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, the Old City, with its hallowed steps and ancient quarters, serves as sacred platform to the stony font from which the spirit of Jerusalem flows.
As it can be considered neither “east” nor “west” of itself, Jerusalem’s Old City would constitute a separate legal entity managed by a Regency Council with an identical number of members appointed by Israel, Ismail, the Chief Rabbinate, the Islamic Waqf, and the Vatican.
Council activities would be officiated by a Civil Sheriff elected to a five-year term by the residents of the Capital Region from a slate of candidates pre-approved by four of the Council’s five primary seats, with unanimity preferred.
Passage of routine measures in Council would require five primary-level votes, whether obtained by consensus of the five primary Council members or by support of four seats with the assent of the Sheriff.
Critical issues, such as those relating to the status quo of the Old City, would require unanimous support in Council and confirmation by twin, national referenda in Medinat Yisrael and Dawlat Ismail.
Religious and cultural groups could petition the offices of any of the primary members to represent their interests at Council. Those with current standing in the Old City (houses of worship, shrines, cemeteries and other properties) could petition the Council directly on a case-by-case basis.
Mundane civil disputes and crimes committed in the Old City (G‑d forbid) would devolve to a special Magistrate’s court operating independently of either state’s judiciary but affiliated to both. Appointments to the court would be made by Council with the assent of each state’s Chief Justice.
X. Security, Order & Defence
Responsibility for security in West Bank Areas “B” & “C” would be transferred to Dawlat Ismail on a flexible timetable based upon clear goals decided between the parties. Responsibility for security in Gaza would pass to Ismail within 90 days. (The Palestinian Authority, whose mandate will be subsumed by the new state, presently commands security in Area “A”.)
A permanent Canadian peacekeeping force, reporting to the Sheriff and engaging cooperatively with the security services of both states, would provide general security within the Old City; render personal protection for the Regency Council; guide Ismail in its development of a robust, responsible and accountable police force; ensure reasonable freedom of access to designated Holy Places; and help to maintain order in the Capital Region.
Protection of Ismail against foreign attack would be undertaken by Israel acting in concert with Ismail’s security services and the peacekeeping team. Ismail’s defence would be bolstered by Jordan in the East and by Egypt in the West.
The security of Israel would be tremendously enhanced by a peace treaty with the League of Arab States and by Israel’s formal diplomatic recognition by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
There’s a sort of existential futility–and no small irony–inherent in
man’s claiming of land, for in the end, it’s the land that claims us all.
This may nowhere be so true as it is in Jerusalem.
It is our fondest hope that the boundaries which separate us
will be overgrown in time with vines bearing fruit enriched
by the bloom of tolerance; that we might all derive sustenance
from such bounty; and that, years from now, it will be difficult
to remember why it seemed so incredibly hard to find peace
May this work be found pleasing
in the eyes of G‑d, Blessed be He,
to Whom all glory is due
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