a unique proposal for long-term harmony in the Middle East based on ideas crowdsourced from everyday people worldwide – 2,000 words (or less!)
|Land of the Covenant|
|States in the Balance|
|Representation & Taxation|
|Rights of Return|
|A Division of Estates|
|Rights of Passage|
|The Capital Region|
|The Old City|
|Security, Order & Defence|
Word count: 1,982 (2K max.)
I. Land of the Covenant
Imagine two nations, conjoined in peace; two peoples, bound by blood to Holy Jerusalem (Yerushalayim haKodesh/Ursalim al-Quds,) the place so revered by their common patriarch, Abraham (Avraham/Ibrahim).
It was on the Holy Mount (Har haBayith/Haram al-Sharif,) in Jerusalem, that an angel stayed Abraham’s hand, as G‑d dramatically (and forever) repudiated ritual human sacrifice – a terrible test of one man’s utter devotion to G‑d and a stirring, implied decree to guard against the senseless forfeiture of life.
Isaac’s son, Jacob (Ya’acov/Yacoub,) also known as Israel, would father twelve tribes (B’nai Yisrael/Bani Israil) and become namesake to both an ancient and a 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
There should be established in the State of Israel (Medinat Yisrael) and in the new Arab State, a special permanent resident class, endowed of special rights which are irrevocable but renounceable and non-inheritable, such that…
- an Arab citizen of Israel could:
• retain his/her Israeli citizenship; or
• claim citizenship in the Arab State, with…
special permanent residency rights in Israel and a
future one-time right to revert to Israeli citizenship
- an Israeli now residing in territory agreed for the Arab State could:
• retain his/her Israeli citizenship and become a
special permanent resident of the Arab State; or
• claim citizenship in the Arab State, with…
a future one-time right to revert to Israeli citizenship with
standard permanent residency rights in the Arab State
This would afford Israel’s Arabs a role in the self-determination of their people, at minimal risk, whilst limiting the need for population exchanges generally and enabling Israel to democratically retain its character as a uniquely Jewish state.
A child born in country to a special permanent resident of that state would inherit citizenship from his/her parent(s) and, upon attaining the age of legal majority, might opt instead to become a citizen of the state in which s/he was born.
The new Arab State, herein provisionally referred to as Ismail or Dawlat Ismail (State of Ishmael) would enshrine in its founding articles clear guarantees of inalienable secular and religious rights, for its citizens, residents, and guests.
Ismail and Israel would enter into covenants of mutual respect, cooperation and fair dealing, recognising that the children of Ishmael are indeed cousins to Israel.
Each state would vow to serve and defend those under its jurisdiction, irrespective of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, or creed.
Each state would aver to preserve and protect, without prejudice, every Holy Place and archaeological site under its mandate.
Each state would pledge every effort to facilitate the safe passage of pilgrims, tourists and other visitors between the two states.
State-funded education programmes would disclose their curricula and material lists to encourage fairness, transparency and accuracy of content.
A citizen of one state who resides—and is health insured—in the other, could freely seek treatment in his/her national homeland.
IV. Generation Ex
Each surviving, UNRWA-registered, 1st-Generation (″G1″) Refugee who has attained the age of seniority, regardless of citizenship or residency, should receive a monthly pension from the State of Israel commensurate with the country’s basic old-age benefit. Immediate implementation strongly urged — even in advance of an interim agreement.
V. Representation & Taxation
People to vote nationally by citizenship; municipally and regionally by residency.
Income tax revenues from individuals who are citizens of one state, but who are special permanent residents of the other, would be divided equally between the two states, with taxes calculated according to the methods of the state in which the majority of income is earned — or as otherwise agreed.
VI. Rights of Return
Each state would set its own policy for the return of its people from the diaspora, with future returnees (Hebrew: olim; Arabic: wa’ilin) becoming resident citizens of whichever state repatriates them.
A “returned citizen” established in his/her new homeland for five years could petition for residency in the other state, with the approval of both national governments, and with priority assigned to requests from wa’ilin and olim who resided in present-day Israel, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip, prior to 1948. Humanitarian cases would be expeditiously considered.
VII. Refugee Assistance
Any surviving G1 Refugee would receive:
- a sum equal to one month’s old-age benefit per full or partial year of dispossession, as marked from date of displacement to date of agreement;
- plus any back-pension owing, as marked from date of seniority to date of initial pension benefit receipt.
Accordingly, the estate of a G1 Refugee deceased on/before date of agreement would receive:
- a sum equal to one month’s old-age benefit per full or partial year of dispossession, as marked from date of displacement to date of death;
- plus any back-pension owing, as marked from date of decedent’s seniority until date of his/her passing.
Unassigned monies would collect in an internationally-overseen Fund to be augmented by gifts from many nations, with Israel matching donations to an agreed level. A portion of the Fund would be set aside to compensate displaced refugees for provable property losses.
Every non-G1 UNRWA Refugee would receive a one-time Grant from the State of Israel equal to eighteen years of Child Benefit payments.
VIII. A Division of Estates
The Israel-Ismail (West Bank) border should generally follow the Green Line, with any deviations, equivalent land-swaps, leases of land, and other related considerations to be negotiated.
Though Gaza’s borders are well-attested in the 1949 Armistice Agreement, an expansion of the territory by gifts of land from Egypt and Israel would reduce Gaza’s population density and enhance the security of all three states.
A Treaty on Water & Mineral Resource Cooperation should be entered into by Jordan, Ismail and Israel, building on the work of such regional bodies as the Joint Water Committee and being respectful of traditional resource rights.
The parties should agree terms governing use of the electromagnetic spectrum.
IX. Rights of Passage
Israel would apportion lands for the creation of one or more road & light rail corridors to facilitate travel between the West Bank and Gaza.
Security of the terminals would be jointly managed by Ismail and Israel, with the intervening distance (in-corridor) secured by Ismail and remotely monitored by Israel. This regime should be reviewed periodically to improve its efficacy and to eventually obviate the need for Israeli inspection of passengers.
Recognising the critical importance of any such corridors to Ismail’s economy and culture, Israel would minimise delays or closures associated with imminent emergencies. Sovereignty over territory thus apportioned would remain with Israel and commercial goods would be subject to Israeli customs inspection.
A secure transit corridor should link Hebron’s H-2 district to the Israeli border.
X. The Capital Region
Jerusalem is the national capital of the modern state of Israel and the singular direction of prayer (mizrach/qibla) for Jews worldwide. It has shared in many histories and is a place of pilgrimage for millions annually.
The city is cherished by Christians, Muslims and Jews for its myriad holy sites, including the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, City of David, Mount of Olives, and Gethsemane.
Jerusalem and its nearby communities would constitute the Jerusalem Capital Region and share a network for meeting their combined water, power and waste management needs. A Stewardship Board, half elected by the region’s residents, half appointed by Israel and Ismail, would oversee operation of the system and guide the development of suitable zoning, building and environmental plans.
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 precise determination of this contiguity (and the general configuration of the Capital Region) would be negotiated between the 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.
XI. 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.
The Old City (being neither “east” nor “west”) would constitute a separate legal entity to be managed by an esteemed Regency Council, a guiding body with an equal number of members appointed by each of:
- Medinat Yisrael;
- Dawlat Ismail;
- the Chief Rabbinate Council;
- the Muslim community, as jointly represented by
the Islamic Waqf and the Kingdom of Jordan; and
- the Christian community, as jointly represented by
the Orthodox and Latin Patriarchates of Jerusalem.
The affairs of Council would be officiated by a Civil Sheriff elected to a five-year term by the Capital Region’s residents from amongst candidates pre-approved by four of Council’s five primary seats, with unanimity preferred.
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 Council directly on a case-by-case basis.
Passage of routine measures in Council would require five primary-level votes, whether by consensus of the five primary seats, or with the support of four plus the approval of the Sheriff.
Major issues, such as those pertaining to the status quo of the Old City, would require unanimous support in Council and, in crucial matters, confirmation by twin, national referenda in Israel and Ismail.
Mundane civil disputes and any crimes committed (G‑d forbid) in the Old City 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.
XII. Security, Order & Defence
Ismail would assume command of security in West Bank Areas B & C and Hebron H‑2 on a flexible timetable based on clear goals decided between the parties. The Palestinian Authority, whose mandate would be subsumed by Ismail, presently controls security in Area “A”. Command of security in Gaza would pass to Ismail within 90 days.
A permanent Canadian peacekeeping mission, reporting to the Sheriff, would provide security within the Old City; render protection for the Regency Council; advise Ismail on its development of a robust, responsible and accountable police force; ensure freedom of access to designated Holy Places; and help to maintain order in the Capital Region, cooperating with the security services of both states.
Protection of Ismail against hostile infiltration, foreign attack or invasion would be undertaken by Israel in close coordination with Ismail’s security services and the peacekeeping team. Ismail’s defence would also be bolstered by Jordan in the East and by Egypt in the West.
The security of Medinat Yisrael would be greatly enhanced by its defence pact with Dawlat Ismail, its peace treaty with the League of Arab States, and its formal 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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A PEACE OF JERUSALEM INITIATIVE
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