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Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence

Peace has to be shaped by the principle that there will be no large shifts of population

SINCE the establishment of a Palestinian state appears to be only a matter of time, the question is how such a state might coexist with Israel. Both the Israelis and Palestinians continue to claim the same land, and both are demographically interspersed in Israel and in the territories.

So far, neither Israel nor the PLO have been able to project a wide view of how a two-state solution might work. They have engaged in wishful thinking, ignoring the fact that, in the end, the final outcome of their negotiations will be determined by the realities on the ground.

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No major shift of population can be contemplated by either side. What must be established following a transitional period of three to four years of self-rule are the political borders. These borders would demarcate the territories over which Israelis and Palestinians would exercise their respective authorities. Because of interspersing and the improbability of shifts in population, the political borders would not neatly separate Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians living in Israel would undoubtedly continue to live there, while many Israelis living in the West Bank might end up living in a Palestinian state, regardless of where the borders are eventually drawn.

Acceptance of this principle by Israelis and Palestinians will facilitate the territorial dispute. Although both sides are keenly aware of the need for compromises, no Israeli government would survive the ensuing political storm should it contemplate dismantling a large number of settlements, even for the sake of peace. And no Palestinian authority would give up nearly 50 percent of the West Bank, even for the sake of statehood.

It may very well be that the final borders will be drawn along the eastern mountain ridge, retaining those settlements that surround Jerusalem under Israeli control while leaving the densely populated Palestinian area to the West under Palestinian control. The right of Jews to live in biblical Jericho, Bethlehem, or Hebron is viewed by a majority of Israelis as a natural right linking them to their heritage.

As a result, 50,000 to 75,000 Israelis, scattered in a few dozen settlements, may end up within the Palestinian state. The situation of these settlements would not be different from that of hundreds of Arab villages in Israel proper, which have a population of more than 900,000. Their inhabitants own their own land and have been living in harmony with Israelis under Israel's sovereignty.

The right to purchase land by either Jews or Palestinians in each other's territory would be regulated to ensure that no sizeable transfer of land could occur. The rights of those Israelis and Palestinians who already own land beyond their respective political borders would not be jeopardized by this arrangement. Israelis and Palestinians could maintain their separate national identities and political authorities, while sharing their respective homeland.

Israel and the Palestinian state would provide legal jurisdiction for residency and citizenship. Jewish settlers living in the Palestinian state might, for example, opt to retain their Israeli citizenship, and therefore be barred from voting or running for office in their place of residence. Some might choose to become citizens of the Palestinian state, or perhaps they might be granted dual citizenship and be eligible to exercise political and civic rights in Israel and in the Palestinian state.

A certain ratio between Israelis and Palestinians living in each other's territory must be established. This arrangement would prevent either side from attaining a demographic majority in the other's state.

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Thus, for any two-state solution to work, it must: a) sustain Jewish and Palestinian majorities under their respective political domains, b) allay Israel's security concerns, c) establish Jewish rights to settle in the West Bank, d) guarantee universal access to the holy places and ensure absolute freedom of worship, f) provide equitable sharing of natural resources, especially water, and finally, g) provide the basis for close and expanding socioeconomic relations and freedom of movement of people and goods across the border.

Maintaining Israeli rule over a significant part of the West Bank will not be tolerated by today's Palestinians and certainly not by the next generation. And to exclude a Jewish presence from the ancient homeland will not be accepted by a country that has sacrificed so much to realize a 2,000-year-old dream. If this generation forfeits its rights, the next will not. To withstand the test of time, a two-state solution must be fair and equitable, one that will fulfill the national aspirations of both peoples.

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