JERUSALEM (Jun. 8)
A group of leading political and intellectual figures in Israel has proposed a plan for shared rule of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian inhabitants of those territories.
The proposal, introduced at a press conference here, was detailed in a 25-page report sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a privately funded think tank. It was advanced as “a just compromise” and an alternative to Israel’s annexation of the territories or the creation of a Palestinian state.
The plan calls for Palestinian autonomy within a joint Israeli-Jordanian condominium on the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli settlers would remain in the territories and Palestinians and Israelis would enjoy freedom of movement within and outside the area. The Arab inhabitants could opt for either Israeli or Jordanian citizen ship and vote accordingly in Israeli or Jordanian parliamentary elections.
The study group that produced the plan represents a broad political spectrum ranging from Laborites to members of Premier Menachem Begin’s Herut party, the National Religious Party and other factions. It was chaired by Prof. Daniel Elazar, an American born political scientist who teaches at Bar Ilan University and heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
PLAN WORKING ELSEWHERE
Their consensus was that “given the conflicting Jewish and Arab claims and demographic and political realities,” shared rule was “realistic” and “a just compromise.” The report noted that existing forms of self-rule or autonomy have been “workable arrangements” in Canada, India, Switzerland and Austria, all countries in which different ethnic or linguistic groups enjoy “self rule/ shared arrangements.”
The group rejected Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders which would pose serious security problems and was “totally unacceptable” the the majority of Israelis. Similarly, it concluded, Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and Gaza has “no chance of being accepted” by the Arabs or the international community and was opposed by many Israelis because the need to absorb more than one million Arabs posed “a serious domestic threat.”
Also ruled out was repartition of the territory which has been “firmly rejected” by the Arabs and “effectively jettisoned” by the Camp David accords. Partitioning the West Bank between Jews and Arabs, the report said, would create “strategic threats to Israel” in terms of vulnerable borders and potential danger to Israel’s water resources. The report cited growing economic interdependence among Israel, Jordan and the territories as another “barrier to repartition” while a Palestinian state in any part of the territory “cannot be considered a reasonable option.”
The “only potentially workable alternative” the report said, is to combine “some form of self-rule, home rule or autonomy with shared rule” that would meet essential needs. The report envisioned “substantial economic integration of Israel, the territories and Jordan.”
According to the study group, a “de facto shared rule” is already “in place” on the West Bank. “While Israel basically controls security and the economy, Jordan shapes the relationships between individuals and groups in Judaea, Samaria and the Arab world. Jordan provides them with a legal identity; the Jordanian curriculum is used in their schools; Jordan registers organizations and controls the operation of trade relations between the territories and the Arab world.”
The report contends that “Right now the portion of the land that is the focus of the dispute is already a joint tenancy, with local inhabitants enjoying considerable autonomy de facto in their internal matters and daily life.”
The development of this plan, the report said, will require “utmost sensitivity” to the particular needs of the four principals. They were indentified as the Jewish and Arab peoples, each of whom “must maintain the maxium amount of independence on a separate basis;” the Palestinian Arab public, which “must be given maximum feasible self-rule within a larger context of sharing;” the territory, which should be “subject to the maximum feasible amount of shared rule” by the various claimants; and the states of Israel and Jordan, which will wish to maintain “their own independence and status as politically sovereign entities” but which at the same time “should be linked through shared functional arrangements … to provide the structural and institutional cement for the entire arrangement.”
In addition to Prof. Elazar, the authors of the report are: Prof. Emeritus Benjamin Akzin of the Hebrew University, long identified with Herut; Gabriel Ben-Dor, pro-rector and professor of political science at Haifa University; Moshe Drori, legal advisor to the West Bank military government from 1970-74; Haggai Eshed, political columnist for the Laborite daily Davar; Yehezkel Flomin, a former Knesset member of Likud’s Liberal Party wing; Joseph Lanir, a member of the Labor Party directorate and a leader of the United Kibbutz movement; Shmuel Sandler, of the NRP; and Zalman Shoval, a former MK representing the late Moshe Dayan’s Telem faction.