In his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day 2017, Pope Francis mentioned the possibility of a “two state solution” for the Holy Land. We think this might be something of a problem, if only because what one person means by that term never seems to mesh exactly with what another means. And that creates a problem if you’re trying to develop a solution instead of pushing an agenda. . . .
|Abraham and Sarah|
We have a suggestion that doesn’t dismiss the two-state solution (however construed) out of hand. Instead, it goes beyond it, and proposes something that no one seems to have thought much about. We call it, “the Abraham Federation.” As we’ve described it on the CESJ website (some details might need a bit of editing),
Arabs and Jews have a point of unity both can understand: Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch.
Arabs trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael, whom he fathered through his wife’s servant Hagar. Jews trace their bloodlines to Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, who, according to the Bible, God later renamed Israel. The name “Abraham” literally means “father of many nations.” Having once separated the descendants of Ishmael from the children of Israel, 3,800 years later, Abraham could fulfill the biblical prophecy not only of their unification but also of the eventual unification and harmony of all nations and peoples.
Symbols of the past often serve as useful symbols for charting the future. A federation of the spiritual and blood descendants of Abraham could offer a bold political framework for taking small steps in a new direction. Thus, rather appropriately, the new nation could be named the “Abraham Federation.”
|Yes, there are good Samaritans — and others.|
With this philosophical common thread, the question is: Where do we start? The answer is: In the historic region of Judea and Samaria the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where Arab and Jewish settlements exist today under Israeli military control.
Although some Arabs would dispute the legitimacy of all Israeli-occupied territory, the Israeli military has the power to maintain law and order over all areas it now patrols. Despite the intifada and mounting international pressures on Israel, this reality is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the easy diffusion of modern military technology, including weapons of mass destruction among Arab guerrillas and their allies, makes a military status quo uneasy at best.
The main obstacle to peace, in this author’s view, is not the Israeli military or the deep-seated Holocaust fears which justify in the minds of most Israelis the continued Israeli military presence on the land where the Abraham Federation could be created. Rather, the deeper issue is whether a more just society can be conceived, which will eventually allow the Israeli military presence to be phased out and replaced by US and international security forces during the transition to a viable Abraham Federation at peace with all its neighbors, including Israel.
Some occupied territory under Israeli control is now open to negotiation for a new status at least as a foothold for a more comprehensive, longer-term strategy in the future for the entire Middle East.
|Jerusalem: a city holy to the Abrahamic faiths.|
The biblical region of Judea and Samaria the West Bank (with extensions in Gaza and other areas covered by the Oslo Agreement) could provide that foothold. It includes Bethlehem, Hebron and the surrounding mountain region west of the Jordan River. It also encompasses Jerusalem, which deserves special handling, perhaps serving in the transition period as the capital of the new nation as well as present Israel. Jerusalem could even be designated by the UN as a special “global capital,” to be administered by spiritual leaders of all faiths and policed by security guards under the authority of the Security Council of the UN.
The proposed strategy would go beyond the demeaning “autonomy” proposals of the Israeli Likud Party. It would be less threatening to Jewish settlers than the Labor Party’s “land-for-peace” proposals. And it would offer a significantly more just future for all Palestinians than what they are now demanding.
If a new beginning can be made in the West Bank and Gaza, with a free transit corridor linking the two areas, a more comprehensive regional approach could later be negotiated, based on the success of the Abraham Federation model.
Tomorrow we’ll go over some of the specifics. For the whole picture, of course, just follow the link above.