It’s Time to Reconsider a Federal Arrangement
By Israel Zwick, CN Publications,
It isn’t necessary to be an expert in governmental relations to realize that an Arab state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza would be an administrative and economic disaster. Any observant tourist who spends two weeks traveling around Israel and the Arab areas can easily determine that independently.
On page 68, of The Israel-Arab Reader, Seventh Edition, edited by Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, I discovered a little snippet of Israeli history that is little known and seemingly insignificant. It is widely known that in 1947, the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended that that the British Palestine Mandate “be constituted into an Arab State, a Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem.” This was the opinion of the seven majority members of the Committee. What is little known is that three members of the Committee released a minority proposal:
Three U.N.S.C.O.P. members (the representatives of India, Iran and Yugoslavia) proposed an independent federal state. This plan provided, inter alia, that an independent federal state of Palestine would be created following a transitional period not exceeding three years, during which responsibility for administering Palestine and preparing it for independence would be entrusted to an authority to be decided by the General Assembly.
The independent federal state would comprise an Arab State and a Jewish State. Jerusalem would be its capital.
During the transitional period a Constituent Assembly would be elected by popular vote and convened by the administering authority on the basis of electoral provisions which would ensure the fullest representation of the population.
The Constituent Assembly would draw up the constitution of the federal state, which was to contain, inter alia, the following provisions:
The federal state would comprise a federal government and governments of the Arab and Jewish States, respectively.
Full authority would be vested in the federal government with regard to national defence, foreign relations, immigration, currency, taxation for federal purposes, foreign and inter-state waterways, transport and communications, copyrights and patents.
The Arab and Jewish States would enjoy full powers of local self-government and would have authority over education, taxation for local purposes, the right of residence, commercial licenses, land permits, grazing rights, inter-state migration, settlement, police, punishment of crime, social institutions and services, public housing, public health, local roads, agriculture and local industries.
Apparently, these three members did not believe that carving up the tiny Palestine Mandate into disjointed strips of land was a viable option. This was not the first time that the practicality of separate Jewish and Arab states was questioned. On page 43 of the book, there is a British Government Policy Statement Against Partition issued in November 1938, almost a year before the German invasion of Poland.
4. His Majesty’s Government, after careful study of the Partition Commission’s report, have reached the conclusion that this further examination has shown that the political, administrative and financial difficulties involved in the proposal to create independent Arab and Jewish States inside Palestine are so great that this solution of the problem is impracticable.
5. His Majesty’s Government will therefore continue their responsibility for the government of the whole of Palestine. They are now faced with the problem of finding alternative means of meeting the needs of the difficult situation described by the Royal Commission [Peel Commission, 1937], which will be consistent with their obligations to the Arabs and the Jews. His Majesty’s Government believes that it is possible to find these alternative means. They have already given much thought to the problem in the light of the reports of the Royal Commission and of the Partition Commission. It is clear that the surest foundation for peace and progress in Palestine would be an understanding between the Arabs and the Jews, and His Majesty’s Government are prepared in the first instance to make a determined effort to promote such an understanding.
Apparently, there was recognition that the partition plan as proposed by the Peel Commission would not be administratively and financially practical. Note that in both of these documents, the Arabs living in Palestine are not referred to as “Palestinians” but merely as “Arabs” presumably in recognition that they do not constitute a distinct ethnic group. Actually, at that time, the Jews living in Palestine were known to European Jews as “Palastinishers.”