One thing has become abundantly clear during the current election season: Not a single political party has a plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Likud doesn't; it's trying to square Netanyahu's 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he expressed support for a two-state solution, with a platform that says the Palestinians want to destroy Israel. Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett doesn't either. He not only said he would refuse orders to evacuate settlements, but revealed himself as a false messiah with a ridiculous, arrogant, and essentially dangerous proposal that includes a prison for the 2.5 million Palestinians living in Areas A and B in the West Bank. The Labor Party is busy spouting slogans without advancing any functional plan, and has given its blessing to the settlement project. Even the proposal from Arab party Balad – for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and a state for all its citizens or all its nations in Israel – is impractical.
At the same time, 45 years after the occupation began and 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the existing strategy of separating Israel from Palestine appears unattainable. The time has come, mainly for the Zionist left, to admit that a plan that includes a Palestinian national homeland void of Jews and a Jewish homeland in Israel isn't just or fair. A deal between them, looking east, and us, a Western fortified enclave in the "heart of the desert," won't work. A deal that precludes Jewish access to areas that are central to the connection between the Jewish people and its homeland (including Hebron, Shiloh and Beit El) and similarly prevents Palestinian access to large swathes of their native land (from which they were expelled during the Nakba, or Israel's independence) cannot solve the conflict.
Yet, it's impossible to continue with the status quo. The Israeli occupation, its racial separation and revocation of millions of Palestinians' civil and human rights, does not allow for the continued moral, safe and healthy Jewish existence in the Middle East. It would imperil the entire national Jewish project and Israel as a Jewish democratic state. To ensure Zionism's continued existence, we must shift the paradigm – from separation to cooperation, to Jews and Arabs sharing the space between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
This doesn't mean a one-state solution. One state requires that Israelis and Palestinians give up their nationhood, and is doomed to fail. The solution still calls for two states. Israel exists on 78 percent of the territory of Mandatory Palestine, and Palestine on 22 percent (not an iota less). Unlike the Oslo Accords, according to this plan, after the creation of Palestine, the two sides would have to engage in an open-ended process of building and maintaining a shared confederation of two states in one space, akin to Europe but with the necessary adjustments.
The great advantage to such a plan is that it addresses the core issues of settlements and refugees from the start. Under such a plan, first-generation Palestinian refugees of the Nakba would get monetary compensation for lost property. The first-generation refugees who are still alive, and second-generation refugees, would have three options to choose from: 1. Citizenship in the countries where they reside; 2. Citizenship in OECD countries willing to take an active part in solving the conflict; 3. Immigration to Israel/Palestine.
Those refugees choosing the third option would immediately receive permanent resident status in Israel and Palestinian citizenship. In exchange, 120,000 settlers living east of the separation barrier would be able to continue living in their settlements as residents of Palestine, but as law-abiding Israeli citizens. This way, three of the more loaded issues within the overall conflict – evacuating settlers, repatriating refugees, and maintaining Israel's demographic balance – would be solved.
The solution proposed above, which requires further development, opens the door to additional solutions in terms of sharing Jerusalem as a capital, dividing resources between Israel and Palestine, and most important in terms of the shared fate of Israelis and Palestinians. Both nations have proved their dedication, their strong emotional bond and their willingness to make sacrifices for land in Israel/Palestine. They are also aware that it is their destiny either to rely on one another or be left hanging next to one another.
We Israelis will be asked to pay a heavy price – and that price is our privileges, or the mechanisms by which we "Judaize" the country and get first priority over the Palestinians when it comes to dividing resources within and beyond the Green Line. It is undoubtedly a steep price. But when you pay such a price and get something equally valuable in return, it's a good deal. In fact, what we will get in return – acceptance within the Middle East – is priceless.
Dan Goldenblatt is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center of Research.