view of the task of Brit Shalom, 2001
The original Brit Shalom and its IHUD Party were on the whole
remarkably unsuccessful in obtaining their goals. This was
perhaps due to the fact that their goals were indeed too lofty
and that they failed to take into account the geopolitical
reality and the national aspirations of both nations. So what
are the differences between our approach and theirs?
first and perhaps most radical revision is that we do not
propose a bi-national state. This is not a solution that is
desirable in the eyes of the Palestinians or the Jews. To
make Palestine/Israel simply into a country for all its citizens
will in the short term mean that the Palestinians will be
in a minority and in the long run, due to the more rapid population
growth of the Palestinians in the West Bank and especially
in Gaza, that the Jews will be in minority. This may be a
solution favoured by some liberal minded Palestinians today,
but for the Jewish majority, it would clearly spell disaster.
No political entity will ever accede to what is seen as a
national suicide. The Brit Shalom of 2001, therefore will
have to amend the initial outlook of Buber, Magnes et al.
They tried also to find a solution to
we do not propose the establishment of cantons or self governed
municipalities. The events of 1948 and subsequent wars have,
tragically, made the populations geographically more separate.
The process of separation that started through the Oslo process,
when completed, should mean that the West Bank and Gaza will
be Palestinian territories. We envisage that it be possible
to establish internal borders according to the green line
and in addition to allocate several pockets on either side
to the other entity. This flexible solution has been implemented
without inordinate problems in Switzerland. There are also
villages beyond the Belgian border that belongs to The Netherlands,
passports and all, and similarly there are pockets of German
speaking, European Nations passport wielding Germans inside
Switzerland. In our case, it would be possible to link the
Palestinian villages in the Galilee with the Palestinian state
and some of the settlement blocks in the West Bank to the
Israeli state. Inadvertently, this would ensure ethnic minorities
in both camps, should this be of prime importance in the coming
the new Brit Shalom differs from the original organisation
in that we have, from the beginning had not only Palestinian
members but that the leadership of the organisation is from
the start been shared. In Brit Shalom there are Palestinian
members from both Israel and the territories. This is perhaps
the strongest point of difference between Brit Shalom and
similar "peace organisations" in Israel. With very
few exceptions they are composed exclusively of well meaning
Jewish members. The way we see it is that if we are to arrive
at a point from which it will be possible to build a future,
that is a process that must be undertaken together.
often ask, when confronted with the ideas that Brit Shalom
espouses, what about army service? What about defence? How
can each party be willing to rely on the other when it comes
to the crucial military and strategic decisions? What about
the secret service, the diplomatic corps etc. In answering
this question, it is useful to look at the ways similar questions
were posed to the Brit Shalom of 1925.
perhaps less than now, the issue that was most burning, at
least for the Jewish constituency, was that of immigration.
Since the White Paper, issued by the British in 1939, which
limited Jewish immigration to 10,000 per year, the Zionist
camp had fought hard to expand the limits of immigration.
This was crucial for their programme, but also pressing as
the Second World War began to unravel. In the discussion between
IHUD and the United Nations, the question of immigration was
laboured over to a great degree. Magnes asked rhetorically
whether this was possible to solve at all.
IHUD party had as its policy to lobby the British and subsequently
the United Nations to allow an immediate immigration of 100,000
Jews from Europe. This request coincided with the Yishuv's
policy. But Magnes was not blind to the dangers that such
political decisions would have on the proposed binational
state. His answer to this challenge was to set out a phased
implementation of the Jewish-Arab cooperation.
phased plan was presented as entailing three separate stages.
First he envisaged that there would be some cooperation on
immediate issues between the two entities. This would be determined
upon by a joint Executive Council that would be made up by
both Jews and Arabs. Magnes was writing at the time of the
British Mandate and he emphasised the need to diminish and
eventually uproot the influence of the British in Palestine.
This it is fair to say was fairly non-controversial in the
view of the Jews and the Arabs, all of whom were longing for
the last British soldier to leave.
second stage would involve the transfer of Palestine for an
agreed period to the custodianship of the United Nations.
This stage would also involve the appointment of a Commission
of Constitution which should be composed on the same principle
of parity in numbers, and that would be faced with the task
of writing a joint draft of a constitution for a bi-national
Palestine. Magnes envisioned the United Nations drawing on
the help of international experts and especially help from
member states that were faced with the same multicultural
reality in their own countries.
third stage, after the transitional period of trusteeship,
the Palestine/Israel of two equal nationalities would then
become a Union. Magnes described this in his statement to
the United Nations in June 1947:
think that a bi-national Palestine based on parity has a great
mission to help revive this Semitic world materially and spiritually.
The Jews and the Arabs are the only two people remaining from
Semitic antiquity. We are related. We have lived and worked
together. We have fashioned cultural values together throughout
our history. We regard it as the mission of the bi-national
Palestine to bring about once again, within the Semitic world,
this revival of the spirit which has characterised Semitic
history from antiquity.
we to read Union of Israel/Palestine of two independent, autonomous
poltical entities, instead of Magnes' concept of a bi-national
Palestine, it would capture more or less the outlook of Brit
is the long answer of how one would solve conflicts of interest
under the framework of Brit Shalom. The short answer is that
differences of political opinion, e.g. in terms of defense
and immigration will have to be solved by the joint legislative
body of the two states.
is no simple solution to the challenge of co-existence. There
will always be difficulties since the two peoples have different
outlook on many things. No matter what will happen, there
will have to be accommodation of Palestinian refugees in the
Palestinian state and there will have to be made allocations
for Israel's security needs towards the East. But the bottom
line must be that these issues are best dealt with through
cooperation. Only through joint ventures will there be guarantees
that calm will prevail in the region.
© 2001-2002 Brit