Middle East peace proposals

by on May 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm in Law, Political Science | Permalink

This one is new to me:

An even more radical idea has been put forward by Swedish diplomat Mathias Mossberg and UC-Irvine professor Mark LeVine. They do not believe giving settlers Palestinian passports would solve anything. The two propose creating overlapping states between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, delinking the concept of state sovereignty from a specific territory. There would be an Israel and a Palestine, but rather than divide the land, the two states would be superimposed on top of one another. The plan would permit individuals to live where they wish and choose their political allegiance. This, they argue, would resolve the seemingly intractable questions of how to divide the holy city of Jerusalem and whether to allow Palestinian refugees “the right of return” to their old communities.

This doesn't seem practicable to me (no good mechanism for dispute resolution), but maybe in some other geopolitical setting it could be made to work,

mike@pvl May 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Yes, but who would run The Breach to make sure no one crosses between countries?

Bill Gardner May 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I thought The City and The City was the best Mieville novel. But it doesn’t seem to be much discussed.

Jens Fiederer May 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm

In Stephenson’s “Snowcrash”, this was how the USA was set up. The feds still controlled limited enclaves, but outside of these enclaves people were citizens of the franchise government (“Mr.Lee’s Greater Hongkong” was a popular one) of their choice.

vm May 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Damn, I see I was beaten to The City and the City parallels.

I would agree that it is Mieville’s best novel, far and away. Has Tyler ever commented on his work? I would be interested to hear Tyler’s thoughts on newer sci-fi/fantasy authors in general, if he hasn’t already.

PQuincy May 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm

There’s historical precedent for this kind of thing — on the basis of religion, but largely without an ethnic/tribal/nationalist dimension, to be sure — in post-Reformation Europe.

The Swiss canton of Glarus, for example, had parallel administrations for Catholics and Protestants, with all offices filled with one of each, except the highest magistrate, who alternated. Each government got a half-vote in Federal affairs.

In Germany, city-states like Augsburg had similar arrangements, with doubled government jobs at all levels (rumor was that there was a Catholic dog-catcher and a Protestant dog-catcher), except the city council, where a careful formula divided seats.

The effect of such arrangements is interesting: they tended to turn what could have been violent conflicts into legal matters, with endless litigation from both sides over every little thing. Power relations affected the relative situation of the parallel overlapping governments, to be sure, as well.

Hey, ‘intractable’ conflict has been around for a while, and human societies have coped before, and will cope again. Nationalism seems to be one of the most pernicious forces undermining this kind of pragmatic/legalistic solution, however, so I’m not sure they would work in Israel/Palestine…

Still, there is a tradition. Literature available on request.

nathan May 17, 2010 at 4:09 pm

For the Jews it would be Germany 1938 all over again.

Nick May 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I noticed a curious parallel between the Israel/Palestine conflict & that of Northern Ireland (NI): Both sides *view themselves* as the vulnerable minority:
Israel as a tiny Jewish state surrounded & outnumbered by hostile Arab nations & Palestine as an even tinier neigbour (or enclaves?) threatened by Israel’s greater power.
NI Unionists as a Protestant minority enclave of a hostile Catholic island, NI Nationalists as a Catholic minority enclave of a hostile Protestant province.

This contrasts with the more stable situations (like China/Taiwan) where only one side can plausibly *feel* threatened by the other.

Notably, there was a recent period of peace in Northern Ireland, which coincided with the Republic of Ireland’s economic ascendency & accession to the EU of former Communist nations (ie NI Catholics perhaps felt less threatened & relinquished the ‘poor man of Europe’ tag). This peace was broken shortly after Ireland’s banking/housing crash – although (like the Irish economy) it is just about holding together.

Now there are many examples of economic growth easing ‘political’ tensions, but I wonder whether the underlying problem is the shared (but opposite) fear of vulnerability? If so, perhaps game theory can suggest a way for either the Israelis or the Palestinians to lose their *sense* of vulnerability – and therefore consistently adopt the role of ‘principal’ or ‘agent’ in negotiations (rather than the current ‘victim’/'victim’ standoff).

Greater minds than mine have been exercised on the matter, so I must be missing something or being naive. Does anybody have any ideas?

Ed May 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

This is actually quite similar to the millet system used in the Ottoman Empire, so there is a precedent for this.

Its unfortunate, but dividing the area into two separate geographical states probably won’t work. The populations are too mixed up (and the Israeli policy of building settlements all over the West Bank didn’t help matters). If there is a solution, its going to be a one state solution with some sort of guarantee to prevent what happened in Bosnia and Rwanda.

poliscistudent May 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I fear this idea is impractical. I don’t think that Palestinians will trust Israelis to live amongst them but follow a system of law the Palestinians have no influence over, and vice versa. I’m not sure it is moral to have two different rule systems in one place either. The millet system is not a good analogy because everyone worked under one overarching system of law. The default law was Muslim, and Muslim witnesses would be believed over others.
To Nick: Indeed, there are papers in political science on this “double minority” problem. Game theory is not yet developed however, when it comes to the formation of beliefs and preferences. It tends to take those as given and work out strategies from there.

Opir May 17, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Here’s mine:

Israel pulls back to the 69 borders

Palestinians get what they had back then as their state

UN troops police new DMZ/border area between the two

Jerusalem becomes an internationally administered, non-state aligned world heritage site; everyone but curators/site administrators get kicked out if needs be.

Oh, and both Israeli and Palestinian extremist politicians, settlers, and terrorists are arrested and tried by the Hague on a newly created “interference with UN administration” laws if they attempt to materially harm the process.

voiceofmoderation May 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm

The solution of giving all Arabs Palestinian passports (and taxes, and voting rights), and all Jews Israeli passports (and taxes, and voting rights), but allowing them to live where they chose in either state, has been floated before. I remember being a proponent of it back in 2000. It does solve the demographic problem for Israel and can also be used to satisfy the right of return for Palestinians (as well as alleviating the need for forcefully relocate recalcitrant settlers). Having the two states overlap though was never suggested though. In the past, it was envisioned with a border between them, which still seems like an unpleasant necessity.

Mr. Econotarian May 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

This would not work with the current highly socialist governments of both sides.

If both sides would give up extremely high levels of socialism, many problems would work out themselves. Jewish settlers want to live somewhere? They need to buy land from a Palestinian. But now they just “get” land from the Israeli government.

m3 real May 18, 2010 at 3:00 am

I thought The City and The City was the best Mieville novel. The two propose creating overlapping states between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, delinking the concept of state sovereignty from a specific territory. This concept is really appreciable.That’s true that Power comes from the barrel of a gun.

Andrew May 18, 2010 at 7:57 am

“Jewish settlers want to live somewhere? They need to buy land from a Palestinian. ”

Why not? And more importantly have I never heard this question before (except when I ask it).

Maybe it’s how some governments forbid guns and others require guns but not many can conceive of letting people decide for themselves.

Building settlements for people and then hand-wringing over demolishing them and forcing people to move sounds like insanity, but hey, that’s me.

Ed May 18, 2010 at 10:28 am

Another example of overlapping sovereignty is Western Europe after the end, or rather the fading away, of the Western Roman Empire. The various Franks, Goths, Burgundians, etc. who settled in what had been the Emperor remained under their own laws. But the Romans continued under Roman law. Once the Franks conquered the Burgundians, you might have disputes in the Frankish realm settled under Frankish, Burgundian, or Roman law depending on the parties.

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