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by Israel Zwick


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.

The other day when the mail came, I was elated to discover that my copy of Barry Rubin's new book had arrived (The Israel-Arab Reader, Seventh Edition, edited by Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, Penguin Books, 2008.) It's a book containing original documents and speeches that have shaped Israel's history from the time of Herzl to the present. I find that I get greater insight from reading original documents than from a journalist's interpretation of selected excerpts. I encourage my readers to do the same by providing links to my sources in all my articles.

I ripped open the envelope and started to browse through the book. On page 68, 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."

In November, 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted to accept the UNSCOP partition plan, it was probably the right choice for that time. The Arabs and Jews could not have shared a government and needed to be separated. The Jews needed their own sovereign state, however small it might be, to deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Today, after multiple wars, the situation is different. Separate Arab and Jewish micro-states in such a small geographical area would not be an optimal solution simply from a pragmatic aspect. Even if the populations were collaborative, the old proverb that "a camel is a horse that was built by committee" would hold true. The daily, mundane tasks of commerce, tourism, transportation, security, utility maintenance, archaeological research, and water allocation would become increasingly difficulty. If the populations were hostile, these tasks would become formidable if not impossible.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider the UNSCOP minority plan for a federal state that would consider the current realities. Some modifications would be necessary. Instead of the three governments proposed in the minority plan, a system similar to the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico would be more practical. The federal state would be controlled by the Government of Israel while the Arabs living within the borders could have their own semi-autonomous government. Such a plan was proposed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on May 14, 1989.

During the transitional period the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district will be accorded self-rule by means of which they will, themselves, conduct their affairs of daily life. Israel will continue to be responsible for security, foreign affairs and all matters concerning Israeli citizens in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district. Topics involving the implementation of the plan for self-rule will be considered and decided within the framework of the negotiations for an interim agreement.

With the current hostilities between the Arab and Jewish populations, such a plan would be difficult to implement. Experts in governmental structure would have to sit down to work out a novel arrangement for a federal state. One possibility is the following:

1. The IDF will have to liberate the Gaza district from the Hamas terror organization.

2. Israel, Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and Golan Heights, will be permanently united as a federal state under the auspices of the Government of Israel.

3. This would leave about 4 million Arabs under Israeli control, which everyone would agree is an untenable situation. These Arabs should be offered generous economic incentives for voluntary relocation. The Arab governments bordering on the Persian Gulf are desperately in need for foreign labor for their huge construction projects. They could assist their Palestinian brothers with relocation within their borders. Financing could come from all the governments which are currently contributing to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority which would no longer be necessary and could be dissolved.

4. The Arabs remaining within the borders of the federal state of Israel could choose to become full Israeli citizens with full personal rights, but not national rights. If they want national rights, they could become part of a borderless semi-autonomous Arab government modeled after Puerto Rico, or similar governmental arrangement. There would no longer be any "Palestinian refugees" claiming rights to Israel.

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. The visiting diplomats who travel around in their helicopters and limousines surrounded by security personnel may not recognize the difficulties as easily as a common resident or tourist. It is time to dismiss the concept of establishing another Arab micro-state carved out of Israel, and instead seek an alternative, novel, governmental arrangement.

SOURCE: The Israel-Arab Reader, Seventh edition, Edited by Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin.

Now available from Penguin publishers is this new edition of one of the most highly respected, widely used reference books on the Middle East, documenting the Arab-Israel conflict and peace process from its inception to the present day.

The book provides almost 300 primary texts covering more than a century of history. It documents the British mandate and early attempts to handle the confl ict; Israel's independence and the outbreak of wars; international diplomatic efforts to make peace including the 1990s' peace process and its breakdown. Materials are presented reflecting the positions of Arab leaders and states, Europeans, Israel, Palestinians, the USSR, and the United States. The texts of international resolutions and agreements, as well as accords made during the peace process, are also provided.

END NOTE: See also:
"Two-State Solution" Click here.
"Forms of Government", Click here.
"Commonwealth Federation" Click here.

Israel Zwick holds advanced degrees in biology and psychology and often writes on topics of Jewish interest. Though he lives in New York, he has children and grandchildren in Israel. He can be contacted by email at Visit his website at

This appeared May 14, 2008 on Moshe Zwick's website. It is archived at


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