Between Adalah's 'New Constitution' and Annapolis

The issue of Israeli Arabs is central to the future relations between Israel and the Palestinian national movement. Israel should formulate guiding principles towards this triangular set of relations.
The 'Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel' (Adalah) is considering proposing a new constitution that calls for a supranational regime in all of 'historic Palestine' and for the right of Palestinian refugees to fulfill their 'right of return.' Although the proposal does not directly relate to the issue of borders, it undermines the principle of the Two State Solution (Stern, Ha'aretz, 20/12/07).

In light of the political process between Israel and the PLO and suggestions over populated land swaps, Adalah's proposal signifies a change in the organization's position and may mark the emergence of a new trend among Israeli Arabs.

What is the issue?

The proposal to create a supranational regime in the territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority today constitutes a change in the organization's stance: while Adalah's 'Democratic Constitution' (2/07) challenged the identity of Israel as a Jewish State, the organization has, until now, accepted the framework of the 'Two State Solution'.

The proposal for a new constitution comes against the backdrop of the renewed political process in which various aspects of the issue of Israeli Arabs have been raised in the Israeli public discourse. Among others, the idea of populated land swaps has been raised.

Moreover, Israeli Arab leaders have denounced the possible recognition of Israel as a Jewish State by the PLO and have stated that the establishment of a Palestinian state will not fulfill the national demands of Israeli Arabs (Ha'aretz, 4/12/07).

Why is it important? Why now?

Even if Adalah's positions do not represent the majority of Israeli Arabs, their importance lies in that they express a rift between the state and its Arab citizens, and may represent the emergence of new trends within this sector:

  • Challenging the PLO: Opposition to a future agreement? - Adalah's positions apparently contradict the PLO's negotiation agenda towards a Permanent Status Agreement with Israel which is based on the 'Two State Solution.' This also signifies a change from the four 'Vision Documents' published over the last year by various Arab organizations, in which the authors were careful not to contradict (and even to complement) the PLO's agenda.

    Adalah is thus signaling that Israeli Arabs may not accept an agreement between Israel and the PLO. It also suggests that a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders will not necessarily fulfill the rights of Israeli Arabs for self-determination.

  • Restricting Abu Mazen in Negotiations - Adalah's position and remarks by Israeli Arab leaders may constitute an obstacle to the political process as they limit the PLO's room to maneuver, especially on the issues of recognition of Israel and refugees.

  • Strengthening the 'One State' logic - The Reut Institute has previously written that the failure of the political process is likely to cause a strategic inversion in the aims of the Palestinian national movement: from a struggle to end occupation and establish a Palestinian state, to a struggle against efforts to end occupation and the demand to establish One State (See: Is Israel Preparing for the Failure of the Annapolis Summit).

    The combination between the challenge of Israeli Arabs to the 'Two State Solution', the collapse of the political process and the Palestinian demand for One State is likely to erode the accepted framework of the political process based on the 'Two State Solution' and could raise the One State alternative.

Policy Options

Formulating a vision towards a Two State reality - The issue of Israeli Arabs is central to the future relations between Israel and the Palestinian national movement during negotiations on Permanent Status and the establishment of a Palestinian State. Israel should formulate guiding principles towards this triangular set of relations.

Israeli conduct in negotiations - Israel's vision towards a Two State reality should be translated into Israeli positions in the current negotiations. Hence, the extent to which Israel will allow linkage between Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian State on various issues could have political significance on issues such as: the question of dual passports, the right to vote and be elected in the parliament of a Palestinian State, the issue of family reunification, and others.

Socio - Economic and Civil Equality - Israel should implement equal rights in accordance with the Or Commission's recommendations, in order to 'neutralize' at least some of the causes of unrest among Israeli Arabs.