Carlo Strenger
Haaretz (Opinion)
January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

The two-state solution is history, and I was both sad and happy to see that A.B. Yehoshua has come to the same conclusion. Now we need to think ahead: How will the piece of land west of the Jordan River become a place that enables its population to live decent lives?

How on earth is this greater State of Israel going to function? Israel is already an anomaly in that it has four separate educational systems: one for religious Zionists, one for the ultra-Orthodox, one for Arabs and one for the secular Jews who are no longer a majority: as of 2010, less than half of Israel's children are enrolled in secular schools. And given the demographic developments, there will soon be fewer and fewer schools of this type.

It has struck me that the writing is on the wall: What we need is a four-state solution. We should have an ultra-Orthodox state, a kingdom of Judea, a Palestinian state and a secular liberal state - all united under a federal republic.

Let me explain. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been dreaming for ages of offering the Palestinians four disconnected enclaves around their population centers. They would not have voting rights in Israel, but they would have other civic rights.

Netanyahu's model should be expanded. Minorities in the greater Land of Israel should be allowed self-rule. I'm beginning to realize that maybe the Palestinians will be better off than us. Once they are free to go anywhere they want, they won't have anything to do with the federal government. They won't serve in the army; they'll have their own educational system and live their lives freely.

Come to think of it, the ultra-Orthodox already have that deal. They have de facto enclaves whose inhabitants live in a universe totally disconnected from the rest of the country. They have their own schools, they have their own press, and they have their own political systems, built on rabbinical leadership. Like the Palestinians, many of them don't serve in the army or pay Israeli taxes.

It's actually quite striking to note that, like the settlers, they even have their own road system; after all, one can't drive through their cities and neighborhoods on Shabbat, and women can't walk on their sidewalks in jeans and T-shirts. So why not formalize the separatist status quo? Secular liberals should demand the self-rule that is already accorded to the ultra-Orthodox, and that Netanyahu wants to grant the Palestinians.

As in Switzerland and the United States, most of the taxes will go to the states that make up the republic rather than to the federal government. Each state would have its own educational system, which will allow each group true cultural autonomy.

Let the ultra-Orthodox argue among themselves about whether they want to keep men and women apart on the bus. Let them have kosher cell phones and teach their children nothing but Jewish subjects. Let them also figure out how they will fund their state.

In the state of Judea, let Zionist right-wingers like MKs Zeev Elkin and Aryeh Eldad argue about whether women can sing at public events, whether children should be taught that Shimon Bar Kochba was a hero, and whether King David should be the ideal role model for future leaders. If they want, they can turn their state into a kingdom, which is what a growing number of religious Zionist rabbis want anyway.

And let us secular liberals (and religious Arabs and Jews who believe in liberal values ) live in our own little enclaves. We'll manage just fine. Our taxes will finally go to institutions we respect and with which we identify - just like the other groups. While we're at it, we might as well take the whole deal that the Palestinians would get: We won't vote for the federal legislature, as it will most certainly not be a liberal democracy. And like the ultra-Orthodox, we won't have to serve in an army that will be sent into useless wars.

We will feel a lot better when we no longer have to explain to totalitarian minds why liberty is important. What a relief!


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