Two Stars for Peace solution
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This proposal for solving the perennial Israeli-Palestinian dispute is developed in Martine Rothblatt’s book, Two Stars for Peace: The Case for Using U.S. Statehood to Achieve Lasting Peace in the Middle East (iUniverse, 2003), arguing that "the peoples of Israel and Palestine [should] petition the U.S. Congress to admit their lands as the fifty-first and fifty-second states of the United States." :109
The "Two Stars" concept has been dismissed as utopian. Two Stars for Peace counters this criticism by arguing that "the two state" solution in particular is a prescription for the continuation of never-ending conflict between Israelis justifiably concerned over secure borders and Palestinians with irredentist designs on the Jewish nation state. The "Two Stars" solution has also been dismissed as visionary. Yet Rothblatt continues to adhere to the proposition that the alternative "one state" as well as "two state" solutions are either undesirable or impractical, that this makes her vision inevitable though not imminent, and that "Two Stars" is the only practical and just ultimate solution for "two peoples with overlapping histories and conflicting claims of sovereignty."
Middle Eastern History in Global Context
The "Two Stars" vision sees globalization transforming unitary nation states: "Newly-liberated former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe are falling over each other to cede sovereignty to the transnational European Union. It is a bit too soon to declare single-state nations moribund, but multi-state unions are the wave of the future.":73 The Middle East has been ruled by independent nation states since World War II. But before that it was ruled by transnational ancient empires, the Arab Empire, the long-lived Ottoman Empire, and European colonial powers. From the Euphrates to the Nile, conventional nation states—with the exception of Israel and Turkey—cannot claim much success.
There is nothing written in stone that the nation state will remain the region’s norm. Indeed, since Two Stars for Peace was published, the Middle East has displayed viviparous tendencies, with civil wars tearing about Iraq and Syria, and regional war lords and advocates of a "universal caliphate"—a sort of "Islamist EU"—both rejecting the nation state as the regional future.
The American Paradigm
Two Stars for Peace argues that, while the UN shows little evidence of getting its act together as a world government, American federalism may have a global future. Already covering 10 time zones, from North America to Hawaii, the U.S. union of states could be extended to Middle East, with travel distances between Washington and Jerusalem are only 1,000 more than between Washington and Honolulu.:46–47
The book offers a serious analysis of the history of American federalism: from Benjamin Franklin's "Albany Plan," partly modeled on the Iroquois Confederation, to the U.S. Constitution and James Madison’ rejection of Baron Montesquieu’s view that only "small republics" could survive in favor of "extending the sphere" of the new American union to incorporate diverse geographies, peoples, and interests, to lesser-known case of the admission as a state of the persecuted Mormons of Utah, to the better-known admission of Alaska and Hawaii. The book recognizes U.S. failures including not only the Civil War, but how racism denied the aspirations for communal autonomy of Native Americans and other minorities. Yet it sees American federalism overall as a successful model that could be extended.:13–14, 45, 47–48
America and the Middle East
U.S. interest in the region is deep and multifaceted. The Puritans, inspired by the Hebrew Bible, envisaged themselves as establishing "a New Jerusalem"—or, more modestly, "a New Canaan." Protestant missionaries established beachheads to the Middle East from the early nineteenth century. Their efforts, in what is now Syria and Lebanon, helped shape the development of Arab nationalism and independence struggles.
Of course, the emergence of modern Israel is hard to imagine without the half-century of American Jewish support, at both the popular level of Yiddish-speaking immigrants and the elite level of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brandeis and Frankfurter for the establishment of a "Jewish homeland." Then there was Harry Truman’s recognition of the Jewish state, and the eventual forging of a "special relationship.”:382–85
Little known is that efforts to extend U.S. political involvement in the region go back almost 100 years. Point Twelve of President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points had called for "an undoubted security of life and an absolute unmolested opportunity of autonomous development" to "nationalities now under Turkish rule." Arabs as well Jews were ecstatic in their praises of Wilson. An Arab luminary at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, Saudi Prince Feisal, met with American Zionist Felix Frankfurter, wishing his Jewish "cousins" a "hearty welcome home" to the Holy Land. Feisal initially asked for an American mandate over Syria which would evolve, he predicted, into an Arab confederation modeled on the U.S. federal system. Of course, none of this came to pass.:382–85
Two Stars for Peace is extremely respectful of Theodor Herzl. Yet it argues that the nation state never was and is not now an adequate vehicle to achieve Herzl’s goals of "normalizing" the condition of the Jewish people in an entity with a Jewish majority that would also be at peace with its neighbors. In contrast, with Utah in mind as a prime example, the book argues that the federal model—with a division of powers between distinctive states and a national government—would provide a workable vehicle for "squaring the circle" by allowing Israelis to maintain their identity within a component American state while enjoying the security and prosperity offered by the American union. One must read the book for its attempts to explain how issues of religious identity and language, boundaries and flags, currency, and disarmament could be resolved in Israel as the fifty-first state.:1–2, 16–27
The joke is that Israel is already "the fifty-first state." Two Stars for Peace seeks to make the joke serious by expanding the underlying concept to a Palestinian fifty-second state. The book sees this possibility on the analogy of for the Palestinians skipping the archaic phase of a national telephone system by going immediately to twenty-first century universal wireless. As part of the U.S., the Palestinians could offer home—not only to stateless refugees—but a second home to the 350,000 Palestinian expats currently in the U.S. The controversy of "the right of return" could be finessed if not entirely resolved. At the same time, Islam would flourish in the Palestinian fifty-second state much as Mormonism does in Utah.:40–43, 45, 70–81
Criticism and Prospects
Despite the absence of an embrace by "the Two Stars solution" from major political leaders, Rothblatt renewed her vision in a lecture in May, 2010, at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, at the invitation of its Board of Governors. Highlights of the lecture were prominently reported by the Maariv newspaper. About the same time, Rothblatt funded an exploratory trip by her fellow tech visionary, Ulrike Reinhard, to Israel and Palestine, with the intent of conducting background research for a new web initiative concerning "Two Stars."
Rothblatt considers herself a practical visionary, pointing to her successes in helping to transform into reality such ideas, previously viewed as far-fetched, as GPS tracking technology, satellite radio, and legally mapping the human genome. The practicality of "the Two Stars" solution may ultimately depend on the main drift of twenty-first century technology and politics. Like Steven Pinker, Rothblatt is optimistic about human nature—with the help of technology—being able to reform itself and realize continuing progress, despite the retrograde examples of world wars, nuclear arms races, and the dangers of future plagues. If pessimism instead is vindicated, not only may traditional nations collapse, but so too may the EU and even the U.S. 'federal union.'
With the Middle East at a seeming impasse—with no ideas for solving the Israel Palestine-dispute having either current or prospective traction—Two Stars for Peace commends itself, if as nothing else, a provocative thought exercise, carefully argued and closely documented, that might cast new light on understanding this impenetrably dark twenty-first century predicament.
- Rothblatt, Martine (2003). Two Stars for Peace: The Case for Using U.s. Statehood to Achieve Lasting Peace in the Middle East. iUniverse. ISBN 0595292887.
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- Maariv, May 9, 2010[full citation needed]
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