During my time as a Member of Parliament, I was very fortunate to be introduced to the Middle East. It captured my interest from the first time I stepped off of the airplane in Israel, and the region still appeals to me. During that first visit, the group I was traveling with spent time in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It was truly and eye opener for me and I will never forget that first experience. Over the years since, I have made good friends on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in several neighboring countries.
Starting in 2001, I unsuccessfully attempted to bring together Israeli, Palestinian and Canadian parliamentarians to explore the role of parliamentarians in the peace process. I also have always felt that Canada has an obligation to help sort out this problem, and that we are perfectly positioned to help bring new ideas to the table.
I have also always been of the opinion that parliamentarians have more flexibility and freedom to explore different approaches to peace than government leaders. Government leaders will often be criticized and vilified for even entertaining the possibility of a controversial direction, whereas parliamentarians can examine a wider range of possibilities without fear of immediate repercussions.
The Speakers of the Canadian, Israeli and Palestinian legislatures all worked with me this project but so far we have not succeeded in making it happen. I also had a great deal of help from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Foreign Affairs Hon John Manley and Hon Bill Graham, but when the strikes on September 11, 2001 happened, it made such events almost impossible.
In 2010, I was honoured to be invited by the United Nations and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean to make a presentation at a peace conference in Malta. I was asked to speak on the role of parliamentarians in the peace process. There were 28 speakers from many countries. It was a very interesting agenda with many presentations by some very impressive people. Considering the quality of the speakers, I thought that my remarks might seem a bit naive, but they were received well and I enjoyed the feedback when I returned to Canada.
At the Malta Peace Conference I recommended that an existing successful two state solution be used as a model for a two state solution in the Middle East. I proposed that a forum of Israeli, Palestinian, American and Canadian parliamentarians be convened to examine the most successful two state solution in history, and determine what aspects could apply to the Middle East situation. I keep in touch with several people in the region and am just as interested now as I was on the day that I first visited Palestine region and Israel in 1999. For sure the news we see about the Middle East often reflects just violence, but to me most people there just want to live their lives in peace and they want a good, safe future for their families and a better life for their children.
Under this model, neither side gets everything that they want, but I believe that this model can be used as a guide to all aspects of the conflict, and the dispute settlement mechanisms built in to this model are the best insurance for a long term peace in the Middle East. If the will is there on both sides for a Two State Solution, here is a successful precedent to follow.
Below is the presentation that I made at the U.N. Malta Peace Conference in February 2010, and some photos of my visits to parliamentarians.
Breaking the Status Quo: A Two State Model for the Middle East
Former Member of Canadian Parliament
February 12, 2010.
Presented at the Malta Conference Co-Sponsored by the United Nations
and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
Malta, February 12, 2010.
Virtually all world leaders have voiced support for a “two state solution” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All of these leaders support the concept, but there is no common model identified.
If there is to be “two state solution”, then the model used should be the most successful “two state solution” available. I believe that the best model is the “North American Two State Solution”.
Before a country existed called the United States or one called Canada, North America was one disputed territory with widespread violent attacks and bloody insurgencies by both sides. “Americans” attacked many regions of Canada including Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. In turn, soldiers from what is now Canada attacked many locations in the USA. In one 1814 attack, these “Canadians” burned down the original White House and other U.S. government buildings in Washington.
When the political will to establish peace developed, a “two state solution” process was created which first established the location of the border between the two new countries and then defined the relationship rules. As a result of this “two state solution” process, Canada and the United States have maintained the peace for almost two centuries. The implementation has been an evolving process with long term success, and it can be used as a model for a Middle East two state solution.
Perhaps even more important than finding a solution, the North American model has kept the peace and resolved issues as they arise using an array of tribunals and commissions. Any peace agreement in the Middle East will be continually tested and a dispute resolution process will be essential for a lasting peace. The North American Model can provide a precedent for these dispute settlement mechanisms.
At first glance, it may seem that the situations are very different but in fact many fundamentals are similar. The “North America Model” cannot be exactly transposed and all aspects applied exactly to the Middle East, but it can serve as a guide for a long term resolution.
Consider Parallel #1 Borders
There is no natural border between Canada and the United States. There is no mountain range or river path that divides the countries. The border location is a result of negotiations where both sides compromised in order achieve a mutually acceptable location for the border.
Not only was the border issue resolved at the time, but dispute settlement mechanisms and safeguards were built into the agreement to provide a structure to deal with new issues as they arise. In fact there are continuing negotiations with a number of specific issues such as security, trade, water, immigration etc. This is an ever-changing relationship as it will be in the Middle East and these structures could be a model for the Middle East two state solution.
If one side or the other had determined a border location and tried to impose that path, the North American model would not have succeeded. This model of negotiation could be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian border situation.
Parallel #2 Settlements
After the North American border location was determined, thousands of British settlers had to make a choice. The new United States government declared that settlers on their side of the new border were required to either become United States citizens, or leave their settlements and move across the new border to what is now Canada, or to other countries.
Over fifty thousand British settlers chose to abandon their U.S. settlements and move across the border to what is now Canada. These settlers became known as United Empire Loyalists and they made up a significant part of the population of the new Canada.
The Canadian side imposed similar rules.
It was not acceptable in the North American model to maintain U.S. communities in Canada, and it was not acceptable to have British/Canadian communities in the USA. This aspect of the model caused considerable personal upheaval at the time, but there would have been no agreement and no peace if one side insisted that it maintain sovereign settlements in the other country.
This U.S. approach to settlers can serve a guide to a resolution of that issue in the Middle East.
Canadians who wish to live in the United States have no “right of return”, but must apply to live and work in the U.S. Each application is considered in its own merit. Citizens are generally allowed to travel back and forth freely between the two countries, with some restrictions.
Parallel #3 Jerusalem
The North America situation does not have a similar situation to Jerusalem and its complex problems, but it does have a process to deal with disputed boundary locations.
The International Boundary Commission was established to maintain the border and part of its mandate is to define the boundary location when it is in question. Even today there are disputed areas where ownership is still being negotiated, and it is done at this International Boundary Commission.
This is an on-going process and the commission is just one part of an approach which has been successful in adjudicating differences and ensuring peaceful resolutions to border questions. This could be a model for a fluid situation such as Jerusalem.
Parallel # 4 Asymmetrical Power Relationship
One partner in the North American Two State solution has a population ten times larger than the other and an immensely larger economy than the other. The military budget of one side is thirty times more than the military budget of the other.
Despite this asymmetrical situation, institutions and safeguards built into the arrangement between the two countries provide protection and ensure equal treatment for both parties when disagreements arise.
These institutions and dispute settlement mechanisms could be used as a model for the Israeli-Palestinian Two State Solution which is also a very asymmetrical situation.
Parallel #5 Water
Although the water situation is not nearly as critical in North America as it is in the Middle East, increasing demands have raised disagreements between Canada and the United States about access to water. Another water related issue involves the required environmental standards over water shared by the two countries through lakes and rivers.
Canada and the United States recently signed amendments to enhance the agreement on water quality in the Great Lakes. These lakes are located between Canada and the United states and have joint ownership and usage. As the levels of the water in the lakes continue to decline to critical stages, there will be more focus on how each side uses the waters of these huge lakes.
Again the North American model can be used to help find solutions to the water disputes between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Parallel #5 Trade, Security, Environment, Energy etc.
The North American model has commissions and tribunals to deal with trade, security, environment, energy and other topics which will also be issues in the Middle East after a border location is determined. The North American approach can be used as a model for the Middle East.
It is only appropriate to propose that the same standards and principles apply to the Israel-Palestine situation that apply to the USA-Canada situation.
By using a model that has proven to resolve a dispute and maintain the peace for almost two hundred years, the chances of a successful resolution in the Middle East are greatly enhanced.
Role of Parliamentarians
I respectfully propose that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean convene a small committee made up of Palestinian, Israeli, Canadian and American parliamentarians for the purpose of examining which aspects of the North American model could be useful in a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli circumstances.
The goals of the parliamentarians could be
- Review the process used to establish the location of the international border between Canada and the United States to determine if the process can work in the Israeli-Palestinian case.
- Identify all of the trade and security agreements, rules and regulations that continue to make the North American model work decade after many decades.
- Study the institutional and cultural aspects of the North American Model and how they might be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian situation
- Review the North American dispute settlement mechanisms to see how they could relate to the Middle East situation.
- The Members of Parliament could then report their findings to respective governments on aspects of the North American Model and how they might be transposed to the Middle East. It is then up to the governments to determine the next steps.
The North American Model has a successful track record of bringing peace to a region of conflict. Even more importantly, it has a track record of keeping the peace and resolving issues as they arise without violence.
With that in mind, I hope that this proposal to hold such a parliamentary forum will be given consideration. It would even be beneficial and instructive to just have North American parliamentarians and Middle East parliamentarians working together toward a common goal of duplicating the successful two state solution in North American.
Thank you for considering this proposal to have parliamentarians examine the North American model of a two state solution.
Former Member of Parliament of Canada.
Home telephone 902 667 0882
Mobile Telephone 902 667 6856
Bill with Israeli Knesset Speaker Hon Reuvlin Rivlan, and with Israeli President Shimon Peres and my Bil’s son Michael.
Hon Ahmed Qurei, former Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Prime Minister.
A chat with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minster Mahmoud Abbas. It turns out that the King and I share an interest in old cars.
World Leaders Who Have Voiced Support for the Two State Solution Concept.
PRO Two-State – Benjamin Netanyahu, MSc, Prime Minister of Israel
PRO Two-State – Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States
PRO Two-State – Ehud Barak, MSc, 16th Prime Minister of Israel
PRO Two-State – Abdullah bin Al Hussein II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
PRO Two-State – Mahmoud Abbas, PhD, Pres of the Palestinian Authority (PA),
PRO Two-State – Ban Ki-Moon, MPA, Eighth Secretary-General of the UN
PRO Two-State – Tzipi Livni, LLB, Minister of Foreign Affairs
PRO Two-State – George Mitchell, JD, attorney and former US Senator
PRO Two-State – The Quartet on the Middle East, (European Union, U.N., USA, and Russia
PRO Two-State – Vladimir Putin, JD, PhD, President of the Russian Federation
PRO Two State – Rt Hon Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
PRO Two State – Hon John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada
PRO Two-State – Nicolas Sarkozy, Former President of the Republic of France
PRO Two-State – Silvio Berlusconi, JD, Prime Minister of Italy
PRO Two-State – Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK
PRO Two-State – Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel
PRO Two-State – Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the UN
PRO Two-State – Ehud Olmert, LLB, FormerIsraeli Prime Minister
PRO Two-State – Ismail Haniya, Hamas Party Leader, Palestinian Prime Minister
PRO Two-State – The European Union (EU),
PRO Two-State – George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd President of the United States
PRO Two-State – Jimmy Carter, 38th President of the United States
PRO Two-State – Condoleezza Rice, PhD, US Secretary of State at the time
PRO Two-State – Pope Benedict XVI, PhD, 265th Pope of the Catholic Church
PRO Two-State – Alan M. Dershowitz, LLB Prof Law at Harvard U.
PRO Two-State – Yossi Beilin, PhD
PRO Two-State – Hanan Ashrawi, PhD
PRO Two-State – Barney Frank, US House Representative (D-MA),
PRO Two-State – Joseph Lieberman, JD, US Senator
PRO Two-State – Riyad Mansour, PhD, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN
PRO Two-State – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey
PRO Two-State – Marwan Muasher, PhD, former Jordanian Foreign Minister
PRO Two-State – Shimon Peres, Ninth President of Israel
PRO Two-State – Colin Powell, MBA, US Secretary of State at the time
PRO Two-State – Hatem Abdel Qader, Member of the PLC Jerusalem Dist
PRO Two-State – Daniel Ayalon, MBA, former Ambassador of Israel to the USA
PRO Two-State – Ahmed Qurei, former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority
PRO Two-State – Ephraim Sneh, MD, Member Israeli Knesset
PRO Two-State – Natan Sharansky, former Israeli Knesset Member