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In 1948 the UN voted on a two state solution for Palestine. 33 for the resolution, 13 against, and 10 abstains. It seems like the vote wasn't close. But what would have happened if the results were flipped? What would have happened if the UN voted against the two state solution? If I am not mistaken, after World War Two, and at the onset of decolonization, the British were trying to rid themselves of the Palestinian colony. Would the British have been forced to take back Palestine as a colony if the UN was not in favor of the two state solution?
This question is not a hypothetical. The answer will explain the status of Palestine in 1948, who owned it, and what the nations of the world, especially those not in favor of Resolution 181, had in plan for Palestine.
Logically, there were several options: to create one state instead, to split the territory between the neighboring states, or to combine these two things.
I do not think UN could force Britain to do something it did not want.
It is another matter that in those circumstances, any feasible solution would probably lead to a war. And if the British stayed they would face a strong resistance movement.
Palestinians reveal Israeli alternatives to two-state solution
While the start of the implementation of the Israeli annexation plan of the West Bank is due in early July, Palestinian leaders have recently revealed past Israeli proposals for an alternative to the two-state solution.
Majid al-Fityani, secretary of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, said in a press statement May 30 that Israel had made an offer to the Palestinian Authority (PA) a few years back to grant Palestinians a civil status in Israel without a recognized state or control over security, sovereignty and borders. Fityani did not provide an exact date to the alleged proposal.
“We naturally rejected this project as our issue is a political one and has never been economically motivated. Should Israel try to play this card again, we will turn it down,” he said.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and Fatah’s Central Committee, said May 16 that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made a proposal to the PA, whereby the Palestinian leadership would enjoy indefinite economic autonomy.
Ahmad believes that does not amount to a state or a semi-state with the absence of control over land, crossings and airspace. “We will not accept this,” he stated in a press statement.
In an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper May 28, Netanyahu announced his willingness to give Palestinians “an entity of their own” if they recognize “Israeli sovereignty west of the Jordan River, preserving a united Jerusalem, refusing to accept refugees, not uprooting Jewish communities and Israeli sovereignty in large swathes of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”
It has become clear that none of the Israeli proposals are even remotely close to the two-state solution that the Palestinians have been calling for.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The PA will not go back on any of the established rights, i.e., the right of return, self-determination and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. We also reject all the Israeli proposals that are in line with the deal of the century [US peace plan] that talk about establishing a Palestinian state within four years of the announced of the plan.”
He added, “We are saying no to all such offers because they mean perpetuating the occupation through proposals of more town annexations, and autonomy as per the Camp David agreement with Egypt and the resettlement of refugees in the Sinai Peninsula."
Despite the PA’s refusal to such Israeli schemes, the political data on the ground show that things are going in the opposite direction in light of the ongoing Palestinian division with the existence of two separate Palestinian entities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is not to mention the decline of international talk about a two-state solution, especially after the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, and the rise of the Israeli right wing, which is not in favor of this solution.
Abdel-Sattar Qassem, professor of political science at An-Najah University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor, “Israel seeks to turn the Palestinian communities into expanded municipal councils, with limited powers, without any recognized state.”
He said, “Israel insists that there will be no state west of the Jordan River other than the Israeli state. Despite the PA’s media statements of its refusal to such proposals, I believe those proposals will gradually become a fait accompli on the ground. The PA will end up being relegated to an administrative apparatus managing the Palestinians’ civil affairs."
According to a February poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, “36% of the public believes that a majority of the Palestinians supports this [two-state] solution and 57% believe that the majority opposes it. A majority of 61% believes that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible due to the expansion of Israeli settlements, while 33% believe that the solution remains practical. Moreover, 76% believe that the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistent.”
Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Al-Monitor, “These Israeli proposals are rejected by the Palestinians, but could become a reality if the Palestinian status quo remains unchanged and if [the Palestinian leadership] continues to bank on the resumption of negotiations with Israel.”
He noted, “I believe the situation necessitates a firmer Palestinian stance and an outright refusal of these proposals based on national consensus and a strategic vision to face the Israeli maneuvers aimed at fooling the international community and accusing the Palestinians of rejecting all offers made to them."
Hani al-Masri, head of the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies - Masarat, told Al-Monitor, “These proposals may find their way to implementation in light of the current balance of power between Palestinians and Israelis. The approval of the Palestinian side, however, would remain a prerequisite for the implementation of such schemes on the ground. But I don’t believe any Palestinian leader would agree to such a step."
He added, “The Israelis could, however, deploy their military forces in some areas of the West Bank to fulfill their political aspirations."
The harsh reality is that as things stand now, the Palestinians have a very narrow margin of self-rule, as opposed to the extensive autonomy they enjoyed during the Oslo Accord period from 1993 to 2000. After the second intifada and the arrival of President Mahmoud Abbas to office, Israel had bypassed the Oslo Accord, between 2000 and 2005. Today, as Abbas’ era is coming to an end, the Palestinians are left with even less powers, limited to their internal security in the hands of the civil police, which is the reason behind Israel’s continuous support for Abbas until further notice.
3 alternatives to two-state or one-state solution for Mideast peace
“I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one.” US President Donald Trump’s statement at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Feb. 15 in the White House is still making waves in the Middle East and Israel.
True, two high-level American officials (UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and David Friedman, the designated ambassador to Israel) have made it clear that the United States continues to support the two-state solution. However, what was said cannot be taken back and the Israeli political system is in an uproar. Very few on the Israeli right support one state in which all citizens, Israeli and Palestinian (both from Gaza and the West Bank), can vote and have equal rights. Among them, only President Reuven Rivlin believes that all Palestinians should get equality and full voting rights. Others feel that the Palestinians should instead have the right to vote in elections to the Jordanian parliament. One way or another, most of the Israeli population does not support the one-state idea.
Is there any other option aside from two states or one? Israel has been wrestling with this issue ferociously this past week. Everyone is talking about new, “out of the box” ideas. There are currently three main ways to square the circle and bypass the quagmire of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
- A “regional peace process” instead of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
- The confederation with Jordan idea, newly resuscitated.
- Trilateral land swaps involving Israel, Egypt and Palestine or even a four-way exchange including Jordan.
Many swear by the so-called regional process, the term used by those who are afraid of negotiations with the Palestinians. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has been preaching about it for years, Yesh Atid Chair Yair Lapid supports it, Netanyahu talks about it and Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog dreamed about it in the period when he was negotiating with Netanyahu over joining the government.
To illustrate how fallacious this idea is under the current circumstances, I present the following vignette that — according to a high-ranking Israeli politician speaking on condition of anonymity — was told by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “In the middle of May 2008 I hammered out the basic principles on which I was prepared to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians. These were a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines with land swaps, two capitals in Jerusalem including international trusteeship over the Holy Basin and Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall, the refugee problem would be resolved in the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative recommendation and the Palestinian state would be fully demilitarized. Then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown heard about this plan and was enthusiastic. He told me that he talked about it with Saudi Arabia's king, and the king told him that if Olmert would publicly make a statement about this plan, he would pressure the Palestinians into saying yes. I told Brown that I was definitely taking him up on the offer and I delivered a speech with the basic principles of my plan. But then it turned out that the Saudi king got cold feet. Suddenly, after I’d carried out my part of the deal, he backed out.”
The lesson from this story is clear: There is no way to bypass negotiations with the Palestinians, whether the talks with them are direct or indirect. And not the Arab League nor any other Arab forum would agree to sit with Israel in the same room before this issue is resolved or a formula is found that would placate the Palestinians and include the 1967 lines.
And now, the Israeli right is disputing this principle, pinning its hope on the terror that Iran is sowing in the Sunni Arab countries. Those close to Netanyahu, Liberman and other right-wingers say that if Trump meets the Saudis and Persian Gulf states halfway on the Iranian issue, those countries will do their part on the regional issue. But this hope took a battering when Michael Flynn was removed from the position of national security adviser. The chances of Trump successfully reopening the nuclear agreement with Iran are slim, and the chances of carrying out the grandiose regional peace plan without the Palestinians are even slimmer.
The confederation idea was first raised by President Shimon Peres in the London Agreement he made with King Hussein in 1987. According to this plan, Hussein agreed to take responsibility over the territories and associated population and sign a peace agreement with Israel. But the prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, torpedoed the agreement. Now there are those in Israel who would like to convince Jordan’s King Abdullah II to create a type of confederation with the West Bank: Israel would continue to have security control over the territory while Abdullah would receive full civil control over Area A (now under full Palestinian control) and parts of Area B (under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control), while the Palestinian residents would vote in Jordan's parliamentary elections. The odds of this happening are similar to the odds of Trump agreeing to help Europe by absorbing all the refugees from Syria and from the Middle East.
We are left with the land exchange plan, a term that usually refers to Liberman’s famous political program. However, there are a number of alternate plans, some of which are fascinating and even rational (which, sadly, ensures that they will never come to fruition in the Middle East). The most well-defined and cohesive is the one developed by well-known Israeli geographer Yehoshua Ben-Arieh. His plan became a pet project of Maj. Gen. (Res.) Giora Eiland, who had served as head of the National Security Council.
Under this plan, Israel would move the border between it and Egypt by a few hundred meters northward, along a strip of land of hundreds of kilometers long. In exchange, Egypt would give the Palestinians a long strip of land as an extension of Gaza, greatly enlarging the living space of the densely crowded Strip. In exchange for this territory, the Palestinians would allow Israel to annex the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank. Jordan could also be included in the deal: Israel would contribute some land in the northern border triangle to Jordan, and Jordan would transfer land directly to the Palestinians. Then the Palestinians would waive additional settlement bloc territories to Israel.
At the time that this plan was presented to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he almost threw the Israeli representatives out of his office. Egypt will not forfeit one grain of sand from the Sinai Peninsula, he said. However, much has changed since then. Now Sinai is inundated with Islamic State fighters, Mubarak is no longer president and the Middle East is in the midst of an upheaval.
Will it be possible to think outside the box about a territorial exchange plan? First, someone had better explain the principles of this plan to Trump.
5 Alternatives to the “Two State Solution”
This week, spokesman for the Chevron community, Rabbi Yishai Fleisher posted an op-ed piece in the New York Times.
Entitled “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future”, he outlines 5 alternatives to the “two state solution” which are on the table. Here is a quick summary of those proposals:
Jordan is Palestine
Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship. Those Arabs would exercise their democratic rights in Jordan, but live as expats with civil rights in Israel.
Annex Area C
[A]nnexation of only Area C — the territory in the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords (about 60 percent by area), where a majority of the 400,000 settlers live — while offering Israeli citizenship to the relatively few Arabs there. But Arabs living in Areas A and B — the main Palestinian population centers — would have self-rule.
Palestinian autonomy for seven non-contiguous emirates in major Arab cities, as well as Gaza, which he considers already an emirate. Israel would annex the rest of the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to Arab villagers outside those cities.
The One State Solution
Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote… that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Jews are not in danger of losing a demographic majority in an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria. New demographic research shows that thanks to falling Palestinian birth rates and emigration, combined with opposite trends among Jews, a stable Jewish majority of above 60 percent exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (excluding Gaza) and this is projected to grow to about 70 percent by 2059.
Ms. Glick thus concludes that the Jewish State is secure: Israel should assert Israeli law in the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to its entire Arab population without fear of being outvoted. This very week, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, announced his backing for the idea in principle. “If we extend sovereignty,” he said, “the law must apply equally to all.”
They do not see a resolution of conflicting national aspirations in one land and instead propose an exchange of populations with Arab countries, which effectively expelled about 800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence. In contrast, however, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be offered generous compensation to emigrate voluntarily.
He concludes by stating that none of these are – of course – perfect and that they all have their drawbacks – but certainly they should be fully considered.
Palestine: Clinton opens Alternatives to Two-State Solution
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly canvassed the possibility of considering alternative solutions on the future sovereignty of the West Bank as the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to create a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan – the so called “two-state solution” – continue to go nowhere.
In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem this week the following interesting exchange took place:
QUESTION: Do you believe you’ve convinced some of the skeptics – for instance, the [Israeli] Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who you also spoke to – have you convinced him that this two-state solution, this process, is the right one?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t claim to convince someone whose views are very different from that position. I think that he and many Israelis are quite skeptical, just as many Palestinians are quite skeptical. But I’d ask them, what’s the alternative I mean, what is the alternative? You need, if you are worried about Israel’s future and security, to be living peacefully with a neighbor who has the same aspirations for normal life.
Many commentators such as MJ Rosenberg and Robert Grenier have suggested that the only alternative solution is the “one state bi-national solution” which would see Israel securing sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank in some negotiated bi-national agreement with its West Bank Arab population.
Both Rosenberg and Grenier are equally firm in their prognosis.
“The alternative, looming just beyond the horizon, is the so-called one state – or binational – solution in which Israelis and Palestinians share all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. How can it be more obvious? The alternative to two states is one state, which virtually all Palestinians would accept and virtually all Israelis reject”.
Rosenberg’s own conclusion – that the Arabs would accept it and the Jews reject it – guarantees that such an alternative solution is dead in the water before it is even proposed.
Rosenberg offers no evidence to support his claim that virtually all the Palestinian Arabs will accept the one state bi-national alternative and so agree to abandon their 43 years old demand that a sovereign Palestinian Arab State be created for the first time ever in recorded history.
Rosenberg is on a trip to fantasyland.
Grenier’s pessimism in achieving the two state solution is succinctly expressed as follows:
“That the Israelis and Palestinians could reach agreement on a comprehensive two-state settlement under the current circumstances is hard to imagine. That they could actually implement such an agreement is impossible.”
Grenier’s only alternative is also the one-state bi-national solution as he continues:
“The fact of the matter, however, is that the idea of a two-state solution in Palestine is finished. Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their attendant infrastructure have made a viable and independent Palestinian state impossible. The settlements, moreover, cannot be undone. Their existence obviates the need for formal Israeli annexation: The de-facto annexation of the West Bank has already taken place. The only remaining solution is a single, unified, bi-national state.”
The one-state bi-national alternative certainly will not dispel Clinton’s expressed concern for Israel’s future and security. It will become a demographic time bomb, a recipe for future conflict and an even more hopeless exercise to bring to fruition than the discredited two-state solution.
There is however another far more practical and readily achievable alternative solution to that suggested by Rosenberg and Grenier.
That solution involves the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan.
Separation of Arabs and Jews in Palestine – as far as is possible – has been the policy that has guided international diplomacy in the region since 1920. It has been sponsored by the League of Nations, the United Nations and several Commissions of Inquiry. It remains the policy currently favoured and supported by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
This policy – with one notable exception – has failed for one reason – Arab refusal to accept anything less than sovereignty in 100% of the territory available for allocation between Jews and Arabs.
That one exception was Arab acceptance of the League of Nations decision on 23 September 1922 denying the Jews any entitlement to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in 77% of Palestine – laying the groundwork for the creation of an exclusively Arab State there in 1946 that is today called Jordan.
It was not until 1948 that the Jews were able to create their own State in 17% of Palestine.
Sovereignty in the remaining 6% of Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza – is still up for grabs.
Although Jordan and Israel have fought several wars following the War of Independence in 1948 they have enjoyed a signed and sealed peace treaty between their respective states since 1994 – which has withstood many political and diplomatic pressures that could have heralded its demise.
Jordan indeed fits the Clinton mould of Israel “living peacefully with a neighbor who has the same aspirations for normal life.”
Presently stuck between their two respective States is the West Bank with a population of 2 million Arabs and 500000 Jews – whose territorial sovereignty remains undetermined.
Division of that sovereignty between Israel and Jordan resonates as a just and fair solution for the following reasons:
- It will restore Jordanian governance to the major part of the West Bank as existed from 1950 up to its loss to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.
- It will bring the overwhelming majority of its 2 million West Bank Arabs under Jordanian protection, free them from Israeli control and restore the freedom of movement and citizenship rights enjoyed by them between 1948 – 1967
- Not one Jew or Arab will have to leave his present home or business in the West Bank
- Issues presently seen as contentious such as water, refugees and Jerusalem have already been identified and proposed solutions flagged in the 1994 Treaty.
- Drawing the new international boundary between Israel and Jordan to end sovereignty claims by Jews and Arabs in the West Bank should be capable of being achieved within three months.
- There will be a dramatic and immediate change in the current status quo which most agree is dangerous and untenable
- Jordan is the only Arab partner that can honour and enforce any agreement on the West Bank that Israel is prepared to sign.
- It will finalize the allocation of sovereignty of former Palestine between the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.
Jordan cannot be allowed to simply reject such an alternative out of hand and seek to walk away from the looming conflict that must inevitably fill the void after the collapse of the two-state solution.
Jordan has been part of the problem surrounding the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank since 1920. It now is time for Jordan to step up to the plate and take responsibility for being part of the solution in 2010.
David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network.
Disclaimer: This article is the author’s personal opinion and is not necessarily the opinion or policy of Myths and Facts.
Alternatives to a Two State Solution - History
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may not have done it with finesse, but his very public challenge to the viability of a Two State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has opened a major window according to David M. Weinberg of the Begin-Sadat Center for Security Studies.
In Weinberg's mind, whether or not it is fair, Israel will have to respond assertively to the latest diplomatic challenge for the country - a country which technically doesn't even have a government.
"Israel's government must answer intelligently and responsively to international questions on peace with the Palestinians. They can't let the international community or the Palestinians dictate the terms of a framework for peace."
That includes, according to Weinberg, major alternatives to the Two State Solution.
"Obviously it's going to be a difficult period" to start for the new government, he says. "But, Israel cannot have duplicity or be vague about it. We need to be clear, smart and responsive."
Part of that framework has to include letting Israel not be beholden to the stopping points of previous failed attempts at peace. According to a recent blog post by Weinberg, "Israel&rsquos baseline position at the outset of the talks should be that 100 percent of the West Bank belongs to Israel" by historical right, "political experience, legitimate settlement, and security necessity."
The objective here seems to be a reboot of the premise of talks and the notion that anything a Palestinian entity receives is a gift of the Israeli government, not a relinquishing of something Palestinians actually had a claim of sovereignty over.
Another major issue Weinberg reminds readers that needs to be highlighted is that the Gaza Strip's political secession from the Palestinian Authority disrupts any attempt to actually resolve things.
"Hamas will have to be sidelined or sign-on to an eventual deal. Israel should not be in the business of birthing two Palestinian states."
There has been an often unmentioned issue that the Gaza Strip has to be a part of a final peace deal. This applies to supporters of a Two State Solution as much as anyone, because Israel was expected to swap land adjacent to the coastal enclave as part of a final deal. While Mr. Weinberg does not mention this, this would also present problems because of the lack of definite acceptance by Hamas of any arrangement.
That, among other things, dovetails into the need to re-raise the possibility of alternatives like a &ldquoPalestinian-Jordanian federation&rdquo or &ldquoshared sovereignty with Israel&rdquo in Judea & Samaria. This might also open the door to other arrangements, like those of former Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Putting the Temple Mount on the Table
Weinberg also concludes that post with a very critical caveat: whatever Palestinian entity (or entities) that come of a peace process must share the Temple Mount. Critically, he says Israel must assert that Jewish prayer is "a basic human, civic, national and religious right" entitled to Jews.
"In Hebron there is a time-sharing arrangement whereby certain days of the year are exclusively for Jewish or Muslim prayer. Most days of the year there is a division of the site whereby both groups can use it. This is one possible model."
"Another is for something on a more permanent basis, including the establishment of a small prayer area or a Synagogue in the corner of the Temple Mount that need not interfere with the Muslim shrines."
His statements are actually a major indictment of the one-sided nature of past negotiations over the Temple Mount, in which Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered Israeli sovereignty merely "under" the Temple Mount and no presence on the plaza itself.
While the issue of prayer is still quite removed from using the Mount for actual rituals related to Temple service, it would still reflect a leap forward for some observers who might have seen negotiations as negating Jewish religious concerns about Judaism's holiest site.
But any resolution to the Temple Mount that incorporates Jewish concerns over the site would inevitably involve Jordan, which maintains a custodial role over the site despite Israeli police authority there. According to Temple Institute Director, Rabbi Chaim Richman, &ldquo The accord between Israel and Jordan promises religious freedom of worship there. Yet, there is this strange, fictitious &lsquostatus quo&rsquo that non-Muslims &ndash including Christians &ndash cannot pray up there.&rdquo
This leads back to Weinberg&rsquos suggestion for regional alternatives to a Two State Solution, possibly also in line with suggestions made by centrist parties during the campaign to have a &ldquoregional agreement and separation from the Palestinians&rdquo which Yesh Atid spokesman Yair Zavid explained recently meant the party felt &ldquothe bilateral track had run its course.&rdquo
According to Weinberg's outline, it would be still only be a mere token recognition to Jewish sanctity at the site or as he called it, a "smidgen" of it.
An Alternative to Two-State Solution of Palestine Issue- CSS General Knowledge
On the third day of the Six-Day War, when the conquest of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had been accomplished, I remember myself saying in a celebratory tone, “Now a state has to be established for the residents of the territories.” (CSS General Knowledge)
Initially, it was customary to say “residents of the territories,” not “Palestinians,” and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were called “territories,” which gradually morphed into “administered territories,” and in the past 20 years into “occupied territories.” The peace camp slowly introduced the term “Palestinians,” in place of “Land of Israel Arabs,” into the public dialogue. The national camp, as it’s known, which attached the adjective “liberated” to the territories, gradually insinuated the names “Judea and Samaria” into the national discourse, as natural and legitimate parts of Israel itself, like East Jerusalem, which joined the western section, creating one city.
In this piece, I will try to avoid the terms “left” and “right,” using instead “peace camp” and “national camp.” Some left-leaning people, driven by a concern for social justice, have always been active in the “national camp,” while many “peace camp” activists espouse a liberal capitalist approach that is completely at odds with left-wing ideology. Still, beyond the mutual insults in the polemics, it’s widely agreed that the majority of those who identify with the “peace camp” are driven also by saliently national motivations, and on the other hand, some in the “national camp” seek equitable coexistence, according to their lights, with the Palestinians.
That said, it’s noteworthy that in recent years, despite the virulent tones and the heated, personal language used by both sides, the truly substantive arguments about the “two-state solution” are becoming more acerbic – because of the chaotic situation in the Middle East, the lessons of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the passivity of the Palestinian Authority and the despair of the Israeli peace camp, which has begun to devote energy to other civil struggles.
But above all, the two-state solution is fading because of the constantly expanding settlements in Judea and Samaria. Indeed, according to many experts who are familiar with the demographic and geographic reality, it is no longer possible to divide the Land of Israel into two separate sovereign states. Similarly, the possible partition of Jerusalem into two separate capitals with an international border between them is becoming increasingly untenable.
For 50 years – during most of my adult life – I worked tirelessly for the two-state solution. In the mid-1970s, I added my voice to those recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people for negotiations, and I was a signatory to the Geneva Agreement in the early 2000s. Together with most of the nation, I supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and during the various intifadas and the expansion of the settlements, I never stopped putting forward possible ideas for the border crossings and the status of Israeli minorities in the future Palestinian state, in an effort to give life to the receding two-state vision.
In the face of countless frustrations, generated by both the Israeli government and the PA, I too, along with the entire peace camp, hoped that the international community, and particularly the United States and Europe, would exert economic and diplomatic pressure on both sides so as to force them to find the way to a historic compromise to one of the most persistent and complex disputes in the world since the start of the 20th century.
And in fact, the anticipated moment ostensibly arrived when the official Palestinian leadership, and also two right-wing prime ministers – Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – formally announced their desire to work for the two-state solution. Before his resignation, in 2009, Olmert initiated a detailed and extremely generous plan for dividing the Land of Israel into two states. However, according to Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas evaded most of the meetings that were intended to discuss the plan. As for Netanyahu, there’s no knowing what he was actually thinking in his occasional references to the two-state idea.
Yes, there are people in the right-wing parties who stammer “two states” – among them a few in Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Kulanu and even Shas (the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi parties don’t deal with such petty matters). And, of course, the two-state principle is posited at the center of the political solution proposed by parties such as Yesh Atid, Zionist Union and certainly Meretz and the Joint List of Arab parties. The PA and most of the moderate Arab states also advocate the two-state solution, which is also the official position of the majority of the international community.
A solution to the conflict in the form of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel – which seemed fantastical and unrealistic 50 years ago – has thus become the cornerstone of the entire political arena. In the 1970s, Prime Minister Golda Meir ridiculed the term “Palestinian” as both a political and identity concept, claiming with irony that she, too, was actually an authentic Palestinian. (Indeed, with her self-righteousness, stubbornness and shortsightedness, she resembled many Palestinian leaders.) Today, though, right-wing prime ministers employ the term naturally and meet openly with PLO representatives.
Yet, just when the term “Palestinian state” is becoming a staple fixture in the international sphere, I and some of my good friends who fought for it for 50 years feel – and I hope I am proved wrong – that this vision is no longer viable in practice. Indeed, it has become only a deceptive and crafty cover for a slow but ever-deepening slide into a condition of vicious occupation and legal and social apartheid with which we in the peace camp – Israelis and Palestinians alike – have come to terms out of weariness and fatalism.
Accordingly, we must try to examine the situation with intellectual honesty and think about other solutions that can stop this process and reverse it. What’s in danger now is not Israel’s Jewish and Zionist identity but its humanity – and the humanity of the Palestinians who are under our rule.
Lengthy and stubborn
If we date the genesis of Zionism to the end of the 19th century, and if the first new Jewish settlements in Palestine were being built by the Lovers of Zion movement as early as in the 1870s and 1880s, this means the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is almost 150 years old. One’s amazement at the length and obduracy of the conflict is only heightened by the fact that it is one of the best known and most deliberated conflicts in the world, especially during the past 50 years. High-ranking envoys come and go, and presidents, foreign ministers and prime ministers in both the present and past have tried to resolve it. In 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton set aside everything else to spend days discussing the intricacies of the border between a future Palestinian state and Israel. John Kerry noted that more than 60 percent of his foreign trips as Barack Obama’s secretary of state were aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict is a regular subject at the United Nations and in many other international organizations. The current American president speaks of Israeli-Palestinian peace as a “deal.” It’ll be a long time before that “deal” is cut, but in the meantime a great many people have made handsome “deals” out of this conflict.
The deep reason for this state of affairs is, I believe, the singularity of this conflict. To the best of my knowledge, there is no other example in human history of a nation that abandoned its land at least 2,000 years earlier and wandered across the globe, and then, after millennia, sought (as it became the target of intensifying hostility) to return to that historic homeland, with which it maintained a spiritual and religious connection but to which it had stubbornly avoided returning for centuries. Thus, at the beginning of the 19th century, only 10,000 of the world’s 2.5 million Jews lived in Palestine (there were 40,000 Jews in Afghanistan, 80,000 in Yemen and already a million in Poland). A hundred years later, at the time of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, even with the momentum of Zionism, there were 550,000 Palestinians in Palestine but only 50,000 Jews out of a worldwide population of almost 14.5 million (data from the Encyclopedia Hebraica).
But it’s not only the late and amazing return to Zion – which we take pride in and which the Palestinians and the Arabs reject – but the fact that the two peoples are effectively claiming sovereignty over the same territory. It’s not only a dispute over a particular region, of the kind history is familiar with at bottom, this is a dispute over full ownership. That the Palestinians rejected the Balfour Declaration is perfectly understandable, and not only because Britain did not possess the moral authority to promise Palestine to the Jews. By the same token, the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, lacked moral or legal authority to divide a country between its inhabitants and a people coming from the outside.
Both the Palestinians and the Jews rebelled against the British presence in Palestine in the 1930s and ‘40s. For this land does not belong to Britain but to its inhabitants, both Jews and Palestinians asserted, in accordance with the universal moral imperative by which a land belongs to its occupants and not to the army that conquers it.
But the conflict also grew fiercer because of the demographic relations between the two peoples, which even today continue to rule out compromise and partition. The Palestinians rightfully rejected compromise and a partition with the Jews in both 1917 and 1947. In 1917, if only a quarter of the world’s Jewish population – meaning around 4 million Jews – had come to Palestine, the Palestinians would not have had a square centimeter on which to hoist their flag. By 1947, there were 1.3 million Palestinians and 600,000 Jews in the country, but once more, some 12 million Jews were elsewhere, some of them homeless Holocaust refugees, others distraught by the intensity and cruelty of the hostility they had endured in the war. Thus the Palestinians’ opposition to the UN resolution was clear and natural, as it demanded that they turn over half of their homeland to a people that had resided in it 2,000 years earlier but that since then had been scattered across the globe.
Indeed, in 1948, the Palestinians had every chance, with the aid of seven Arab states, to crush the small, nascent, objectively weak Jewish community. The deputy chief of staff of the army at the time, Yigael Yadin, told the Jewish community’s leadership that Israel had a barely 50 percent prospect of surviving what evolved into the War of Independence.
Yet even if the roots of this distinctive conflict are understood, we still need to ask why it is that after 70 years of Israeli independence, and particularly after the vanquishing of the Palestinians and the Arab states – both in the War of Independence, the wars of 1967 and 1973 and in the second intifada – it remains impossible to conclude this conflict in the way that the entire world is suggesting: by partition and compromise.
Homeland is the first and most important element in every national identity, whose other components are built on its foundation: language, religion, history, culture and in some cases common origin. Religion and language can be shared by a number of peoples, but it’s territory that creates the distinctive basis of nationality.
Seeking to understand the reasons for the depth and obduracy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we discover that it is the defective character of both the Jewish and the Palestinian national identities that is causing the conflict’s exacerbation. And not least, because the defects are mutual opposites. Before proceeding, I must point out, in all fairness, that the singular defect in the homeland element of the Jewish people’s national identity is far more serious and disaster-ridden than the comparable defect in the Palestinians’ homeland component.
From the dawn of the Jewish people’s emergence – and it is immaterial whether it actually took place this way historically or is only a mythological-religious foundation that was embedded deep in the national consciousness – the homeland component of the Jewish-Israeli national identity has lost its primary and key role to the religious-divine component. Certain facts can be enumerated in the deliberate process of weakening the homeland element in the Jewish-Israeli identity. Abraham, the first Hebrew, was enjoined to leave his father’s house and his homeland and go to a new land, which was defined as a holy land, a designated land given to him in a covenant by God. Thus it was not akin to a homeland that was granted to the Jewish people naturally, as with every other people.
According to the biblical myth – the formative myth in the Jewish national consciousness, both religious and secular – the Israeli-Jewish national identity was not generated and did not spring up naturally in its homeland, the Land of Israel, but in Egyptian exile.
Likewise the Torah, as a primary element of the national identity, was not given in the homeland, in the Land of Israel, but in the Sinai desert, which is no one’s homeland. Hence, the promised territory, which is meant to be a natural foundation for the nationhood of the people that came out of Egypt, was not bestowed to it thanks to conquest or natural growth, but only by dint of loyalty to God’s laws.
Abandonment or violation of those laws will bring calamities on the people, of which the most egregious will be their expulsion from the Land of Israel and their dispersal among the nations.
However, because homeland as such is only a secondary component in Jewish identity, its loss need not erase and annul the national identity. The nation that was born in exile will return to exile and continue to exist there. The homeland, the territory, is conditional, and only God is the ultimate decider. There is no other people in the world that, after losing – more precisely, abandoning – its homeland and dispersing for many centuries to foreign territories across the world, succeeded, or at least part of it did so, in preserving its national identity.
Exile is an immanent and legitimate part of Jewish identity. For almost 2,000 years, the vast majority of the Jewish people did not live in the “homeland” given it by God but in the homelands of other peoples. The ratio between the number of Jews who preferred of their own volition to live outside the Land of Israel and those who lived there until Israel’s establishment is astounding and shocking. For centuries, as much as Jews around the world vowed to seek redemption and return to the Land of Israel, and reiterated the verse “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” – the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel was minuscule, if not negligible.
The Jews’ obdurate avoidance of settling in the Land of Israel is especially blatant among the Jews of the East in the 400 years in which Palestine was under Ottoman rule. Numerous Jewish communities thrived across the vast Ottoman Empire, from which many could easily have settled in the Land of Israel. But the Eastern Jews who moved about between the many communities did not go there. In 1839, according to the records of the British consul in Palestine, there were only 10,000 Jews in the country, among them Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe.
The Jews’ tendency to recoil from their true historic and religious homeland was indicative of a disastrous flaw in their identity. Because the homeland element is essentially secondary in the Jews’ national consciousness, they also project this feeling on others, and as such diminish the identity value of homeland in other peoples. They don’t understand that each case of their dwelling among other peoples constitutes a deep, danger-fraught infiltration into an identity that does not belong to them. Resorting to an image, we can say that the majority of the Jews treated and continue to treat the homelands of other people like a hotel chain, and so, together with the “Jewish bookshelf,” move from hotel to hotel according to the changing conditions of accommodation. “The Jew [is] everywhere and nowhere,” Hannah Arendt observed of Jewish existence, and in her private life also manifested that assertion.
Even though the Jews tried throughout history to behave like good, polite customers in these “hotels,” their very presence fomented harsh reactions. These took the form of expulsions, bans on their entry and attempts to change their identity by making them convert or even effectively imprisoning them – that is, by preventing them from leaving the “hotel” when conditions changed there, as was the case, for example in the Soviet Union and in Syria. As a result, the wandering between places of exile also brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of Jews. From a population of up to 4 million at the end of the Second Temple period, their number had declined to 1 million by the beginning of the 18th century.
The most horrific reaction, however, was annihilation, and precisely in places where the Jews’ infiltration into the local national identity was extremely deep. From this perspective, the Holocaust was the hardest and cruelest catastrophe endured by any people in human history. In the course of five years, a third of the Jewish people was destroyed – not over territory, not because of their religion and faith, not for their material possessions and also not because of some ideology they espoused uniquely. That terrible debacle, which some of the fathers of Zionism foresaw (“If you do not liquidate the Diaspora, the Diaspora will liquidate you,” the founder of Revisionist Zionism, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, wrote), was caused not only by the unimportance of territory as the primary, firm basis in their national identity, but also because of insufficient recognition by them of its importance in the identity of other peoples.
Parallel to the Jews’ historic disdain for territory as the primary basis of national identity, both of themselves and hence of other peoples as well, we find an opposite Palestinian flaw. For the Palestinian, the house, or the village, and not the entire territory of Palestine, symbolizes the primary and principal basis for his identity. The result is that the clash between these two flaws actually aggravates and sustains the conflict between the two peoples.
I cannot pretend to be highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of Palestinian nationalism. Still, a perusal of its emergence turns up a process that began during the long rule of the Ottoman Empire. Because the empire was essentially Muslim, and the Arabs within it belonged in their perception to one nation that spoke a single language (despite the richness of its different dialects), naturally it could not develop and consolidate a singular territorial nationality within clear and defined borders. But after the empire disintegrated, in the wake of its defeat in World War I, and consolidated into more clearly defined ethnic borders, the Arab states gradually began to coalesce in the Middle East, under the patronage and with the encouragement of the colonial powers Britain and France. In this way, the national identities of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Hashemite Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Yemen began to develop.
But in Palestine the development of the Palestinian nationality remained stuck in the face of a double barrier, namely, Britain’s military and administrative rule, which was supposed to guarantee the implementation of the mandate of the Balfour Declaration, and the increasing arrival of Jews.
Instead of an autonomous national administration, like those the Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese gradually began to develop when they gained independent states, the Palestinians remained at a level of extremely limited self-rule, which was managed within a framework of clans and village dignitaries, without concrete power of enforcement. The political leadership, too, headed by the Higher Arab Committee under the grand mufti, lacked truer legitimacy among the Palestinians, besides which the population also included Christian Palestinians and Druze.
Of course, if the central national government is feeble and limited, and lacks a tradition of concrete national authority, as existed in the past, the smaller units – villages and families – become the focal points of national identity. The national consciousness that expresses itself in a sense of belonging to the whole homeland is diminished and weakened. The situation was further compounded after 1948, when the Palestinian nation was split among five countries at least: Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
Following the British departure, the village-clan structure was one of the factors that led to the Palestinians’ failure in their war against the Jews, who were fighting for their lives with their back to the sea. The Palestinians’ basic loyalty was to village and home, not to homeland in the broad sense. Even though the Palestinians outnumbered the Jews two to one and were bolstered by military aid from Arab countries, not only were they unable to eradicate the fledgling Jewish state, they also ended up losing part of their allotted territory under the UN partition plan.
In his excellent new book “The Battle on the Qastel: 24 Hours that Changed the Course of the 1948 War between Palestinians and Israelis” (in Hebrew), veteran journalist Danny Rubinstein describes an illuminating episode that gives vivid expression to the connection to village and home that overrides the national interest. During an attack by the Palmach, the Jewish shock troops – an operation that went partly wrong – Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini, the legendary, revered Palestinian commander, lost his way between positions, and was killed by Jewish troops. Not realizing whom they had killed, they left Husseini’s body where it lay. The Palestinians, thinking he had only been wounded and taken prisoner by the Israelis, summoned help from the local villages to rescue him. A thousand fighters responded immediately to the call and recaptured the village of Qastel and its fortress, inflicting severe casualties on the Jewish forces.
Hussein’s body was found and taken to Jerusalem for a magnificent burial. The Palestinian fighters who remained in the newly liberated village were ordered not to leave Qastel until new troops had arrived to replace them. However, the Arab villagers, who with great effort captured the strategic outpost that was to determine the fate of the siege of Jerusalem, ignored the order and within a few hours returned to their villages and homes, just a few kilometers from the site of the battle. Effectively, they handed over Qastel to their enemies without a fight. Their loyalty and attachment to their villages trumped their overall national identity.
To this day, Rubinstein writes, 70 years after the 1948 war, the Palestinians define themselves in the alleys of the refugee camps according to their villages of origin, which remain the heart of their identity. Yet the Palestinians who inhabit the refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not actually refugees, but only displaced persons still living in their homeland. Whereas the Israelis – who were in any case relatively small in number – who in the 1948 war were forced by the Palestinians to leave their homes in the Etzion Bloc, Atarot, Neveh Yaakov, Beit Ha’arava and the Old City of Jerusalem never considered themselves refugees, only displaced persons who remained in the homeland, and they immediately integrated into other locales. Even the Palestinians who left or were expelled from Palestine to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria or Egypt in 1948 could have theoretically returned to the areas of the homeland that were ruled for the next 19 years by Jordan and Egypt. It wasn’t until after the 1967 war, when Israel closed the borders to them definitively, that they became true refugees.
The insistence on seeing one’s home or village as the primary and almost exclusive source of national identity – through the refugee’s “personal right” to return to his original home – exacerbates and sustains the conflict. On top of which, the United Nations, through its UNRWA relief agency (perhaps because of repressed guilt at the partition plan), granted refugee status to the Palestinian refugees’ offspring, too, even today, to members of the fifth generation. Yes, a Palestinian has the right to long for the moment of Israel’s destruction, when he will be able to return to his village or to the home of his forefathers, just as the displaced (not refugee) settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip can dream of the moment when that area will be reconquered and they can rebuild their homes, which were demolished by the Israel Defense Forces in 2005. But the question must be asked: What happens in the meantime?
The fact that refugees have lived for 70 years in miserable, difficult camps in Gaza, which is after all part of the Palestinian homeland, and insist on condemning themselves to a shameful life of refugeehood within 10 or 20 kilometers of their original homes in Ashdod or Ashkelon, from which they fled or were expelled, transforms the rusting keys of their lost homes into basic symbols of Palestinian nationhood, which for its part needs to confront Jewish nationhood. The latter people, in the meantime, after 2,000 years of drifting around the world, was seized by biblical longing, and, not satisfied with controlling the 78 percent of Palestine that was recognized as the State of Israel after the War of Independence, also needed to gnaw away at the remaining 22 percent – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – that had remained in Palestinian hands.
The combination of these two substantive defects – expressed through the degrading penetration of the Palestinian identity through the settlements established in the territories, counterpoised to the sacred Palestinian principle of the return of the refugees to their homes within Israel proper – is what makes compromise and conciliation so difficult to achieve. The cruelty and absurdity of both sides are well illustrated in the Israeli settlement project in the Gaza Strip, which ended – and not by chance – with a total Israeli defeat on the one hand, and with an absurd and destructive response of the defeated, who instead of building and rehabilitating Gaza following its liberation from the cruel occupation, started to fire missiles and dig tunnels.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat noted in his memoirs that he arrived at the decision to launch the 1973 war when Israel started to settle civilians in Sinai, in the area known as the Rafah salient or the Yamit district, which was meant to act as a kind of civilian buffer (totally untenable) between Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Given that the expropriation of conquered territory for the purpose of settling foreign citizens is the deepest possible infringement of national sovereignty, it’s clear that the only legitimate response to this can be war. The decision to establish the Rafah salient was made in 1972 by the Labor Party secretariat, in what’s known as the “Galili document” (drawn up by cabinet minister Israel Galili), which was approved unanimously by ministers, MKs and others, some of them ardent socialists who were members of kibbutzim and moshavim. Ten years later, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon carried out the evacuation and demolition of Yamit for the sake of the peace agreement with Egypt, which was signed with the Likud government.
It’s true that in 1977, when Labor transferred power to Likud, there were only 3,000 settlers in the West Bank, in contrast to the nearly 400,000 Israelis who now live in the settlements of Judea and Samaria. Still, it was Labor that imparted the moral and political legitimacy to the settlements, though that legitimacy was accompanied by a sly principle of “settlement only in areas not dense with Arabs.” That principle was easy enough to implement in the Rafah salient because the 10,000 Bedouin who had lived there were forcibly evicted from their homes, their crops uprooted and their fields transformed into construction sites for the new Israeli settlements – which were thereby not established in an area “dense with Arabs.”
But in the Gaza Strip, where the Gush Katif settlements were built (also by a decision of the Labor Party), it was more difficult to maintain the sanctimonious principle of settlement in places not “dense with Arabs.” Accordingly, when Likud, and particularly its active religious-Zionist wing, came to power, the principle of the prohibition of settlements in such locations was dropped. After all, the Gush Emunim movement noted, for 2,000 years Jews had lived in places that were “dense with goyim” without losing their Jewishness. Then why, in the Land of Israel of all places, would they shun such places when the IDF was safeguarding and protecting them from the “denseness”? The trouble was that the “denseness” only intensified.
The demographic balance of forces that existed between the two peoples at the time of the Balfour Declaration – half-a-million Palestinians in the face of the almost 15-million-strong Jewish people – slowly began to change. This was due not only to the Holocaust, which annihilated one-third of the world’s Jews, but also to natural growth, and to the benefits derived by the Palestinians by virtue of their shared life with the Israelis. What still seemed natural and possible (though not moral) about realizing the concept of Greater Israel in 1967 was increasingly difficult a hundred years after the Balfour Declaration and 70 years after the UN partition resolution.
The demography began to reverse itself, or more accurately to swing like a pendulum. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians’ chaotic leader, with his deceptive and self-righteous talk of Palestine as a “secular, pluralistic and democratic state” – after the return of the refugees to their homes within Israel, of course – was seized by dread following the waves of immigration to Israel from the Soviet Union starting in the late 1980s and the multiplication of settlements in the territories. He agreed, then, to sign the Oslo Accords, which recognized Israel as a distinct state. But he began to trample the agreement through terrorist attacks, which intensified in the second intifada, besides which Israel also still hesitated about leaving the territories, and the settlements not only failed to stop expanding, but grew more deeply rooted.
The Gush Katif settlers, who waited in 2005 for soldiers to evacuate them while the laundry tumbled in the machine and the chicken roasted in the oven, taught the Jewish people a lesson for the future: how arduous and terrible it will be to try to evacuate settlements in Judea and Samaria. The evacuation of the 8,000 Gush Katif settlers cost the state about 10 billion shekels ($2.85 billion in current terms). On top of which, the Palestinians in Gaza explained to the world, via missiles and underground tunnels, that for them the evacuation of Gaza, far from being an end to occupation, did not contain even a hint of the start of separation and conciliation.
But we still have the relatively successful story of coexistence in Israel between the Jews and the Israeli Palestinians, despite all the harsh vicissitudes experienced by both sides over 70 years: the wars, the occupation after the Six-Day War, the intifadas, the military government and the land expropriations. Still, it appears that the citizenship that was forced on or granted to the Palestinians in Israel upon the conclusion of the War of Independence in 1949 created a stable, concrete base for relations between the majority and the minority in the Jewish state, with its large national and non-territorial minority of 20 percent.
Even an outside observer with a lofty sense of human morality would give both sides – Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians – high marks for the wisdom of coexistence they’ve developed during the state’s 70 years of existence. There’s the Palestinian-Israeli judge who sentenced a former president of Israel to a prison term, and in so doing helped establish an Israeli moral standard the Palestinian director of the Nahariya hospital, who in that capacity helps set Israeli medical codes the Druze commander of a combat brigade during the 2014 Gaza war the Palestinian-Israeli ambassadors and consuls-general around the world the Palestinian intellectuals, scientists and high-tech people, and the talented Palestinian-Israeli artists of all kinds who amazingly steer a course between the codes of the two peoples. All these people show that despite the difficulties and injustices, the Jewish majority has succeeded, vis-a-vis a fairly large population group, in maintaining cooperation and life together amid the Middle Eastern chaos. With all the grievances and allegations of both sides, and in particular on the part of the Palestinian minority, there is still a foundation that’s right for the shared fate to which we brought ourselves with the late and partial return of the Jews to their historic homeland.
Partnership, not peace
In 2016, on the first anniversary of the death of former minister and MK Yossi Sarid, his widow, Dorit, asked me to speak at a memorial event for him at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This was a few weeks after the publication of my proposal to grant residency status to 100,000 Palestinians living in Area C, in order to reduce somewhat the malignancy of the occupation in at least 60 percent of the West Bank – namely, in the area in which all the Israeli settlements lie. A few people in the peace camp were panic-stricken by this idea, for it was inconceivable that a veteran of that camp should put forward a suggestion whose hidden implications could be interpreted as a prelude to Israeli annexation of Area C. The principle of two states within the post-1967 borders is sacrosanct to the peace camp, and anyone who engages in heretical reflections is taking his dovish life in his hands. Nevertheless, in my remarks to a hall packed with activists – whose camp I have belonged to since 1967 – I called for an attempt to be made to examine other modes of thought as well. It is in fact becoming clear to many who are well informed about both the situation on the ground and the official contacts with the Palestinian governing authorities that separation into two sovereign states is becoming increasingly difficult and complicated. Indeed, some already view the idea as little more than an illusion designed to quell the conscience, while making do with plays, films and novels about the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
The fact is that recently, ideas have been raised in both the national camp and the peace camp about various sorts of federations and confederations, along with plans for “two states in one homeland” and other notions. I consider all these to be highly positive efforts amid the conceptual stagnation that has seized large segments of the Israeli public, and certainly many political circles. It’s true that wherever a new idea leads, a land mine, real or possible, will immediately go off beneath you, but the apartheid process that is striking deep roots in our life is far more dangerous, and uprooting it will soon be impossible.
As I emphasized at the start of this essay, it is not the Jewish or Zionist identity that I fear for, but something more important: our humanity and the humanity of the Palestinians in our midst. We are not Americans in Vietnam, the French in Algeria or the Soviets in Afghanistan, who one day get up and leave. We will live with the Palestinians for eternity, and every wound and bruise in relations between the two peoples will be engraved in the memory and passed on from one generation to the next.
In order not to leave things at the level of reproof alone, I will take my life in my hands and set forth a draft proposal that, though replete with countless problems and obstacles, is still a capable of being realized, in my opinion. I will stress that I am not offering a blueprint for a peace plan with the Palestinians, still less for a “historic reconciliation” or a “declaration of the termination of claims.” It’s not my intention to propose something that is impossible and is used, by both sides, as a kind of excuse to torpedo any possibility of an agreement. I am proposing lines for thought about how to stop the apartheid process in principle, and at a certain stage to reverse it. Accordingly, this is a unilateral plan intended for Israel that perhaps anticipates the possibility of a modicum of cooperation on the part of the Palestinians, who have also despaired of the two-state solution.
Therefore, instead of talking about peace or a settlement or conciliation, I suggest that we use the term “de facto partnership.” That’s a less ambitious but more practical term, and the amazing fact is that there has long been security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank.
The lines of thought that follow are intended also to serve as a challenge and to encourage other initiatives, different but welcome, if they are indeed intended to fight or diminish the “cancer of the occupation,” which has long since begun metastasizing to other parts of the body politic.
First, the plan relates only to the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. It is not intended for the Gaza Strip, which is now effectively a sovereign Palestinian territory, properly armed, administered by an independent government, and with an open passage to Egypt and from there to the world.
The plan requires an absolute halt to the building of new settlements and to the expansion of existing ones, but does not require the evacuation of any, apart from the dismantlement of unauthorized outposts, which are illegal even by Israeli law.
The eastern border of the Land of Israel/Palestine would remain under full Israeli control. The security checks at the crossing points to Jordan would continue to operate as they do today.
Residency status would be offered to all residents of the West Bank, and in its wake, within five years, also Israeli citizenship, including all the attendant rights and obligations.
Proper compensation of land or money would be arranged for private Palestinian land in the West Bank that has been expropriated by Israel since 1967.
In Jerusalem, citizenship would be offered immediately to all Palestinians already possessing residency status, which was granted in the wake of the annexation of the eastern part of the city and its surrounding villages in 1967.
The security measures and checkpoints would remain in place as needed, but in principle, free movement of Palestinians into and around Israel would be permitted, as it is permitted today to the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and to a significant portion of the Palestinians residing in Judea and Samaria.
A sincere option, active and generous, would be proposed for the rehabilitation of the refugees, whether in new communities or by expanding existing Palestinian locales.
The holy places in the Old City of Jerusalem would be administered jointly by the three great religions.
Israel’s form of government would be changed from a parliamentary to a presidential regime. The president will be elected in a general election, similar to what exists today in the United States and other countries. The intention here is to reduce the deceptive and manipulative dependence of the executive branch on the legislative branch.
The country would be divided into districts, each of which would send two representatives to an upper legislative chamber, without connection to the size of its population (like the U.S. Senate).
The districts would be granted more autonomy in the realm of municipal laws, and of course in all matters related to education, culture and especially religion.
The electoral system for a lower chamber would be changed from proportional elections to regional elections, in order to enhance the efficacy of the districts (like the electoral system in Britain and other countries).
The security forces of the Palestinian Authority, with which reasonable cooperation now exists, would be united with those of Israel in a joint police force.
The ID card of the new Palestinian citizens would state “The Israeli Palestinian Federation,” but in terms of rights and obligations would be identical to the Israeli ID card.
The (Jewish) Law of Return would remain intact, but with more stringent examination.
The return of Palestinian refugees from outside Israel-Palestine would not be allowed, other than within a strict framework of family unification.
A request would be made to the members of the European Union and to the world’s other countries for a generous loan/grant for the welcome process of annulling apartheid and for rehabilitating the refugee camps in new cities.
The Israeli-Palestinian federation would ask to join the existing European community as an associate member bearing a special status.
These are all general lines of very preliminary thought, filled with tough problems and complicated to implement, and which would invite no end of opposition from both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. But at heart, they are thoughts that grope toward the possibility of creating a nonviolent partnership between Israelis and Palestinians.
Jewish identity (however it is interpreted) existed for thousands of years as a small minority within large, powerful nations, so there is no reason for it not to exist also in an Israeli state even though it contains a Palestinian minority so large that it can be termed a binational state. Consider the fact that in 1967 there was not even one Palestinian in Jerusalem the capital of Israel, whereas now, 50 years later, 300,000 Palestinians live there. Has Jerusalem’s Jewish identity declined or grown? Many would say that the Jewish identity of Jerusalem has only increased, and certainly has not diminished.
Similarly, Israel within its pre-1967 borders is a country containing a large Palestinian minority, which possesses some distinctive merits of its own. The Palestinians have been natives of this homeland for generations, most of them also know Hebrew and are familiar with the Israeli codes and share them. It would be possible to create a reasonable partnership with them for the benefit of both sides – a human status quo that grants civil status to every person.
The proposal put forward here, and many other proposals that are now under consideration and discussion by people from across the political spectrum, raise serious problems, but there is always hope that partnerships will be able to moderate the obstacles in attempts to cope with them. Let’s not forget that all these plans are, after all, attempts to extricate ourselves from the principal moral quagmire into which we are relentlessly sinking.
At the same time, in spite of everything I’ve written here, if a political force can prove to me, in words and in deeds, that it would still be possible to achieve a separation into two states, of a sort that both sides would accept officially, I will follow it through fire and water.
REPORT: “France is Updating Its Position”
A report in Hebrew-language Maariv News cited diplomatic sources in Paris as saying, “France is updating its position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”
Eric Danon, the French Ambassador to Israel went on to say, “We can accept any solution that the Palestinians and Israelis agree on/”
In a discussion initiated by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), a non-governmental organization whose stated mission is to strengthen relations between Europe and Israel, the French Ambassador to Israel Eric Danon said: “We will not negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. This is a bilateral question and we say that a new situation that has arisen must be taken into account and returned to the negotiating table.”
“No one knows what will be in the end – one state, two states, with or without Jerusalem,” Danon said. “What we prefer and think will be best is a two-state solution. Does that mean we can not agree on something else? Not at all. We can accept Any solution that the Palestinians and Israelis will agree on.”
“Six months ago, no one could have imagined that Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain would sign the Abrahamic Accords,” he added. “The Middle East has completely changed because of the position of the United States, Iran, and Turkey, because Israel has become a new regional power and because of the fatigue of the Palestinian question.”
Danon has said similar things in the past, but they were defined by the French government as a “private opinion” Maariv cited a diplomatic observer in Paris as saying that “there is a move in the French position towards the US position”.
French diplomatic sources added: “French diplomacy is having a hard time throwing all its weight behind a two-state solution, as it is becoming unrealistic on the ground. What the ambassador said is self-evident. It is important to resume negotiations as soon as possible. The Palestinians have never been so weak. They could lose everything.”
Officially, Nothing Has Changed
Officially, the French Foreign Ministry adhered to its former position : “A sustainable solution to the conflict requires the establishment of two states based on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as a capital.”
In 2015, the French government tried to impose a two-year deadline for a two-state solution if negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians did not result in an agreement. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the proposition while PA President Mahmoud Abbas refused to commit to recognizing the State of Israel as a condition for the creation of a Palestinian state.
It is significant to note that in his speech at the UN General Assembly, President Emanuel Macron spoke of “crucial negotiations that will allow the Palestinians to finally enjoy their rights” – but he did not mention the two countries.
Palestinians Refuse to Accept Alternatives
Asharq Al Awsat , an Arabic international newspaper, reported the story, citing a senior Palestinian source as saying that the Palestinian Authority has stated it will only accept a two-state solution based on the creation of a Palestinian state inside Israel’s borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
One alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution that would grant Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem citizenship, giving them equal rights with Israelis. The Palestinian Authority has always rejected this alternative.
Asharq Al Awsat quoted Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh as saying that pressure on the PA would stop after the US election, implying that he anticipated a victory by the Democrats who support a two-state solution.
Ironies of Stalemate
Talk of one-state options has not yet overcome the powerful currents that favor separation and the two-state solution. But the longer the diplomatic stalemate and settlement expansion proceed unabated, the more disillusioned Israelis and Palestinians will become with the land-sharing formula.
The two-state solution will certainly become increasingly discredited among Palestinians if there is no serious diplomatic process. For some Palestinians, the failure of the PA between 1994 and 2000 to develop credible and transparent institutions contributed to a sense that the Oslo years “proved the [Palestinian] nationalist goal unattainable.”  The two-state solution is also associated with the Palestinian ruling class, viewed by many Palestinians as corrupt and inept. The availability of vast sums of international aid created a rentier state in which the dependent PA elites failed to develop a rapport with their constituency. So far, the Palestinian mainstream refrains from endorsing one-state ideas out of consideration for the besieged Arafat and how much the PA invested in a negotiated two-state solution. But even in the mainstream, there are hints of a radical rethinking. Prominent Fatah leader Qaddura Faris claims that he has been approached to form a party promoting a one-state solution. Faris suggests that because Palestinians “have been left without any hope… we are seeking any path — even annexation to Israel — in other words to win [Palestinian rights] by using the vehicle of democracy.” 
Ironically, the beginnings of eroded support for the two-state solution among secular nationalist Palestinians may induce Israel to look toward Hamas as its preferred partner. Though Israelis view Hamas as a proponent of a single Islamic state and, therefore, committed to Israel’s obliteration, others disagree, citing numerous Hamas statements over the years accepting a two-state solution in exchange for a long-term hudna (ceasefire). A further irony is that, of all the Palestinian factions, the Islamist movement has perhaps the most to lose in a secular or binational state. Given both the declining standing of the PA and the growing popularity of Hamas, Fatah entrepreneurs may come to view demands for a binational or secular state as a marker to distinguish their movement from other political players. Still another irony is that the increasingly frequent use of the demographic argument in internal Israeli discourse may, in fact, encourage Palestinians to view the demand for a vote within a unitary entity as increasingly attractive. The Israeli demographic debate reinforces thinking about the conflict as a zero-sum game in which Israel’s greatest “weakness” is the Palestinians’ greatest advantage.
The two-state delusion is the greatest obstacle to peace
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Arab-Israeli conflict is entering a phase more likely to lead to resolution than any that preceded it. The mindless mantra “there is no alternative to the two-state solution” is giving way to reality. The Palestinian Authority has never been a partner for peace. A 23rd Arab state shoehorned into Israel would solve nothing. And plenty of superior, principled alternatives exist.
The two-state solution is a proven failure. A bad idea, derived from a lie, perpetuating instability and suffering. It is, in fact, a relabeling of the PLO’s 1974 Phased Plan: the PLO announcement that it would “liberate” territory piecemeal and wage its genocidal war from each new parcel.
The relabeling was designed to give plausible deniability to those who regret allowing the long-suffering Jews to exercise self-determination. That it sucked in Israelis tired of policing hostile Arab towns and Diaspora Jews chasing approval and acceptance was an added bonus. Tragically, the scheme achieved its primary goal: It recast one of the world’s most tolerant, multi-ethnic, peace-loving, life-affirming bastions of human rights as an illegitimate oppressor.
How did this defamatory campaign deceive so many into believing such an obvious absurdity? Particularly when, for decades, no decent person supported a terrorist PLO state? When as late as 1980, even anti-Israel Jimmy Carter said he was “opposed to an independent Palestinian state” because it would be a “destabilizing factor” in the region?
It began in the early 1990s, when elements of the Israeli far left and the PLO — in clear violation of Israeli law — hatched a “peace” plan: The Arabs would concede the legitimacy of Jewish self-determination in the historic Jewish homeland and, in return, Israel would accept the lie of a distinct “Palestinian” people, partition the homeland (yet again) and create a quasi-governmental Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed — with the caveats that Israel would never concede any part of Jerusalem and never accept a new Arab state. Pocketing these enormous concessions, the PLO dug in.
President Bill Clinton injected the U.S. to finalize the Oslo Accord of 1993. Suddenly, terrorist Arafat was a statesman and the terrorist PLO a government. In 1998, with PLO terrorism still active, first lady Hillary Clinton sent shock waves when she implied support for an independent Palestine the White House’s repudiation was immediate and unequivocal.
In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak broke the final taboos, offering the PLO a state and parts of Jerusalem. Arafat responded by launching a terror war. Barak and Clinton sweetened the offer. Arafat was clear: He preferred war.
Any rational observer would have seen Arafat’s rejection as the end of the game. But as Arafat foresaw, Oslo’s inversion of oppressed and oppressor hopelessly warped global public opinion. The 21st century has enshrined Arafat’s fabrications while challenging Jewish history. It ignores the character of leadership and culture, bestowing honors upon Arab terror movements while defaming Israel’s liberal democracy. It vilifies those — like George W. Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu — who would condition statehood on evidence of a willingness to coexist. No longer a stratagem for peace, “Palestinian” statehood has become an entitlement.
But 21st-century events have demolished the broader myth system on which “Palestinian” peoplehood rests. Iraq and Syria have followed the Lebanese path. As those multi-ethnic European constructs collapsed, their citizens quickly shed the state-based identities they had been assigned in favor of the ethnic- or faith-based identities that had defined their families for centuries. They fight — and die — as Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Alawites, Druze and Christians.
That collapse is hardly coincidental — and it is highly relevant. There have never been distinct Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese — or Palestinian — nations. Having all but purged their once-vibrant Christian minority, today’s “Palestinians” are merely Sunni Arabs whose patrilineal ancestors resided west of the Jordan River during the final two years of the Mandate for Palestine. A new state affirming misguided labels that European imperialists imposed upon the indigenous peoples of the Middle East cannot possibly help stabilize the troubled region.
The clear alternative is a return to the pre-Oslo reliance on responsible state actors – i.e., Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel — to provide citizenship and opportunity to the stateless Arabs. The sooner Israel stops paying lip service to the “two-state” lie, the sooner it can leave behind its self-inflicted wounds. The primary objections to this have always been that a, the world will condemn Israel, and b, those countries won’t comply. Both are absurd. The world condemns Israel freely already, and the United States can ensure those countries are incentivized to comply.
To achieve the stability the region so desperately needs, the Arab states must reintegrate nearly 20 million displaced or stateless Arabs chafing beneath artificial Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese or Palestinian labels. Far from laying this issue at Israel’s feet, any “solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict must arise within that regional context. The international community should treat Arab refugees like it treats other refugees — humanely rather than as political pawns and cannon fodder. Integrating them into communities with whom they claim ethnic and cultural kinship is the best way to help refugees build new lives.
The myths of “Palestinian peoplehood” and a “two-state solution” have impeded peace, stability, security, development, regional integration and justice. Arab terrorists lauded as martyrs and freedom fighters murder and maim Jews. Jew-haters treating Arabs as expendable rob millions of educational and economic opportunities, basic dignity and decent lives. The American Jewish community tears itself apart. College students from Christian and Jewish Zionist homes find themselves supporting an Israel defamed across campus as an oppressor. And in living memory of the Holocaust and of the miraculous return of Jews to their indigenous Jewish homeland, the United Nations – supported by an outgoing American president – denies the Jews’ connection to Judea and demands their ethnic cleansing. All in the service of a lie.
Reality-based plans have languished in the face of Oslo’s persistent myths. All start from two key principles: Israeli sovereignty must continue within secure borders, and the Arab states must assume primary responsibility for the welfare of Arab refugees. These principles are grounded in history, morality and law, in Jewish security and Arab development, and in the critical goal of regional stability.
What has worked around the world will work in the Middle East if the Arabs allow it to work. The Arabs will allow it only if pushed. President Donald Trump, for the first time in history, has begun to push in the right direction.
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic, a senior fellow at the American Conservative Union’s Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy, and an adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Bruce Abramson is the president of Informationism, Inc., vice president and director of policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
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One state or two?
T he renewal of the negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority, following their suspension in the wake of Israeli incursions into Gaza, remind us how close to the brink of some kind of abyss the peace process is. It forces us to ask what the alternatives are if there are no negotiations. If the PNA fails in the West Bank, will Palestinian support for the resistance lead to a Hamas-like takeover of a walled-in West Bank? Will the future lead to rockets being fired from Tulkarm onto Tel Aviv?
In this context, some analysts and planners are looking for new ways to envision a future which goes beyond the fruitless horse-trading that has characterised the post-Annapolis round of negotiations between the Israeli government and the PA, and one which avoids a collapse of the PA itself. One of the currents in the debate is that a binational state comprising both Israeli and Palestinian citizens may not be so far removed from a viable two-state solution that has been the framework for the current negotiations.
For decades the idea of a binational state has been dismissed by politicians and the wider Israeli and Palestinian public as the crazy imaginings of naive idealists - even if held by such luminaries as Martin Buber. Indeed, most Israelis and Zionists have gone so far to characterise it as a code for the extinction of Israel and accuse its supporters of anti-semitism. Similarly, some Palestinian nationalists have seen it as defeatist and a sign of complicity in the defeat and dispossession of the Palestinians that occurred in 1948.
However, since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Israeli government, significant changes in the underpinning of the two-state solution have taken place - the ramifications of which are only now more clearly seen. For all its failings, the Oslo accords contained within it the crucial recognition by the Israelis of the right of the Palestinians to at least a part of the land of Palestine. The importance of this was not immediately apparent, but it precipitated, nevertheless, a debate over the future of Zionism.
If the whole of Palestine was not the birthright of Zionism, where did you draw the line? Was it the areas suggested by the Israeli government at the Camp David summit in 2000, or the armistice lines as they stood in 1949? If Palestinians exist as a people and a nation are they not entitled to equal rights as Israeli Jews? How does one reconcile the privileging of Jewishness with this entitlement to equality? In short, can Israel be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time?
This internal reflection on the future of Zionism and Israel in the wake of a peace agreement has been compounded by the work of analysts, policy-makers and academics in the various behind-the-scenes negotiations. In putting substance onto various proposed frameworks for peace, in spelling out the fine print of any agreement, there is a growing realisation that if the agreement is to avoid the total separation suggested by the huge wall running through the West Bank and the fences surrounding Gaza, as well as the alienation of the vast majority of Palestinian refugees, a high degree of cooperation will be required.
Such comprehensive cooperation points to arrangements that are much more than your usual bilateral treaty between two states. It is already accepted that the two-state solution will consist of a range of agreements that extend way beyond intelligence and security cooperation to encompass the economy and trade, the environment, the extraction of water, regional urban planning, tourism, immigration and so on. And already there are agreements in place for a single economic zone for Israel and Palestine, for a customs union, for a unified citizen database and for the sharing of water, which point to a merging of the two states at some fundamental levels. In essence, what is being discussed is a sort of "two-state plus", which on further analysis looks remarkably close to some variants of the one state solution.
Take, for example, how the two-state solution will work for the capital city of both states, Jerusalem. If one is to avoid dividing the city into two parts, if one is to maintain the mobility of the residents and their freedom to shop, work and worship in different parts of the city, if one is to ensure that visitors and pilgrims have access to its different sites (remember that the core economic asset of Jerusalem is its visitors) then arrangements have to be devised which satisfy both the security and economic needs of the city.
Some sort of "supranational" body, such as a regional planning commission or a grand municipal council, comprising representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli municipality and of the national ministries, will need to be set up to cooperate over flows of visitors, infrastructural development, environmental hazards and architectural design. Even if, in an act of desperate last resort to achieve some agreement, the city is divided by walls and barriers, there will still need to be cooperation across the walls to ensure that the city continues to function smoothly with regard to waste disposal, water supply and access to the holy sites.
What has not been taken on board by the wider public is that a binational state does not mean the eradication of the nations involved. There are a variety of precedents and models for political cooperation that show how national interests can be protected. These models comprise structures which range from the confederal model (two or more entities with a kind of steering committee) a federal model (two or more entities with certain powers allocated to a central body) to a consociational model (a single state structure with powers allocated to the two or more entities according to agreed criteria, such as size of population). Where these models might be relevant to the current situation in the Middle East is that they provide both concrete ideas for how the degree of cooperation between the two entities can be achieved and also a benchmark for determining the equity of any agreement. The argument being made is that the binationalism, or the one state solution, is simply the two-state solution that works well and works fairly.