Friday, July 06, 2007

Could a 'one-state' solution end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Uri Avnery v Khaled Diab - CiF Take Two

Uri to Khaled

The so-called two-state solution is the only practical solution in the realm of reality. The parameters are well known, and they now enjoy worldwide agreement:

1) A Palestinian state will come into being next to Israel.

2) The border between them will be based on the Green Line, perhaps with an agreed-upon and equal swap of territories.

3) Jerusalem will be the capital of the two states.

4) There will be an agreed-upon solution of the refugee problem. In practice, this means that an agreed number of Palestinians will return to Israel, and the rest will be resettled in the state of Palestine or in their present places of domicile, with the payment of generous compensation that will turn them into welcome guests. When there is an agreed plan that tells every refugee family what their choices are, it must be submitted to the refugees wherever they are. They must be partners in the final decision.

5) There will be an economic partnership, in which the Palestinian government will be able to defend Palestinian interests, unlike the present situation. The very existence of two states will mitigate, at least to some extent, the huge difference of power between the two sides.

6) In the more distant future - a Middle Eastern union, on the model of the EU, that may also include Turkey and Iran - will emerge.

The obstacles are well known, and they are big. There are no cure-alls or panaceas. They must be faced and overcome. Here, in Israel, we must weaken the fears and anxieties, and point out the benefits and profit that we will gain from the creation of a Palestinian state at our side.

We must bring about a change of consciousness. But we have already come a long way, from the days when the entire public denied the very existence of the Palestinian people, rejected the idea of a Palestinian state, rejected the partition of Jerusalem, rejected any dialogue with the PLO, rejected an agreement with Arafat. In all these areas our stand as pioneering peace activists trickled down and has been accepted in various degrees.

It is clear that this is still far from what is necessary. But that is the direction things are moving - and there are hundreds of opinion polls to show it.

Khaled to Uri

The two-state solution is a good idea in principle - and I respect your role in putting it on the political map. And if both sides can achieve a viable settlement based on this model, then all the power to them. But I'm not sure I agree with your assessment that it is the only "practical solution in the realm of reality".

If it were so practicable, then why does it seem so much further from the realm of reality than it did 15 years ago? No one dares speak even of a defunct peace process any more and whoever has run off with the road map seems to have buried it somewhere over the rainbow.

The barriers that currently stand in the way of the two-state dream seem insurmountable. What do you do with the 300,000 or more settlers living in the future Palestinian state when evacuating some 8,000 settlers from Gaza was already such a traumatic experience? How about the 1.4 million Palestinian citizens of Israel? Even if you manage to negotiate a territory swap, that will only serve to entangle the fate of the two peoples even further.

Neither state is likely to have integral and entirely congruous territory, especially Palestine. To overcome this, they will either have to function effectively as a single geographical entity or come up with convoluted, impractical and expensive technical fixes, such as bypass roads, tunnels, bridges, walls that will turn the land into a series of Palestinian and Israeli ghettoes.

And the two-state model does not improve with time, as emerging "realities on the ground" make it even more implausible.

The notion of a single state can instil fear into the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians because it evokes images of extremists on the other side driving them off their land or making them live under subjugation. So, it is better to call what I and people like me have in mind a "bi-national federal state", ie the "single geographical entity" I alluded to above, with a functioning, fair and democratic political apparatus.

Building towards such a confederated state would break the current impasse and inject a dose of much-needed lateral thinking into the quest for peace. Handled correctly, it can bring prosperity and stability, enabling Israelis and Palestinians to share the land equitably, while maintaining their right to self-determination.

Uri to Khaled

When my friends and I started to advocate the two-state solution, right after the 1948 war, we emphasised that the border between the two states must be open to the free movement of people and goods, and that the country must be united economically.

Right after the 1967 war, my friends and I established a movement called Federation Israel-Palestine. It envisioned a federation or confederation between two sovereign states - Israel and Palestine.

In my first meeting with Yasser Arafat, he spoke about a "Benelux solution" - a structure encompassing the three states of Israel, Palestine and Jordan, "and perhaps Lebanon, too," he added. He repeated this in our last meeting, just before his murder.

Anyone looking at the map knows that the two states - Israel and Palestine - must maintain a very close relationship, economically, militarily and politically. The shape and definition of this relationship must be worked out between the two future governments.

What is essential at this moment is to create peace based on the existence of two national states. That is a phase that cannot be evaded, certainly not by utopian dreams that can be realised only after the coming of the Messiah.

Israelis will not give up their state - not today, not tomorrow, not in 50 years. That is an absolute certainty. Also, the Palestinians need a state of their own, to defend their interests, to restore their dignity and to assume their rightful place among the nations.

The idea of dismantling Israel, euphemistically called "the one-state solution" is a pipe-dream. It could once again divert the Palestinians from a practical solution.

The proposal of a federation, which I support, can and will be realised when the two states are there and when a modicum of trust between the two peoples is established. That is what happened in Europe after the second world war.

Khaled to Uri

Your reply heartens me because it would seem that we agree on what constitutes an optimal outcome. But achieving that desirable end cannot be left to the randomness and chaos that has characterised this conflict right from the start.

Visionaries, like yourself, who believe in a confederated state should already begin to advocate it today while it is still possible to chart a course towards it. We cannot wait two or three decades, by which time Israelis and Palestinians could be leading even more severed, paranoid, hateful and terrified existences in two dysfunctional and fragmented so-called states, paralysed and tied down by physical and mental walls.

You are right that a federalised state can only be built on trust. But it strikes me that, short of a miracle, the current focus on putting the defunct peace process back on track only breeds frustration and despair, because reality will never match up to expectations. The leaders on both sides lack the political capital or readiness to persuade their people of the massive compromises and lowering of expectations required to achieve a feasible two-state settlement. In addition, trust is so fragile, that a small group of extremists on either side can easily shatter it.

And that is why a paradigm shift is in order - an approach based on an incremental forward-looking approach. With the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians are effectively living in a single state - albeit a state of distrust and hatred.

The first small steps in this incremental approach would be to focus on bread and butter issues: economic wellbeing, security, ending violence, healthcare, mobility, social equality, good governance, intercultural dialogue etc.

As trust builds up between the two sides, they can move on, armed with cross-cultural alliances, to more ambitious questions, such as integrating settlements, autonomy for the Palestinians and the devolution of power over the Palestinian territories to the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Once Palestinians have enough self-rule and there is more mutual trust, the two sides can tackle the really tough issues, such as Jerusalem and refugees. By this stage, they can also choose, perhaps through a referendum, on where to take their relationship. By this stage, I think they'll choose a federation. But that's for future generations to decide.

Uri to Khaled

I don't think your approach is practical. Nothing good will happen before a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved.

Khaled to Uri

Speaking pragmatically, I don't think a comprehensive peace agreement will come about before good things start happening.


At 7:10 PM, Blogger Baconeater said...

1. You need the Palestinians collectively to want a state.

2. ROR aint gonna happen. There is no such thing as a genetic refugee anyway.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Unity amongst the Palestinians may be achieved sooner than you think. There doesn't even have to be unity: a majority supporting the two-state solution would in principle be enough.

Avnery isn't referring to RoR in the traditional sense, rather he's referring to a package of measures that would compensate the Palestinians. Financially, much of these measures should be borne by the IC.

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

Gert, I think you posted an excellent discussion. The idea of a single bi-national state as outlined by Khaled is something that to me is much more logical than Uri's two-state dream solution.

Of course, you know that my position is for a single state that is entirely Jewish west of the Jordan river with the Palestinians given their own state in what is today called Jordan. However, my position is biased towards the Jews because I am a religious zionist who believes that the land of Israel is an exclusive, eternal inheritance given to the Jewish people by God. This is the foundation, the bedrock, for any Jew to lay a claim to this strip of land, because we all know simply saying "we once lived there so it belongs to us" is an argument any ethnicity can make to any land they carry historic ties to.

You see, if you take Torah out of the equation, and are simply trying to sift through the opposing claims to the land using political rationalizations, it would be racist to assign any division of the land to just arabs or Jews based on ancestry, religion or ethnicity. Bi-nationalism is the only logical and reasonable answer for pragmatists and western democracy advocates alike.

I consider myself neither pragmatist nor western democracy advocate when it comes to Israel, as you know. I am an activist and advocate for a true Jewish State, period, end of story.

On a side note, Gert, I am very impressed with the debate you posted, and because of this it is clear to me that you are sincerely a truth seeker, though one with very different positions than mine, so I would like to invite you back to comment at my site anytime you like.

If you take me up on this offer I will not allow others to take ad-hominem shots at you, with the same rules in effect for you as well, of course.


At 9:06 AM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Wow, MZ asking Gert back to his domain...very immpressive. I should read this article too!

BTW: Gert, what's been going on? How are you, ol' pal? I just posted something you may like reading. Take care for now,

Evil Kadevil.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Mad Zionist:

Thanks! If there's something I feel I could contribute to at your blog, I will. See ya...


You know you should read EVERYTHING on my blog, it's MANDATORY... (lol)

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Oh don't ya worry, Gert, I'll get to it when I get a chance in this Mad, Mad, Mad World.


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