Palestine: the One State Solution ?
The Israeli government, during the Prime Minister Netanyahu visit to Washington, has declared its opposition to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State, to a comeback to the 1967 borders and to the suspension of colonization . What future for Palestine?
I attended last year in London the One State Solution Conference in relation to Palestine and Israel. A number of Israeli, Palestinian and International scholars were gathered during few days. I must admit in the beginning this idea was quite difficult to believe and imagine for me, but after a while of restudying the Arab Israeli conflict, listening and reading the numerous arguments from the speakers, I was convinced. Moreover, beginning of April 2009 in Boston, in a Conference devoted to the One State Solution organised by the Trans Arab Research Institute in conjunction with the William Joiner Centre of the Massachusetts University , American Jews and Israelis represented around the third of the 29 speakers who participated. Many conferences were and will be hold in relation to the subject which is getting more and more well known.
The One State Solution alternative is nevertheless still not gathering the majority of Israelis and Palestinians and especially after the terrible events of Gaza the support for it has decreased. Lastly, a survey made by the movement One Voice showed that 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis want to live in two separates States . In the same time, where no political party is arguing for a One State Solution, around 25% of Palestinians are willing to live in it, which is quite important in these conditions . The alternative of a unique State is not easy we agree and it has to confront many challenges, but you will see that this solution is finally the most realists to overcome the problems of this conflict realise the objectives of both peoples and implement a just peace without resentments.
What are the characteristics of the One State Solution compare to the two States solution?
The single State would be secular and democratic in which no particular identity would be protected by the Law. A citizenship based on justice and equality, on inclusion and not nationalist exclusion. A Palestinian activist Abunimah has actually in his book “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian” suggested the creation of a single State based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Belfast Agreement , which has served as basis of reconciliation for the Protestant and Catholics in North Ireland. The main appeal of a single Democratic State is that it allows both people to benefit from the entire country and to live in it while safeguarding their respective communities considering their specific needs. This option offers the possibility to deterritorialize the conflict in neutralising demography and ethnicity as a source of power and political legitimacy. But what are the convincing arguments on the sensitive issues?
The creation of one State for Israelis and Palestinians could resolve the most sensitive issues of the conflict which are the following:
– the Israeli colonies build since 1967
– the rights of the Palestinian refugees
– status of Jerusalem
Firstly, the amount of settlers is estimated to more than 400 000 in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, according to different studies . In the one State solution with a single authority there would be no necessity for the settlers to leave their home. The advocates of the two State solutions usually claim that in case of a peace agreement Israelis would remove the colonies, but history teaches us something else. Actually since the Oslo agreement in 1994, the numbers of colonies have doubled and the Israeli Prime Minister has recently affirmed his intention to pursue the growth of existing colonies in the West Bank . Never any Israeli government has suggested, even the peace negotiation, any plan to remove the 400 000 settlers, neither that it has showed the intention to. The advocates of the two states solutions, such as the weak Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, should explain us and the Palestinians how they imagine the future of the West Bank in a Palestinian State, because the current situation is far from being viable for its own people. The 2, 3 millions Palestinians living in the West Bank are subjected to the law of the 400 000 settlers divided into 121 areas of population . 65% of the roads leading to the 18 most populated Arab towns are severely controlled, when they are simply not closed, and 600 check points exist to limit the free movement of people . The Wall of separation has been build inside the western part of the Jordan River, which peaks to 8 meters sometimes with watchtowers every 200 meters, and the wall has annexed 43% of the West Bank territory sheltering around the 94% of the Israeli settlers . The activist Abunimeh reveals us that during the Camp David negotiation the most generous offer made by the Israelis to the Palestinians only included 76, 6% of the West Bank, Israel would have annexed East Jerusalem, the territorial waters of the Dead Sea, and Israel demanded that 80% of the settlers remain in their colony . The One State solution would definitely be the alternative to this problem, while the advocates of the two states solutions on both sides are still looking to solve a situation impossible to manage for them.
The one State solution secondly enables the settlement of the refugee problem which is at the core of the conflict. The dispossession and the eradication of millions of Palestinians are injustices which must be rectified. A peace based on justice and on International Law should guarantee a just solution for the refugees, which is the right of return or compensation, as the UN Resolution 194 from 1948 requires it also. No settlement of the refugee issue would legalise the ethnic cleasing which suffered the Palestinians victims in 1948 and 1967. The one State solution enables both parties to deal with the refugee issue in terms of people recovering their rights in a single and secular State where each citizen is equal in front the law regardless of its identity, where as in a two State solution the refugee issue is politicized and Israel’s practices (refusing the right of return for Palestinians guaranteed by International Law and granting citizenship to any person from Jewish descendants) is opposing it.
The Palestinian refugees represent the majority of the Palestinian population living outside their home country, Palestine, and around 40% of the West Bank and the Gaza strip populations are refugees . A Palestinian State would have enormous difficulties to absorb the large amount of people back in their home country, including the ones who are already currently in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. Welcoming these refugees require an important absorption capacity, financial resources and lands. In regards to the limited financial resources of a future hypothetical Palestinian State, this latter in the current situation would definitely have difficulties stabilizing and developing the country, which would have dramatic consequence such as pushing out the Palestinians to migrate instead of looking for a job in their home country. Israel highest motivation is indeed to impose the solution of a scrappy State, which would currently be unable to absorb a considerable amount of refugees in or outside of the home country. Israel opposes strongly to the right of return, as well as toward a Palestinian State, but even in the case that an Israeli government accepts the right of return to a Palestinian State, it will make this return undesirable and even impossible. Israel wants the less possible Palestinians in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, because their first worry is to know how to contain the Palestinian demographic growth in the region, in order to expand more and to absorb more Jewish migrants . The demographic reality on the field will continue to obstruct any partition plan, because already in 2005 Israelis living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea amounted up to 5.2 millions against 5.6 millions Palestinians . Israel will have to face a much faster demographic growth on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli one, growth which will influence greatly the economy, as well as politics because of the Arab population’s deprivation of real rights in Israel. Israel’s will to remain a sectarian State, a Jewish State, is simply not possible on the long run as the demography has showed it, therefore Israelis should decide in which society they want to live: apartheid or a free democratic State.
The only way the right of return will be respected is not in a scrappy Palestinian State incapable of welcoming the refugees, but through a one State solution where they are not considered as a threat by the Israeli side, because they are citizens just as anyone else and where they can hope for a new and stable life full of promises.
Thirdly, the status of Jerusalem would be settled in a One State Solution, actually it would become the capital of this single State and of all its citizens. No need to know how to organise a partition of the city and struggle to impose a sectarian majority in either neighbourhoods. Finally, this solution offers also other alternatives such as answering the right to equality for the Arab Israelis, actually this is not the case in the current State of Israel for this population, which suffer of many discriminations as we have shown it in our article “Israel: une démocratie?” and it also annihilates the racist lay out for a Jewish State, which fulfil the established Human Rights based on citizenship and not sectarian or national roots.
Therefore the territorial, economic and demographic reality of Palestine shows that we never have been so close of a single State. The West Bank has never been that fragmented and the Palestinians depend on Israel for their free movements. They hay have no sovereignty on their land. On a demographic scale Palestinians and Israelis are currently at parity, but Palestinians will be the majority in a near future. The two State solutions is in our opinion not anymore an effective option, on the opposite the One State solution will become more and more as the alternative to resolve the problems of both parties and assure a fair peace.
But many challenges have to be overcome, firstly the necessity to understand that this project is based on mutual cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. This will be difficult, especially after the events of Gaza at the beginning of the year, given the history characterised by dispossession and occupation from the State of Israel. As a strategy to try overcoming this anger, Laïla Farsakh a Palestinian scholar supporting the One State solution project, has suggested a debate on identity, which will consider the role played by Jewish, in the past and today, in the resistance to Zionism . The Palestinian militant Omar Barghouti has also recalled that there is no monolithic Jewish voice and besides that there is an over proportion of Jewish in the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement against Israel . Numerous Jews and Israelis have already supported the one State solution and joined themselves with Palestinians in Conferences to promote this idea. The Law philosopher Ori Ben Dor has notably declared that Zionism infringed the Jewish memory and the humanist message of the Holocaust . The Israeli historian Illian Pape, famous for his opposition to Zionism, has cited few project of de-zionisation on the field such as common kindergarten . Through history we have seen examples of cooperation between groups from the dominated and the dominant such as in South Africa or in the USA with the Black civic movement where many white men joined them in their struggle.
Secondly, the following challenge is directly linked with the first one: the nature of the Palestinian national movement. The nationalist movements, in all their forms, from the PLO to Hamas, have shown their limits and have not accomplished their objectives until nowadays. The Palestinian movement needs therefore to change its nature into a civic movement just as the African National Congress in South Africa. Nelson Mandela has shown the way to reconciliation in fostering black South Africans to embrace any white Afrikaners who would give up apartheid, in return of which the Afrikaners have acquired legitimacy in the eyes of the other South Africans. They were unable to extract this legitimacy in centuries of domination. Unfortunately, it is usually the oppressed that need to show their will for peace and hope, and they have to launch an internal and global campaign to suppress imposed unjust measures on them. The Palestinian national movement is currently at a cross point, continue to exist trough transformation or die slowly.
Finally the last challenge is the international consensus around the two state solutions. The International communities as a whole is supporting this solution as the only way out to the conflict, but if the first two challenges are carried out successfully on the field this will definitely have consequences on the international scene. In the same time intellectuals, scholars and militant have to continue to inform people on the impossibility of any conflict resolution in the Israeli Palestinian conflict through a two State solutions, and promote the one state solution. The alternative is perpetual war between both populations.
In conclusion, the One State solution is the alternative we favour to end this conflict and offer both people a just peace. Today this proposal needs to be put on the international agenda. The reality on the field does not allow anymore a functioning Palestinian State. In the same time, a State based on ethnicity is not acceptable nowadays. In Sixty years, Israel has failed to obtain legitimacy from the Arab Israelis living in its own State and the Palestinians occupied in the West Bank and Gaza and to stop the Palestinian Resistance. The Single State would be a new departure for both people; Palestinians would finally have a State and recover their rights, while Israelis would still have a safe home which was their initial objective and gain legitimacy for their presence within the region. Finally, the Single State also would be a reference in the region because it would be based on Democracy and citizenship regardless of ethnicity and religion, which is kind of missing now in the surrounding countries.