Why I do not believe in the one state solution
“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.” – President Barack Obama
This post is a response to the post previously published on Café Thawra regarding the one state solution for Palestine and Israel and aims at explaining why, in my view, a one state solution would not work. But first of all, let us be clear about it. We’re calling here for a fair two state solution, one with acceptable borders for the Palestinian state, a clear right to return to this state for the Palestinian refugees, and, for this whole process to be feasible, a strong commitment from the Jewish state to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank and make every effort possible to relocate settlers. The G8 is already pressuring Israel to put a stop to the Jewish Settlements, with Sarkozy asking Netanyahu on the 24th of June to “freeze” the settlements. It seems that the commitment from the International Community to create a Palestinian state is slowly rebuilding, and although hopes are not so high, there is a possibility of Israel being shamed by its allies into freezing settlements. The International Community support factor, versatile as it may, still plays a role by empowering governments to act. Thus, Israel feels no objection to violate the Palestinians’ Human Rights, partly because its government knows they have the western world on their side. Any pressure from its partners may force Israel to revise its stance. Why would a two state solution be preferable to any other kind?
– Apartheid? Not Only a Label
Some Palestinians reject the idea of the two state solution because it would imply a de facto recognition of an Israeli Jewish State, something they have been fighting for decades. Fair enough, let us imagine then what would be the outcome of a one bi national state. Certainly, there would be no need to recognize any Jewish State, because it wouldn’t exist anymore, but what would day to day life look like for the Palestinian population? If we believe the demographic dynamics that are taking place, soon enough the Palestinians will overtake the Israeli population, leading to an Apartheid kind of regime: the Jewish minority population ruling over the Palestinian majority. Because ruling there will be, and the Palestinians will be and will remain second class citizens in such a state, even though they would be given political power. Thus, in a one state solution, Palestinians might be given constitutional power, but in reality, although it might appear cynical, those who will be actually ruling will be those with economic power. The South African paradigm is more and more used to defend the one state solution, but it is dangerous to try and apply models regardless of the context. Indeed, the South African paradigm is very specific and holds little resemblance to the Palestinian/Israeli situation in the sense that Israel is occupying the Palestinian territory, and started its occupation with the blessings of the International Community, displacing an entire population, while in South Africa the indigenous population rebelled, with the support of the International Community, against an oppressive and racist white power that had been on the territory for centuries. Although the dichotomy between the oppressors and the victims is there in the two situations, the data is different, and this difference needs to be taken into account. Even so, even now that the official apartheid regime has ended in South Africa, there is still an enormous gap between the indigenous and the white population, dividing the country into two, making South Africa a poor example to follow, as stated by Peter Kagwanja from AllAfrica.com
« the failure by the ANC government to close the gap between the “[…]two different countries” that South Africa has become in the last 15 years. The first country, visibly white and wealthy, signifies South Africa’s dramatic successes in pulling back from racism, violence and human rights abuses of the apartheid era to political stability anchored on a liberal constitution, relatively impartial courts, faster economic growth than under apartheid and inflow of foreign investment. […]
The second “country”, manifestly black and impoverished, is characterised by economic woes, widespread poverty, unemployment, huge inequalities, violent crime, and anger. »
Is that what we want for the Palestinian people? Instead of pretending to have one state for two people, while the reality is clearly something else, why not physically make this division once and for all, thus giving the chance to the Palestinians to be the deciders of their own fate? A division that wouldn’t be like the hideous scar that is now plaguing the Occupied Territories, that would not be like this Wall of Shame that’s a constant humiliation for the people that have to beg to cross it every single day.
– To be Able to Create a One State Solution, There Has to be a Will
Living together is not easy, even more so when religious or ethnic differences come into the equation, as shown by the examples of Lebanon or Iraq. But when you add decades of humiliation, killings and segregation, like what happened to the Palestinian people, living together soon becomes almost impossible. The Israelis are so weary of the Palestinians and the Arabs in general that even some Israeli Human Rights activists admit of getting nervous when an Arab-looking person rides the same bus as her . Besides the weariness, there is a clear willingness from both sides to choose the two states solution over the one state one. The OneVoice Movement, a grassroots mainstream campaign that aims at bringing moderates from both sides together to help build the two sovereign states, has revealed in its latest poll that 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis supported the two states solution. Such an overwhelming majority of people rejecting the one state solution clearly gives out a strong message of lack of will to build one national state.
Besides, we also have to take into account the psychosocial component of the situation, especially after the terrible Gaza war that killed 1400 and wounded over thousands of Palestinians, as related in the last report made by Amnesty International. History has proved that two people can’t lastly reconcile after such horrors, let alone live together in peace. The wounds are too raw, the humiliation too deep to consider forgiving and forgetting. Although International Criminal Law and Transitional Justice processes have made remarkable progress over the last decades, with the establishment of diverse ad hoc tribunals, the International Criminal Court and various Truth and Reconciliation Commissions around the globe, it is highly unlikely that such institutions will be put into use in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The supreme arrogance with which Israel treated the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion regarding the Wall in the Occupied Territories of 2004, as well as it clear disdain to everything related to International Humanitarian Law, as shown in the 2006 July War in Lebanon, the Gaza War of January 2009 (and the list doesn’t stop here) also gives out a good message on just how much the Jewish authorities care for International Law. Israel not being a party to the Rome Statute doesn’t allow the ICC to try Israeli soldiers for the war crimes they might have committed. Besides, ad hoc tribunal stem out from Chapter VII of the UN Charter and are put in place by UN Security Council Resolutions. The United States being a permanent member of the Security Council, in itself a highly political instrument, it is very unlikely that we will ever see a special tribunal for Israel and the Occupied Territories, as the USA will use their veto to protect their ally. Although Truth and Reconciliation Commissions seem to have given good results in Africa, I personally think that an institution that rely so much on good will has very few chances of succeeding with three quarters of each population clearly stating they don’t want to live together.
– The Way Forward
For many peace activists of both sides, the best way to achieve the two state solution is to follow the Arab Peace Initiative, that calls for:
– “ (a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194. (c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace. ”
The Arab Peace Initiative, by offering a comprehensive peace process, might be the best way for the two parties to get out of the stalemate they’re in. It only has a –major- flaw, which is its vagueness regarding the Palestinian Refugee situation. Broaching over the subject by calling for a “just” peace is not nearly enough. This question of the Refugees is possibly the most polemical one in the whole peace process, and it needs to be addressed accordingly, with clear solutions laid out.
But before the partition occurs and peace can come, each party have to clean their own case. The Israeli government has to be clear on its policy regarding the settlers, and not, as Mr Netanyahu recently did, play over with words, stating the already existing settlements will be allowed to develop but that no new colonies will be accepted. This isn’t a proper policy on settlements, and it will certainly not lead to peace. On the Palestinian side, the inner quarrels and wars between Hamas and Fatah have to stop, because if peace is not achieved at the very heart of one of the main party, then how will regional and global peace ever be attained? This is only logical, and luckily, or maybe not so luckily, the first steps to this peace process do not require the collaboration of the two parties. There are issues that need to be addressed by each party on their own, before they can come together and try working for a peaceful settlement of this tragedy. This might mean taking bold decisions, and perhaps, for the governments, alienating a portion of their population, but it has to be done. For the greater good.
: Statement made by Sharon Dolev Head of the Regional Peace Movement for the promotion of the Arab Peace Initiative at the NGO WILPF Strategy meeting on disarmament in Geneva in March 2009