Friday, March 21, 2008
Embracing the One State Solution
As an arrogant Israel continues to destroy the "two-state solution" through unrelenting settlement expansion in the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem, a growing number of Palestinians, including intellectuals, academics as well as ordinary citizens, are abandoning the goal of "Palestinian statehood". Their new strategy is the creation of a democratic, unitary and secular state in all of Palestine-Israel, in which Jews and Arabs would live in peace and equality.
Advocates of the one-state solution argue that the two-state solution is already dead and that any Palestinian state that might come out of the present peace process would be deformed and unviable and perpetuate conflict and violence in the region. "Such a state would be a sure prescription for future wars, instability and turbulence," one advocate argued during a recent symposium on the subject in Ramallah.
To be sure, advocacy for the one-state solution is not new among Palestinians. For many years, the Palestine Liberation Organisation called for the creation of a secular, non-sectarian state in all of mandatory Palestine, where Jews, Muslims and Christians would be granted equal rights. Voices favouring a common Jewish-Arab homeland in Palestine were heard among Palestinians -- especially within leftist and communist circles -- even before the creation of Israel in 1948.
Recent developments, however, including the apparent failure of recent high- profile peace efforts, such as the Annapolis Conference, coupled with Israel's adamant refusal to stop its settlement building activities and US inability and/or unwillingness to pressure Israel to halt its colonial expansion, are convincing an important sector of Palestinian elites that the two-state solution strategy is futile, unrealistic and detrimental to Palestinian national interests.
This week, a prominent Fatah leader in the West Bank, Ziad Abu Ein, called for abandoning efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, arguing that it is probably too late for the Palestinians to reach this goal, given existing demographic and political realities. "Our people would be willing to live in peace with Jews in the absence of fanaticism and intolerance, and based on the principles of equality, live and let live, and mutual respect," wrote Abu Ein in an article published Saturday on a website he created specifically for these ideas.
Abu Ein called on "the nations of the world", the UN, as well as Israeli Jews to support and welcome the "desire of their Palestinian brothers and sisters to live in peace" in a unitary state extending from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan. Such a state, argued Abu Ein, would be free from violence, racism and efforts by one side to negate or undermine the interests of the other.
It is uncertain if Abu Ein's ideas were coordinated with the senior leadership of Fatah in Ramallah. However, it is interesting that these ideas come amidst growing disillusionment among many Palestinians with peace talks with Israel, which have so far yielded no tangible results. Indeed, frustration is conspicuous at all levels within Fatah. This week, pro-Fatah media quoted "sources close to Mahmoud Abbas" as saying that Abbas was already convinced of the futility of peace talks with Israel and that he was contemplating seeking an alternative to the failed talks.
There was no detail given as to the nature of the "alternatives" sought, but well- informed Palestinians predict that options might include a decision by Abbas to resign and declare the peace process dead, dismantling the Palestinian Authority, or abandoning the two-state solution strategy and adopting a South-African style struggle for racial and religious equality in a democratic state based on the "one man, one vote" formula.
Abbas, conscious of negative repercussions on his relations with the Bush administration, hastened to deny the report, saying he was still committed to the peace process and the two-state solution.
Nonetheless, it is clear that an increasing number of Palestinians are no longer giving the two-state strategy the benefit of the doubt. It is estimated that between 25-35 per cent of Palestinians back the one-state solution. This percentage, however, is likely to increase dramatically if current peace talks between Israel and Abbas remain deadlocked.
This week, an opinion survey conducted by the reliable Ramallah-based Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed that if new presidential elections were held now, Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh would receive 47 per cent of the vote compared with 46 per cent for Abbas. The figures represented a sharp rise in Haniyeh's popularity. A previous poll conducted by the same pollster in December gave Haniyeh only 37 per cent compared to 56 per cent for Abbas.
The poll indicates that Hamas's steadfastness in the face of a harsh Israeli blockade, as well as the continued failure of the Israel-Abbas peace process, has led more Palestinians to give their support to Hamas. By nature this is bad news for proponents of a two- state solution.
Earlier this month, a symposium was held in Ramallah in which several advocates of the one-state solution presented their views. They argued convincingly that in light of the ideological and political orientations permeating Israeli Jewish society, the chances of Israel withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders, and giving up East Jerusalem and dismantling major Jewish colonies in the West Bank, are very slim. Participants argued that Israel was even less likely to allow a significant number of Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes and villages in what is now called Israel as part of a two- state solution deal.
Al-Ahram Weekly spoke with Hazem Al-Kawsmi, one of the main organisers of the symposium. He pointed out that the two-state solution was not going to work, neither now nor in the future.
"It is not going to work because Zionism doesn't want any kind of solution with the Palestinians. They want the whole land of Palestine. They want to keep controlling the lives of the Palestinians in every metre of historic Palestine. They want to control the oxygen Palestinians breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat. They want to control borders, and retain the huge number of checkpoints, and they want to keep us living within walls, electric wire fences, and under total imprisonment."
Kawsmi said he realised that the one-state solution concept was "anathema" to Israel and Zionism.
"Today, Israel will not accept any solution, neither the two- state nor the one-state solution. Zionists are simply not ready for any solution that will bring peace for the region. They want peace only for Israelis, and to hell with others. They want to impose a situation that will take care of Zionist interests only, and they don't care about others who are involved in the conflict and live in the region.
"So, since the Zionists will not accept any solution today, except for continuing their colonial designs, why should we care about what they would accept or reject? Palestinians, together with freedom supporters in the world, should initiate a strategy based on a one-state solution, and go confidently for this scenario.
"Zionism is going to end, and this region will witness a new era where human rights are respected and justice is accomplished. The alternative to the one-state solution, which is a win-win situation for Israelis and Palestinians alike, would be open war forever based on a win-lose situation."
Some Palestinian intellectuals believe that Israel, if and when forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, will choose the two-state solution, since the one-state solution would end Zionism and eventually reduce Jews in Israel-Palestine to a numerical minority. The issue comes down to these two solutions, if Israel wants any solution, except a military one in which it erases the Palestinian national cause.
I don't know what Khaled has said previously about Khalil Shikaki, but remember Shikaki was roundly criticized for the methodology he used for his ROR poll.