In order to consider a response to the Palestinian position about a 2 State solution I’ve returned to my first post with the quote from Uri Avneri’s in 2009, “If someone had told us at the end of 1948 that the Israeli-Palestinian war would still be raging sixty years later, nobody would have believed it. But that is the reality; this war still occupies the headlines, every day people are dying, and the gulf between the parties is not reducing. The conflict has it’s ups and downs. For 40 years the Palestinians have been suffering under our brutal occupation. Terrible things happen on both sides. And each side is convinced it is the victim of the other side.
The descriptions of the situation by the two sides bear no resemblance to each other. This applies to every event in the last 100 years. For example we Israelis talk of the “War of Liberation” while the Palestinians call it simply Nakba, the catastrophe. Many Israeli’s still believe the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. And many Palestinians think that the Israeli’s want to throw them into the desert. As long as people think like this, there will be no peace.”
I also want to add a quote from Page xviii of the Preface to Ilan Pappé’s book, ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ (2006) “But the story of 1948,of course,is not complicated at all and therefore this book is written as much for newcomers to the field as it is aimed at those who already, for many years and various reasons have been involved with the question of Palestine and how to bring us closer to a solution. It is the simple but horrific story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, a crime against humanity that Israel has wanted to deny and cause the world to forget. Retrieving it from oblivion is incumbent upon us, not only as a historiographical reconstruction or professional duty: it is as I see it, a moral decision, the very first step we must take if we ever want reconciliation to have a chance, and take root in the torn lands of Palestine and Israel.”
From my South African experience what I think is relevant for the Palestinian position is that throughout his struggle against apartheid and imprisonment Nelson Mandela never recognised the legitimacy of his oppressors. While he could be imprisoned for a long time he never lost the free thought he needed to maintain his determination to obtain majority rule and democracy for all South African citizens.
This reference to his thought processes is relevant in my view for Palestinians and their leaders because the oppression they experience from Israelis has limited their proposals to what is on offer rather than asserting their rights to a just peace. I think what’s significant with the Palestinian 2 State position is that the Palestine Authority (PA) has become proactive rather than reactive in its approach to the negotiations which it needs to retain.
The PA now has some control over the negotiation agenda which they need to maintain. I think the Palestinian leadership and Palestinians need to adopt an approach which establishes their own views about a just settlement free of constraints on them through Israeli power or the influence of the USA, EU, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States and Russia in current negotiations. I think that dissolving the PA as suggested by Saeb Erekat would hand the negotiating initiative back to Israel. What concerns me is whether the 2 State position is a permanent solution to the conflict because the key question facing Palestinians is whether they can accept the continued existence of an Israeli state. I can understand the attraction of a settlement now because there’s a fear in Palestine that if no agreement is reached that a 3rd Intifada will start, ending any progress in establishing a civil society which has started in West Bank cities which are now running their own services. My position is that the USA Framework Agreement won’t meet the criteria for a just peace for the Palestinians based on the views which Uri Avneri and Ilan Pappe have described at the start of this post.
On that basis I think that the current talks led by John Kerry will fail because the Israeli government cannot agree a return to pre-1967 borders and a fair right of return for Palestinian refugees. One response to this situation by the PA, using an approach not constrained by external views is to consider a 1 State option. The main challenge with this approach is whether a 1 State option is acceptable to the PA and Palestinians. If this position is agreed, for any prospect of a just peace more time is needed. In my view certain issues (with my own random listing) need to be considered by the PA (with representation from Gaza) and Israeli Government which are:
1.The cessation of all further building by and for settlers in the occupied West Bank territories and the demolition of all illegal settlements.
2.The establishment of a joint Israeli-Palestinian Commission to enquire into events when Israel achieved Nation status. This is in order to consider whether there can be an agreed account by the sides on what happened at that time.
3.An apology by the Israeli Government for expelling Palestinian communities before and after the start of the 1948 War.
4.A fair settlement of the right to return issue which entitles those Palestinians who wish to live in what is now Israel to be entitled to do so and for financial compensation to be paid to refugees who decide to waive their rights of return to live in Israel.
5.The establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission (based on the South African experience) to hear evidence about crimes committed by individuals or parties involved in Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Commission needs to have powers to express views in response to evidence which has been heard and for victims to be entitled to compensation which reflects the experience they have had.
6.The release of all political prisoners.
7.Elections to be held in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza before any .
8.An agreement between the PA (with representation from Gaza), and the Israeli Government about a final settlement based on a Government of National Unity for a transitional period of up to 5 years.
9. Plebiscites in all the areas to support the final settlement leading to the establishment of a Government of National Unity.
9.Separation of political, judicial and religious powers in the institutions that come from the settlement to form a secular State.
10.Israel to destroy its nuclear arsenal, monitored by the United Nations.
11.The demolition of the separation wall.
This is likely to be my penultimate post from Palestine and Israel. I realise what I’ve written this time is likely to be controversial, my aim throughout the posts has to provide views about my experience of being here, to which I think I’ve remained true. I’ve taken a long time with this post, struggling with my thoughts and trying to clarify them, I’ve been troubled and frightened by having to express clear views in it, but in the end I’ve realised this is what I have to do.