10.01.2013Essay by Tony KlugTwo States – by Design or Disaster
This tragic historical clash – the product of centuries of virulent anti-Semitism of European nations at home and their ruthless imperialism abroad – is the root of the conflict. Everything else has been grafted on retrospectively.
Self-serving explanations of the type that portray either people as innately wicked or falsify their histories, disparage their sufferings or belittle their national aspirations, add nothing to our understanding of the problem or how to solve it. They merely confound the issues, deepen the hatred and poison the air. The core case for each side stands proud on its own terms. Neither one is nullified because the other side also has a strong and valid case.
Sharing of the land
The bottom line is that both peoples overwhelmingly want their own state. All the evidence and all the reasoning point to this aspiration being held no less strongly today than it was when my pamphlet advocated the two-state formula forty years ago.
"Dispossessed and degraded, the Palestinians were among the principal losers in the geopolitical lottery that followed the horrors of the Second World War." Palestinian refugees making their way from Galilee in 1948 If anything, national sentiment has hardened since then. The first preference of many on both sides is for a state in all of the land. The second preference is for a state in part of the land. As for a third preference, there isn't really one. While there has been some talk recently about one unitary state for both peoples, this idea has little significant support at the grass-roots level on either side.
But the first preference is plainly not feasible either, as the other people is not going away. So the only plausible choice continues to be to find a way of sharing the land on the basis of two states for two peoples, even if it means creatively adapting the earlier conception of this model in the light of today's more problematic circumstances. There simply is no practical alternative way out of the current impasse.
(This is not to rule out, however, a future confederal arrangement, possibly to include Jordan as well, should the citizens of two – or three – independent states decide freely, after some years of peaceful coexistence in neighbouring entities, that this is what they want.)
Following years of agonized internal debate, the PLO eventually caught up with reality, grasped the nettle and adopted the two-state proposal at its momentous Algiers congress in 1988.
A hard pill to swallow
The immensity of this move should not be underestimated. It was a hard pill to swallow – and still today not everyone has fully digested it – as it meant lowering Palestinian sights from the hitherto immutable demand for 100 per cent of the land and accepting a scaled-down state on the remaining 22 per cent, comprising the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital. The implicit PLO recognition of Israel (and, by extension, West Jerusalem as its capital) became explicit and official five years later under the Oslo accords.
"The first preference of many on both sides is for a state in all of the land. The second preference is for a state in part of the land. As for a third preference, there isn't really one." - Two orthodox Jews on the outskirts of the Ramat Shlomo settlement in eastern Jerusalem This was the Palestinians' once-and-for-all grand historical compromise – although subsequently they went further still in agreeing in principle to equitable land exchanges, provided that the 78:22 ratio was observed and that Jerusalem would be the shared capital.
While not the sole cause of breakdown, the evident belief of many Israeli leaders that a further deal may be cut over the residual 22 per cent – what Israel's government, uniquely, calls the 'disputed' territories – has been at the heart of the collapse of most peace plans to date. Any future peace initiative will suffer the same fate – regardless of which Palestinian faction or leader is in the driving seat – unless Israel and its supporters are, similarly, ready to grasp the decisive nettle.
A hgh price for Israel
Failing this, there is no prospect of Israel achieving a durable peace with its neighbours and being accepted into the changing region. Its government claims that it is retaliating against the Palestinians for alleged misdemeanours by further expanding its settlement programme, but it is Israel and its people who will ultimately pay the higher price. The occupation, now in its 46th year, may be brutalizing the Palestinians – all occupations eventually become brutal – but it is also choking Israel and threatening consequential damage to Jewish communities around the world.
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