A two-state solution was a compromise. But talks have gone nowhere,
so many Palestinians are giving up.
The One-State Solution
In a recent report, Peace Now (an Israeli NGO) revealed that since
President George W. Bush convened the Annapolis peace talks last
October, the number of construction tenders issued in East Jerusalem
has increased by a factor of 38 compared to the previous year. Since
1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, and especially
since the Madrid peace negotiations of 1993, Israel has built almost
13 new neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which is now home to more
than a quarter million Israelisalmost the same number as
Palestinians allowed to reside within the city. If you recall that
most plans for a two-state solution envisage East Jerusalem as the
capital of a future Palestinian state (alongside the Israeli capital
in West Jerusalem), it`s easy to understand why many Palestinians are
losing faith in this project.
There is another reason the two-state solution is losing support:
Washington`s attitude. On a recent trip to Ramallah, U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, when reminded that Palestinians have
already shown willingness to concede 78 percent of what they consider
their rightful territory to Israel, reportedly shot back, `Forget the
78 percent. What is being negotiated now is the remaining 22
percent.` The message was clear: Palestinians must be ready to give
up more land.
Israelis have long described their West Bank settlementslong fingers
of territory that stretch along the north-south and east-west axes,
serviced by highways, electrical networks, etc.as organic extensions
of the Israeli community. But Israeli construction has (again
according to Peace Now) increased by 550 percent in the past year.
This building, combined with that of the nearly complete separation
wall or barrier, and reports that Israel wishes to maintain security
control along the eastern edge of the Jordan Valley, sends another
message: that Israel plans to hold onto the land for good. Combine
this with the still unaddressed refugee problem, and it`s no wonder
many former two-staters are giving up hope.
It is important to remember that the Palestinian national movement
only began to endorse the idea of a two-state solution 20 or 30 years
ago, as a practical compromise. Realizing that Israel wasn`t going
anywhere, moderates decided that their best hope for a state was one
alongside Israel, not one that sought to replace it. Yet the 15 years
of negotiations that have followed have produced little, and thus
it`s no surprise that faith in this supposedly pragmatic option is
waning. The lack of progress, as well as the unmistakably
expansionist reality on the ground and the growth in popularity of
Hamas, have left little room for anyone seeking a positive future for
Palestine. Except, that is, to rejuvenate the old idea of one
binational, secular and democratic state where Jewish and Arab
citizens live side by side in equality.
For some, such as the intellectuals and activists who make up the
Palestinian Strategy Group (which recently made this case in Arabic
newspapers), talk of a one-state scenario is meant to warn Israel of
the dangers posed by its expansionist policies. This group would
still prefer a two-state solution to emerge. Others, however, are
returning to the one-state vision first espoused by Fatah (the
mainstream Palestinian nationalist movement) back in the late `60s.
The first group believes that one-state talk might help knock some
sense into the heads of Israeli decision-makers. The second prefers a
one-state solution because it would create a government they would
eventually control as a demographic majority. Although even Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert has lately recognized the danger Israel faces,
it is not clear that other decision-makers in Israel do. They may try
to defer the problem through some diversionary tactic, such as
throwing control of the West Bank`s population centers to Jordan
under continued Israeli military supervision. Such a `solution` was
first floated by Israel back in the `70s. According to this scenario,
Gaza would also be thrown to Egypt.
But even if Jordan and Egypt could be persuaded to accept such
burdensand they couldn`t beneither tactic would bring lasting
stability in the region. And serious proponents of the one-state
scenario seem not to realize how much more human suffering it would
take to attain. As for sounding alarm bells, this might have made
sense 25 years ago, when settlement building in East Jerusalem and
the rest of the West Bank was just starting. Today, with over half a
million Jews living across the 1949 Armistice Line, it`s almost too
late to reverse the process. It is therefore time for action, not
words. Practically, this means pushing within the next few months for
a fair deal both parties can live with. And that means a two-state
deal; the Israelis will never agree to anything else. Many
Palestinians think a single state might be idealsince it would
involve the defeat of the Zionist project and its replacement by a
binational country that would eventually be ruled by its Arab
majority. But many ships have been wrecked on such rocks before. And
the one state likely to emerge from a cataclysmic conflict would
likely to be anything but ideal.
Nusseibeh is president of Al-Quds University.
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