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Sari Nusseibeh: One-State Solution

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    A two-state solution was a compromise. But talks have gone nowhere, so many Palestinians are giving up. The One-State Solution Sari Nusseibeh Newsweek
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2008
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      A two-state solution was a compromise. But talks have gone nowhere,
      so many Palestinians are giving up.

      The One-State Solution
      Sari Nusseibeh

      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 Israelis—almost 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 settlements—long 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
      burdens—and they couldn`t be—neither 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 ideal—since 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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