Two-state theory for Palestine
Posted by Javed Iqbal
According to information on the internet, Ghada Karmi, born of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, had to flee from a Jerusalem neighbourhood in 1948, and settled in Britain where she is an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, and a visiting professor at London Metropolitan University. She is also vice-chairperson of the Council for Arab-British Understanding. She has been deeply associated with the Palestinian cause and has written extensively about it. So one can not really doubt her sincerity to the cause of Palestinians, though one could still disagree with her point of view on how to solve the Palestinian issue, and I find myself in that position.
In her article ‘Palestinians’ last option: A struggle for equal rights,’ published in Al-Jazeera on June 23, she recommends a ‘one-state’ solution for the solution of Arab- Israeli issue and says quite bluntly, right in the beginning of he article “Palestinians must dissolve the PA (Palestine Authority) and demand the same rights as Israeli citizens.”
She fondly remembers the good old days when the whole Arab world stood behind Palestinians and considered justice for the Palestinians to be essential to the stability of the region and laments that the Palestinians cause has now receded into the background with the onset of the Arab Spring, the Syrian conflict, and the successful portrayal by Israel of Iran’s nuclear programme as the burning issue.
According to her, the cause of Palestinians has been further weakened by “fragmentation of Palestinian society into those under occupation, divided between West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, and those in Israel, those in refugee camps and the rest in exile. She goes on to say that with this fragmentation, various groups of Palestinians as described above are engrossed in their most immediate problems like making both ends meet, while those settled in other countries might have priorities of their own and because of this, they are not in a position to demand their wider rights with a strong, unified voice.
The writer says that because of Palestinians’ weakened position, and the United States and the European countries, the real sponsors, aiders and abettors of Israel being least interested in a just solution to the problem, like a Palestinian State based on 1967 territories with East Jerusalem as its capital, the chances are that in the name of a two-state solution, they will give Palestinians a raw deal, like a Palestinian state comprising West Bank enclaves separated by Israeli-held territory, to which Gaza might possibly be connected, allowing Israel to keep Area C, being 62 percent of the West Bank, unless of course pressure is applied on Israel to remove the Israeli settlements which deny Palestinians a contiguous piece of land, with East Jerusalem as capital, to make the state viable.
She therefore suggests that instead of waging a struggle for an impossible Palestinian state, they should dismantle Palestinian Authority and as stateless persons under occupation, demand equal rights under Israeli rule, and apply for Israeli citizenship if necessary. She admits that Israel will not accept it, neither will the Palestinians like it, even though it will not make their life any worse than what it is like now.
According to her, Israel will then be forced to respond either by ignoring the five million Palestinians it rules, or vacate their land, or grant them equal rights. She claims Israel will reject all three options but it will be against its own interests, and will expose the true face of Israel.
I think one problem with her theory is that having been away from Israel for half a century, and in a democratic country, United Kingdom, perhaps she feels that Israel will act in the same way as a UK or any other democratic country. However, she has to remember that even these democratic countries did not quite behave in the same way in their colonies as on their mainland. And Israeli history is much worse than their colonial history.
Only a few years back, the Israelis were thinking that even the Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship should be pushed over to Jordan or something. How a terrorist state, Israel, which is very particular about maintaining its Jewish identity, which resents the presence of even a small number of non-Jews as its citizens, could be expected to absorb all Palestinians and also the returning Palestinian refugees, which the writer thinks would be possible? Does she not know how the Israelis treat the people whom they do not want to be around? There was a recent case when the Israelis even forced a Palestinian to demolish his own house, in order to save the demolition costs.
Isn’t she being too much of an optimist, expecting humane conduct from Israelis? Doesn’t she think they will revert to their favourite tactics which they employ to deal with people whom they consider undesirable, like massacres through the settlers armed for that purpose, while Israeli law enforcers look the other way?
They say a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, and here she is asking Palestinians to give up the bird in hand for none in the bush, in the hope that a flock of bird will land there in future from which they could catch birds to their hearts’ content. Is this line of thought realistic?
The writer says that the world is gradually losing interest in Palestinians. However, the international community is for the moment showing some interest in a two-state solution, which it considers to be the only solution to the dispute. Would it not be better for the Palestinians and their well-wishers to use whatever means are available and try to get as attractive a deal as possible for the Palestinians and keep trying for further improvement instead of giving up whatever they have or go to the zero point and start all over again. Moreover, by adopting such a course, the Palestinians will annoy those who are working for their betterment, and also give an excuse to others who are not all that sincere to the Palestinians, to give up on them altogether. Would it be a desirable outcome?
Even at the moment, when the Palestine Authority and Hamas have very limited control, they maintain some independence which enables foreign leaders to visit them and offer help. However, if they dismantle the nominal state structure, they will lose even the little independence they have at present and no foreign government will be able to come to their rescue directly as Israel will not allow it, seeing it as the interference in its ‘internal’ affairs. Will it be of help to Palestinians?
And if the Palestinians dismantled their nominal state apparatus and threw themselves at the mercy of Israeli government, the people around the world will also wash their hands off the Palestinian issue, thinking that if the Palestinians themselves are bent on committing a collective suicide, there is just no point bothering about them.
Despite all the arrogance and defiance that they demonstrate, the Israeli leaders are not oblivious to world pressure.We saw how, on Barack Obama’s demand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish government, which Israel had refused to do for three years, even when it meant break up of relations with their only real ally in the Muslim world.
Israeli leaders also do a lot of posturing but if they know for sure that the international community means business, they will behave, and there is no doubt about it. Even the saner Israeli leaders and many of their well-wishers abroad firmly believe that Israeli can maintain its Jewish identity and democratic disposition only by the establishment of a Palestinian state. So, a lot of tough-talking in Israel against the two-state solution could be for show only.
I am quite convinced that two-state solution is the best for Palestinians as well as for the Israelis. If Israeli leaders commit to a settlement freeze and start meaningful negotiations with the Palestine Authority, and some chances of a breakthrough emerge, I am sure even the people of Gaza will force Hamas to join the negotiations or get thrown out. Obviously, people of Gaza will not like to miss the benefits that a peace settlement could bring.
However, a lot depends on how much pressure the United States and the European countries are prepared to exert on the Israeli leaders to force them to behave. I hope for once in their life-time, the US and European leaders do what needs doing. They are becoming the most hated persons in the Muslim world, because of their attack on one Muslim country after the other, and declared evil intentions against yet others. Working out a just peace settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli issue would definitely improve their image in the Muslim world.(S.R.H. Hashmi)