A recent edition of the internationally renowned magazine “The Economist” devoted its front page, an editorial, and a long article to analysing the Israel/Palestine situation. Its conclusion: the peace process is “hopeless” and the chances for a two state solution are diminishingly small. Is this a sign that the international consensus on the two state solution beginning to break down? Read more…
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords more than 30 years ago, there has been an “international consensus” that the ONLY POSSIBLE SOLUTION to the Israel/Palestine issue has been to divide historic Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab. Indeed, this has been the “international” (read “Western dominated”) consensus since the Peel Commission in 1937, and certainly since the 1947 UN Partition Plan. But as Israel continues to colonise more and more of the West Bank, and to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem, its now very hard to envisage what a “Palestinian” state might look like on what land Israel has not already seized.
As a result of the Oslo accords, the PLO agreed to recognize the State of Israel on 78% of historic Palestine. On the contrary, Israel did not have to recognize a State of Palestine. The accords left many issues to the side – including the rights of the Palestinian refugees whose right to return was ignored. Nor did it address the issues of the more than a million Palestinians who continued to live inside Israel following the Nakba of 1947/48.
At the time, the Accords were opposed by a many Palestinians, including Palestinian philosopher Edward Said who famously described them as a “Palestinian Versailles.”
But the Palestinian negotiators were faced with huge pressures not only from Israel but from the USA and the other European powers which said that the 2-state solution was the ONLY solution they would back. Although the Accords gave Israel most of what it wanted, and the Palestinians little of what they wanted, the Palestinian leadership reasoned that the Palestinians had few other options. Two states became, reluctantly, the official position of the PLO.
With the PLO’s acceptance of a 2 state solution, Arab and Third-World nations joined the international mantra recognized by the West and a UN Security Council controlled by the major powers.
“A negotiated two-state solution remains the ONLY VIABLE OPTION to prevent perpetual conflict and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.” UN Secretary-General Ban ki-moon, 2016
But Israeli activities over the last 30 years have made a “2 state” solution seem ever less possible.
In fact, based on its actions, it now seems that Israel never really had any intention of allowing the Palestinians to have a state of their own.
Since the signing of Oslo, Israel has encouraged over 700,000 Jewish settlers to move into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has also created a university and dozens of secondary education institutions, shopping centres, libraries and sports facilities in the occupied territories, all of which is contrary to international law. Many Israeli cabinet members live in the West Bank, and the whole area is connected by a series of “Jewish only” roads which isolate the Palestinians into small enclaves.
Western countries like Canada choose to believe professions of Israeli support for a 2 state solution, despite the growing evidence on the ground.
This can only be attributed to willful blindness because at the same time that Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders were swearing to Western audiences that they were sincerely seeking a two state solution, they were saying the EXACT OPPOSITE to Jewish Israeli voters.
In fact, there is very little support anywhere in Israel for a 2 state solution.
What does the Economist say?
Here are a few selected quotes from the Economist editorial of May 29th.
- “[Palestinian President] Abbas rules by decree, but he has no legitimacy to speak on behalf of Palestinians, half of whom are outside his remit anyway”.
- “The idea that the two-state framework is harmful will not come as news to Palestinians. Under it (i.e. the peace process) the vision of a viable, contiguous, sovereign Palestine has receded. Palestinian Territory in the West Bank today is an archipelago in an expanding sea of Israeli settlements.”
- “The Oslo figleaf lets Israel claim that the occupation will be undone in a final deal. (…) But 54 years after the 6 day war, the idea of a “temporary occupation” rings increasingly hollow.”
- “The Palestinian demand for rights is resonating abroad, not least in the halls of America’s Congress
- “Peace starts by acknowledging reality. Then one day, the parties can start talking about a deal, whether of one state or two.
“Time to recognize reality” – The Economist, May 29, 2021
“The Arabs and Jews must decide (…) the world cannot dictate a solution. That will require a new peace process, a genuine one, with legitimacy and popular support on both sides. (…) But to acknowledge reality would be a start. What came before has failed, and what comes next will need to talk less of partition and more of parity.”
CTIP agrees with the Economist that it is time to recognize reality.
The reality today in Israel/Palestine is that there already is ONE ISRAELI STATE from the “river to the sea”. It controls the borders, the air, the water, the road network and the telecommunictions system in all of historic Palestine. For a breakthrough to occur, the western nations will have to stop telling the Palestinians that the only acceptable outcome is a 2 state solution which gives Israel most of the land, leaves the Palestinians with a discontiguous rump state with little more than municipal-level powers, and denies Palestinian refugees their rights.
The Palestinians and the Israelis will have to decide how to live together in historic Palestine. The West cannot dictate a solution. But the West, including Canada, CAN AND MUST insist that Israel’s continued violations of international law be met with sanctions. Otherwise, there is no incentive for Israel to talk seriously to the Palestinians. Canada should indicate that it would support ANY solution based on equality, democracy, and protection of minority and refugee rights.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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