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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 22, 2002

Two states or one

David Goldberg of the Canada Israel Committee counters each of the points that were wrongly stated in the following article- those counterpoints are presented in italics throughout the article which follows. I think you will conclude that the underlying principles of the article are faulty; and I would suggest that most articles on this subject could be taken apart in the same fashion.

Two states or one? By Ali Abunimah, Jordan Times, December 9, 2002

WHEN THE PLO formally recognised Israel within its internationally recognised borders and agreed to a two-state solution in 1993, most Palestinians swallowed hard, but accepted it. We believed that this unprecedented historic compromise, though bitter, was necessary to bring about peace. Those who completely rejected the creation of a state limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip - a mere twenty-two per cent of the country in which Palestinians were an overwhelming majority just fifty years ago - were relegated to the margins of the Palestinian movement, both on the left and the Islamist right.

The article begins with the highly suspect assertion that "the PLO formally recognized Israel within its internationally recognized borders. in 1993." On the one hand, neither the September 9, 1993 exchange of "letters of recognition" between Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, nor the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles signed 4 days later, referred in any fashion to Israel's borders; the permanent political boundaries between Israel and a future Palestinian entity were to be determined in the context of "final status" negotiations (negotiations that were never begun in earnest because of Arafat's recalcitrance at Camp David in July 2000). On the other hand, it is arguable if the PLO in 1993 actually formally recognized Israel - clearly, the PLO's promotion of terrorism in support of the goal of destroying the Jewish state would suggest that was indeed not the case. Moreover, even if one accepts the dubious proposition that the PLO did formally recognize Israel, there is an enormous and fundamental difference between recognizing Israel's existence, on the one hand, and its RIGHT TO EXIST, on the other. All indicators suggest that Arafat and the PLO have yet to accept the latter.

Israel gave everyone the impression that it would agree to a Palestinian state and that it was only a matter of working out the technical formalities. But almost 10 years later, Israel has still never recognised the Palestinian right to statehood, much less agreed to the creation of such a state. On the contrary, in practice, it has done everything to make the emergence of such a state impossible, by continuing to frenziedly build colonies all over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The settler population in the West Bank has more than doubled since 1993 and not a day goes by without further colonisation.

The assertion, in paragraph 2, that Israel was only giving the Palestinians the "impression" of its readiness to accept the establishment of an independent state in much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is both an insult to the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin and a complete bastardization of the historical record. Rabin, though highly suspicious of dealing with Arafat and the PLO, nevertheless had clearly come to the conclusion that it was in Israel's best interest to divest itself of the onerous responsibility of administering close to 3 million Palestinians, and had entered into the Oslo process with the firm intention of negotiating a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians (though Rabin was fully opposed to statehood being achieved through unilateral Palestinian measures). In addition, for the author to completely dismiss as a sham the extremely generous offer made by Ehud Barak in the context of the Camp David-Taba negotiations, is to turn the historical record on its head. While one might acknowledge imperfections in the way in which Barak and Bill Clinton conducted the negotiations, two points are indisputable: 1) At Camp David, Barak offered Arafat independent statehood for the Palestinian people in all of the Gaza Strip and in more than 95% of the West Bank (with the Palestinians to receive territory from inside Israel to compensate them for the small snippet of the West Bank to be retained by Israel to accommodate some 80% of the settlers); 2) This offer was categorically rejected by Arafat, who then launched a terrorist war of attrition in an attempt to compel Israel to not only relinquish 100% of the West Bank but also to accede to Palestinian demands for an absolute "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to pre-state Israel (a process that, if implemented, would quickly destroy Israel as a Jewish state) and for exclusive Palestinian and Islamic control over Jerusalem's Old City, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the essence of the Jewish faith.

Further in paragraph 2, the author asserts that "in practice, it [Israel] has done everything to make the emergence of such a state impossible, by continuing to frenziedly build colonies all over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem." This assertion is wrong, both legally and historically. There was absolutely nothing in the Declaration of Principles, a document that Arafat and the PLO signed willingly, that prohibited the building of new Jewish communities anywhere in the territories or the expanding of existing ones. Despite this, successive Israeli governments since 1993 had unilaterally imposed full or partial moratoria on the building of new "settlements", except around Jerusalem, as a "confidence building measure." Unfortunately, the Palestinians, rather than reciprocating with CMBs of their own, continued efforts to deny and delegitimize any Jewish claims (religious, historical, or political) to those territories. With regard to Jewish neighbourhoods in "east" Jerusalem, Israel categorically rejects the designation of these areas "settlements" or "colonies", noting, among other things, that in most cases these are neighbourhoods that were owned and resided in by Jews prior to 1948, but that were evacuated or overrun by Arab (Jordanian) forces in the 1948-49 War of Independence, a war that would not have been fought if the Palestinians and the broader Arab world had not rejected the UN partition plan (November 1947), which included a call for the "internationalization" of the city of Jerusalem. Finally, and again with regard to Jerusalem, Israel's position cannot be understood without a full appreciation of the destruction and desecration of ancient Jewish places in the Old City during its 19 years of illegal occupation by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.


Because this policy has succeeded in solidifying Israeli control and has, as intended, rendered a rational partition of the country virtually impossible, an increasing number of Palestinians, including some representatives of the Palestinian National Authority, have started to talk once again about bi-nationalism - the creation of a single democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians - as the only viable solution to the conflict.

This idea is horrifying to many Israelis who view it as a plot to "destroy Israel", since the vastly higher birthrate among Palestinians will soon make them a majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, just as they were until 1948.

In paragraph 3 the author throws the idea of a "bi-national" state onto the table, without saying what precisely bi-nationalism entails or placing the idea in the context of the history of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. The idea of a bi-national state was fostered by a handful of Jewish intellectuals, such as Judah Magnes and Martin Buber, in the early 1920s, as an idealistic alternative to the evolving clashing of interests between Zionism and Arab nationalism in Palestine. However, the idea was rejected by the local Arab political and clerical leadership of the day (including Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem) and never gained currency within the Zionist community. Indeed, the bi-national ideal was ultimately dropped by Magnes, Buber and company, against the background of widespread Arab attacks on Jewish settlements in riots beginning in the late 1920s (eg., the cold-blooded murder of 67 unarmed yeshiva students and their families in Hebron in 1929). Finally, in this regard, it is instructive to note that the bi-nationalism idea was never discussed seriously in the PLO - the goal always was the destruction of Israel and the exiling of the "Zionists" (the handful of non- and anti-Zionist Jews were welcome to stay in "Palestine") was paramount. While it is true that various permutations of the bi-nationalism idea were bandied about by a handful of extreme leftwing Palestinian intellectuals in the early 1970s, the idea was always subsumed to the broader goal of Israel's destruction or was perceived as part of the PLO's strategy of destroying Israel in "phases".

None is more horrified by this prospect than Israel's traditional "peace camp", represented by the Labour and Meretz parties. And yet, because of its liberal values, the "peace camp" is unable to embrace formal apartheid or ethnic cleansing to "solve the demographic problem", as do Israel's right wing parties. The liberals want both the benefits of Jewish privilege that comes from living in a "Jewish state" and to be faithful to their democratic values. They have shown themselves to be entirely bankrupt morally, intellectually and politically, and to have no serious ideas whatsoever for resolving the conundrum of their hypocrisy. They embrace Palestinian statehood warmly in theory, but miss no opportunity to undermine and sabotage it in practice and to present proposals for meaningless and nominal statehood within a greater Israel.

The author's defaming of Israel's "peace camp" - eg., "they have shown themselves to be entirely bankrupt morally, intellectually and politically. They embrace Palestinian statehood warmly in theory, but miss no opportunity to undermine and sabotage it in practice" - once again ignores the readiness of Ehud Barak to break all of the "red lines" defining the Israeli consensus on relations with the Palestinians, in an effort to achieve a comprehensive "end of conflict" agreement with Arafat, an agreement premised, as already noted, on independent statehood for the Palestinians in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a "shared sovereignty" arrangement concerning the Temple Mount. The author's repudiation of the Israeli peace camp is all the more intriguing in light of the declared determination of the new Labour Party Chairman, Amram Mitzna, to effectively give the Palestinians everything they want, and in the process, to forgive them for the past two-and-one-half years of unremitting violence, terrorism and anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement. Rationality would suggest that, rather than dumping all over the Israeli left, the author, if he were truly interested in a peaceful reconciliation with Israel based on a two-state solution, would be doing everything in his power to legitimize Mitzna's position in the eyes of the Israeli electorate. Unless, of course, the author is not truly interested in peaceful coexistence with Israel.


Palestinians accepted the two-state solution (even many of those who opposed the Oslo Accords because they believed they could not lead to that goal) because it offered Palestinians and Israelis a chance at normalcy from which they could one day - like the European Union - build a future of peace and prosperity from the ashes of war and hatred. Moreover, an international legal framework already exists for the transition from the current situation to Palestinian statehood, at least in theory, making the path easier than any other solution.

In paragraph 6, the author asserts that "Palestinians accepted the two-state solution (even many of those who opposed the Oslo Accords because they believed they could not lead to that goal)." Besides the logical inconsistency inherent in the latter portion of this assertion; i.e., Was it really possible for Palestinians who opposed the Oslo Accords to nevertheless support the two-state solution?, the author has vastly exaggerated the level of support on the "Palestinian street" for the Oslo Accords. This assertion ignores completely the rejection of the Accords on the part of Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. To be sure, there were peace "celebrations" on the streets of the West Bank (and far less so in Gaza) on the day that the Declaration of Principles was signed. But, it is increasingly obvious that these celebrations were staged by the PLO as a "public relations" stunt for the consumption of gullible Western governments that truly believed Arafat and the PLO had turned over a new leaf and were prepared for peaceful coexistence with Israel. This assertion also ignores the strong opposition to both the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution by leading Palestinian intellectuals such as Columbia University's Edward Said, who charged that, in signing the Accords, Arafat was committing treason against the Palestinian people? Does the author truly want the reader to believe that Said now actually supports a two-state solution with Israel or a bi-national state?

For Palestinians, giving up the seventy-eight per cent of Palestine that became Israel in 1948 is giving up a part of themselves. It is gut-wrenchingly hard, and for some impossible. It is not difficult to understand and respect that. For millions of Palestinians, this is the land from which they, their parents or grandparents were expelled, in which homes and farms, shops and factories, churches and mosques, an entire society exist and from which they were uprooted in exchange for decades of dispossession, misery in refugee camps and demonisation by Israel and its apologists. But millions of Palestinians were prepared to accept it for the sake of peace.

In paragraph 7, the author lists in elaborate detail the enormous, "gut-wrenching" concessions made by the Palestinians historically. But, what about the equally gut-wrenching concessions made by the Zionist side of the equation, beginning with the British government's decision, in the early 1920s, to unilaterally remove all of Transjordan - constituting close to 80% of the original League of Nations Mandate for Palestine - from areas in which the British, in the Balfour Declaration, had pledged to establish a Jewish national home? It is imperative to recall that, with the bifurcation of the Palestine Mandate, Jews were denied the right to live or purchase land in any area of the original Mandate east of the Jordan River. The Zionist community's readiness to abide this situation, as well as Britain's subsequent repudiation of the very essence of its commitment to Jewish nationalism, in the form of the White Paper of 1939 (which placed severe restrictions on the levels of Jewish immigration and land purchases in Western Palestine, at the very time that European Jewry was desperately seeking safe haven from the Nazis), is indicative of the enormous concessions made by the Jewish side that are completely ignored by the author in his singular determination to portray the Palestinians as the sole "victims" of unfair treatment.

Although the two-state solution will soon become impracticable, if it is not already, due to Israel's relentless
settlement construction, it may still have a last chance if Israel is willing to embrace the following principles:

1) Recognise that the Palestinians have already made an historic compromise by accepting a state in only
twenty-two per cent of their homeland, and that no further concessions can be asked of them. Israel must
declare that by conquering seventy-eight per cent of Palestine in 1948, far more than was allotted to it in the
1947 UN partition plan, it has completely fulfilled its territorial ambitions and will not seek any more
expansion.

The "principles" that the author contends Israel must meet to save the peace process reflect his biased and unreasonable perspective:

Principle #1: In declaring that "no further concessions can be asked"of the Palestinians, the author is unfairly placing the onus for concessions exclusively on Israel, thereby ignoring the enormous concessions made by Israel, including the historical ones noted above as well as the transfer of daily control over 95%+ of West Bank/Gaza Palestinians to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority in the context of the Oslo Peace Accords - and the readiness of a majority of Israelis, despite everything that has happened to them over the past two-and-a-half years, to make additional "painful concessions", including negotiating the creation of an independent Palestinian state, as soon as the PA imposes a complete, verifiable and sustained end to all forms of violence and terror against the Jewish state and its citizens.

The author's claim, still in Principle #1, that Israel "conquered" 78% of "Palestine" in 1948 ignores the fact that the war, in which Israel did in fact extend its territorial holdings beyond those initially allocated to it in the UN partition resolution, would not have occurred in the first place if the Palestinians and the Arab world in general had accepted the partition plan and cooperated in its implementation. Similarly, if the Arabs had accepted the partition plan, then there would have been no Palestinian refugee problem, and the Palestinians
would have had the "two state solution" that the author claims they would be satisfied with today. Basic logic obviates Israel being held responsible for historic errors or missed opportunities committed by its enemies. (ED- I don't know the percentages, but the use of 78% is a clever use of numbers for manippulative purposes- as it includes the lands which had been granted to Israel in the first place in the numerator, does not address
the lands that were owned by Jews prior to 1948 and were lost either through the UN Resolution, or the subsequent war of 1948; and as the denominator, the author uses the lands west of the Jordan, when the original opporunity for Jewish settlement extended beyond those lands.)


2) Immediately cease all construction in the occupied territories, including "natural growth" and all the other
devices that are used to disguise ongoing settlement building. Israel must immediately stop confiscating Palestinian land either for building settlements or settler roads.

Principle #2: As discussed above, Israel is under no legal obligation (pursuant to the Declaration of Principles and the Oslo I and II agreements) to curtail the construction of new residential housing communities in the territories or the expansion of existing ones. Nevertheless, as also noted above, successive Israeli governments since Oslo had moved to unilaterally impose restrictions on new settlement
activity, in the hopes that this would prompt the Palestinians to undertake confidence-building gestures of their own. Against the background of the continued refusal of the Palestinian side to take any such actions, Israel would have been well within its rights to resume full settlement construction throughout the territories. However, even the National Unity Government formed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the spring of 2001 established as one of its guiding principles a unilateral moratorium on the construction of new settlements (though it remained committed to providing services to existing settlement communities, including their growth to accommodate "natural expansion"). Finally, in this regard, the author's demand for Israeli concessions once again ignores the generous offer rebuffed by Arafat at Camp David & Taba, including the readiness by Israel to evacuate all settlements in Gaza and those in areas of the West Bank designated to become part of the independent Palestinian state; the author also ignores Amram Mitzna's very liberal position vis-à-vis settlements, as well as Ariel Sharon's implied readiness to consider evacuating some settlements in the context of a comprehensive agreement with the PA. (ED- I would also note that Israel allows the expansion of existing Arab communities in Israel, and that Arab states have expelled Jews from their midst pretty well entirely)


3) Agree that the goal of any further negotiations is a complete end to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza
Strip and East Jerusalem within a fixed, early period, and agree to withdraw under neutral international supervision and guarantees.

Principle #3: There are three fundamental problems with the demands of Israel raised in this principle. First, in establishing a complete end to Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and "east" Jerusalem as the precondition for resuming negotiations, the author is prejudging the outcome of the negotiations. Israelis might well be inclined to ask: If we are being forced to end our presence in the territories in order for the negotiations to resume, what is there left to negotiate? Second, the author is effectively denying any Israeli claim to the territories, thereby ignoring hundreds indeed thousands of years of Jewish religious and historical attachment, as well as the very real security imperatives that guided Israel to establish settlements in the Jordan Valley and around Jerusalem in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War, as "tripwires" against renewed Arab hostility. Finally, the idea of international intervention in the conflict with the Palestinians is anathema to most Israelis - a formula for resolving the conflict through direct bilateral negotiations already exists but has been consistently circumvented by the Palestinians, who would much prefer to have the international community compel Israel to make maximum territorial concessions without asking any of the Palestinian side. While the Camp David-Taba formula did imply third-party monitoring and verification of compliance with agreements, the reference was specifically to the United States, not to other international actors, such as the United Nations, which has, through its overt bias in favour of the Palestinians, undermined its status as a credible facilitator of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

4) Recognise an independent, sovereign Palestinian state whose borders are those of June 4, 1967, with minor, agreed-upon modifications to rectify anomalies, such as divided villages and bisecting roads. Any land ceded on one side of the line must be compensated with land of equal size, value and utility on the other side, as close as possible to the exchanged land.

Principle #4: Since at least Camp David, successive Israeli governments, including the one headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, have expressed a readiness to abide the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, as long as it evolves out of negotiations rather than unilateral Palestinian actions. In articulating support for this perspective, these governments were reflecting a strong, pragmatic tendency among the Israeli body politic, one that is premised on the acceptance of the need for "painful concessions", including Palestinian statehood in much of the West Bank and Gaza, in return for an "end of conflict" agreement with the Palestinians. However, also reflected in the prevailing Israeli national consensus is a determination to avoid a return to the precarious security situation that prevailed prior to the Six-Day War.
The need to address such legitimate security concerns, and to protect the interests of the settler community, while at the same time accommodating the national aspirations of the Palestinians, all were incorporated in the offer made by Barak at Camp David and Taba, and rebuffed by Arafat. Having experienced this rejectionism, why should Israelis believe that the Palestinians would now accept - and respect - the "minor, agreed-upon modifications" to the borders demanded by the author.


5) Agree to evacuate all settlements in the occupied territories, without exception, including settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem.

Principle #5: The essence of our concern about this section's demand for Israel's complete evacuation of the territories, has already been addressed in Principle #2 above.

6) Jerusalem, as an open city, would be the capital of the two states. An arrangement for sharing power fairly between Palestinians and Israelis, with guaranteed access to holy places for peoples of all faiths, would replace the illegal Israeli occupation "municipality" imposed on the city since 1967. This could be accomplished by various formulas. If the Palestinians agree to allow any settlements to remain in and around Jerusalem, Israel must compensate both the state of Palestine and the private land owners for the land, and the settlers must agree to live either as Palestinian citizens or permanent residents under Palestinian laws. If Palestinians agree that some Israeli settlers can remain in East Jerusalem, Israel must agree to allow Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were expelled in West Jerusalem in 1947-48.

Principle #6: At Camp David and Taba, Israel went as far as it could possibly go to accommodate the Palestinians. But to no avail. Barak's proposal of Palestinian sovereignty over Arab-dominated areas of eastern Jerusalem, with a secure land corridor connecting these areas to the Temple Mount, was rejected as insufficient by Arafat; as was Clinton's idea, supported in principle by Barak, of some type of Israeli-Palestinian "shared sovereignty" arrangement over the Temple Mount. Rather than accepting these creative proposals, or providing ones of his own, Arafat dropped all pretense to compromise vis-à-vis Jerusalem, and went so far as to publicly repudiate any Jewish biblical attachment to the Temple Mount, thereby alienating himself from non-religious Israelis who nevertheless felt a cultural or historical attachment to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Moreover, the very concept of a shared-power arrangement in Jerusalem is premised on the readiness of the Palestinian side to demonstrate the level of respect for religious diversity and guaranteed access to holy places that Israel voluntarily institutionalized in Jerusalem since the city's reunification in June 1967. Sadly, the PA's complicity in the desecration and destruction by Palestinian mobs of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and the al-Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, gives Israelis significant pause about the Palestinians' commitment to such basic principles that Israelis take for granted. The author's suggestion of a "trade-off", of Israel's retention of some post-1967 Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem in exchange for Palestinians being accorded the "right of return" to their homes in pre-state Israel, is both
impractical and offensive. Recall that in most cases Israelis were after 1967 merely returning to Jewish owned properties in eastern Jerusalem from which they had been evacuated or expelled by Arab forces
in the context of the 1948-49 war. Moreover, the relatively small number of Jews in these communities constitute no demographic or political threat to the neighbouring Palestinian population. By contrast, as will be noted below, the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees, if implemented, will constitute a threat to Israel's very existence as a Jewish state.


7) The most difficult issue is the right of return of Palestinian refugees and compensation and restitution for their property and suffering. The right to return is an individual legal right and is not negated by the two-state solution. At the same time, recognition of Israel as a sovereign state means acknowledging a political reality and interest that will have to be factored into any formula to implement the right of return. It is not difficult to imagine solutions which fall between the maximalist positions of the two sides and which simultaneously take into account Israel's concerns and provide Palestinian refugees with real choices, including return, as mandated by UN Resolution 194.

Palestinians could, for example, agree among themselves to a system of priority where those with the greatest need to return get to choose first (among the choices Palestinian refugees whose original houses no longer exist might be offered is a house in an evacuated Israeli settlement). Israel will not be able to get away with a merely symbolic recognition of Palestinian refugee rights, nor would millions of refugees suddenly flood back, as in the Israeli "nightmare" scenario. There is ground in between that can be reached through negotiations and international mediation.

Palestinian private property remains inviolable and all property seized by Israel, even of those who choose not to return, must be returned to its owners or paid for at the fair market price, including use and interest. Stuart
Eizenstat, deputy treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, set out some sensible principles for dealing with property confiscated from European Jews and others by Nazi Germany and other states, which
could be adopted here. The same principles should apply to any Jews who were forced to leave Arab states as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict and who, as a result, were deprived of private property.

Principle #7: The author's reference here to the "right of return" is chock-full of inaccuracies, the most blatant one being his reference to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 1948, as granting Palestinians an unconditional "right" to "return" to their homes and properties in pre-state Israel. No where in Resolution 194 is there a reference to such a "right"; indeed, there is no "right of return" in international law. Rather, the resolution speaks of Israel's being empowered to accept or reject refugee claims. As the late Abba Eban put it once, individuals and groups outside of Israel have the right to request admittance to the country, while Israel alone has the sovereign authority to set its own immigration policy. The author does speak imprecisely about the possibility of some type of accommodation of the Palestinian position regarding the "right of return" in order to reflect Israel's existence and concern about the demographic implications of implementing the "right of return". However, it was this very type of compromise - based on the limited repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel based on humanitarian grounds and family reunification; the practical restricting of the "right of return" to the PA-controlled areas, and based on the area's absorptive capacity; the permanent resettlement of refugees in their places of current residence in the Arab world or in third countries, and the setting up of an international fund, to which Israel would contribute, to facilitate the resettling of refugees and the compensating of others for homes and properties lost - that Arafat and the PA rejected at Camp David and Taba, in favour of a demand for an absolute "right of return" of refugees to Israel.

Having just spoken (in Principle #6 above) about the possibility of some type of trade-off between Israel's retention of settlements around Jerusalem in exchange for a limited "right of return" of Palestinians to their previous homes in "West" Jerusalem, the author then contradicts himself by arguing, in the current principle, that "Israel will not be able to get away with a merely symbolic recognition of Palestinian refugee rights." The author cannot have it both ways: He cannot, on the one hand, try to entice Israelis by suggesting the possibility of Palestinian compromise on the "right of return" and then turn around and impose severe conditions on Israel, on the other hand. Finally, it is all well and good for the author to propose compensation for Jews who fled from Arab and Moslem countries at the time of Israel's founding, the vast majority of whom ceased to be convention refugees the moment they received the protection of the Jewish state, while at the same time ignoring the incredibly inhumane treatment that large Palestinian refugee communities have received from Arab "host" countries such as Lebanon and Syria.

These conditions represent an enormous historic compromise. They call for two states, a Jewish Israel on seventy eight per cent of the territory of historic Palestine and a state of Palestine on just twenty-two per cent. They call for full recognition of Israel within secure and recognised borders, the implementation of UN resolutions, sharing of Jerusalem and a just resolution to the refugee problem that respects refugee rights as well as Israel's needs.

From this basis, Israelis, Palestinians and later perhaps Jordanians, Egyptians, Lebanese and Syrians might, after a couple of generations, feel they can join together in something like the European Union. That would be a choice made freely among sovereign peoples. This is basically what millions of Palestinians thought they were endorsing when they elected Yasser Arafat as president of the PNA, and despite Israel's determination to destroy the possibility of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, it is the vision still on offer if Israel chooses to change course and grasp it.

The problem is that there is not one major Israeli party or leader who is willing to put such a vision to the Israeli people. Even the most "dovish" want to keep most of the settlers where they are, annex large chunks of the West Bank, keep control of most of Jerusalem, and reject categorically any discussion of the right of return. No allowance is made for the massive compromises already made by the Palestinians, and more still are demanded.

In paragraph 19, the author accused Israel of possessing a "determination to destroy the possibility of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state", and goes so far as to charge that "there is not one major Israeli party or leader who is willing to put such a vision to the Israeli people." Once again, the author completely discounts the tremendously generous Israeli offer that was rebuffed by Arafat at Camp David and Taba, and the readiness of the majority of Israelis to revisit roughly the same proposals, once the PA-promoted campaign of violence, terror and anti-Israel incitement is stood in earnest.

Israeli sociologist Jeff Halper argues that it is already too late and Israel's "matrix of control" in the occupied territories cannot, in effect, be dismantled. If Halper is right, then nothing any Israeli leader says will save the two-state solution. But if he is wrong, and it can be saved, time is very short and we must hear a commitment to completely end the occupation from the Israelis now. After all, they are the principal beneficiaries of this solution. The author's reference to the criticisms of Israel's "matrix of control" in the occupied territories by Israeli sociologist Jeff Halper, is disingenuous, inasmuch as at no point does does the author point out that Halper is representative of a fringe left-wing extreme element of Israeli society, one that, in placing all of the onus of responsibility for the diplomatic stalemate on Israel without any reference whatsoever to the provocative behaviour of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, bears no relation to the current popular consensus in Israel. As noted above, this consensus tends to support significant Israeli concessions in support of peacemaking efforts, but only if undertaken in a situation of true reciprocity by the Palestinians and only when all forms of violence and terror against Israelis have ceased.

The whole world is waiting, not least the Arab world, which, again, held out its hand to Israel last March when
the Arab League unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to a two-state solution. Sadly, though, the political field in Israel looks unlikely to produce anyone who will seize this golden opportunity. Israel, therefore, will likely miss the boat on the two-state solution and we will have to think about what it will be like to live together in one state and, more importantly, how to get there peacefully, because no road map exists. That is not a bad thing. No Palestinian can have any problem with the idea of living with Israelis, as long as they are all equal before the law and in practice.


The births or immigration of Jews are not a "demographic time bomb" that should be regarded with horror, nor should Palestinians be frightened of having next door neighbours who speak a different language or worship in different ways. Palestinian society, made up of Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and others, has always embraced human and cultural diversity - something only strengthened by the Palestinian diaspora's long exile in every corner of the earth.

The author's claim that "Palestinian society, made up of Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and others, has always embraced human and cultural diversity" is misleading at best and disingenuous at worst. Which "Palestinian society" is the author speaking of, and in what period of history? It was only in the early 20th Century that a distinctive Palestinian nationalism separate from Arab nationalism began to emerge, and it was really only in the post-1967 period that the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip truly began to identify themselves as a political collectivity independent of the broader Arab and Islamic nations. Moreover, the author's claim of the Palestinians' embrace of human and cultural diversity is completely undermined by references not only to Palestinian mob attacks on Jewish religious shrines Joseph's Tomb in Nablus and the al-Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, but also the desecration by Palestinian fighters of Christian religious institutions such as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlelem and the use of force and threats of force by gangs of Palestinian Islamic militants to force the mass departure of Christians from traditionally Christian West Bank towns such as Bethlehem and Beit Shahur.

Palestinians should be prepared still to accept two states as a practical solution to the conflict and do everything in their power to make it work. However, the mere trappings of nationalism - flags, anthems, stately buildings and passports - mean absolutely nothing in themselves. What matters is the content: does the flag represent true independence and sovereignty? Does the anthem represent common humanist values? Do the buildings enclose genuinely democratic institutions that do justice? Does a passport give its holder the freedom to travel the world and live securely in his homeland? These are the questions that matter.

Palestine/Israel could be two countries with a border between them that may one day lose its significance, just as the border between France and Germany has lost its power to divide people. Or, it could be one country for two peoples. Both can be good solutions as long as one path is chosen quickly and the two parties stick to it, and if, in the end, Israelis and Palestinians enjoy peace, democracy and human rights together, not at each other's expense.

True peace, whatever way we choose to achieve it, has a price. The powerful must give up some of their power
and share it with the weak, or conflict is inevitable. Both a genuine two-state solution and a single democratic state would require that Israelis relinquish their monopoly on power in a manner they have never seriously considered thus far. Peace only came to South Africa when whites realised this and gave up their monopoly on power. Israel is far from that point and still seems to be looking for a way to avoid the choice. That means discussion about how to live together will remain only academic, while conflict and bloodshed rage on. The author's concluding paragraph reflects the overt anti-Israeli biases found throughout the article. For instance, his assertion that "The powerful must give up some of their power and share it with the weak," is clearly designed to juxtapose the powerful (Israel) against the powerless (the Palestinians). Indeed, the author lays this out explicitly in arguing that Israelis must "relinquish their monopoly on power in a manner they have never seriously considered thus far." Not only does this excuse the Palestinian side of all responsibility for
concessions, but also for the historical errors that they have made over the decades, including the rejection of the 1947 UN partition plan, which would have given the Palestinians the statehood alongside Israel that the author claims they aspire to today. Finally, through his reference to South Africa - "Peace only came to South Africa when whites. gave up their monopoly on power" - the author seeks to introduce into the discussion the crude analogy between apartheid and Israel's presence in the "occupied territories"; this, despite the many fundamental differences between the two cases that render the analogy baseless. (ED- I have long argued that Israel, while strong relative to its size, is fundamentally the weaker party when 5 million Jewish Israelis are contrasted with 250 million adversarial Arabs surrounding it)