Based on a speech in Vancouver, BC, Canada on May 7th, 2011.
When one talks about options available to the parties of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one talks about options available to the Israelis; not the Palestinians. The Israelis are the stronger party. They have military and economic superiority; they enjoy the unconditional support of the only super power on Earth (i.e. the United States of America); they enjoy the sympathy of most – if not all – the European nations; and they have the luxury to consider, and the ability to implement, options for resolving the conflict.
As to the Palestinians, they are the weaker party in the conflict, and their choices are limited. They live in refugee camps and/or under occupation. Their lives are controlled by others; mainly the state of Israel. They are less than welcome in almost all countries; including Arab and Islamic ones. As such, Palestinians have two choices: The first choice is to surrender, capitulate, and accept their fate of oppression, occupation, and dispossession, and permanently live as subservient to their Israeli oppressors. And the second choice is to resist by all means available and demand equal humanity. For the last sixty-three years, Palestinians have taken the obvious and more human choice of resistance at great, incalculable costs. Palestinian resistance has grown stronger every day and has taken many forms. Furthermore, there are no signs anywhere that this spirit of resistance might weaken or fade away; indeed, it is becoming a way of life for most Palestinians.
In search for a peaceful resolution to this conflict, I would like to start by dismissing the assumption that either party might annihilate the other. This option is not even available in a theoretical sense. Not only because I believe that neither party wants it, but it is also true that neither party is capable of implementing it. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israeli Jews will go away. It simply will not happen (PERIOD).
Based on this basic premise, one can logically conclude that ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by either party disappearing is not possible. So, let us not waste too much time and energy attempting to effectuate the impossible. This leads us to searching for other alternatives based on the basic premise that both communities will continue to exist until the end of time.
In that regard, and regardless of how inconvenient it might be, the Israelis – or more precisely Israeli-Jews – basically face three choices:
The first choice for Israelis would be to Keep the status quo and continue to manage the conflict, which means never taking it to a resolution. In other words, attempt to permanently impose an apartheid system of government for two segregated communities within one state over the same territorial mass that is under the direct control of the same government that constantly manipulates laws to maintain the dominance of one segment of the population over others. So far, Israeli leaders have taken this choice. They are only attempting to manage the conflict; not resolve it. That approach has resulted in violence, war, destruction, occupation, hate, pain, and suffering for more than six decades. However, there are signs that other choices are becoming part of the discussion within Jewish communities both inside and outside the state of Israel, probably as a result of the realisation that the current Israeli “managing” of the conflict is not sustainable.
The second choice Israelis have is to accept the two-state solution as offered in the Arab Peace Initiative under which the land of historic Palestine would be divided along the armistice line of June 4, 1967 and establish two states that would live in peace; i.e. the state of Israel within “the green line” and the Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital, and an agreed upon resolution to the Palestine refugee problem; in exchange for full and permanent normalization of diplomatic, economic, and cultural relationships between the state of Israel and 57 Arab and Islamic countries.
The concept of two states has its roots in the United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 that was then known as the partition plan. In recent years, the concept of two states – albeit with a lot less land for the Palestinian state and a much more land for the state of Israel– has emerged as the consensus of the international community for resolving the conflict. Indeed, it has been adopted as the strategic choice by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for resolving the conflict.
However, consecutive Israeli governments have been creating “facts on the ground” – through the process of land confiscation and colonization – that rendered the implementation of the two-state solution impossible. More specifically, the state of Israel continued – and still continues – to build Jewish-only settlements on the land that would otherwise be part of the Palestinian state. The building and expansion of settlements throughout the West Bank, and the road network that connects them to the state of Israel and to one another, have made it impossible to have a contiguous Palestinian state. At best, the Palestinians would end up with a collection of disconnected population centres. This means that it has already become impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state without intensive Jewish suffering that would result from forced relocation of close to half a million Jews from settlements to someplace else inside the state of Israel. There isn’t one Israeli-Jewish politician who is able or willing to shoulder the burden of such suffering.
Therefore, under the current situation, a two-state solution would at best produce a structure similar to – or even worse than – that which existed under the apartheid regime of South Africa. As we all know, apartheid is not sustainable, and will only perpetuate the conflict.
This leads us to searching for yet another, hopefully more creative, alternative. One, and I would argue a more permanent, solution would be to take what we have today and peacefully transform it into a democratic system of government; taking into consideration all the unique characteristics of the conflict. In more precise language; transform the state of Israel into a true democracy to become a state for all of its citizens that would be composed of all Palestinians and all Israeli Jews.
What we have today is one state that has total control over the entire land of historic Palestine; it is the state of Israel that struggles to define itself as Jewish and democratic. In reality, it is a state that discriminates between the various categories of its own citizens and others under its control, based on their religions, belief systems, and ethnicities. Jews enjoy first-class status within the state of Israel, and non-Jews live under various categories defined by the state; a wide range of categories from citizens with limited rights to undesirables with much less rights to enemies of the state that are denied most rights.
Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be accomplished through the peaceful transformation of this state of Israel over all of the land of historic Palestine into a truly democratic state; where Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others live as equal citizens under a democratic system of government built with the overriding principle of equal humanity for all.
The time is ripe for this historic proposal to be put forward, not as a threat to Israeli Jews to wipe them off the map, but as a promise of creating peace for all on basis that are sustainable for all times. The structure of this democratic state can take any of many possible shapes; from a secular liberal democracy with one-person-one-vote to the more realistic bi-national state with individual equality among citizens and collective equality between the two communities. Such bi-national state would be created with a set of values and principles that are unique to it while being rooted in the International Declaration of Human Rights. Its structure would be constitutionally guaranteed and institutionally secured.
The bi-national democratic state – for all Palestinians and all Jews alike – over the whole area of historic Palestine will be as much Jewish as it is Palestinian. This proposal addresses the reality of Jewish Fear and acknowledges the Palestinian Right of Return, as it reconciles the Jewish need for safety, security, and a homeland with the Palestinian yearning for Return, justice, equal humanity, and self-determination.
The transformation of the state of Israel into a democratic bi-national state will be a win/win solution where Jews win eternal peace and acceptance while losing nothing except dominating Palestinians; and Palestinians win everything except dominating Jews. Eliminating domination is the magic-key for resolving the conflict, without which the conflict would continue in perpetuity. In the bi-national democratic state, Jews and Palestinians alike will neither dominate nor be dominated; but will be free, safe, secure, equally respected, and feel at home.
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!