Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The “Two States Solution”


by Raphael Israeli


As a rule, we talk about establishing a state for a nation which needs and deserves it, but did not reach that goal. Providing that need, it is thought, would bring peace and quiet to everyone's satisfaction. However, in the case of Israel and the Palestinians, where this formula has grown so fashionable that everyone reiterates it like a ritual, the essential components of this issue are missing, therefore no remedy can be provided by it. For not only are there already more than two states for two nations, geared to respond to the national needs of both Jews and Arabs, but it turns out that the problem is not the existence of two states, or the need thereto, but the necessity to open one's eyes in the face of reality and to call a spade a spade.


            Before anything else, we must revert to the grand formula of the Arab-Israeli conflict, instead of confining it to the "Israeli-Palestinian dispute", in order to realize that countries who have no territorial claims on Israel also refuse to recognize it, despite the fact that they  are independent and sovereign states. So, their rejection of Israel is not because it does not recognize them, but because they refuse to accept Israel as part of the Middle East. They claim that their recognition depends on a settlement with the Palestinians, but since the latter reaffirm that they would never recognize a Jewish state, a recognition of Israel is not in the offing. Could Israel demand from the Arabs to sever their ties with Arabism as a condition for recognizing them? Equally, short of an all-Arab recognition of Israel's Jewishness, there can be no settlement of the problem.


            States are born to provide security for their citizens, to cultivate their specific culture and to protect their interests. As long as these goals are fulfilled, it matters little what the country is called. Had a Jewish state been established in Uganda or Birobijan, for example, no one would have demanded the establishment of another Jewish state as the prerequisite for resolving the Jewish problem. These rules do not seem to apply to the Palestinians, however. They have founded a state where they constitute the majority of the citizenry, called Jordan, but they pursue the claim and strive for a second Palestinian state. Just to realize the vanity of this argument, one has to reckon that when  a second Palestinian state was born in Gaza two years ago, we were told that it is Hamastan, therefore the birth  of another Palestinian state was as needed as ever. Well, one is Jordan, the other is Hamastan, and how about the fact that both are populated by Palestinians? Would anyone imagine that Israel could demand one Jewish state for Likud and another for the Labor Party, and continue to claim its right to a third Jewish state?


            States are born also as a result of a social contract between its citizens. But in the Arab world, states remain atomized, ruled by tyrants and plagued by tribal, religious and political divisions, because they could not agree on such a social contract. The Palestinians too have failed to attain such a basic common denominator of nationhood. Groups shoot and kill each other, chaos reigns in the territories they populate, if Israel does not establish order. They fight for power legitimacy with the force of arms, they are unable to transfer power smoothly to the winner in their "elections", and no civilized dialogue is pursued between rival groups. So, for those who clamor for the two state solution to accommodate two nations, we have to ask: what two people? The Israelis who already have an orderly and recognized state, and the Palestinians who strive for a second or third state, or the Fatah and Hamas adepts, who cannot decide who represents the Palestinians, and in fact have embraced the formula of "two states to two parties", instead of the two nations that have been targeted for a solution?


            Thus, it is not two states for two nations that we need, for there exist already three  states for two nations, and certainly not  a third Palestinian state, which would encourage the Arabs of Israel to demand a fourth one in the Galilee and the Negev'. What is direly needed is the assembly of the Palestinian people (namely Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and the refugee camps in the Diaspora) under one roof, to enable it to settle its internal dissent and decide who and how it can be represented. Such a development, which might generate a big Palestinian state, and come to encompass most of scattered people who identify as Palestinians, will alone guarantee the founding, and continued existence, of one Palestinian entity. The second state, Israel, does not need to be established, since it already exists and flourishes. It's good neighborly relations with a Palestine which is at peace within itself, is all we need for peace and tranquility in the Middle East.



Raphael Israeli is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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