Ilan Baruch, peace activist and former Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, discusses possible solutions for peace
Reality in our region plays comedy with paradox: on one hand, the political discourse in Israel generates a new trend: there is no space anymore for a two state solution. The country is too small, its borders indefensible, and a reverse of the vast settlement extension is practically infeasible. That means that we need to look for solutions within one state, or the One State Solution. This discourse is in fact a serious asset for the settlers, who promote it.
On the other hand, the Palestinian discourse takes a parallel trend: there is no room for the Two State Solution. They have no means to bar Israel from consistently and systematically expanding its settlement program in order to have its citizenry spread on the entirety of Palestine. At the same time, Israel claims exclusivity over the territory within the 1967 demarcation lines, demanding Palestinian acceptance of its being “the State for of the Jews”, thus preempting the denial of the Right of Return.
At the same time, Israel claims the West Bank is a territory in dispute. Thus, they deny a Palestinian demand for “end of occupation” of Palestine. Large billboards greet travelers arriving in Ramallah with that message.
The two opposites call for identical solutions to the problem. Could this mean the “end of conflict”, so dearly desired by both sides, and a corridor to Peace?
The way the nationalists in Israel see the One State Solution is already in existence and needs no declaration. The Oslo Interim Agreement suggests a One State with Israeli overriding hegemony over defense issues, with the Jewish population on the West Bank entertaining full rights as citizens of Israel. Palestine takes security responsibility for area A and governance responsibility in areas A and B. Israelis vote for
the Knesset, the Palestinians for the Parliament in Ramallah. Israelis entertain access to all roads and areas at will. The Palestinians are denied free movement and enterprise, so long as they pose a security threat to Israelis.
The way the One State Solution is being seen by Palestinian nationalists is starkly different: they desire to be liberated in Palestine that was and is now Israel. They claim the Right of Return: free movement and resettlement of the 400 or so towns and villages which ceased to exist since the catastrophic 1948 war, the Naqba.
In reality, the Palestinians in favor of the One State Solution know pretty well they will not be able to deliver on the Right of Return. The Israelis in favor of that solution know pretty well this prescription amounts to Apartheid and inevitable de-legitimization.
Back to the drawing board: the Two State Solution is a State of Mind. There is no way we could get a One State settlement leading to “end of conflict”, unless we allow the Palestinians a State of their own as the accomplishment of their national emancipation. Only then we can start negotiating a One State Solution from a Two State starting point.