By Jonathan Power
October 27th 2015.
Albert Einstein once said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. That’s how it seems to be with President Obama sending his Secretary of State, John Kerry, to attempt to resurrect the talks about talks between Israel and Palestine.
No one knows if the renewed unrest among young Palestinians who are confronting Israel again with stones and knives – and in return bullets are fired to quell the protests – is going to lead to a third Intifada. The signs are not propitious. If not today then certainly tomorrow. Israel is running an apartheid state which, as was South Africa’s, has a termination date built in.
What has happened to Obama’s pledge seven months ago to “re-evaluate” US policy on Israel? At the UN the US as usual digs in its heels when Israel is admonished.
France has suggested that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution that would outline the basic parameters of a just political settlement. The proposal would contain a deadline for agreement. If broken by Israel the rest of the world would be encouraged to pressure it with a tight economic boycott. This is the best idea suggested for a long time. Europe alone, Israel’s biggest trade partner, could bring Israel to its knees.
Failing success in changing Israeli minds a one-state solution is surely inevitable. The present partial de facto one will become a sort of de jure one.
At present the leadership of Palestine is pursuing a makeshift policy that circumvents the status quo. The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that Palestine has plans to join 63 international organisations and conventions. This it is now able to do, having in 2012 won recognition from the UN General Assembly as a non-member observer state. Recently it joined the International Criminal Court. This means that Palestine, if it chooses, can file charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel. (They would take years before coming to trial.)
However, the possibility is always there that faced with present Israeli intransigence, combined with the old frustrations of failed negotiations, lack of international pressure and an armed struggle by some that has achieved nothing, Abbas will dismantle the Palestinian Authority, Palestine’s government.
This would effectively put the responsibility for the governance of the West Bank (which is where most of Palestine exists, ever smaller, as Israeli settlements intrude) on Israel’s shoulders. Last year Abbas said that Palestinians should give up the notion of a two-state solution and demand instead civil rights from Israel – as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.
The consequence of such a move would be the demanding of the right to vote in Israeli elections, to be represented on the Supreme Court and be given equal rights in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. No longer would 4.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza only be demanding land. They would be demanding a voice and a role inside Israel itself. (Israel’s population is 7.5 million.)
For now Abbas is still pursuing the two-state solution. But Abbas is getting old and a new vigorous generation of politicos is waiting in the wings, including Abbas’s youngest son who has been outspoken about the concept of a one-state solution.
The most likely candidate for future leadership is Muhammad Dahlan, who Abbas effectively exiled to the United Arab Emirates. Dahlan is widely popular, charismatic and unafraid to shed blood. He too talks about the one-state concept. A poll conducted in 2013 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 65% of Palestinians over the age of 50 still preferred a two-state solution but 48% of those between the ages of 18 and 28 did not.
Israeli leaders, at least on the right and centre, might well feel bewildered if this came to pass. They would lose their trump card in elections – who best defends security. The Palestinians would be putting their security totally into the hands of Israel. Also Israeli politicians would find it hard to reject Palestinians agitating for the vote to elect an Israeli parliament.
Of course, this would put paid to the concept of a Jewish state which most Israelis would find impossible to agree to (although a majority of Jews living outside Israel might well differ on that).
Kerry created a big fuss last year when he warned last year that without a peace deal Israel would become an “apartheid state”.
In the current issue of “Foreign Affairs” Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon write, “Only when the Palestinians make the Israelis recognize that the status quo cannot persist indefinitely will the Israelis begin to see a two-state solution as the least-bad option.”
Paradoxically, the call for a one-state solution is perhaps the best way to gain a two-state one. Is this how it is going to go?
Copyright: Jonathan Power