Monday, 23 July 2012

No One-State Solution

Pursue a left-wing agenda around the political race track long enough and you'll meet a right-wing agenda sprinting at you from the other direction.

Nazism and Bolshevism stood at opposite extremes of the political spectrum and their philosophies were poles apart, yet their regimes bore remarkable similarities to each other: smothering of dissension, persecution of political opponents, insistence that the state was more important than the individual, total disregard for the rule of law, rejection of religion, and so on.

The latest example of this political anomaly are ever-stronger calls from the left and right alike to reject the two-state solution to the perennial Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Partition of the Holy Land emerged formally in 1937 as the preferred way of healing the festering sore of the Arab-Jewish conflict. The British government had been mandated by the League of Nations to administer Palestine and implement its own objective as set out in the Balfour Declaration – namely to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

However, the mandate administration was finding it virtually impossible to keep the lid on the simmering pot of Arab resentment at the influx of Jews into Palestine. As a result, following the Arab revolt of 1936, the British government set up a commission under Lord Peel to examine the situation and come up with a solution. Partition was the central recommendation of the Peel Commission.

Ten years later, following World War II, the two-state concept was also the considered conclusion of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which recommended as much to the UN General Assembly in 1947.

On November 29 1947 the General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan. The Jewish Agency accepted the decision; the Arab states rejected it. It is on the record that, in October 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, said that the Arab world had been wrong to do so. “It was our mistake,” Abbas said, in an interview on Israeli television.

Abbas, together with the majority of the world, has proclaimed the two-state solution as the holy grail of the peace process. It is the desired objective according to the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), and it was agreed upon in principle by both the government of Israel and the PA at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference. The rest of the non-Arab world would most likely give it their seal of approval as well.

For some time, it was only the extreme rejectionist elements within the Arab world that repudiated the concept entirely. As we know, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and related factions refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist at all. They set as their target the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Islamist Palestine, on the lines of the government established by Hamas after they seized power in Gaza.

More subtle forms of eliminating Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people have gradually emerged. Support among Palestinians for a one-state solution began to grow because it was claimed that their population growth rate would leave Palestinians as a majority in a single state. Then voices from the liberal left in the US, UK, and Israel itself began calling for a single state in Israel and the West Bank (possibly including Gaza), with citizenship and equal rights in the combined entity for all inhabitants of all three territories, without regard to ethnicity or religion.

These and related views formed the agenda of a much-discussed, and much-excoriated, One-State Conference held at the Harvard Kennedy School in May 2012. Panels examined the two-state approach, questioned how a one-state solution would work, and discussed obstacles to its realization.

What was certainly not considered, however, was the concept increasingly advocated by more extreme right-wing voices, both in the US and in Israel by newspaper columnists and bloggers: namely the annexation by Israel of the whole of the West Bank, and the establishment of one state – Israel – in the area.

In pouring scorn on the two-state solution, some columnists point to the declared desire of most Muslim and Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, to see Israel eliminated from the map of the Middle East − as if that in itself were sufficient to damn any such enterprise and to justify Israel defying the world. It is not. Both sides of the dispute may dream their dreams − the Israeli right, perhaps of acquiring sovereignty over the whole of biblical Greater Israel; the Palestinians of eventually gaining sovereignty “from the river to the sea."

The purpose of negotiation is to achieve a compromise that both sides can live with. Advocates of Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria seem blind to the impracticality of what they advocate, to say nothing of the totally negative effect its application would have on Israel’s relations with the rest of the world. Uncommitted world opinion would never endorse a land-grab like this. If anything were to push Israel into the status so ardently desired by its worst enemies – a pariah state – this version of the one-state solution would achieve it.

Of course the other side − the so-called “liberal” one state − would eliminate Israel altogether as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Hobson’s choice. The answer? Neither the one nor the other, but the two-state solution, doggedly pursued and carefully negotiated, with adequate safeguards guaranteeing Israel’s security.

Published in the on-line Jerusalem Post today, Monday 23 July 2012:

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