Thursday, May 26, 2011

The one- and a half-state?

     Amid all the rhetoric that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have displayed lately, truth is one of the chief casualties. Both men again professed their faith in the two-state solution, an independent Israel and an independent Palestine living side-by-side, but each of them, in fact, has by their recent statements made such a solution difficult, if not impossible. 
    Let us begin with the Prime Minister. Netanyahu has imposed new additional conditions, chiefly that Palestinians recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. But that goes far beyond the Palestinian agreement in the Oslo Accord of 1993 to accept the existence of the state of Israel. Yet today one in five people in Israel is Arab. Is there any place for Arabs in a Jewish state?
   The Palestinians also agreed in Oslo to give up 78% of the historic land of Palestine, in order to make.peace. But soon they will be "a people without a land," which was the condition of the Jews in 1948. At any rate, the land they have left will be useless to ever constitute a true state.
   To this day, many Israelis are unwilling to recognize Palestinians as a people, because otherwise they would have to give up part of the land that both claim as their traditional homeland. The Israelis justify evicting the Palestinians, since they are not really "a people," but are the debris of history who have no historical title to the land.

     As you will see from the above map, the brown areas, which indicate Palestinian territory, have steadily disappeared ever since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. And every year more territory is lost. At the current rate soon there will be little Palestinian land left. Jewish settlements are eating up Palestinian land at an enormous clip. And many Israelis are unwilling to stop. Even without being able to read the color-coded key, it is readily apparent from the map below, when compared with the one above, how much land is already occupied by Israelis. This map provides more details.

     Turning now to the President. In his speech, Obama made it clear that he supported the 1967 border as the basis of any agreement, with some adjustments. This affirmation did not go over well with Netanyahu, who immediately dismissed Obama as "naive." Obama did try to redeem himself in the same speech by vowing that the US would not support any attempt by the Palestinians to go to the UN in order to be recognized as a state. According to the US, a Palestinian state can only come into existence through the mutual agreement of both Israelis and Palestinians. For some Israelis, that will never happen.
    The Palestinian request to ask the UN for recognition was the same path that Israel took in 1948. So why would the US not support the Palestinian request? The answer is obvious. In fact, according to news reports, Obama during his tour of Europe is asking European leaders not to support that request. In spite of his personal dislike of Netanyahu, Obama may have to exercise the US veto in the Security Council when this matter comes up. Next year is an election year in the US, and Obama needs the Jewish vote, as well as that of Christian Zionists (although he may not get many of the latter).
    The window for a two-state solution is quickly closing. Soon there will not be enough Palestinian land left to form a viable state. A one-state solution is hardly to be preferred, since in that case Palestinians would become second-class citizens in Israel. The other obstacle, widely recognized by Israelis, is demographic. In time Jews would be outnumbered by Palestinians in Israel. The one-state solution is the default position; it will result if nothing else is done very soon.
   Eventually this may end up being called a one- and a half-state. One full state for Israelis, and a half state for Palestinians, who would still be under Israeli military control and have to suffer numerous other indignities. Since that is not a viable long-term solution, the international community must exert pressure on all the parties involved to go back to the negotiating table. If that does not work, then the UN is the only recourse.
    The deadline of September set by the Palestinians is fast approaching. The international community must now urge Obama to be a statesman, in more ways than one, and support the Palestinian request at the UN. If he does not rise above domestic US politics, the Palestinians will never get the state they deserve. 
    That would be a tragedy not only for them but also for the entire world.

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