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One-state solution needs closer examination
By Dr Musa A Keilani July 31, 2010
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ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to reply to questions on borders and security raised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of direct talks clearly indicates that whatever he is willing to offer falls far short of the minimum that Abbas could accept.

What Netanyahu has in mind appears to be a Palestinian entity without territorial contiguity in slices of the West Bank with access roads between them controlled by the Israeli military. That would effectively mean a dozen or so Palestinian enclaves separated by Israeli settlements. The Palestinian residents of these enclaves will have the “freedom” to clean their streets, run their schools and hospitals and maintain death, birth and marriage registers.

The 700-kilometre “separation barrier” that Israel has built crisscrossing the West Bank is key to hemming in the Palestinians to their enclaves.

The concept of a Palestinian entity without territorial contiguity seems to have stemmed from an Israeli belief that neither the two-state solution backed by the US nor the call for a one-state solution — meaning equal rights to Palestinians and Israeli Jews throughout Palestine — is feasible.

As far as Netanyahu and his likes are concerned, there could never be a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and they do not want the Palestinians to have a state of their own in the territories that Israel is willing to relinquish.

A viable Palestinian state would definitely mean that Israel will have to give up some of the smaller settlements in the West Bank and this raises such hypothetical questions about the status of the settlers who may find themselves living in West Bank land under Palestinian control.

As far as the Israeli hawks are concerned, the ideal solution would be eviction of all Palestinians from the West Bank (and indeed Arab Israelis too). Since that is not possible, the next best option is to keep the Palestinians under Israeli control.

However, the hawks do realise that they could not hope to maintain the occupation for ever, with nearly three million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and gaining numerical strength at a pace faster than that of Israelis.

Indeed, we have been hearing some prominent figures from Israel’s right wing talking about a one-state solution with citizenship for Palestinians.

The idea was floated by Moshe Arens, a former defence minister who belongs to Netanyahu’s Likud party, in an article he wrote in Haaretz calling for a political alternative to break the deadlock in efforts to solve the Palestinian problem.

He rejected charges that he was promoting a new idea. “We are already a binational state,” Arens wrote “and also a multicultural and multi-sector state.”

“The minorities here make up 20 per cent of the population — that’s a fact and you can’t argue with facts,” Arens wrote, referring to the Arab-Israeli community.

The call is backed by settler leaders who realise that continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the creation of a Palestinian stare is untenable for them since both would only worsen the security threats that the settlers face. Therefore, the best solution is to make the Palestinians Israeli citizens.

“The worst solution ... is apparently the right one: a binational state, full annexation, full citizenship,” says Uri Elitzur, a settler leader and former aide to Netanyahu.

Elitzur published an article last year calling for a process which leads to the Palestinians having “a blue ID card (like Israelis) yellow licence plates (like Israelis), national insurance and the right to vote for the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).”

We do not know how far Netanyahu is amenable to the idea, which will definitely draw rejections since many Israelis fear that they would be outnumbered in population by Arabs in a few years.

The mainstream Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas rejects the one-state solution and is pushing for a two-state solution. However, the one-solution is gaining the support of an increasing number of Palestinians in the West Bank who believe they would be better off as Israeli citizens than citizens of a Palestinian state with restriction on freedoms and administered by people who many see as corrupt.

There are many young Palestinians who argue that the one-state solution would be the best. For them, it would end Israel’s occupation of their land, equal treatment as Jews in Israel (at least in principle) and better employment opportunities.

Indeed, on the other side, the quest for independent Palestinian statehood is too revered for many to even think of a one-state solution.

But it is an idea that is being increasingly debated in Israeli and Palestinian political circles. And it definitely needs closer examination.

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