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The Two-State Solution approaching a dead-end
by Hezron H.N Nyawachi
2010-04-12 07:36:11
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In June 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, standing alongside King Jordan II of Jordan, US President George W Bush and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan said: ‘It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state’. Later in 2005 the ‘father of settlements’ pulled out of Gaza though the occupation did not end since in international law Israel continued to hold supreme control of Gaza’s air sea and land space.

Fast-forward to June 2009, at the Begin-Sadat centre in Bar-Ilan University, the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu agreed to the two-state solution, all with limitations that Jerusalem will not be shared, no return of refugees, no military for the future state of Palestine et cetera.
The principle of two states for two peoples living side by side is fast losing its attraction as more dunams fall into Israeli settlers in the West Bank and more Jewish buildings sprouting out in Arab East Jerusalem while more Palestinians are ejected from their houses in favour of Jewish occupants. East Jerusalem, for starters, was annexed by Israel after the six-day war in a move that has never been recognised by the international community, and Palestinians regard it as the capital of their future state.

But ever since the founding of the state of Israel, no Israeli government has shown flexibility on the subject of Jerusalem, and speaking recently before AIPAC in New York, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw no difference between building in East Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, since Jerusalem will remain the united capital of the state of Israel.

Martin Indyk, the vice chairman of the Brookings Institution and a former US ambassador to Israel notes that back in the Clinton years, they thought they could at least solve the issue of Jerusalem’s suburbs because its Arab and Jewish citizens lived apart. In his parameters, President Clinton proposed that the Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem come under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab suburbs be ceded to Palestinian sovereignty.

Yasser Arafat was actually willing to accept that division, Indyk continues, as was Ehud Barak. But today, Jewish settlers are moving aggressively into Arab neighbourhoods while Arabs, denied permits to build in their own suburbs, are quietly buying residences in Jewish neighbourhoods. If these trends continue, Clinton’s Solomonic solution will become unworkable, he concludes.

Frankly, ‘East Jerusalem lies beyond Israel’s internationally recognized, pre-1967 borders’ and  all Israelis know deep down that Arabs will not welcome any peace deal that leaves East Jerusalem out of future Palestine. In fact, as early as 1980, the UN explicitly turned down Israel’s pretense to East Jerusalem and the US –which offers Israel diplomatic protection at the UN by way of veto-did not object to this.

It was thus refreshing to note this past week that the Obama administration has asked of Israel to freeze all construction in East Jerusalem for four months to enable a sober environment for talks, if any, between Palestinians and Israelis. White House has not indicated what steps it may take-like the previous demand to freeze all settlement construction in the territories last year that was rebuffed by Israel- if Israel does not play by, or better still, if there is a plan B.

Opinion is uniform among the military complex of US top echelons that continued conflict in the Middle East poisons the climate in which the US forces operate in the region. And this is nothing new, as last year; writing in the Joint Force Quarterly, the US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen urged that the US should be preoccupied not in what their words communicate but rather in what their actions communicate.

The Middle East is a tough place to make peace by any standards. What leaders say in English to the world is not necessarily what they urge their peoples in Hebrew or Arabic.

But this conflict is approaching impossible ends where reaching a compromise will be impossible. The characteristics are ironical: when there are no terror attacks, Arabs are forgotten. When there is a semblance of peace, leaders pay lip-service to two-state solution while the state of Israel ‘is busy creating a situation on the ground that will render such a solution impossible’

Slavoj Zizek, the international director of the Birbeck Institute for Humanities writes: the state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei, and that we must accept the fact.

Most Israeli leaders have thus continued to blame the stalemate in peace talks on Palestinian rejectionism and argue that in the past, Palestinians have negotiated even when settlements continued. It will be great to be honest, that Palestinians will not advance roundtable with settlement centrifuges running since they feel and rightly so that they are surrendering on the land over which they are negotiating.

‘As construction continues in both Jerusalem and the West Bank, a two-state solution looks less possible, undermining American diplomacy and prospects for regional stability,’ notes Steven Cook of the Council of foreign Relations.

Internal politics among Palestinians play a major role in stalled peace as well. The disagreements between Fatah and Hamas only erode the Palestinian bargaining power. Karl Marx it was who that said history advances in disguise. During Yasser Arafat’s time, Israel used to complain that he was too strong to negotiate with. With the coming into power of his successor President Mahmoud Abbas, he is too weak to deal with.

The siege of Gaza has served well to weaken the Palestinian peace enterprise: Palestinians in West Bank and those in Gaza are permanently isolated. Those in East Jerusalem do not have access to West Bank either. It was the same fate that was suffered by Hamas; in the first ever democratic elections in the Arab world. They were demonised and put under a regime of sanctions by the same international community that demanded of them to conduct ‘free and fair’ elections.

17 years after Oslo, 500 000 settlers live in occupied Palestinian territory, 10% of West Bank annexed by Wall of Separation against a ruling of International Court of Justice and there is no peace process, only annexation process.

As early as September 1967, Theodor Meron, then legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, favoured a categorical prohibition against civilian settlement in occupied territories, under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Meron writing to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in a top-secret memorandum said: "I fear there is great sensitivity in the world today about the whole question of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories, and any legal arguments that we try to find will not remove the heavy international pressure, from friendly states as well."

Palestinians and Israelis alike must ask themselves this basic question: in the absence of a holding peace; is permanent war going to be what characterizes their existence or destruction?

Mr Hezron Nyawachi is a resident fellow at the Bethlehem Centre for Middle East Policy at the Institute for African Progress

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