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Possible solutions

Possible solutions.

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What would a Palestinian “state” as determined by Oslo/Camp David have looked like?

According to Middle East expert, Phyllis Bennis, “In October 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared Israel would not return to the 1967 borders as required under international law. He said Jerusalem would remain unified and under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and that most of the settlements would remain. Further, he described the Palestinian “entity” to be created as something that would be “less than a state.”

What Israel proposed at Camp David in August 2000 (the first occasion when final status issues were directly negotiated), was a Palestinian “state” in something approaching 80 percent of the West Bank plus Gaza. The capital would not be in Jerusalem, although some limited municipal authority in Palestinian neighborhoods might be granted. The 20 percent of the West Bank that Israel would keep would be made up of the settlements, military bases, and, crucially, the bypass roads that effectively divide the West Bank into separate regions. It was as if someone’s house had been occupied against their will for many years, and they were suddenly told that they could have all the rooms back, but the occupier was going to keep control of the hallways between the rooms. How much of a home would that be?

Israel proposed maintaining control of two major east-west highways, which would cut the West Bank into three completely separate, non-contiguous areas. Key water sources, underground aquifers, would remain under Israeli control, as would external borders and air space. About 20 percent of the West Bank settlers, primarily from small isolated settlements, would be resettled inside Israel; the other 80 percent, including the large settlement blocs, would remain under Israeli jurisdiction and under the protection of the Israeli army; the Palestinian state would have no authority over the Jewish settlers.”[1]

Didn’t Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak make the most generous offer in history to the Palestinians? Why did they reject it?

Phyllis Bennis points out, “President Clinton, understanding the difficulties and potential pitfalls that lay ahead, had promised both parties that he would not blame either side if the talks collapsed. But when the talks broke down he pointed his finger squarely at Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians. Perhaps the most widely repeated claim after Camp David was that of Barak’s “generous offer” to the Palestinians.”[2]

The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions offers an incisive analysis of the issues at play at Camp David: “ The second Intifada broke out because there was no generous offer (or any other).  The “generous offer” is an urban myth. It stems from the “Clinton Parameters” under which Israel would withdraw from 96% of the Occupied Territories, but came much too late in the process to be implemented. The very idea, however, rests on the mistaken assumption that the more territory the Palestinians get the more sovereignty and economic viability they get. This is not the case. The Palestinians could receive that much land yet still not have a viable state. Keeping only a strategic 5% (in reality more like 10-15% when “east” Jerusalem, settlement blocs, “no-man’s land” and other areas are factored in), Israel could control borders, movement of people and goods in and out and within the Palestinian territories, water, the airspace and the communications sphere, not to mention its main settlement blocs. (Barak’s “generous offer” included 80% of the settlers within an expanded Israel.) It could also control the Palestinian economy, the most important religious and cultural sites of the Palestinians (like the Haram/Temple Mount and other holy places in and around Jerusalem). And it would still leave the refugee issue unresolved. Arafat had solid reasons for rejecting Barak’s “offer” at Camp David – which, by the way, violated the very process of the Oslo agreements by halting Israeli withdrawals, thus ensuring that the Palestinians enter into negotiations from an extremely weak position on the ground.”[3]

Phyllis Bennis also argues against the “generous offer” conventional wisdom: “It was, we were told over and over again, the most generous offer any Israeli official had ever made.  That statement, technically, is absolutely true. It is also, however, absolutely irrelevant. The standard against which any serious diplomatic offer made by a country illegally occupying another must be viewed, is not how well it compares to earlier offers made by that same illegal occupying power. It must be judged against the requirements of international law. And from that standard, Barak’s offer was far from generous. The “generous offer” was a myth.

What was more important than how generous it was compared to earlier Israeli offers, was the simple fact that, according to Clinton negotiator Robert Malley, it was simply not true that “Israel’s offer met most if not all of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations.” That was the reason Palestinians rejected the offer. One can certainly question the wisdom of a diplomatic strategy [of the Palestinians] that did not provide an immediate counter-proposal to an unacceptable offer. But there should be little difficulty in understanding why Palestinian negotiators would reject an offer based on a set of disconnected pieces of territory amounting to only 80 percent of the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine; a network of roads, bridges and tunnels accessible only to Israeli settlers and permanently guarded by Israeli soldiers; permanent loss of water resources; no shared sovereignty in Jerusalem; the right of return for refugees not even up for discussion; and with 80 percent of the illegal settlers to remain in place.”[4]

What would a just and comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine look like?

Phyllis Bennis offers this assessment: “Almost all Palestinians today are looking for a solution based on international law and UN resolutions. That starts with the creation of a truly independent, sovereign, and democratic State of Palestine to be constructed on the 22 percent of historic Palestine that Israel occupied in 1967: the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. That means that all Israel troops would be withdrawn, and Israel’s occupation would be ended. United Nations or other international monitors may be deployed on the borders around and between the two states to ensure the security of the borders.

Israel and Palestine, as equals, would jointly exchange full diplomatic relations with each other. Israeli settlers would be given the option of moving to new homes inside Israel, or remaining in their homes as citizens of Palestine and accountable to the Palestinian government. Jerusalem would be an open city, with two separate capitals within it: the capital of Israel in West Jerusalem, and the capital of Palestine in East Jerusalem.

A comprehensive peace would also include recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. That starts with Israel’s recognition of its role in the expulsion of refugees and creation of the refugee crisis in 1948, and public acceptance of resolution 194 and the right of refugees to return as it legally agreed at the time Israel joined the United Nations in 1949. Following that recognition of the right, negotiations on implementation of the right can begin.

Each state would be responsible for maintaining the safety and security of its own citizens, and would make commitments to prevent any cross-border attacks on civilians in each other’s territory.

A comprehensive and lasting peace will also require economic arrangements that move quickly to reverse the humanitarian disaster currently prevailing among Palestinians, as well as addressing the vast disparity of economic power between the two countries. Technology transfer and job creation should be among the approaches under consideration.” [5]

Israeli activist Jeff Halper and his associates at the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions state: “We … do not support any particular solution to the conflict, partly because that solution must emerge from political negotiations, and partly because it is the Palestinians’ prerogative to specify what they want and what they can accept, since they are the only party to the conflict with no state, no rights and no freedom. What we do offer, however, are elements we believe are essential to any political solution. Without all of them being present, no solution will work.

These essential elements are:

(1) National expression for the two peoples. The Israel-Palestine conflict concerns two peoples, two nations, each of which claims the collective right of self-determination. This is what gives such compelling logic to the two-state solution, but if that solution is no longer possible because of Israel’s settlements, then it must somehow be incorporated into a solution involving one democratic state in which both the collective and individual rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine/Israel must be guaranteed.

(2) Viability. Whatever form a Palestinian state takes, it must be viable as well as sovereign. It must control its borders and its basic resources (such as water). It must possess territorial contiguity and, above all, the ability to develop a viable economy. The latter is crucial. The small Palestinian state will have to integrate its refugees, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands, mainly unskilled, impoverished and completely unfamiliar with democratic institutions. Added to this, more than 60% of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories and in the refugee camps is under the age of 25, a young generation that has been brutalized, traumatized, impoverished, left with little education and few skills. The Palestinians’ demand for a viable state stems not from intractability but from a sober evaluation of the enormity of the national challenge facing them.

(3) The refugee issue. Around 80% of the Palestinians today are refugees. Resolution of this issue, including a healing process which could lead to reconciliation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, involves a “package” of three elements: Israeli acknowledgement of the refugees’ right of return; Israeli acknowledgement of its responsibility in creating the refugee issue; and only then, technical solutions involving a mutually agreed-upon combination of repatriation, resettlement elsewhere and compensation.

(4) Security. Israel, of course, has fundamental and legitimate security needs, as do the Palestinians and all the countries of the region. [T]he Israeli peace [movement] rejects the notion that security can be achieved through military means. We know, and our government knows, that war and terrorism are symptoms which can be addressed only if the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed. Israel’s assertion that the security issue be resolved before any political progress can be made is as illogical as it is self-serving.

(5) A regional dimension. The almost exclusive focus on Israel/Palestine has obfuscated another crucial dimension of the conflict: its regional context. Refugees, security, water, economic development, democratization – none of these key issues can be effectively addressed within the narrow confines of Israel/Palestine. Adopting a regional approach…also opens new possibilities of resolving the conflict lacking in the more narrow two-state (or even one-state) approach.” [6]


[1] Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 141-145. Print.
[2]
Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 145-147. Print.
[3]
Halper, Jeff, Johnson, Jimmy and Schaeffer, Emily. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Challenging Slogans through Critical Reframing.Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. 2009. Web.   August 14, 2010.
[4]
Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 145-147. Print.[5] Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 178-179. Print.
[6] Halper, Jeff, Johnson, Jimmy and Schaeffer, Emily. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Challenging Slogans through Critical Reframing.Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. 2009. Web. August 14, 2010.