One Country or Two?

By Qays Abd Al-kareem

Talking about a onestate solution, as opposed to a two-state solution, would be escaping forward and avoiding all the hard obstacles that are facing the Palestinian struggle for liberation, instead of actually allowing us to deal with and resolve these obstacles. The reality is that a one state solution, if it is wanted to be truly democratic and ensure racial equality between both people, cannot be achieved without having to go through a two-state solution first. The two-state solution is an absolute necessity so that the Palestinian people can form a national identity on their land, thereby providing the necessary materialistic conditions that will allow their equality with the people from the other nationality. The fact is that a one state solution is not a replacement for the two-state solution, but by necessitating for it to be realized, it has to be a later step that follows the two-state solution.

We have to remember that the essence of what we now know to be the two-state solution is an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, and an Israeli withdrawal of its military and settlers to the June 4th borders. We also have to bring to everyone’s attention that a one state solution, one that is democratic, secular, and ensures equality of all its citizens, is not a new vision; it is actually the vision that was adopted by the modern Palestinian uprising ever since its conception in the mid 1960’s.

Back then it took us a few years of experience until we realized the reality that our goal which in reality implied dismantling the state of Israel had no international legitimacy and was unachievable due to the international balance of power that existed. Which by the way, was even more favorable to us back then than the current international balance of power. Understanding that reality is what led us to adopt a “transitional program” that focused the Palestinian and Arab struggle to achieving two goals that had complete international legitimacy: First was removing the Israeli occupation fro the lands that Israel took over in its June, 1967 attack, and second was preserving the Palestinian right of return by stimulating International acceptance of UN Resolution 194. The “transitionalprogram” aspired to get the international community to acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people of self-determination, which meant creating an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lands.

It took decades of valiant struggle, to build, block-by-block, international consensus around this goal, which led to what is known as the two-state solution, which even Israel agreed as a result of the second Intifada. We realize that achieving the two-state solution still involves navigating through formidable obstacles, but wouldn’t it be reckless to abandon our goal and all the sacrifices that were made because of these obstacles? Wouldn’t such a thing be exactly like a person who destroys the foundations and walls of a house because building the roof would’ve been too difficult?

We are told that a two-state solution is no longer practical because of the facts on the ground that Israel forces upon us. Here in lies the essence of the assertion made: surrendering to the fait accompli that Israel continues to impose and considering it final and irreversible. We will examine the extent of the accuracy of this assertion later, but first let me point out to the glaring contradiction implied in this logic: if it is “no longer practical” to attempt ending the status quo imposed by Israel on the 1967 lands (which enjoys no recognition of international legitimacy), would it then be “practical” to leap over and call for removing the status quo that the Zionist movement has imposed and sustained for sixty years with almost complete international support and/or recognition? The status quo embodied by a racist, closed Jewish state which would have to be removed if a one state solution is to see the light of day and to be democratic, secular, and a guarantorif quality for both people.

It is not a given that the facts on the ground created by Israeli settlement in the lands of 1967 are a final and irreversible reality. The truth is that Israel has, with or without peace agreements, has already removed some settlements, one of which was Yameet, which was a settlement town. The Israeli removal of settlements didn’t only happen in Egypt once Israel withdrew from there, or only in the Gaza Strip once Israel withdrew from there, but that has also happened in the north of the West Bank. Let us remember that the disengagement plan that the Kadima Party was formed on calls for dismantling tens of settlements and moving the settlers into six large settlement complexes. Before that, the Labor Party had adopted the distinction between “political settlements”, or settlement that could be removed, and “security settlements”, or settlements that Israel wanted to keep once a peace agreement was reached. And so many Israeli government organizations have accepted that not only is it possible for certain settlements and settlers to be removed, but that their removal would also be necessary for Israel’s interest. The conflict is no longer over whether settlements should be removed, but is over the range of the removal: Which settlement will be dismantled and how many settlers will be removed?

Maybe it is true that a two-state solution does not guarantee a fair resolution of the refugee problem. But we have to realize that there is an international consensus that the final agreement has to include a resolution to the refugee problem, and also that, until now, there is an Arab consensus that such a resolution is one of the three stipulations in order to achieve peace, and that the resolution of the refugee problem is based on UN Resolution 194 (which guarantees the right of return of refugees). The national interest requires strengthening that consensus, and requires applying pressure to the negotiation decision leaders of the Palestinians and Arabs in order to ensure that the right of return is not surrendered. The national interest requires that we do not view the surrender of the right of return as inevitable. We have to also notice that there has been an almost complete international agreement, including from Israel, that the two-state solution will involve a “partial solution” to the refugee problem in which they would be guaranteed their right of return to “their home”, which means they would become citizens in a Palestinian state. There is no doubt that this “partial solution” is not enough, and will not be accepted as a substitute to the “right of return to their homes”, but also there is no doubt that this is a big step that was achieved because of sacrifices, and that we should not surrender that right because of the excuse that a two-state solution is no longer practical.

Saying that a “one-state solution” is what unites Palestinians ignores the fact that the two-state solution is no longer a source of disagreement between Palestinians ever since the signing of the Palestinian national agreement document by all of the Palestinian parties (except for Islamic Jihad). The Palestinian national agreement document specifies that the goal of national Palestinian struggle is the creation of an independent Palestinian state on the lands that were occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital. The continuation of dialogue over whether Israel should be recognized or only a long term truce should be sought does not diminish the importance of the document because the creation of a state on the 1967 lands next to Israel, with the basis of having a long-term truce with it, is in fact a real and inexplicit recognition of Israel. This is a truth that can’t be submerged by demagogic noises or flashy slogans.

And so we ask: what does it mean to talk about a one-state solution under the circumstances of today? Does it mean abandoning the calls for ending the Israeli occupation of the lands that were occupied in 1967? Does it mean stopping the calls for the implementation of the UN resolutions that consider settlement in these lands to be illegitimate and says should be removed? And if we are going to continue demanding these rights that we are guaranteed by the international community, does it not follow, logically, that an independent Palestinian state should be created on the 1967 lands? Is that not, in the final analysis, a two-state solution?

We, without a doubt, view that a permanent and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle cannot be achieved without the creation of a united democratic state that guarantees equality to both people. This is what is said in the political program that was adopted and continues to be held by the Democratic Front since 1975. But we also realize that the fundamental solution has to be preceded by the creation of an independent Palestinian entity on the 1967 lands that exemplifies the independent national identity of the Palestinian people on their land, and contributes in supplying the conditions that will lead to equality between both people. Without that, “the one state”, even if democratic, is in practical reality a candidate to be an apartheid state in which Israelis include what is left of Palestine under their control; a state in which Palestinians will suffer the worst kinds of racism.

-Qays Abd Al-Kareem is a member of the political arm of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (Originally published by Al-Ayyam daily newspaper and was translated by Mike Husseini )

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