Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Henry Siegman · The Ultimate Deal: The Two-State Solution · LRB 30 March 2017

Henry Siegman,  a former head of the American Jewish Congress, argues that the Palestinians should transform their struggle into an anti-apartheid struggle for equal rights.  Such a fight against the fifty year old occupation can have only two effects: either restore the two state solution to the agenda, or change Israel into a truly bi-national state. - gwc
Henry Siegman · The Ultimate Deal: The Two-State Solution · LRB 30 March 2017
It will only be when Palestinians close down the Palestinian Authority and turn it into a vehicle of non-violent struggle for rights that the two-state option will re-emerge. If it doesn’t re-emerge, in time Greater Israel’s de facto apartheid will evolve into a binational state, because no apartheid can be hidden under the cover of a ‘temporary occupation’ that has already lasted half a century. An anti-apartheid struggle will undoubtedly be long and painful, as it was in South Africa, but no longer and no more painful than would be the case were Netanyahu’s status quo to prevail. ***

Reactions by the international commentariat to Trump and Netanyahu’s joint press conference on 15 February focused largely on Trump’s pronouncements, specifically on what seemed to be his abandonment of America’s long-standing bipartisan support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. ‘I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,’ he said. ‘I can live with either one.’ Given his ignorance of international affairs in general and the Middle East in particular, he probably had no idea of the implications of what he was saying. He declared that Palestinians will ‘have to acknowledge Israel, they’re going to have to do that,’ entirely unaware that that is exactly what they have already done, not once, but on three separate occasions: at the request of Reagan and his secretary of state, George Shultz, in 1988; in 1993, in the context of the Oslo Accords; and again in Gaza in 1998, with Bill Clinton in attendance. Trump is probably also unaware that Netanyahu’s government has never recognised the Palestinian right to national self-determination and statehood in any part of Palestine, even though this right has been affirmed repeatedly by the UN Security Council (e.g. Resolution 242 in 1967 and Resolution 1515 in 2003) and by the International Court of Justice (in 2004).

The Palestinians never withdrew their recognition of Israel, but they have refused to endorse Israel’s decision to define its national identity in religious and ethnic terms, a demand that no country has the right to impose on other countries. Israel would never agree to such a demand by Palestinians or for that matter by any Christian country.

Even before his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu announced his intention of treating 60 per cent of the West Bank – territory that the Oslo agreement designated as Area C, from which Israel was supposed to have withdrawn by 1998 – as a permanent part of Israel. So Palestinians would be left just 10 per cent of pre-partition Palestine. But with Trump in the White House, and his settlement-supporting son-in-law by his side, even this shrinkage seemed to Netanyahu too generous an accommodation to the Palestinians. He therefore announced at the White House that his second condition for a peace agreement with the Palestinians is that they agree to Israel’s retention of its military control over the entire West Bank.

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