Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 June - 6 July 2011
Issue No. 1054
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

New paradigm in Palestine

The only way forward is to go backwards -- to the UN's original plan -- and then to the General Assembly to implement a new one, propose Mahmoud Musa and Awni Sarrif

All roads to a meaningful settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict are at a dead end. Nevertheless, should two states be established in historic Palestine, bloody conflict will persist. Putting aside disputes over natural resources, Israel will remain a Zionist supremacist state with a clear arsenal that can turn the entire Middle East into an inferno, and the enclaved improvised Palestinian Arab entity cannot exist without aid from the outside world. There will be democracy for the Jewish people of Israel, with second and perhaps third class citizenships for all others.

The Palestinians, as the last twenty years have shown, will be ruled under an autocratic corrupt police state. The plight of the Palestinian refugees living outside the new Palestine will continue and their right to return totally forgotten. The Jordanian regime may collapse to become the alternate home leading to civil wars between the indigenous Jordanians and the Palestinians. It is also reasonable to assume that, in order to preserve the Jewish identity of Israel, another Nakba will befall the Israeli Arabs who may be relocated to areas in the West Bank.

There can only be one solution -- one state where Palestinians and Israelis alike are equal citizens in a nation that belongs indeed to the Middle East. Three conditions must be met for the new state to take hold: dissolving the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas Government in Gaza, the rejection of Zionism by the Israelis, and the return of the Palestinian refugees. These can only be accomplished under the auspices of the United Nations (UN).

Whereas the defunct two state solution was proposed in 1947, when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for dividing historic Palestine into two entities and for granting Jerusalem an international status, the reversal of this resolution by the Assembly is imperative. Although not legally binding, this resolution did grant legitimacy to the creation of the State of Israel. Ironically, since that resolution, there was no serious discussion concerning the establishment of two states in Palestine until the 1991 Madrid Conference and the signing of the Oslo Accords (Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements) in Washington in 1993. Except for a few euphoric, but short-lived moments, not the slightest progress has been made towards granting the Palestinians statehood, and all attempts to establish two states have failed.

We propose that neutral member states should ask the UN General Assembly to rescind Resolution 181 and to request a new resolution for the establishment of one state in historic Palestine. Although this responsibility falls under the Security Council, the constant exercise by the US of its veto power to protect Israel against condemnations and sanctions has proven the council's ineffectiveness in dealing objectively with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

At the General Assembly, each state has an equal voting right, thus lending legitimacy to passed resolutions. In its deliberations, the Assembly should also address international law and human rights violations committed by Israel, the PA, and neighbouring states against the Palestinian people, and set a course for a new beginning in the Middle East through major shifts in the paradigms that have crippled the region for decades.

A resolution for establishing one democratic state in historic Palestine will include as citizens all those who live there and all Palestinians in the Diaspora, reaffirming Palestinian refugees right to return, and acknowledging the special place that Palestine is for world Jewry. Such a resolution is supported by four facts: All attempts to establish two states have ended in failure; the Jewish and Palestinian populations are too intertwined to separate except forcibly which would constitute apartheid; the physical geography and natural resources such as water and natural gas in coastal waters make division a source of perpetual tension; it is imperative to eliminate the current legitimacy given to Israel's racist colonial system and to establish a just political culture for all.

The resolution's implementation would be the responsibility of the UN and Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. To succeed, representatives of world powers may have to serve as even-handed observers.

The international focus on the Goldstone Report elaborating Israel's alleged crimes in Gaza, and on its assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla uncover only the tip of the iceberg of Israel's violations of international law. The UN is within its rights to sanction Israel for its defiance of international laws and norms. However, although Israel is the primary offender, Lebanon (denying Palestinians minimum civilian rights), Jordan (withdrawing citizenship without due process of the law), and the PA (an autocratic police- state), should all be held accountable for gross human rights violations against the Palestinians.

While a new course should be set based on reconciliation and forgiveness, Israeli and Arab individuals charged with such war crimes and human rights violations must be prosecuted. The General Assembly should, therefore, establish an International Criminal Tribunal as a "subsidiary organ" under Article 22 of the UN Charter for this very purpose.

The proposed shift in the paradigms regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, once implemented will contribute to three UN goals: peace and security of the West Asian/North African region as the new state relinquishes occupied Lebanese and Syrian territories and dismantles it nuclear arsenal; cultural, political, and economic development of the region; and equal rights of all people living on that land.

The new state will be diverse -- an amalgam of different nationalities and faiths, all with equal rights and opportunities. To the Abrahamic faiths, historic Palestine is the Holy Land. The majority of the Palestinians see themselves as Arabs; as such, the new state should have a special status in a more meaningful Arab League. The nationalistic feelings of the Jewish population that link them to fellow Jews worldwide must be recognised and upheld. The Jewish population will, however, have to reject Zionism, a racist and apartheid ideology based on 19th century European colonialist thinking which preyed on the Jewish national feelings long before the Palestinians became its victims.

The new state will bring fundamental changes in governance to the region. Democracy based on equal opportunities will begin to take hold with economic and military unions of the independent states of the region. An EU-like union of the new state, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon will enhance peace and reconciliation and will be a nucleus for a larger regional union.

There are numerous challenges ahead. They range from developing trust to rebuilding the infrastructure, the judicial, educational and social institutions; from disposing of the nuclear arsenal to dealing with the issues of confiscated lands, demolished homes and erased towns and villages. The first step, however, is to go to the UN General Assembly.

Professor Musa teaches global politics at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Paris, and Dr Sarrif is a researcher in Middle East studies.

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