Monday, January 26, 2009

ONE-State Solution for Israel-Palestine

A post at 3Quarks, together with a few other links, has me thinking about how poorly the "two-state policy" has proved to be. For starters, the geography of the problem is multi-directional, not two-fold. Palestinians are not in one place but three and those three are not contiguous. There are pissed-off Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Southern Lebanon. If there were no Mediterranean Sea Israel would be completely surrounded by angry Palestinians.

(I guess that's what happens when people try to remain tribal way past the time when the rest of what passes for civilization starts surveying and driving down claim stakes. Indigenous people all over the world have learned that lesson too late. Whether Native American, Brazilian, Australian, African or Chinese... its a global phenomenon of our time, the aftermath of imperialism East and West.)

The most famous recent failure of a two-state solution is Pakistan. Even with the former East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh, that other Pakistan remains a geo-political messy construct festering away in South Asia, as the world still cannot understand with why they all just can't get along.

Back to the one-state solution...

It would not be one state, really, but some kind of confederation. None of the discussions I have read at this point include the Palestinians in Southern Lebanon, but their existence, in time, will have to be included part of the formula. With Hezbollah's creeping legitimacy (I read they hope to do well in the next Lebanese elections, whatever that means.) the next stage in Palestinian unity will be the same path for Hamas, although they themselves seem not to have officially admitted that obvious reality. During the recent "unpleasantness" a few rockets came from Southern Lebanon into Northern Israel but Hezbollah was quick to deny any part in that and everyone else was quick to let the matter pass without comment. (Denial, maybe, that angry Palestinians were in Southern Lebanon? Looks to me like no one in that part of the world, including other Arabs, wants anything to to with Palestinians. I can't figure out what that's all about. They are treated like Gypsies.)

Here are some snips from the 3Quarks discussion....

Israel-Palestine: Suppose a Confederation

A confederation would not mean the disappearance of the national collective polity and identity of each people: within some version of the pre-1967 territories, that is the Green line, Israel would remain a Jewish state, with its language, and holidays and elections; but it would share power in military, security, intelligence, currency and trade matters with the Palestinian state. Likewise the Palestinians would have their own language, holidays and elections, but the two peoples would develop some form of joint school curricula particularly in the teaching of history which did justice to historical truths and to the suffering of both peoples. Children of a new generation would learn to have empathy rather than hatred for each other. There would be some equalization of socio-economic and welfare rights in this confederation so that everyone would not want move into the wealthier Israeli provinces; religious pluralism and liberal civil rights would be respected equally for all Jews, Muslims, Christians and all people of other faiths. For the religiously observant who would want to have their personal affairs to be administered by religious authorities there would be optional religious courts but there would also be a shared Bill of Rights for all peoples which would guarantee equal civil and political rights.

That quote was taken from this next link:

What is Israel’s End-Game?

Hamas, much like the beginnings of the Islamist movement in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East, represents an egalitarian and redistributionist vision of Islamic solidarity which is also deeply authoritarian and anti-liberal. In the 1980’s, Hamas was supported by Israel as an alternative to the more secular and militant Fatah, much like the USA had supported Osama bin Laden and the Mujaheddin against the more secular and socialistically inclined Fedayyin in Afghanistan. In both cases, the genie flew out of the bottle, and now Israel, as well as the USA, are stuck with the shifting of allegiances by Hamas, and the much more formidable Hizbollah, from Islamic social work to Islamist militarism, from Sunni patrons such as Saudi Arabia to Shi’ite ideologues in Iran. There is nothing in this constellation which should give comfort and hope to progressives and Leftists. Our commitment to the equality, self-determination and solidarity of peoples must, therefore, remain a critical principle and must not be sacrificed to blind partisanship for one group or another.

The One-State Solution
appeared in last Wednesday's NY Times.
It bears the by-line of (are you ready for this?) Muammar Qaddafi! As the saying goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. He made up a name for the new country he describes, Isratine. I don't give the neologism much of a chance, but the idea behind it is not altogether crazy.

It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 — violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never “un-welcomed.” Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.

If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace.

Bernard Avishai's What's Love Got To Do With It? - Part Two is the second of a two-part examination worth reading in full. This is from that piece.

Palestine is not Hamas and Israel is not its settlers, though the trends are depressing. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Palestinians still want peace with Israel: Palestinian elites look forward to cooperation with Israelis on advanced businesses, higher education, construction, and tourism; they may even have some affection for Israelis; they know that their economic dignity and secular life depend on staving off Hamas.

And a majority of Israelis still want peace with Palestine, skeptical as they may be of Palestinian political institutions. Israeli elites are stirred by globalization and know that West Bank business infrastructure cannot development with 500 checkpoints. They know their own economic growth and cultural vitality depend on peace; their children, many of whom are leaving the country, hate guarding and paying for settlements.

Finally, it is clear that commerce and business remains alive and well in that part of the world despite a landscape littered with the residue of military conflict. I saw TV reports last week that showed the tunnel business returning to "normal" within hours of the most recent ceasefire. Smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt with superficial damage at the openings were rapidly being repaired and put back in service as soon as possible, and those that were not damaged were soon to be up and running. The precision of the IDF may have been exceptional when targeting individual addresses above ground, but efforts to put the tunnels out of business was as unscientific as swatting flies.

Here is a great story that NPR ran four years ago that caught my attention at the time. It describes a curious symbiosis between Israel and Gaza reflected in how automobiles were tagged in Gaza City. This was prior to Sharon's removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza, making me wonder if some of them may have had a surreptitious part in the story.

An Odd Hierarchy of License Plates in Gaza

The local government in Gaza issues a unique kind of license plate: one for stolen cars. Driving school owner Raeed el-Sa'ati decodes the region's vehicle license plates.

SIEGEL: Last week, as we were riding through the streets of Gaza, our interpreter, Hosam Arhoun(ph), pointed out something that is, so far as we know, unique to that isolated strip of Mediterranean coast. It's a kind of license plate. I thought he was kidding. We would be behind a car, and he would say, `See that pair of Arabic letters on the tag? That indicates this is a stolen car. And that one,' he said, `that's an official stolen car.'

Well, we dropped in on Raeed el-Sa'ati, who owns the Ekhlas Driving School in Gaza, to get more details. And he explained that Gaza license plates can be red for official, green for taxis, and white for private vehicles. The lower the number on the red plates, the higher the position of the official. The number 30 designates a truck.

All this is pretty conventional stuff for license plates. But then...

Mr. RAEED EL-SA'ATI (Ekhlas Driving School): (Through Translator) And then the cars which, written in Arabic, the letters M and F, it is the stolen cars.

SIEGEL: The stolen cars?

Mr. EL-SA'ATI: (Through Translator) And then there is these plates which, M-H-F--it is stolen cars, but working at the authority, means, aha, it is a stolen governmental car. There's also another kind, but this is the same plates; the numbers are different. The numbers which started with 25, it is a stolen car, but it is allowed to work as taxis. This is a very modern law in the world.

SIEGEL: As you can hear, our man Hosam could hardly stop laughing as he translated this.

It turns out this system is a legacy of the most efficient but embarrassing example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in the 1990s: auto theft. The Palestinian Authority took over Gaza, and the Israeli police were out, so Israeli car thieves fenced thousands of stolen cars into the Gaza Strip, about 15,000 of them, where they were then sold. Thousands are driven by Palestinian security and other officials. A lot of them are in that stolen taxicab category, vehicles that provide income while costing a lot less than a legal yellow minivan.

When their cars were stolen, the Israeli car owners would get reimbursed by their insurance, and they would go buy new cars. So in effect, Israeli insurance companies were paying for Gaza's used car trade. When the insurance companies sued, the Palestinian Authority settled, and the settlement cost was offset in part by much higher registration fees for cars that had been stolen. So to designate those cars, they were given special license plates. According to the Transportation Department in Gaza, the news is that the Authority has decided in principle to end stolen car plates. Everyone will pay the same registration fees. But since this may put a lot of self-employed taxi drivers out of work, no one is saying how long it will take to abolish the license plate that says, `This car was stolen.'

Yo, Obama Team, Mrs. Clinton, somebody in Washington...
Ya'll getting this???

Take a look at this and try to puzzle out any better remedy...

April 11 Addendum: More material regarding a "one-state solution"

Helena Cobban in IPS News Agency

From 1982 - the year the PLO’s leaders and guerrilla forces were expelled from Lebanon - until recently, the main dynamo of Palestinian nationalism has been located in the Palestinian communities of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But in recent years, those communities have been severely weakened. They are administratively atomised, politically divided, and live under a palpable sense of physical threat.

Many ‘occupied’ Palestinians are returning to the key defensive ideas of steadfastness and “just hanging on” to their land. But new energy for leadership is now emerging between two other key groups of Palestinians: those in the diaspora, and those who are citizens of Israel. The contribution those groups can make to nationwide organising has been considerably strengthened by new technologies - and crucially, neither of them has much interest in a two-state outcome.

Not surprisingly, therefore, discussions about the nature of a one-state outcome - and how to achieve it - have become more frequent, and much richer in intellectual content, in recent years.

Palestinian-Israeli professor Nadim Rouhanna, now teaching at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is a leader in the new thinking. “The challenge is how to achieve the liberation of both societies from being oppressed and being oppressors,” he told a recent conference in Washington, DC. “Palestinians have to… reassure the Israeli Jews that their culture and vitality will remain. We need to go further than seeing them only as ‘Jews-by- religion’ in a future Palestinian society.”

Like many advocates of the one-state outcome, Rouhanna referred enthusiastically to the exuberant multiculturalism and full political equality that have been embraced by post-apartheid South Africa.

Progressive Jewish Israelis like Ben Gurion University geographer Oren Yiftachel are also part of the new movement. Yiftachel’s most recent work has examined at the Israeli authorities’ decades-long campaign to expropriate the lands of the ethnically Palestinian Bedouin who live in southern Israel - and are citizens of Israel. “The expropriation continues - there and inside the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem,” Yiftachel said, explaining that he did not see the existence of “the Green Line” that supposedly separates Israel from the occupied territory as an analytically or politically relevant concept.


Mortart said...

Thanks for visiting my blog again, but I would prefer a whiff of Bronx rather than Brooklyn.

Re: Israel/Palestine...
I have to disagree with you about a one-state solution. The Pakistan situation is not a real analogy. After centuries of persecution and worse, the Jews not fortunate to live in countries like the U.S. desperately need their own independent nation. The Palestinian Arabs have had at least three opportunities to have their own country. But, as Abba Eban once said, they never pass up an opportunity to have an opportunity.

Hoots said...

I can appreciate that. And the term "one state" is a misnomer. There is no way that the two groups could ever share the same essential qualities that make up a "state." The military/militia issue along will never be resolved in our lifetime. Eban was right. Even in a confederation or local treaty arrangement Israel would necessarily be THE dominant party.

Ultimately the parties to the conflict will have to resolve the conflict. All anyone outside the region can do is advance ideas. And pray.

Thanks for stopping by.