Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two states, or one?

One-State Supporters Make a Comeback
Helena Cobban, IPS: President Barack Obama has spoken out forcefully in favour of building an independent Palestinian state alongside a still robust Israel. However, many Palestinians have noted that President George W. Bush also, in recent years, expressed a commitment to Palestinian statehood. But, they note, Bush never took the actions necessary to achieve such a state -- and neither, until now, has Obama.

Meanwhile, the US government continues to give very generous support to Israel -- where successive governments have built Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank and taken other actions that make a viable Palestinian state increasingly hard to achieve.

Many Palestinians and some important voices in what remains of Israel's now-battered peace camp have concluded that it is now impossible to win the 'two-state solution' envisaged by Bush and Obama. This has led to the re-emergence in both communities of an old idea: that of a single bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, in which both Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis and Arabic-speaking Palestinians would have equal rights as citizens, and find themselves equally at home...

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... Discussions about the nature of a one-state outcome -- and how to achieve it -- have become more frequent, and much richer in intellectual content.

Roger Cohen, The New York Times: Pressure on President Obama to recast the failed American approach to Israel-Palestine is building from senior officials whose counsel he respects... The four core proposals of that the authors call 'a last chance for a two-state Israel-Palestine agreement.' Taken together, they constitute the start of an essential rebalancing of America's Bush-era Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy.

The first is clear US endorsement of a two-state solution based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, agreed land swaps where necessary. That means removing all West Bank settlements except in some heavily populated areas abutting Jerusalem -- and, of course, halting the unacceptable ongoing construction of new ones.

The second is establishing Jerusalem as home to the Israeli and Palestinian capitals. Jewish neighborhoods would be under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, with special arrangements for the Old City providing unimpeded access to holy sites for all communities.

The third is major financial compensation and resettlement assistance in a Palestinian state for refugees, coupled with some formal Israeli acknowledgment of responsibility for the problem, but no generalized right of return.

The fourth is the creation of an American-led, UN-mandated multinational force for a transition period of up to 15 years leading to full Palestinian control of their security.
Image source here.