Events

Sunday, November 29, 2009

29 November 1947: UN Votes for Palestine Partition—and today??

Will the "one-state solution" eclipse the two-state solution that has never materialized?


Two weeks ago, I came across the following story:
Exclusive:The Secret Palestinian Plan
Posted By Reena Ninan On November 14, 2009 @ 12:47 PM

A senior Palestinian official tells Fox News in the next few weeks the Palestinian Authority is planning to call for Palestinian statehood through a UN resolution-- a similar maneuver to that by which Israel was created. . . .

I have to confess that my first reaction was a flippant one:

Uh, Dudes! It already happened, like . . . 60 years ago!

November 29, 1947

The General Assembly, Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power to constitute and instruct a Special Committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of the future Government of Palestine at the second regular session;
. . . . . . . .
Considers that the present situation in Palestine is one which is likely to impair the general welfare and friendly relations among nations;

Takes note of the declaration by the mandatory Power that it plans to complete its evacuation of Palestine by l August 1948;

Recommends to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future Government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union set out below
. . . . . . . . . .
Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948.
Did you, uh, miss something (like, you know, . . . a historic opportunity)?

Of course, it is a serious matter, especially given the current stalemate in peace talks and resultant posturing and grandstanding on both sides.

The "next few weeks" means by now, well: now, which happens to coincide with the anniversary of the Partition vote. I therefore waited to post about it till today (this is, after all, a blog devoted primarily to history and its uses and abuses).

An astute progressive colleague recently remarked to me that this new move for a one-state solution might well become the cause célèbre on college campuses, eclipsing, for example, the BDS movements (whose failure to achieve any concrete results is by now well known). She also noted that the Palestinian strategy was quite clever.

I agree: but too clever by half (as the saying goes).

The report continued:
Both Palestinians and some Israelis believe that there is growing support in the international community for such a measure.

Asked to comment on the plan, an American official said that such a UN resolution, while not a cure-all, could be expanded upon eventually. Still, he added: "It's a measure that would make you feel good for five minutes. Then what?"

Palestinian officials predict the US would veto a UN resolution. If the resolution fails, senior Palestinian officials are considering completely dissolving the Palestinian Authority. That would leave the burden of running the West Bank to Israel--a policy that the Israeli government would be fearful of.

US tax payers pay $3 billion to aid Israel a year. If Palestinians hand the keys over to the Israelis more money will likely be needed to facilitate the occupation. The senior Palestinian official added once the Palestinian Authority is dismantled, Palestinians will push for a 'one state solution'-- ultimately making Israel no longer a Jewish state.
There's the rub. Too clever by half: yes, it is clever, but the tragedy is that all the cleverness is being applied to plans to put Israel in a box and force it to concede (to that extent, the logic is the same as that of the BDS movement), and that's a shame. Making the world "feel good for five minutes" and attempting to extort a solution (though one has to know, in one's heart of hearts, that the prospects of success are minimal at best) pretty much sums things up: a desperate and self-serving but perversely self-defeating effort.

I said above: desperate. Indeed, I perfectly understand the frustrations of both sides. Palestinians feel that they are the victims of history and great-power decisions in the twentieth century. Now confronting a regional superpower that holds all the military and political cards, they feel they have conceded about as much as they can, yet have very little to show for it. The more the leadership negotiates without reaching peace, which, for them, means attaining statehood, and sooner rather than later, and on some very specific terms (more on that below)—especially when they long could not claim, by their standards, to have achieved even the paltry goal of improved conditions of daily life in a world of occupation, barriers, and checkpoints—the more it delegitimizes itself in the eyes of its own population. Israelis, for their part, feel not just politically, but existentially threatened. They see themselves confronting not just a few million subjugated Palestinians with limited military means at their disposal, but a whole Arab and Islamic alliance that refuses, more than 60 years after the fact, to recognize their presence, their legitimacy, and their permanence. They see that their every offer of compromise has historically been rejected as not enough. When the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge the character of their state as a Jewish one (a principle affirmed in the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, and the UN Partition resolution), and when they see an insistence on an absolute right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants (which would of course eliminate the Jewish character of the state), they see a rejection of their homeland, as such, and a plan to destroy it in stages. Each side—above and beyond the objective merits of the case—feels that it has been negotiating in good faith but that the other side has not held up its end of the bargain. It's all perfectly understandable. Each side in that sense is subjectively "right" in its own way.

There are many problems with a one-state solution today versus, say, in 1926 or 1936 or 1946— the main one being the disingenuousness or callousness of most of its advocates. Back then, the advocates were determined idealists or resigned realists. Today, they are naïfs or cynical manipulators. The sole purpose of this new one-state proposal is therefore to secure by coercion what negotiation could not attain.

Let us, then, get down to basics. The single overriding and insuperable problem, as I have said earlier, can be reduced to one paradoxical but simple truth: the conditions that would make the one-state solution possible would render it unnecessary. That is: if the two sides had enough trust to believe that they could actually share a single state without the one dominating the other (as a few humane thinkers on both sides had earlier suggested), then they would long ago have been able to agree on partition of the land into two states in which each people could feel secure and proud under its own sovereignty. If they cannot agree to live separately in peace, how could they possibly agree to live together? It's that simple. QED.

Ergo, proposals for "one state" are disingenuous at best.

The Palestinian ideal of the "one-state solution" is in certain fundamental aspects qualitatively no different from the right-wing Israeli settler ideal of permanent occupation: the idea that one people can attain its maximalist goals by compulsion and without conceding anything, and that the other will nonetheless be satisfied without full sovereignty. It is a perverse fantasy.

Would the world not be better off if all that cleverness were applied to the positive goal of reaching a mutually agreed upon solution? That, after all, is the goal of peace: something that the two sides can reach, together, out of the recognition of mutual necessity, and interest. Not love, not abstract ideals, but interest. In that sense, it's like medieval and early modern conceptions of marriage. We believe that marriage springs from love. Earlier ages believed marriage was about social and economic alliances, and that romantic passion was fickle, destabilizing, and short-lived—in short, no basis for what we nowadays call a "permanent relationship" (in political terms, substitute: "permanent settlement"). For them, love therefore followed rather than preceded marriage. I am hardly suggesting that we revert to medieval norms in this or anything else (though the Middle Ages could still teach us a few things about many things). Still, the insight that stable political relationships are built on recognition or reconciliation of interests rather than tenderheartedness and mere desire (what was Lord Palmerston's classic phrase about Britain's permanent interests?) can stand us in good stead here. Or, as Israeli security scholar Yehoshafat Yarkabi has written, "It is not the change of images . . . which will lead to peace, but peace which will lead to the change of images."

As it happens, two pro-peace sources that have been on the blogroll of this site since its inception recently and coincidentally came out with proposed solutions. Both in effect spell out terms for the equivalent of a successful negotiated marriage.

The first is from IPCRI—the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information—run by Israeli Gershon Baskin and Palestinian Hanna Siniora. It is the oldest and boldest of the truly collaborative undertakings between the two peoples, and it recently won an award as one of the world's best NGOs. Baskin suggests:
Obama said in Cairo that resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict is a US national strategic interest. It is in fact an international strategic interest. As such, it cannot be left to the veto of the Israelis and the Palestinians any longer. There is no chance that the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach any bilateral negotiated agreement, therefore it is not only a waste of time and precious energy on negotiating the negotiations, it is a waste of time to make efforts to bring the two parties to the table right now. They have serious homework to do before coming to the table, as do the leaders of the Quartet.

THE QUARTET, led by the US should:

1. Give the parties six months to present their own versions of a peace treaty taking into account all of the issues, needs, interests, threat perceptions and means for dealing with them.

2. Spend three months integrating the two treaties into the Quartet parameters. If there is no plan from one or both parties, the Quartet will still draw up its own plan.

3. An additional six months will be spent negotiating on the means to implement the plan. Differences between the parties will be resolved through bridging proposals put on the table by the Quartet.

4. The Quartet will make preparations for the creation of an international force led by the US (without US troops) containing a military, a policing and a civilian monitoring force (under the command of a US general) and with a US administration, with the participation of EU troops, Russians and others. The force will be stationed in the Palestinian state and will facilitate the Israeli withdrawal from Palestine and provide security guarantees for both states. Security can no longer be entrusted to bilateral arrangements as it was in the past. The security discourse must be advanced from the idea that Palestinians are providing security to Israel. This is rejected by both sides. The new discourse must be one of mutual security. There will be no security unless both sides feel secure from the threats of the other.

5. Even after Israeli withdrawal, there is a possibility that there will remain a law- abiding Jewish minority in the Palestinian state and this is a good development. The rights and treatment of the national minorities in each state should be linked to each other.

6. A UN Security Council resolution detailing the parameters of peace, of Palestinian and Israeli statehood and full Palestinian membership in the UN comes in at this stage.

7. The next Palestinian elections are held for the government of the state of Palestine and not for the Palestinian Authority.

8. The West Bank-Gaza link (tunnel, bridge, sunken road or a combination) will be constructed at this stage - as soon as possible and brought to about one kilometer of Gaza until there is a change in the political situation in Gaza. In any event, the peace treaty is based on the West Bank and Gaza, and will apply to Gaza as soon as possible.

9. The economic siege on Gaza must end because it is empowering Hamas and weakening the allies of peace.

There are many more details which must be included, but the space for this article is far too limited for that.
The other is from an indivdual and may appear equally quixotic, though in different ways. Palestinian-American comic and jouralist Ray Hanania has decided to run for President of the Palestinian Authority, and proposes the following peace plan:
1. I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel's "Jewish" character and Israelis should recognize Palestine's "non-Jewish" character.

2. I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas' participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a "final" peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.

3. I can support some settlements remaining - given the reality of 42 years of time passing - in a dunam-for-dunam land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunams with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunams in exchange.

4. Jerusalem should be a shared city and Palestinians should have an official presence in East Jerusalem. The Old City should be shared by both permitting open access to the city to all with a joint Palestinian-Israeli police presence.

5. Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.

6. I also think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict.

7. I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled.

8. I think the Wall should be torn down, or relocated to the new borders. I have no problem separating the two nations for a short duration to help rebuild confidence between our two people.

9. All political parties, Palestinian and Israelis, should eliminate languages denying each other's existence, and all maps should be reprinted so that Israeli maps finally show Palestine and Palestinian maps finally show Israel.

10. A subway system should be built linking the West Bank portion of the Palestine state to the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestine State. Palestine should be permitted to build a seaport access to strengthen its industry, and an airport to permit flights and too and from the Arab and Israeli world.

11. I would urge the Arab World to renew their offer to normalize relations with Israel if Israel agrees to support the creation of a Palestinian State.

12. And I would ask both countries to establish embassies in each other's country to address other problems.

13. While non-Jewish Palestinians would continue to live in Israel as citizens, Jews who wish to live in settlements surrendered by Israel could become Palestinian citizens and they should be recognized and treated equally.

14. If Jews want to live in Hebron, they should be allowed to live in Hebron and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel. In fact, major Palestinian populations in Israel could be annexed into Palestine (like settlements).

15. Another concept is to have non-Jews living in Israel continue to live there but only vote in Palestinian elections, while Jews living in Palestine would only vote in Israeli elections. A special citizenship protection committee could be created to explore how to protect the rights of minorities in each state.

16. Israel and Palestine should create joint-governing and security agencies working with the United States to monitor the peace, and establish an agency to pursue criminal acts of violence.
To be sure, each proposal will provoke the ire of some on the "right" and "left" of each side, but that's in the nature of the thing. If compromise were easy, it would be neither painful nor difficult. (a simple truth, one would think) If each proposal is a fantasy of some sort, at least it is a humane rather than a cynical and malicious one. Each takes sincerely the interests and concerns of both sides. Each addresses the most sensitive and persistent issues, such as refugees and minority rights. Each attempts, by bold measures, to break the logjam.

Coincidentally writing today, journalist and peace proponent Ami Isseroff is as clear-eyed as Baskin and therefore sees the same obstacles, but he draws more pessimistic conclusions. He worries that we are indeed the victims of a hopeless fantasy, namely, "the mythical peace that is just beyond reach":
The conventional wisdom in much of the world holds that there is an Israeli-Arab peace settlement that is just out of reach - so near yet so far, frustrated only by tactical accidents. We all know what the peace settlement must look like, says the myth. If only Israel wasn't so stubborn about building in Jerusalem or (under Ehud Olmert) not negotiating at all about Jerusalem, there could be peace in a week. But somehow peace, like the lost tribes of Israel in the medieval Jewish myth, remains beyond reach, on the other side of the Sambatyon river . . .
What does the peace settlement look like? We all know, what the peace settlement would look like, don't we? It would look like the Clinton Bridging Proposals, or it would look like the Geneva Accord, or it might even look like the reasonable proposal of Palestinian-American comedian Ray Hanania.
The myth, as he explains it, rests on a false assumption. All of the aforementioned bridging proposals posit: Palestinian relinquishment of the absolute right of return of all refugees and descendants; Israeli control over "some parts of Jerusalem beyond the 1949 armistice line"; each side's willingness to recognize the other's state as a national home. "The depressing fact is that all the polls of Palestinians and all the statements of the leaders and all the documents of the PLO and the Fatah have been fairly consistent in giving negative replies to all the issues." "The one ray of hope," he continues, is the belief that some surveys show popular Palestinian support for greater compromises. He goes on to show that the polls have been grossly misinterpreted because that supposed willingness is predicated on Israel's willingness to accept an absolute Palestinian right of return, which is a non-starter for the Jewish state.

He raises serious concerns. To read his article should be a salutary but sobering experience for expert and casual commentator alike: like being awakened from an edenic dream of peace by a bucket of cold water on the face. In other words, we may be exactly where we were last night, and we suddenly feel very uncomfortable. Still . . .

Baskin's proposal on the surface resembles the sorts of imposed solutions that have increasingly been proposed from outside, but what it really imposes is not a solution as much as a deadline. In this plan, unlike the proposed Palestinian one-state campaign, statehood follows rather than precedes negotiation. The plan requires the two parties to determine their own positions and then negotiate in good faith according to a timetable. It does not allow the parties to walk away from the table or fail to fulfill their obligations, as has happened in the past. Hanania's proposal addresses Isseroff's concerns but has no mechanism for achieving the required Palestinian consensus (unless he wins the election; and maybe not even then. Then again, no plan or platform, Palestinian or Israeli, comes with a guaranteed consensus in all its details, even if its chief advocate wins a national election). Still, no one put these ideas forward as policy before. Why not put them to the test of public discussion? Then we will truly know whether to be pessimistic.

Dreams? Perhaps. But the most pessimistic prospect is a situation in which no one is even trying to come up with new ideas. And even if the debate just grinds the proposals down, leaving behind a new and hardened pessimism, that is infinitely preferable to a feeble optimism that will crumble under the inevitable pressure of reality.

* * *

updates:

30 November: more on the Hanania plan on settler/refugee exchange (Burston in Haaretz)

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