Published on
The Guardian/UK

Palestinians Lose Faith In Two-State Solution

Study group calls for new form of resistance to Israeli occupation with goal of single, bi-national state

Rory McCarthy

A Palestinian protester confronts an Isareli soldier. (Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/ Reuters)

JERUSALEM - group of prominent Palestinian figures has proposed a radical
change in strategy to demand a single, bi-national state if the current
round of Middle East peace talks fails.

The Palestinian Strategy Study Group,
an EU-funded project written by 27 leading Palestinian figures from
across the political spectrum, argued that the current two-state
framework for peace talks is failing to bring the promised independent
state. Instead, it suggested ending the negotiation process that has
gone on now for nearly 20 years, reconstituting the Palestinian
Authority into what might become a "Palestinian Resistance Authority",
and developing a form of "smart" resistance.

"The central aim
will be to maximise the cost of continuing occupation for Israel, and
to make the whole prospect of unilateral separation unworkable," it
said. The final, and most striking proposal, is to shift to a "single
state outcome" as the Palestinians' preferred goal. This, it said,
would regain the strategic initiative for the Palestinians.

many Palestinians may still prefer a genuine negotiated two-state
solution, a failure of the present Annapolis initiative will greatly
strengthen those who argue against this," the report said. "Most
Palestinians are then likely to be convinced that a negotiated
agreement is no longer possible."

It is not the first time a
bi-national state has been proposed as a Palestinian goal, but the new
report signals a marked shift in Palestinian thinking at a time when
the latest peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are yet
again struggling to make any headway. Questions are now being asked on
both sides about the future of the two-state solution that for so long
has been the framework of Middle East peacemaking.

The greatest
disquiet is on the Palestinian side, where even moderates are now
beginning to sense the two-state formula is moving out of reach.

feel that a two-state solution is losing currency amongst both our
peoples and with the world community beyond," said Salam Fayyad, the
Palestinian prime minister and former World Bank and IMF economist, in
a speech he wrote for a meeting of former Israeli diplomats yesterday
and which was delivered by Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign

Malki himself admitted that, despite 10 months of
talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which began in
Annapolis, in the United States, not a single word of agreement had
been put on paper. The Annapolis process, the first such peace talks in
seven years, were supposed to produce a peace agreement by the end of
this year - a goal that has proved wildly unrealistic.

group, the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information,
published a policy document this week with proposals for the
Palestinians to change the status quo. Among the options it said were
available were dissolving the Palestinian Authority, calling for a
one-state solution and making a Kosovo-style unilateral declaration of

However, it noted that the chief risk of calling
for a single, bi-national state was that nothing would change and the
status quo would simply worsen given how deeply unpopular the idea is
among Israelis. "With so little support from the more powerful
neighbour, it seems unlikely that the Palestinian call for unity will
bring many positive results in the near term," it said. Instead, it
concluded: "We feel that a tightly coordinated non-violent campaign
toward statehood is the best option."

One of the key obstacles on
the Palestinian side now is the bitter infighting between the two
leading factions, Fatah and Hamas. Since last year, Hamas, the Islamist
group that won elections in 2006, has been in full control of Gaza and
daily seems to be dividing ever further from its rival Fatah, which
effectively controls the West Bank. Even if a peace agreement was
reached this year, it is hard to see how it might be implemented in
Gaza without reconciliation between the rival factions, and for now
that seems out of their grasp.

Hamas has long argued against
negotiations with Israel. "We don't see any fruits from the political
negotiations," Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas advisor said in a recent interview
in Gaza. "So we have to make an evaluation for the whole Palestinian
national project. Since Madrid in 1991 until now it's been 17 years but
we've seen nothing on the ground. How can I convince people that we are
going in the right direction?"

On the Israeli side, opinion is
more mixed. In general the two-state solution is still broadly regarded
as a reasonable goal, although there are many on the rightwing who say
Israel should not give up the land it captured in 1967 or who say
Israelis have a Biblical right to settle in the West Bank that cannot
be negotiated away.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister who
will step down later this month, has pursued negotiations, arguing that
a two-state solution is attainable. On Sunday he will discuss with the
cabinet a plan to pay compensation to encourage some of the more
distant settlers in the West Bank to move either to Israel or to
settlements within the West Bank barrier.

Tzipi Livni, the
foreign minister who is likely to replace him as head of the ruling
Kadima party, also argues in favour of negotiations and has been deeply
involved in the latest talks, although she has said she would resist
pressure to hurry the negotiations. Ehud Barak, the defence minister,
suggested yesterday that some of the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem
might become the future capital of a Palestinian state, an idea which
has not always been palatable to Israelis.

Yet there are others
beginning to voice different ideas. In a newspaper column in the
Yedioth Ahronoth this week, Giora Eiland, a former head of the National
Security Council and former national security adviser under Ariel
Sharon, said the gap between Israel and the Palestinians was "enormous"
and growing.

"The maximum that the Israeli government [any
government] will be able to offer the Palestinians [and survive
politically] falls short of the minimum that the Palestinian government
[any government] can agree to accept [and survive politically]," he
wrote. Eiland argued that a final status peace deal "will not be
achievable in the foreseeable future" and that new ideas should be
considered. He suggested returning control of the West Bank to Jordan,
who controlled it before the 1967 war.


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