The Quest For Justice In The Middle East: The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Greater Perspective

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But the obstacles might seem less formidable if the exclusion of one-state options from international discussions were relaxed. Indeed, whereas the two-state model has been negotiated in minute details, allowing a clear picture of its features to emerge, no such picture or set of pictures exists for a one-state solution. Even though discussions have taken place in all sorts of public and private forums, most of the debate has occurred within each national camp. No idea has acquired a critical mass among both communities to allow for compromises or detailed articulations of a particular model.

Of course, all conceptions are utopian if they are devised only by small groups with agendas are not shared by important actors. As long as these ideas are pursued only by small, like-minded groups, they will not take realistic shape. So now may be the time to start talking. Some groundwork has already been laid. Perhaps the best-known effort to broaden discussions is that of political theorist Bashir Bashir and his Alternatives to Partition research group, a project with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue where a group of Palestinians and Israelis met for three years to discuss the details of different variations of the one-state solution.

It is not simply that such discussions can produce more realistic options; efforts to focus not merely on the end point but also on the process might make those options better. One clear commonality to all alternatives to the two-state solution is that, in practice, they would be profoundly conditioned by how they arise. The process will deeply shape the practical meaning of each outcome. Some of the factors pushing the one-state solution to the fore are long term, such as demographic trends and generational shifts, and are thus not amenable to short-term diplomacy or discussion.

But others are based much more on the attitudes and understandings of various actors and sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society that may be more malleable. In an atmosphere in which two societies profoundly fear and suspect each other, the same mistrust that undermined the two-state solution has made the one-state alternative difficult to discuss constructively. That is all the more reason to bring such discussions out into the open.

International actors should not feel that exploring one-state alternatives is abandoning diplomacy. Those who are interested in furthering the process of putting such new ideas on the table can encourage discussion in a variety of ways:. Palestinians are now coming to terms with what farsighted critiques of the Oslo Accords warned about a quarter-century ago. The basic prerequisites for a Palestinian state are virtually nonexistent. The Palestinian political system is deeply divided and lacks meaningful autonomy, its territorial and societal bases are severely fragmented, and its economy remains structurally dependent on Israel and on international aid.

Palestinians also have come to see that the United States and Israel have abandoned a two-state option in favor of full Israeli domination. Although the European Union, Arab states, and other international actors continue to support the two-state formula, Palestinians nonetheless see that no effective steps have been taken in that direction. In recent years, a growing number of intellectuals, academics, and political activists have envisioned and articulated alternatives to the two-state solution, overwhelmingly favoring an inclusive single polity.

Historical and current debates have always contemplated elements of potential single polity—whether in the form of a democratic state, binationalism, consociationalism, federalism, and multicultural democracy, to name a few options—encompassing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Yet the recent resurgence of the one-state debate stems from a more realistic understanding of the absence of a two-state trajectory.

For its proponents, the one-state vision appears to present a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, offering an ethical and just framework for reimagining the state on the basis of equal citizenship and democratic representation. Current Palestinian debates have raised three fundamental and complementary arguments to support a one-state alternative. First, the one-state solution offers a means of revising the outcomes of the Palestinian Nakba of in order to repair past and present injustices, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Second, the reality on the ground is a de facto single state that relies on colonial expansion and institutional discrimination to privilege one national group over the other. Segments of the younger generation in the West Bank and Gaza have gradually accepted the one-state idea, but the concept has not yet matured among the Palestinian population at large.

This trend began to be felt after the collapse of the Camp David negotiations in July and the subsequent eruption of the second Palestinian intifada in late September, and its increase correlates with the declining prospects for the two-state solution. Equally important, the one-state solution is noticeably popular among Palestinians inside Israel and in the diaspora. Over half of the Palestinians in Israel, for instance, support the one-state solution. Diasporic Palestinians, including prominent intellectuals and activists in the West, also have been campaigning for the one-state program.

Yet even as these ideas provoke extensive discussions among Palestinian intellectuals, and increasingly among the public at large, they are not linked to a powerful organization or movement.


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In other words, they are the subject of daily discussion and growing support, but are not yet married to any specific project or program and have not found traction in daily politics. The ideas are not new. Indeed, the original objective of the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO was the goal of one state for all of its citizens, as stipulated by the revised Palestinian National Charter of The one-state objective, however, was short-lived, as it was replaced in by the 10 Point Program that ultimately led to the two-state solution and the Oslo process.

The PLO and the Palestinian Authority PA uncritically walled themselves up in the narrow circle of the two-state solution, which limited their ability to adopt an outside-the-box approach. Even though the two-state solution seems to be decaying on the ground, the Palestinian leadership continues to appear unable and unwilling to explore alternatives and to embark on a new national strategy that bypasses the narrow space offered by the Oslo framework.

Although a number of PA officials have in recent months hinted at equal rights within a single state from the river to the sea, this perspective stems less from a strategic leadership reorientation and more from fear over the U.

Ever-Elusive Justice

Thus, the more meaningful debate is taking place in Palestinian society rather than among the formal leadership. Indeed, in the public eye, PA legitimacy has been eroded; increasingly, it is being regarded with disdain. At best, the PA will continue to preserve the status quo of its own stability regardless of the changing dynamics on the ground, relying mainly on internal suppression and co-optation of political dissension.

At worst, if the PA continues its coercive monopoly over the domestic political field, it will likely obstruct nascent movements seeking alternatives, including a potential struggle for the one-state option. Similar judgments can be levied on the Hamas government in Gaza, with its focus on sustaining its rule of the devastated strip. Hamas was late in embracing the two-state formula following the declaration of its new political manifesto in , and it tends to advance a self-serving agenda, touting its moderation and pragmatism in an effort to gain recognition by the international community.

Nevertheless, Hamas failed to show that it comprehended the complex reality of the Palestinian situation, or had a strategy for dealing with it. Other groups have struggled with the concept as well. The Palestinian left has been unable to overcome its long-standing crisis.

Reconsidering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

It has been persistently visionless and powerless, even though one might expect that progressive forces would have embraced the one-state idea and elaborated a suitable approach to it. Likewise, some sections of Israeli society support the one-state idea, but they are socially excluded and ideologically rebuffed. Mere perceptions and desires will hardly influence future political directions without vision, mobilization, and strategization.

The one-state reality seems to be building a foundation for itself without any leadership or vision promoting it. If the one-state solution is coming, what kind of state will it produce? There is no logical reason to believe that a democratic state is on its way, certainly not in the foreseeable future. The de facto one state could be officially declared if Israel partly or fully annexed the occupied West Bank.

Such a scenario could be pushed forward by the U. The only option left is shared sovereignty, with equal rights and a binational polity. The one-state solution will not be impossible in the long term. Considering the intractable nature of the century-old conflict, then the one-state objective should be regarded as a prolonged struggle, subject to various complications and difficulties. There are two scenarios under which an official Palestinian leadership might formally adopt a one-state option as its goal:.

Even if such a formal step is not taken any time soon, the one-state solution is likely to look more realistic than ever before in the eyes of increasing numbers of Palestinians. Since taking office for the second time in , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made numerous contradictory statements regarding the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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  • One of his coalition partners, the Jewish Home party, categorically rejects two states and supports a partial annexation of the West Bank. In Israel in general, the question of peace with Palestinians is hardly on the agenda. For Israelis, security is not the flip side of peace, but a completely distinct concept. Many Israelis remember the problem only when there is violence. The decline is not exactly ideological; it is driven largely by the sense that the solution is no longer feasible. Perceptions of nonviability are highly correlated with opposition to a two-state outcome, and similarly, perceptions of viability are correlated with high support.

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    Although the two-state solution has dominated policy circles for roughly twenty-five years, it is worth recalling that for the Israeli Jewish public, the window of support for it was much shorter. From , Israeli Jewish support the only tracking data available for a Palestinian state climbed steadily from just over one-quarter to reach a majority toward the end of the decade.

    Israeli majority support remained mostly stable during the s, but has declined since then. Some prominent Israelis have used their platforms to urge progress on a two-state final status agreement, but they have limited influence. Former prime minister Ehud Barak has warned of future apartheid if Israel moves toward a single state; likewise, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has said that Israel might be perceived as an apartheid regime if it expands its sovereignty in the West Bank without full rights for Palestinians.

    Further, their message is diluted by contradictions within the camp that Israelis view as left-wing. Former Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog, until recently the head of the opposition, barely put peace on the agenda. His successor as Labor leader, Avi Gabbay, has made statements that appear to compete with right-wing positions , when he is not simply keeping quiet on the topic.

    Why do citizens who take pride in being a democracy appear unfazed? Given that senior figures such as Barak and Rivlin spoke of apartheid years after former U. There is another possible reason for such disregard. Warnings of imminent apartheid may have lost their force as a looming specter. Today, there is just one sovereign state between the river and the sea, with two types of subjects: Israeli citizens living under an elected government and civil law; and Palestinian noncitizens subject to the ultimate sovereignty of the Israeli army.

    Settlements have eroded both the quantity and contiguity of land for a Palestinian state, leaving concentrated Palestinian population centers surrounded by areas of Israeli control. A survey conducted by the Israeli human rights organization Btselem, its results corroborated in a second independent survey, showed that approximately half of Israeli Jews said that they would support total annexation of the West Bank while giving Palestinians residency but not citizenship and maintaining infrastructure to ensure separation.

    Israelis may not see the status quo as ideal, but electoral results show that for the most part they accept it. The near-emergency situation in Gaza and the slow implosion of the West Bank make the correct diagnosis and possible remedies even more urgent. Israel too will continue to witness democratic erosion and further cycles of violence if the conflict is not resolved. With the two-state solution increasingly unattainable, Marwan Muasher and Nathan Brown have reviewed three modes of governance that acknowledge both the physical and political impossibility of full separation.

    The options for more integrated political frameworks range from a simple single democratic state to a two-state confederation. No plan is perfect, but not all flaws are created equal. Are any of these options viable from the Israeli perspective?

    Ever-Elusive Justice

    Israeli society does not offer much of a map for assessment. In the abovementioned December survey, only about one-third of Israelis—and Palestinians, for that matter—backed a single democratic state. Support for a two-state confederation has risen somewhat among Israeli Jews over the past two years, to about one-third, along with higher support from Arab Israelis, who support all peace plans at a high rate. Thirty percent of Palestinians backed a confederation in the August survey. But this approach is hardly known in the general discourse, and other solutions such as federation or a canton-based structure have not even been publicly tested in surveys.

    Meanwhile, right-wing policymakers in Israel are reticent about comprehensive plans other than piecemeal annexation ideas.


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    • The center-left clings to the two-state solution, while some defectors, such as a prominent member of the Labor Party , have moved to the right with annexation ideas. In this environment, the policy community can make a real contribution not only by elaborating options for governance but by proposing how to assess them in light of the political realities and the priorities of both sides.

      Three main principles for assessing solutions should be considered. First, the alternatives must find the right measure of separation and integration. Although Israelis and Palestinians are geographically and economically entwined, they have separate national identity needs. Does a proposal offer the right balance that will satisfy the needs of both groups? Second, alternatives need to be assessed not only through the overall constitutional model but also by examining the hard consequences, such as economic and labor opportunity, levels of violence, movement restrictions, access to holy places, and other basic needs of daily life.

      Third, to reach any political resolution, the parties must gain sufficient support from internal constituencies of each side, as per the two-level game. To do this, solutions should offer some measure of accommodation to spoilers but avoid alienating the other side; this approach may help generate cracks in the opposition rather than drive all the rejectionist camps together.

      There is little chance of Israeli-Palestinian peace any time soon. Ideally, these conditions would be accepted by the Israeli right and left, by both Israelis and Palestinians. In addition to the long-term benefit for future agreements, advancing such conditions can also generate immediate improvements and a sense of hope—which are no less important for peacemaking, and are sorely lacking in the current environment.

      The following is a proposal for action items that can contribute to both the present and the future, and are realistic within the current political situation in Israel and Palestine. These proposals begin to forge a critical path toward peace. Eventually, leaders might realize that they have no excuse not to follow it. The land area of the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, is However, allowances should be made for the unpredictable, including the unlikely scenario that there will be a breakthrough caused by unforeseen circumstances, the oversight of which would be analyzed for years to come.

      Edward P. Nathan J. Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he directs the Institute for Middle East Studies. Dahlia Scheindlin is an international public opinion analyst and strategic consultant based in Tel Aviv. Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article.

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      Reappraising the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. The Israeli and Palestinian communities are growing ever closer physically while remaining separated politically. Any solution must adequately address the needs of both sides. Published September 18, Djerejian With Samih al-Abid, Gilead Sher, and Khalil Shikaki Introduction For much of the twenty-first century, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stagnated and diplomatic initiatives have fallen short.

      Djerejian Edward P. Muasher is vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East. Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, is a distinguished scholar and author of six well-received books on Arab politics. Dahlia Scheindlin Dahlia Scheindlin is an international public opinion analyst and strategic consultant based in Tel Aviv. Russia Dmitri Trenin. Federiga Bindi. Richard Youngs. Ou le remplies de et celle qui resulte cellules au a la compression qu'il.

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      Through the United Nations the international community has been involved in the conflict throughout its existence, since Resolution was the legal basis for Israel's declaration of statehood on May 14, Since the disputed area is considered to be a Holy Land by Jews , Christians and Muslims , the conflict has attracted a great deal of interest.

      The geo-political location of the conflict, too, adjoining the zone where the world's largest petroleum exporting countries are located, has added urgency to its resolution. Much effort has been invested in the peace process, yet comparatively little has been achieved. Thousands of Palestinians are still refugees.

      Upwards of three million people living on the West Bank and Gaza do not possess citizenship of a sovereign state, and remain impoverished. Failure to resolve the conflict has also resulted in a strained relationship between the Muslim world, which supports justice for the Palestinians, and the West especially the United States , which is perceived to be pro-Israeli, fueling talk of a "class of civilizations. The conflict is sometimes referred to as the "Middle East conflict. Since , the conflict involves the Islamic Republic of Iran a non-Arab state, not highlighted on the map as well.

      Despite involving a relatively small land area and number of casualties, the conflict has been the focus of worldwide media and diplomatic attention for decades. Many countries, individuals and non-governmental organizations elsewhere in the world are involved in or concerned with this conflict for cultural and religious reasons, such as ties with Islam , Arab culture, Christianity, Judaism , Jewish culture or for ideological, human rights, or strategic reasons. Because Israel is a democracy with a free press, the media has access to the conflict which also increases media coverage.

      While some consider the Arab-Israeli conflict a part of or a precursor to a wider clash of civilizations between the Western World and the Arab or Muslim world [1] [2] , others oppose this view and claim that the religion dimension is a new matter in this conflict. Animosity emanating from this conflict has caused numerous attacks on supporters or perceived supporters of one side by supporters of the other side in many countries around the world.

      In addition to inter-state wars between Israel and her Arab neighbors, terrorist acts against Israel by Palestinian refugees and Israeli retaliations, civil uprisings against Israeli occupation following the war, numerous peace initiatives also feature in the story of this major conflict. War, in the technical sense of inter-state armed conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors began in November and ceased with a series of armistices in The origins of the conflict can be traced back to as early as Some, who attribute the origins of the conflict to ancient animosity between Jews and Muslims, trace the origin back much further.

      However, from , Jews began to settle in the Palestine area in increased number some had settled over a century earlier of what was then the Ottoman Empire 's province of Greater Syria , fleeing persecution in Europe. Most of these Jews were secular. Many were socialist but they saw themselves as pioneering a Jewish colony, or even a Jewish state, in their ancient homeland.

      These Jews bought land from Arabs, who were often absentee landlords. Most of the land they acquired was swamp or desert , and it was with skill and ingenuity and financial help from wealthy European Jews that these settles transformed the land into profitable farms. Although migration was legal at this time, there was "strong Arab antagonism to such settlement" [3]. Britain was a strong supporter of Jewish settlement even at this time. In , Britain's Balfour Declaration gave official support to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

      Since , the World Zionist Organization had advocated that only in a Jewish state would Jews be truly free from persecution, and although initially Palestine had not been identified as the location for this state, by it was the only location under consideration.

      Even before the end of World War I , Britain had already laid claim to administering the Palestine area when her representatives and France's met to carve up the Ottoman Empire among the expected victors; Libya went to Italy. The Paris Peace Conference, ratified the distribution of territory under League of Nations mandates.

      The Arab delegation at the Peace Conference objected but it also ratified the intention of creating a Jewish state in Palestine, while not compromising the rights of other communities living there, that is, the Arabs. Immediately, Arabs - Christian as well as Muslim - began to object. Conferences were held.

      Arab-Israeli Conflict - New World Encyclopedia

      Delegations were sent to London. Anti-Jewish riots broke out, which could be said to represent the start of the actual conflict. Rioting during saw over casualties. In , the British Mandate of Palestine was created against strong Arab objection. Most Arabs immediately adopted a non-co-operation policy with the British. Subsequently, the Legislative Council that was supposed to be established was never created. During and , anti-Jewish again riots took place. In , the Arabs demanded an end to Jewish migration, which was subsequently severely restricted.

      Unsure how to prosecute their Mandate, the British set up the Peele Commission to advise them, which recommended that the territory should be divided into two separate states. During World War II , the Mufti of Jerusalem, whom the British had recognized as the leader of the Palestinian Muslims since , despite his part in the riots, supported Adolf Hitler , convinced that a German victory would lead to the resolution of the Jewish question.

      Meanwhile, Jewish resistance to British rule had seen terrorist attacks agauinst them by several groups impatient with the delay in implementing the Mandate. By the end of World War II, with thousands of Jewish refugees stranded in Europe and thousands trying to run against the British blockade restriction of Jewish immigration were still in place , Britain decided that the mandate was unworkable and declared her intention to withdraw completely on May 15th, Britain handed responsibility over to the newly formed United Nations.

      The UN also established a commission to advise them, which, following the Peel Commission, recommended what has become known as the "two-state solution," with a third entity, Jerusalem, under direct UN control.



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