March 17, 2001
Why, one may ask, is there any reason to propose a "Union"
or "Federation" in Israel/Palestine? Why on earth
is there any reason to believe that this solution will be
successful? There is not even sufficient goodwill on either
side to ensure a separation, why propose such an intimate
approach between these two mutually repellent populations?
are three main reasons why it is appropriate to take up and
modify at this time, the ideas presented by the original group
of people of Brit Shalom.
first reason is that the Oslo process, after more than a decade
of negotiations, has failed. Oslo, and its ideological carry-on
baggage, was evidently suffering at Camp David in 2000 and
was clearly dead already at Taba some months after. Oslo is
dead, not because there is no willingness to concede, but
because there is a fundamental inability of either side to
partition the land of Palestine/Israel. The reasons underlying
this stubborness are different for the two sides.
the Israelis, partition clearly means the uprooting of over
100 settlements beyond the green line. It means adjusting
to a rapid and irrevocable deterioration in geographical deterrent
capabilities. In order to face the problems raised by this
scenario, successive Israeli governments have proposed to
keep Israeli settlements across the green line, and they have
devised drafts that would ensure Israeli access to roads and
military installations all over the West Bank.
demands are, it now seems, wholly unacceptable to the Palestinians,
who would then be left with administrating not so much a country,
but a collection of pieces of land, disjointed and interrupted.
So neither side really is able to accept a straight partition.
second reason is that, no matter what happens there will have
to be erected channels of cooperation anyway. Issues such
as defence, resources, particularly water resources, economic
and regional development, pollution, know no boundaries. No
matter what happens, cooperation will need to be sought on
these and other issues of pressing concern.
question is only whether the discussions will take the form
of dictates from the powerful to the powerless or whether
they should be agreed upon through mutual cooperation. If
the situation is one of unilateral dictates and selfish demands,
as has been the case since 1967, a co-existence will simply
not last. This is what we are precisely what we are experiencing
now, with the Second Intifada.
third reason is more emotional perhaps, a political factor
that should not be underestimated. The emotional ties that
each people have to the land are to the whole land. Neither
Palestinians nor Jews harbour feelings of national pride to
a half of Palestine. Both parties are equally adamant that
their country is 'really' the whole of Israel/Palestine. The
concession of partition is equally big in both minds.
map that the Prime Minister of Israel, as well as most Israeli
homes, have on their wall, is the map of Israel and the territories,
and this is of course true for both Arafat and the Palestinian
population as well. Slowly, it becomes clear for those who
want to see it, that the other population is there to stay.
By the year 2012 there will be demographic parity between
the two nations in Palestine/Israel.
is to say, that in a decade or so, there will be as many Palestians
as there will be Jews West of the Jordan river. It will have
become evident then, that a population of eight or nine millions
cannot be denied basic human rights.
a solution must be based on these three assumptions, whose
strength have been tested over the course of the last 100
years: First, there cannot be an absolute physical separation
because it would entail a compromise too large to bearfor
the Israelis. Second, cooperation must be undertaken between
two equal parties, it cannot take the form of dictates from
the more powerful part as lack of empowerment breeds violence.
Third, the emotional and national-mythological needs of either
party need to be addressed.
it is necessary to point out the fact that, although the union
solution clearly suffers from a plethora of practical difficulties,
of which the drawing of borders and legislation land areas
and populations are just two examples, that is not to say
that there is a perfect solution out there somewhere waiting
to be discovered. There is none. There is no easy, foolproof
solution to the existential battle between the two rivalling
national entities over the real estate of Palestine.
If it is clear now that there is no satisfactory way in which
partition of Palestine/Israel can be effectuated while ensuring
Israel's security needs as well as Palestinian national ambitions,
then some other solution must be proposed. There is no good
'proposing' to perennially wage war one against the other.
As the hawks would have it, because that does not constitute
a solution but rather a breakdown of solutions.
the explosive demography of the two countries and the sharp
geographical constraints which prevail, it will eventually
become clear that either party is unable to delegitimise the
other and cooperation will, at the end of the day, become
inevitable. Eventually, the country will not bear partition,
as Yehudah Amichai wrote once in his poems: "…the fields
must have it." Any solution that does not respect the
organic nature of the country, its indivisibility in the hearts
and minds of its inhabitants will prove itself unworkable.
© 2001-2002 Brit