Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Land for peace? Sharon says no deal.

Relating this back to what I wrote yesterday, Sharon is not interested in a "land for peace" type of deal with the Palestinians. No, as one of his close advisors, Eyal Arad, admits:
Since 1967, almost the entire international community and at least half the public in Israel assumed the conflict would be solved based on the formula of territories for peace.... This formula is both false philosophically and naive politically.... The territorial problem was not the root cause of the conflict ... What the Palestinians sought was not really territories that they could control and run in the form of the Camp David proposal. What they really sought was independence.
That is, the Israelis don't need to deal with issues of borders or land or viability or Jerusalem or a resolution to the refugee situation — just announce that the Palestinians have a state and these problems are solved. In fact, this is exactly what Azmi Bishara said at the annual conference of the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, this past weekend. As Bishara explains (pdf):
When people like Sharon and Bush suggest a Palestinian state, they take it from the final status language, although in Oslo there is no mentioning of a Palestinian state — there is mention of solving these four issues [refugees, Jerusalem, borders, and settlements] whereby a Palestinian state would be a logical result, if Israel gives up Jerusalem — East Jerusalem — and withdraws to the border of June 4, 1967, and if the right of return is recognized and settlements are dismantled. Of course in that case there would be a free Palestinian state, but the logic of Bush and Sharon is to give the Palestinians a Palestinian state instead of all that.

Their logic is as follows: if you had a Palestinian partner for a Palestinian state without solving these four issues, whether the state is a final status solution or a transition period for 20 or 30 years, the four issues will be dissolved and will vanish. Take for example the refugees — if you had a Palestinian state without giving them the right of return, they would be citizens of the Palestinian state abroad. Instead of refugees they would be immigrants. They would be guests in Lebanon, etc., and would have Palestinian passports which would solve the problem of their settlements in foreign countries. They would no longer be a demographic threat in Lebanon because they have a nationality and a passport, yet at the same time they would not be given the right of return.... Their problem will remain, but they — as problems for others — would be solved just by these magic words, “statehood” and “passport.” Thus the refugees issue will become one of expatriates — they have their state, they can go back to their state if they like.

On Jerusalem and borders, the belief is that Palestinians won’t have to sign giving up Jerusalem and borders so that nobody will be called a traitor, and if they had a state — even if it is on 40 percent of the West Bank, as Mr. Sharon wants and as Mr. Bush agreed to [in Bush's letter of assurances to Sharon of April 2004] — this occupation and colonial issue will disappear magically by changing expressions and the word from one of occupation to a dispute between two states. You will have a Palestinian state and you have Israel. Between them, instead of the issue of occupation, you will have a “territorial dispute.”

Do you know how many territorial disputes there are in the world, even between Arab countries? So, the urgency of the Palestinian national issue as a colonial issue, and the sting, will be taken away. The Palestinian issue will be given its size, like Israel wants it to be given, as a trivial territorial dispute between two states. As you know, states have monopolizing power over violence, and the Palestinian state will be asked to monopolize violence, to monopolize arms, and to prevent struggle against Israel. It will be a struggle of two states, not a national liberation movement of resistance. It will be a territorial dispute between two states that has to be solved in a peaceful way, and an armed struggle has to be neutralized — for there is no place for it. Why? Because there is a Palestinian state now, and [armed struggle] is not contradicting Israel but it is contradicting the legitimacy of the Palestinian state. It will be thus a problem of the Palestinians, and no longer the problem of Israel. You see it is all very interesting.

On the issue of settlements, what will a Palestinian state do for the settlements? Settlements inside the areas of the Palestinian state, which are called the (illegitimate) “outposts,” along with some of the settlements deep inside of the 40 percent of the land for the Palestinian state, will probably be taken out. However, all the rest — which make up 60 percent of the West Bank and which are called “Area C” according to the language of Oslo — will be expanded. Actually, there will be an apartheid system called “two states,” with cantons, etc. The system in itself will involve privileged settlers — owners of the place, sovereigns who have the right to move freely, who consider the land historically theirs — and cantons in which the Palestinians live, called a “state.”
This is the logical result of the thinking of Sharon and of Eyal Arad. The Palestinians don't need land. They don't need an end to occupation. They don't need any of these things that Israel doesn't want to give up. However, giving them a "state" (if it comes with none of these things) does no harm to Israel — it merely changes the terminology of the conflict — and indeed puts it in a much more advantageous situation vis-a-vis the international community, the Arab world, and so on, by changing the conflict from one of occupation and resistance (with much symbolic importance) to just another dispute between states.

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