Look beyond the Oslo accords, say architects of Middle East peace plan (GUARDIAN UK) Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem 04/25/12)
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Former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and ex-Palestinian PM Ahmed
Qurei question usefulness of two-state plan they drew up
Two of the architects of the Oslo accords, which were intended as the
basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
almost 20 years ago, have radically changed their position following
the long-term impasse between the two sides.
Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli minister who worked in secret on the
accords before the historic signing ceremony at the White House in
September 1993, has called on the Palestinians to dismantle their
governing body, which was set up under Oslo, saying it had become a
fig leaf and a farce.
Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian prime minister who was one of the
key negotiators in the Oslo process, said the two-state solution was
defunct, and the option of one single democratic state for both
Israelis and Palestinians must now be considered.
Both men reflect a view held by many observers of the stalled peace
process, that the window of opportunity to create a Palestinian state
has closed or is about to close. The alternatives to two states, they
say, are a continuation and entrenchment of the status quo, or one
state which denies equality to a large and rapidly growing minority,
or one binational state of equals which would no longer be Jewish in
Beilin, who served in the Israeli parliament for both Labour and the
leftwing Meretz parties, wrote an open letter to the Palestinian
president, Mahmoud Abbas, this month urging him to dissolve the
Palestinian Authority. The Oslo accords, he said, had become "a
device that has allowed the parties to block a two-state solution".
The agreement, which had been "a tremendous victory for the peace
camps on both sides", had been thwarted by its adversaries who did
not want to advance two states for two peoples.
"I feel a responsibility," he said. "I pushed for something in 1992."
But Oslo was intended to be an interim process, a "corridor" to a
permanent agreement. "The extremists on both sides were very much
against it until they learned that this idea might not be a corridor
but a living room – and the most convenient living room in the world –
to continue the settlements or not to divide the land. I feel the
responsibility for the perpetuation of my corridor.
"No one thought the PA would be there for 20 years. It should have
ended. So I find myself in a bizarre situation in which I am actually
asking to put an end to it. But the bottom line is that,
paradoxically, all those who cursed Oslo are now cherishing it."
Despite pressure from Barack Obama, Abbas included a veiled threat to
dissolve the PA in the final version of a letter delivered last week
to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. If there was no
breakthrough in peace talks, the letter said, the Palestinians
would "seek the full and complete implementation of international law
as it pertains to the powers and responsibilities of Israel as the
occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory".
In other words, according to Beilin, they would "end the farce" and
deny Netanyahu a "fig leaf" for the occupation. "It is implicit, but
it is very clear," he said.
Despite Beilin´s dismay at the long-term outcome of Oslo, he insisted
the two-state solution was "in trouble but not dead". A one-state
outcome "is not an option because it means a Jewish minority
dominating a Palestinian majority in a few years from now, and this
is something that neither Israelis and for sure not the world will
accept". He added: "Or is it possible to have one state in which a
Palestinian will be the prime minister or president? No, Israelis
will not accept that."
In contrast, Qurei said a two-state solution had been killed by
Israel´s policy of settlement expansion in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem, and that a "one-state solution, despite the endless
problems it embraces, is one of the solutions that we should be
In an article published in the Palestinian media, he wrote: "We must
seriously think about closing [the book on] the two-state solution
and turning over a new leaf." A one-state solution would allow
Palestinians "to expand our manoeuvring room and to continue [our]
comprehensive diplomatic campaign to take [back] the basic rights of
freedom, independence and human honour that we have been denied".
Other prominent Palestinians have also recently espoused the idea of
a one-state solution. Sari Nusseibeh, president of al-Quds University
in Jerusalem and former advocate for a two-state solution, now argues
for a Palestinian-Israeli federation between the Jordan river and the
Mediterranean, rather than separation.
There is support – albeit limited – for the one-state idea among both
Palestinians and Israelis, and from the right and left. Some
rightwing pro-settler Israelis are in favour of annexing the West
Bank and forcing Palestinians who stay to live under Israeli rule.
Some on the left see a state in which an eventual majority of
Palestinians have equal rights as their only chance for self-
determination, even if it is at the expense of a Jewish homeland.
According to Beilin, there is another possible scenario, in which a
rightwing Israeli government unilaterally withdraws from the West
Bank to the separation barrier in a move comparable to the withdrawal
from Gaza in 2005. "It´s not totally unrealistic, but it will not
happen tomorrow. The Palestinians would not accept it as a peace
plan, but they will take whatever is given. If Israel says it is
yours, what will they say?"
A trigger for this could be the point when the Palestinian population
in Israel and the Palestinian territories outstrips the Jewish
population. "Then the whole world will say now there is a minority of
Jews dominating a majority of Palestinians, and the South African
example will be raised again. Under such international pressure,
someone like Netanyahu might take this decision. Like [Israel´s
withdrawal from] Gaza, the world will not love it but they will say
it is better than the previous situation. And this would also be the
reaction of somebody like myself. I will not love it but I will say
at least Israel got out of 92% of the West Bank." (guardian.co.uk ©
Guardian News and Media Limited 2012 04/25/12)
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