On Thursday, Nov 14 the two chief negotiators of the Palestinian Authority handed their resignation from the talks with Israel, mediated by the US. Appointed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the resignations do not affect the PA’s commitment to this round which began in July and is scheduled to complete in April. But many on the ground see no hope in the negotiations, and have long ago turned to a different option. As Michel Warschawski, author of The Bi-National Challenge says “treating this geographical space from the river to the sea as one unit does not necessitate treating the people who live here as a collection of individuals.” While the fruitless negotiations drudge, various proposals for alternative solutions grounded in equality from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea emerge on both sides of the West Bank segregation wall.
LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER: I’m Lia Tarachansky with The Real News in Tel Aviv, Israel.
On Thursday, November 14, the two chief negotiators of the Palestinian Authority quit the talks that began last summer. But appointed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says the negotiations will continue without the negotiators. The PLO released the following statement:
“This resignation relates only to the current negotiations team: it does not invalidate the commitment made by the Palestinian Liberation Organization to continue negotiations until the end of the 9 month period agreed with Israel and the U.S., which ends on April 29, 2014.”
The talks, which began last July under extreme criticism, are about the latest in what is known as the Oslo peace process that began in 1993 after the first Palestinian uprising.
In a much talked about op-ed in The New York Times, Ian Lostick writes about the U.S.-mediated talks, saying: “While the vision of thriving Israeli and Palestinian states has slipped from the plausible to the barely possible, one mixed state emerging from prolonged and violent struggles over democratic rights is no longer inconceivable.”
Michel Warschawski was involved in the establishment of many peace movements in Israel and is the author of half a dozen books on the subject. He spoke to The Real News from the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, which he cofounded.
MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI, COFOUNDER, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): When the Oslo Agreements were formed, a raging argument arose on the Israeli left. The leftist public–and I’m separating here the moderate public in Israel–was euphoric and really believed we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But inside the left, four basic opinions were formed, first, Uri Avnery’s, that expressed the majority of the left. He said, this is a good agreement that’ll lead to a resolution. You get two states. And therefore it should be supported.
There was an opposing opinion that we held on to in the match Matzpen group that became this center, and this was a small group but very vocal, and it said the Oslo agreements are a manipulation, are catastrophic; it’s a trap in which we’ll co-opt the Palestinians into continuing the occupation. They’ll be the policing force, in exchange for–and they’ll also be responsible for the Palestinian well-being, their education and health care, thereby releasing Israel of its responsibility without actually undermining the actual control and colonization processes. That was the second opinion.
And there was an opinion in the middle that I held on to, that it’s not a good agreement, but it’s what we have, and we need to go with it and push it forward.
And the last one opinion was a different one, a lonely one, and it was perhaps the correct one. And it belongs to a single person–Mati Peled. I remember these debates we had a few times a week, and Mati would say, you’re wrong and you’re wrong. [Yitzhak] Rabin has no intention to fulfill the Oslo agreements.
The response of the heads of the mainstream Israeli left organizations was: now, may the best side when. Now begin negotiations, and we won’t interfere. If Israel will squeeze out more from the Palestinians, what can you do? As if these are two equal sides. But more than that, that moment, the right got recruited and organized itself incredibly.
TARACHANSKY: Warschawski is not alone in this position. Each year, as negotiations break down again and again, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find any supporters of the Oslo process on either side. [incompr.] rights in recent years the idea of a one-state solution has been gaining support with numerous conferences and delegations around the world, in Israel, and in the occupied Palestinian territories.
On November 2, politicians and activists from both sides of the wall gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where sits the Palestinian parliament and the offices of Mahmoud Abbas. This conference is particularly unique, as the Oslo negotiations brought an end to most joint projects, criticized for normalizing the occupier with the occupied.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There are many people today who talk about one democratic state, but they include the people who are living here today without the Palestinian refugees. While others think about cantons and all that, there is no place for discussing, from our perspective and mine, a state without the return of the refugees at the top of the list.
OFRA YESHUA-SYTH, AUTHOR: This meeting is just another one in many actions which are happening for the last five or six years, I think. What’s special about this meeting is it’s the first time we’re actually meeting in Ramallah in the occupied territories, Israelis, Palestinians, Israeli-Palestinians as well, and internationals. And in this way, this is a first of its kind, but it’s actually one more step in a process.
UNIDENTIFIED: If somehow, magically, we’ll manage to establish a single democratic state in all of [historic] Palestine, its ruling class will be the Israeli capitalist elite, whose power holders will be Hebrew–I don’t they Jewish, because it’s not a religious matter. And just as the power relations remained in South Africa, so they will be preserved in this half-united society, especially because unlike in South Africa, where the majority is black and only a small minority is white, here we’re talking about half and half.
RAJAA ZOABI OMARI, HAIFA WORKING GROUP ON ONE-STATE SOLUTION: We basically need to get to a situation of an organization, a single political organization. All the people that live under this one regime must be united in one political organization in order to maximize their power, in order to really struggle against the apartheid regime.
But Michel Warschawski says the question is not one state or two, but how to get there.
INTERVIEWER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What’s on the table under the one-state solution is a French-style republic, a federation, or a binational state.
WARSCHAWSKI: Yes, and there are many more options. I think that the political thinking in recent years not only didn’t enrich itself, but became far more diluted than 20 or 30 years ago.
I want to separate between two things. One is the geographic, geopolitical framework and the human framework. These are two separate things.
To treat the entire land here, from the river to the sea, as a single unit does not necessitate treating the population as a collection of individuals, and vice versa. To say that there’s two national groups doesn’t necessitate the creation of two states. We’re talking about two different things entirely.
TARACHANSKY: Those on the left focusing on equality from the river to the sea are not unique for abandoning the two-state paradigm. The one-state solution has been coopted by some parties advocating for various degrees of annexation of the occupied territories. In the second part of this story, we’ll examine the right wing’s response to the death of bilateral negotiations.
For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv.