Sari Nusseibeh – again, on the two-state vs one-state solution

Former New York Times man Bernard Gwertzman, now a Consulting Editor with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, has just published an interview with Sari Nusseibeh, President, Al-Quds University in Jerusalem — and a former Palestinian representative in Jerusalem — in which Nusseibeh has repeated again his support, and preference, for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nusseibeh told Gwertzman: “I believe a two-state solution, if it’s realizable, is probably the best kind of option. It would involve compromises from both sides. The alternative is not really doable through negotiations. For example, if you think about a one-state solution, it’s not going to happen through negotiations because the majority of Israelis would probably be against it. And if you think of any other scenarios, again, you’ll find that most people will probably be against it. So we have a situation where if we are left without a two-state solution, then we’re going to be in for a long haul. I don’t want to overdramatize it, but it’s not going to be beautiful, or a good situation for either side”…

What does he mean by “in for a long haul”? Hasn’t it already been a long haul?

It seems what he means is, there needs to be a better occupation until the two populations can be separated…

Nusseibeh said: “I hope that the negotiations now being conducted by the American administration have more to them than meets the eye, because if one just looks at what’s happening, then one can’t conclude that very much, in fact, seems to be happening. Now I’m not discounting the possibility that there may be something going on behind the scenes. What I suggested at the very beginning was for Obama to call the leaders of the two sides together and put in front of them a vision of a two-state solution based on negotiations that have taken place in the past. [It should include] some kind of American bridging of the gaps and then asking the two leaders not necessarily to negotiate on this vision, nor to accept or reject this vision, but to take this vision respectively to the Israeli and Palestinian populations and put it to a test: Basically ask the two sides to vote for that vision or against it. And I placed a number of conditions. I said, ‘You know this has to be done on the Palestinian side through an electoral process, rather than through a plebiscite; on the Israel side through a plebiscite. The results should come out on the same day and should be done conditionally’. In other words, the answer should be, ‘Yes, if the other side says yes’. So if the Israelis are asking for a two-state solution on such-and-such basis, they could say, ‘Yes, if the Palestinians say yes’, and likewise in the other direction. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened. Since then, in fact, I’m not sure if much has been happening. Each day things are getting worse”…

His reason for saying the Palestinians should vote on the “vision” in elections is a bit obscure. He explained that it has something to do with the question of whether or not the Palestinian Authority, now controlled from Ramallah, can actually make a peace deal with Israel, with Gaza being under Hamas control: “This is why I suggested that on the Palestinian side we go through an “electoral process,” rather than a plebiscite. If a vision for a two-state solution is put on the table, and if President Mahmoud Abbas seeks to be reelected together with his Fatah party, I have reason to believe that he would probably be reelected, that he would get the majority behind him both in Gaza and in the West Bank. We are talking about populations, rather than about parties. But populations that earlier had voted for Hamas and voted Fatah out of office [would now accept the two-state deal]”…

Then, he says that if there cannot be a two-state solution in the near future, then the Palestinians should at least be in a new situation which would restore their basic human and allow them full civil rights (if not their political rights): “As I said from the beginning, the best of all solutions is a two-state solution. And I very much hope and pray that such a solution will come about and as quickly as possible. Because that is the type of solution that will put everyone’s minds and bodies at rest and would bring stability to the region. But let us assume, for a minute, that a two-state solution is not going to be brought about. The next question to ask ourselves is, ‘Well then, what is going to happen?’ What will happen, say, in the context of the next few years, if a two-state solution is not reached? Extrapolating from the present situation, the only thing you can forecast happening is very much a kind of South Africa apartheid, where you have enclaves of Palestinians living under the hegemony–military and otherwise–of Israel; three or four of such enclaves in the West Bank and in Gaza. This kind of situation may seem from Israel’s point of view to be a good interim or long-term solution, but it doesn’t at all satisfy anything from the Palestinian point of view. What I’m suggesting is that in this kind of situation–which also may mean that in the long run we may not be able to reach a two-state solution–it is probably better for Palestinians and for the international community to challenge Israel. In that kind of context, instead of putting Palestinians in enclaves and providing them with limited autonomy within those enclaves, to provide them with proper with proper civil rights. If you’re not going to provide them with political rights, than at least provide them with proper civil rights–and not just within enclaves but in the country as whole, so they could actually live freely, travel freely, work freely, have the rights that humans beings are entitled to have under any kind of system of democracy government. They would not have the right to hold office or to vote. I’m trying to make it clearer for people about what will happen if we do not have a two-state solution, because many people basically are saying, ‘If not two states than one state’. But one democratic state is not going to come about, so what we’re going to end up with is a kind of situation with enclaves. So perhaps if the American administration, or the international community, doesn’t have any other way of convincing Israel to give us two states, one possible way is to tell Israel, ‘Well, you have all these people under your rule, at least give them full civil rights until you decide to split up the country between the two people’.”

This interview with Sari Nusseibeh can be read in full here.

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