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…

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

Sari Nusseibeh: stop negotiations immediately – they have become useless

Lawrence of Cyberia has translated an interview with Palestinian intellectual and dormant politican Sari Nusseibeh, head of Al-Quds University (now cut off by The Wall) in East Jerusaelem, that was published on 17 January in French in Le Figaro newspaper.  Here are a few excerpts from the Lawrence of Cyberia blog:

Why have the Palestinians failed?

We failed, it is true, partly because of our inability to negotiate or to understand negotiating, and partly because of our corruption. Still worse, while playing politics, while running after a state, we allowed the living conditions of our people to deteriorate significantly. Twenty years ago, Palestinians in Gaza had no political rights, but they could travel to the West Bank, or even to Tel Aviv, to work there, go to the beach, to the restaurant. But we also failed because of the other party, which didn’t want to give us anything. Today, the Israeli dynamic goes against any concession. They no longer see the need for a compromise. The Israelis think more than ever in a Machiavellian way, believing that force is the only thing that matters, that it is the only guarantee of survival. Why would they be interested in negotiations?…

What do you recommend today?

The latest plan I have proposed is a letter I sent six months ago to Obama and George Mitchell. I suggested they should immediately stop the negotiations, which have become useless; all the issues have been more or less settled, only the unsolvable points remain. Instead, the United States should propose its own solution to the remaining problems. Each side would put forward this plan to its own people in a referendum. The vote would take place on the same day, and the result would be conditional upon the acceptance of the other party”

These excerpts are from the translation posted on the Lawrence of Cyberia blog here.  The full original text, in French, is published here.


[Another exchange from the interview with Sari Nusseibeh published by Le Figaro that Lawrence of Cyberia posted, which shows a slightly less pessimistic attitude, is this:

What will happen to the Palestinians without a state?

We are still there, and that’s the paradox: in 1948, the Israelis wanted to create a state without Palestinians, and they almost succeeded in driving them out.  In 1967, their victory reunited the refugees with those who had remained in Israel. We were scattered, they brought us back together. The Israelis are sowing their own failure by their success. The colonization of Jerusalem and the West Bank, which makes impossible a two-state solution, will force Israel to live with a sizeable Arab population and to reconsider its democratic system“.

Sari Nusseibeh interview: Peace is (still) possible

In a profile of Jerusalem’s Sari Nusseibeh, published today in the Guardian, the paper’s Middle East Editor Ian Black writes: “Like so many Palestinians of his generation, Sari Nusseibeh looks back at years of struggle that have achieved precious little. His entire adult life has been spent in the shadow of conflict with Israel and it is difficult to find even a glimmer of optimism that it is going to be resolved any time soon. Yet Nusseibeh, a prominent intellectual and philosopher, believes it could be. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, should, he argues, launch a new peace process at the forthcoming Annapolis conference – and then campaign among their respective electorates for a mandate to negotiate a final peace settlement

Nusseibeh told Black: “If you think about it, when we talk about politics and history and how events unfold, sometimes we talk as if it’s all about metaphysical forces. We assume, like in this case, that there are objective impossibilities. I am a pragmatic philosopher. And when you look a bit more closely you realise that in the final analysis it’s not so complicated. It can be reduced to the actions of a person, and that person can in fact make a lot of difference … Things could work out if people put their minds to it … My faith is in the power of people to write history. One of the tragedies is that we very often sit back feeling that we have no power and that all we can do is express is our optimism or pessimism.”

Black’s profile reports that: ” ‘Until 1967’, he writes in his memoirs Once Upon a Country, published in Britain this week, ‘we had hardly existed in the minds of these fine people. [n.b. Israelis] This absence wasn’t a product of malevolence or ill will. Physically, we simply weren’t part of their world, with most Arabs having been cleared out 20 years earlier. Morally speaking, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. Their humanism never had to face us’ … Nusseibeh recognised that Jews had emotional claims on the holy land (their roots in Jerusalem ‘existential and umbilical’), and refused to see Zionism as just another facet of western colonialism, or to ignore the role of the Nazi Holocaust in forging Jewish nationalism. ‘Isn’t the ability to imagine the lives of the ‘other’ at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?’ he asks … ‘The thing is not to try to change their ideology, but to win the people over to one’s own side. The relevant issue is not whether the ideology exists but how much support it has’. In 2002, at the height of the second intifada, with its bus bombings, martyrs and Israeli re-conquest of the West Bank (‘a catastrophic, slapdash brawl … a ruinous and sanguinary fit of madness’) Nusseibeh teamed up with Ami Ayalon, the dovish former head of Israel’s Shin Bet secret service [n.b., now a Minister without Portfolio in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s cabinet], to try to galvanize the majority of people on both sides who say they want to live in ‘two states for two nations’ – but doubt whether it can ever be achieved … ‘In retrospect people will feel it was stupid to spend so much time over dividing this piece of land’, he muses. ‘I’m not saying it’s easy to reach a mathematical solution, but such a solution does still exist. I’m not saying that it’s guaranteed. It’s a question of deciding in which direction to walk’.”
Ian Black’s profile of Sari Nusseibeh in today’s Guardian is here.