Alternative Palestinian Agenda

By Nasser AbuFarha

The recent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict casts doubt on how this conflict can be resolved. However, as the conflict escalates, the need to resolve it becomes even greater.

The current discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represented in the two-state solution approach diverts the attention away from the main issues of conflict that need discussion and resolution. The main issues of conflict remain on the Israeli side, the exclusive nature of the Jewish State's construction in Palestine, and on the Palestinian side, the continued perception of Israelis as foreign colonialist presence in Palestine. Stemming from these conflicting concepts is a whole chain of social and political processes, in diametric opposition to each other, resulting in cycles of war and violence and posing serious threats to the security of both people now locked in the conflict.

The concept of an exclusive Jewish state necessitates and generates discriminatory measures against the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country, the Palestinians, in order to maintain it. At the same time continued perception of Israelis as foreign colonialists necessitates and generates nationalist liberationist programs that aim at driving Israelis out of Palestine. The two separate states solution discourse attempts to come to a co-existence arrangement between Israelis and Palestinians by bypassing these issues. This discourse continues to fail.

The two separate independent states program will continue to fail because it rests on false assumptions. Its proponents assume that the exclusion of Palestinians from what is now Israel has been normalized and accepted among Palestinians and that the presence of Israelis and their collective rights for cultural expression in Israel has been normalized and accepted by Palestinians and the broader Arab region. Attempts to make political arrangements based on these assumptions continue to fail before their conclusion.

The two separate states solution is practically not viable for many reasons. First of all, the two-state solution will pose a greater security threat to Israelis because an independent Palestinian state would house millions of Palestinians who have countless claims in Israel that are not addressed. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza represent only one third of the Palestinian population. Their suffering must be relieved immediately by ending the Israeli military occupation, but an end to the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not the end of the conflict. The plight of the exiled Palestinian population, the demographic crisis in Gaza, and the rights and concerns of the Palestinians inside Israel would not be addressed. Moreover, the two-state solution fails to consider the Palestinians rights not to be excluded from their historic homeland in what would remain Israel and Israelis rights not to be excluded from their historic homeland in what would become Palestine.

The fact that Palestinians and Israelis live in a landscape that they both call home is a reality that any viable resolution cannot ignore. The solution lies not in how to divide this landscape, but rather in how to share it. Reality requires both peoples to reconsider their current programs and the choices they make. Israelis need to re-examine the ways in which to view the State of Israel as a Jewish state, when half of the population in the space they consider their homeland are not Jews. At the same time Palestinians need to re-examine their nationalist liberation program when 55 years after the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine a new Israeli identity, whose homeland is also Palestine, has emerged and is as entitled to practice its collective rights. The new generation of Israelis, the Sabra Israelis, has no homeland but Israel. To continue to view this population as foreign colonialist is in effect holding this population hostage to history and the injustices Palestinians suffered in the process of establishing the State of Israel in Palestine. On the other hand, to continue to define Israel as a state for the Jews and not for its inhabitants, regardless of their ethnicity, is to continue to pose threats of encapsulation, expropriations, and expulsions against the Palestinians. A solution must bring about recognition among Palestinians and Israelis that today they are integral components of the land of Palestine-Israel.

What the Alternative Palestinian Agenda (APA) presents is a break from the current discourse that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This solution is fundamentally inadequate to comprehensively resolve the conflict. A viable solution to the conflict must consider the historical context of the conflict, recognize the current realities, and address the concerns of both Palestinians and Israelis in combination not isolation. The APA proposal is designed to comprehensively respond to all of the Israeli and Palestinian concerns and to equalize and normalize relations between them.

The current realities demonstrate that Palestinians and Israelis are not separate nor are they separable. Consequently, I propose two sovereign states joined in a federal union. These states would reflect the current demographic distribution and population density on the ground. The Israeli state would consist of areas currently inhabited by Israeli Jews. The Palestinian state would comprise areas currently predominantly inhabited by Palestinians as well as areas that are vacant or lightly populated and can sustain higher population density in order to accommodate Palestinian returnees. East and West Jerusalem, along with the city's suburbs and the city of Bethlehem, would fall under separate jurisdiction independent of either state and would constitute the capital district of the federal union.

Each state would have its own legislative parliament, state government, judiciary system, police force, education system, language, flag, and national holidays. The District of Jerusalem would have its own district council representative of the residents of the district, run its own affairs and police force. The Federal Union would have an executive administration to coordinate aspects of common interest for the two states, such as external security through a unified army and internal security, by coordinating between the various security apparatuses of each state, as well as ethno-national relations between the two states and shared use of resources.

This proposal responds to nationalist aspirations of the Palestinians and Israelis by allowing for two states. The Federal Union arrangement leaves room for both to remain included in the space they call home. By addressing the issues of conflict between Palestinian and Israelis, the relations between them can be normalized, which would make room for the normalization of Israel and Israelis in the region as a whole. The normalization of these relations is the security guarantees both people aspire to and ultimately the resolution to the conflict.

About the APA and Nasser AbuFarha

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