Once again demonstrating that the discourse about the conflict in Israel is far ahead of the discourse in the United States, Uri Avnery’s latest column advocates a “federation” in historic Palestine, based on human rights, and involving, initially, two states drawn strictly on the ’67 lines with Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
Last week Haaretz published an article in which [Avraham] Burg proposed linking the “two-state solution” with a two-state federation. He used the metaphor of a building, the first floor of which would consist of human rights, the second floor would host the two states, Israel and Palestine, and the third the federation.
…Since Burg likened his proposal to a building, it follows that it must be built floor after floor, from the bottom up. That’s how I see it too.
The first floor is the two-state solution. This must be implemented first of all. Any idea about what may come after is meaningless without it.
This means the foundation of the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as a free, independent and sovereign nation-state of the Palestinian people.
As long as this basic idea is not implemented, and the solution of all the connected problems (“core issues”) agreed upon, nothing else has much meaning.
The occupation is a bleeding wound, and it has to be healed in the framework of peace before everything else. There can be no meaningful talk about federation between oppressor and oppressed. Federation presumes partners of equal status, if not of equal strength.
Avnery says the original UN partition plan called for federation. And he cites a long history of liberals calling for federation. But he says he stopped using the word federation because it scared people, including Zionists:
In the course of time, I dropped the word “federation”. I had come to the conclusion that it frightened both sides too much. Israelis feared that it meant diminishing the sovereignty of Israel, while Palestinians suspected that it was another Zionist ruse to keep up the occupation by other means.
Avnery adds: “But it seems clear that in a small land like historical Palestine, two states cannot live side by side for any length of time without a close relationship between them.”
That underlines Ali Abunimah’s point, that Israel and Palestine are one country. One country, with two peoples in it. This was also the bottom line in tragic Algeria. Efforts to partition it, even by French President de Gaulle, were roundly rejected. How could you divide Algiers? Until there is more open discussion inside the France of this conflict, the U.S., of the visible living failure of partition– apartheid and Bantustans–and the alternatives to it, we will be driving this conflict toward an Algerian outcome, in which one expulsion replaces another.