by Jonathan Spyer
1st part of 2
Deeply embedded in Palestinian nationalism is the notion that Israeli Jewish identity is analogous to that of communities born of European colonialism, which are not seen as having legitimate claim to self-determination. No reconsidering of this characterization took place during the period of the peace process of the 1990s. Hence, the short period of acceptance of the "two-state solution," was a departure by Palestinian nationalism from its more natural stance, and the current trend of return to the "one-state" option is a return to a position more in keeping with the deep view of the conflict held throughout by this trend.
One of the by-products of the eclipse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of the 1990s has been the re-emergence into public debate of older strategies for the solution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps most noticeable among these is the rebirth of the so-called "one-state solution." According to this idea, the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can be solved only by the replacement of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and its combining with the
The one-state idea is not new. Rather, variants of it have formed the preferred outcome of the conflict for the Palestinian national movement throughout the greater period of its history. The "democratic state" idea became the official stance of the PLO after the eighth Palestinian National Council (PNC) in 1971. It replaced earlier formulations that had hardly related to the issue of statehood at all but that had instead concentrated on the claim of the injustice of the creation of Israel and the proclaimed Palestinian or Arab right to reverse its creation. The Palestinian National Covenant, for example, makes no mention of statehood and appears to favor the expulsion of all but a small minority of Israeli Jews. It states that Jews "of Palestinian origin will be considered Palestinians if they will undertake to live loyally and peacefully in
From the mid-1970s, the idea of the "non-sectarian state" appeared to be in a long process of decline in the mainstream Fatah organization and among some other groupings within the PLO. It was replaced with the idea of two states. This idea first appeared in the form of the Palestinian desire to create a state in any area of "liberated" territory. After the Algiers PNC of 1988, it was promoted in terms of a peaceful two-state outcome. This position made possible the rapid emergence of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s.
Since the abrupt demise of the
THE "ONE-STATE SOLUTION": A BRIEF HISTORY
The termination of the Jewish state of
The 1964 Covenant and the revised Palestinian National Charter of 1968 represent the first serious attempts to codify the aims of Palestinian nationalism. The aim unambiguously outlined in these documents is the nullification of
This point of view was further ratified in the 1968-1970 period. It was during this period that the idea recognizable today as the "one-state solution" first rose to prominence and then dominance within the embryonic Palestinian national movement. The notion of the Palestinian national movement promoting the creation of a Palestinian state seems in retrospect self-evident. It was not so at the time. Rather, the PLO's advocacy of its "non-sectarian, democratic state" represented an important break with the domination of the Pan-Arab nationalist ideas which dominated Palestinian political discussion in the preceding two decades. Pan-Arab ideas saw the destruction of
At the sixth and seventh PNCs in 1969 and 1970, debate arose between Fatah and its opponents over the issue of the "democratic state." The discussions took place against the dramatic backdrop of the armed clashes between Palestinian organizations and the Jordanian authorities and army. At the eighth PNC in
From 1971, the proposal known today as the "one-state solution" was entrenched as the official position of the Fatah-led PLO. Of course, the triumph of this view did not mean the cutting of links between the PLO and the broader Arab world. The organization remained dependent on support from various Arab states, and the strategy itself did not cut off the Palestinians from broader Arab aspirations. Yet the adoption of the "democratic state" strategy placed the Palestinian national movement within the broader process of the post-1967 Arab world of the growth of local loyalties and the decline of political Pan-Arabism.
The strategy did not, however, bring the PLO into line with the broader reality of Israeli invulnerability to overthrow at the hands of the Palestinians, which seemed to make the "democratic state" solution less than practical. The method chosen to bring about the state was "armed struggle"; but so long as
The beginnings of the current, familiar debate in secular Palestinian nationalism between the "two-state" and "one-state" solutions may be dated to the period following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The idea first surfaced prior to the war, but was very firmly rejected by Yasir Arafat.
Scholars have noted the slow and gradual evolution of PLO policy toward the acceptance of partition. The twelfth PNC of 1974 has been singled out as representing an important watershed in this process. Observation of the program adopted at this PNC illustrates the ambiguities of the process. The twelfth PNC included the adoption of a ten-point program outlining a "phased" policy for Palestinian nationalism. This policy continued the movement's rejection of Resolution 242 and its blunt opposition to any recognition of Israel. However, the program accepted the possibility of establishing an "independent and fighting authority" on any part of the country "liberated from
What may be stated with confidence is that the PLO leadership henceforth adopted a position of studied ambiguity on this issue — with certain statements indicating that the acceptance of independence in an area "liberated" from Israel might eventually make possible a more long-term arrangement, and other statements indicating that such an authority would be intended as a way-station on the road to the eventual "liberation" of the entire land and the demise of Israel. In opposition to the position of ambiguity adopted by the leadership — which placed the PLO at an imprecise point somewhere between the "one-state" and "two-state" solutions — the leadership was opposed by a PFLP-led opposition within the PLO that vowed continued loyalty to the destruction of the Zionist state of Israel and the creation of the "non-sectarian, democratic" state in place of it.
The policy of ambiguity favored by the Fatah and PLO leadership began to pay dividends in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It made possible the granting of observer status to the PLO at the UN, and PLO leader Arafat's subsequent address to the UN General Assembly. It also made possible the EU's 1980 Venice Declaration, which offered de facto recognition of the PLO as the leader of the Palestinians. The policy of constructive ambiguity permitted contacts between leftist Israelis and PLO officials. Yet the PLO's stated policy remained not a two-state outcome to the conflict, but rather the acceptance of the creation of a "Palestinian national authority" (or later a "Palestinian national state") on any part of land "liberated" from
The peace process of the 1990s became a possibility with the PLO's adoption of the November 15, 1988 Algiers Declaration. The declaration took place at the height of the intifada and was part of the PLO's attempt to secure the leadership of the uprising and to capitalize on the renewed international focus on Palestinian aspirations. The declaration was based on Resolution 181, the 1947 partition resolution, and consisted in effect of a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. The UN General Assembly subsequently recognized the right of the Palestinians to declare a state according to resolution 181 (which at the time had been rejected by the Palestinian leadership), and 89 UN member states recognized the state of "
The Algiers Declaration opened the possibility of dialogue between the
The apparent adoption by the PLO of the two-state solution made possible the rapid emergence of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the early 1990s. This acceptance (partial and grudging, as many in Israel argued it was) of partition meant that within five years the PLO was in negotiations with Israel, and within six it had achieved the creation and leadership of a sizeable Palestinian Authority (PA) encompassing all of the Gaza Strip and a considerable part of the West Bank. This authority stood on the threshold of sovereignty alongside
Thus, the abandonment of the "one-state solution" and the apparent acceptance of partition brought rapid diplomatic gains for the PLO and may have saved it from eclipse in the period following the collapse of the USSR and Yasir Arafat's ill-judged embrace of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Disputes remained as to the extent of the partition, and the
Two points are notable regarding the PLO's embrace of the two-state solution. The first, as we have seen, is its relatively recent vintage. An overt acceptance of Resolution 242 took place only in 1988. The second point is that acceptance of Resolution 242 did not lead to a major rethink in terms of the Palestinian national movement's understanding of the nature of the conflict — which remained Manichean, seeing it as between an entirely illegitimate colonialism (Zionism) and an anti-colonialist Arab resistance movement.
Emblematic of the absence of a real revolution in thinking in the PLO was the failure throughout the greater part of the 1990s to abrogate the clauses in the PLO's founding documents — the Palestine National Covenant and Charter — which called for Israel's destruction. Despite entreaties from both
Today, the PLO is a fragmented, nearly irrelevant body. The Palestinian Authority too has fragmented into two, with the Gaza Strip now under control of Hamas. The PA remains officially committed to the
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