When Plan B becomes inevitable
This October has seen a remarkable shift in Palestinian fortunes. At a time when nothing seemed to be going right, from the devastation of a Gaza Strip still languishing beneath the rubble of Israel's last assault, to the ongoing divisions between Fateh and Hamas, the dire economic situation of the occupied territories, and the impunity that the author of all these misfortunes, Israel, still enjoys, something is at last beginning to go right.
Two major EU member states have just agreed to a recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 3 October the Swedish prime minister announced his country's acceptance of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian right to self-determination and on 14 October the British parliament followed suit and voted for recognition of Palestinian statehood. The State of Palestine had already been recognised by seven Eastern European member countries of the EU and one non-member country, Iceland, but it was the first time that two western European states had done so. It might be anticipated that others, notably France, will soon follow suit.
|No amount of two-state evasion on the part of its adherents can avoid the question: what to do if this solution does not transpire?
Like the UN General Assembly admission of Palestine as a non-member state of the UN in November 2012, these actions are more symbolic than substantive; they will change nothing on the ground, and the territories supposed to constitute "Palestine" – the West Bank and East Jerusalem – will continue to be colonised, while Gaza remains under siege.
Their real value lies in their affirmation and legitimisation of Palestinian rights as a principle. In this regard, the British House of Commons debate that preceded the majority vote in favour of Palestinian recognition was more significant than the vote itself. It was an eloquent testimony to this affirmation as one MP after another from the three major parties gave often emotional speeches about Palestinian suffering, the deplorable situation in Gaza and criticised Israel for its behaviour. It was precisely that legitimisation of the Palestinian case that so angered Israel in response to the developments in Sweden and the UK.
For many Palestinians, however, that was the only positive thing about these recognitions. The problem as they see it is that, basically, they all reinforce the goal of a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. This was made explicit in the British case, where the final motion put to the vote included an amendment to the effect that recognition of Palestinian statehood would “contribute to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.
British support for this solution was not lost on the popular Israeli daily, Yediot Ahoronot, which declared on 19 October that the British parliament had acted in Israel's best interest. A two-state solution to the conflict, it said, was the only way of maintaining Israel as “Jewish and democratic” and preventing the creation of a binational state dominated by “Arabs”.
The fervour with which Western governments continue to cling to the two-state solution, even though it is clear that the facts on the ground have made it obsolete, suggests that these governments cannot contemplate any other alternative. Everyone knows there is no longer enough land sufficient, contiguous and viable to form a Palestinian state, and that Israel in any case is unwilling to accept its creation. And since no political actor is prepared to force Israel to change its position, it simply cannot happen.
For many observers, Palestinian and otherwise, what the perverse adherence to the two-state idea in the face of this reality actually does is sanctify the continued existence of a racially exclusive, highly militarised and belligerent Zionist entity, even if contained within defined borders. Furthermore, it breathes new life into an ineffective, time-expired and unpopular Palestinian Authority. By shoring up this failed and compliant leadership it ensures that no real movement on the ground will take place, and that in turn means it will be colonisation business as usual for Israel.
But in the end no amount of two-state evasion on the part of its adherents can avoid the question: what to do if this solution does not transpire, if a Palestinian state cannot be created "alongside Israel"? What is the Plan B? Assuming that maintaining the status quo is not an option, is it not time to consider such a plan?
The obvious alternative
For many of us, the alternative is obvious, and Israel itself has pointed the way. Today both sides of the Green Line previously dividing Israel and the Palestinian territories are one entity under Israeli rule. By being the sole sovereign power in historic Palestine and planting its colonies all over the Palestinian territories, Israel, whether wittingly or not, has created a single state incapable of partition.
But this single entity is ruled unequally between Jews and non-Jews. Palestinians living to the east of the Green Line have no citizenship, no rights and are the objects of systematic discrimination widely condemned as apartheid in all but name. In this situation, when the two-state solution finally breathes its last and its adherents are convinced of its end, Plan B will be inevitable: to convert the current Israeli apartheid state into one of civic equality and equitable human rights for all its citizens, without distinction of race, ethnic origin or religion. In other words, a single, secular, democratic state.
Ghada Karmi is a London-based writer and academic and the author of In search of Fatima: A Palestinian story. Her new book, Return: A Palestinian Memoir, will be published by Verso in May 2015.
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.