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Middle East: Two states, no state
NewsNotes, November-December 2009

The following article was written by Maryknoll Fr. Jack Sullivan, who lived and worked in the Middle East for several years.

As prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin promoted the Oslo Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. A few days before his tragic assassination (November 4, 1995), he spoke of the need for a separation of the Israeli and Palestinian people based on mutual respect rather than mutual hatred. This separation is at the core of the two-state solution to the 60-year old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

However, the current reality presents only one state: Israel militarily and economically controls the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. More than a half million Israelis are now living in settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The present Israeli government continues to support settlement expansion, Israeli-only access roads, the separation barrier, territorial absorption, checkpoints, and roadblocks. The Palestinian population within the state of Israel continues to increase. One out of every five Israeli citizens is a Palestinian. When the Palestinian population of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is added to this number, it is becoming more evident that the number of Palestinians in the area under control of Israel will soon equal and surpass that of the Jewish population.

The Israel of today is becoming a multinational state. For an increasing number of Jews this one-state solution is not a solution but dissolution of the Zionist dream for a Jewish homeland and democratic state. The status quo is unsustainable.

In October, 1,500 U.S. and Israeli Jews, along with a number of Christians and Muslims, gathered in Washington, D.C. at the first J Street National Conference. J Street is the political arm of a pro-peace, pro-Israel advocacy movement. In its first 18 months it has attracted over 100,000 supporters. According to its conference program, it promotes “assertive American leadership to end the Israeli-Arab conflicts through a comprehensive, regional peace agreement based on the two-state solution, regional recognition of Israel, and land-for-peace arrangements to settle all outstanding conflicts.”

The establishment of a separate, independent, secure, contiguous and prosperous state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel is supported, according to recent polls, by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians, by U.S. Jews, by most Arab and Muslim nations, Europe and the United Nations. The president of the United States is directly promoting this two-state solution. As increasing pressure is put on the present Israeli government to stop the blockade of Gaza, to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to freeze further construction and begin dismantling of the settlements, realistic hope for a long awaited end to this conflict grows.
Resolution of this conflict through a two-state solution is being seen as in the national interest of Israel and the United States, Israel’s primary economic and military partner. This issue is the lens through which the U.S. is seen by most of the Arab and Muslim nations. It is the breeding ground of humiliation, hopelessness and rage leading to terrorism.

A possible two-state solution must include many factors beginning with the renunciation of violence by the Israeli Defense Forces, settlers and Palestinian militants. Israel would withdraw to its internationally recognized 1967 borders with mutually negotiated adjustments. Jerusalem would be shared and contain the capitals of both states. Most settlements would be dismantled with some mutual agreement on the status of the larger settlements near Jerusalem with realistic “land swaps.” Palestinian control of all roads, land, and water resources on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem would be assured; and some form of “right of return” or compensation for Palestinian refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars would be implemented.

In the absence of a two-state solution, parallels are being drawn between the Israel of today and the South Africa of yesterday, with its apartheid, ethnic cleansing and land confiscation. Increasing calls for the triple response of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) are being made. The people and leaders of Israel are now choosing their future; one multinational state with years of continued violence, or two states of Israel and Palestine separated with mutual respect, seeking together a common peaceful future.

Resources for more information

An Israeli in Palestine, by Jeff Halper, 2008
A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Naim Stifan Ateek, 2008
Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, Mark Braverman, 2010

J Street
Churches for Middle East Peace

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