Middle East: some no longer believe in two-state solution

Nusseibeh to Clinton, better a single federal State

16 July, 11:25

(by Michele Monni and Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) - Jerusalem - The thaumaturgical "two states for two peoples" is dead, or almost: better to think of "a single transitional federal State". This is the opinion of Sari Nusseibeh, a moderate exponent of the Palestinian cause and rector of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

On the eve of the return of Hillary Clinton to Israel and the Palestinian Territories after two years, the pioneer of negotiations close to Al Fatah - the late Yasser Arafat's party now led by Abu Mazen - does not expect much from the US administration in regards to the stalled peace process and, in defiance of the litanies of diplomacy, is not afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. Interviewed by ANSA, Nusseibeh does not mince his words. His is an acknowledgement of disappointment, but also an invitation to accept reality and shift register, perhaps by attempting to challenge the more radical Israeli nationalist right over the prospect of creating a single federal state between the Mediterranean and Jordan, in which the Arab population - which may one day become the majority - both inside and outside the Territories is gradually granted equal democratic rights. The rector of Al-Quds believes the idea of an independent Palestinian State, separate from Israel and fruit of past peace accords, appears to be fading. "The 1967 borders, inside the so-called Green Line, don't mean anything any more" due to the expansion and pervasiveness of Jewish settlements, he says. For this reason "an alternative" needs to be found. In his most recent book, 'What is a Paestinian State Worth?', Nusseibeh details a poissible transition towards a new form of autonomy. "If you look outside - he says, pointing out of the large window of his study in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem - you can see what I am talking about with your own eyes. To the west you can see the surrounding Arab neighbourhoods, but if you look to the east you can see Psgat Zeev, a huge Israeli settlement that is now part of East Jerusalem, or of what should in theory be the capoital of a future Palestinian State." There are over 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, of whom 250,000 live in East Jerusalem alone. "How will it be possible to make all these people leave their homes, even if they are illegal under international law, and move to within the 1967 borders?" asks Nusseibeh. No-one had the strength to do it when they were fewer, let alone now.

The professor does not think the current political climate holds anything good. "Over the last ten years Israel has moved to the right, clinging to positions that are increasingly intransigent, bordering on xenophobia, and making any kind of negotiation practically impossible," he said.

"On the other hand, the divisions within Palestinain society have increased exponentially; we are a long way from Arafat's time, when there was a strong leadership and when a peace agreement seemed within reach." In this situation Nusseibeh believs the two-states solution risks seeming not just an empty mantra but a deceit. "Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that in the current situation the call for two states is a pipe-dream used to fast-talk the Israeli and Palestinian populations with the exclusive aim of preserving the status quo." The Palestinian academic suggests changing objective and, at least for now, focusing on creating "a transitional federal state whose borders are not the classic confines, but rather are based on ethnic constituencies inside which Palestinians can have the same civil rights enjoyed by Israelis today." "The Jews can continue to manage public affairs," says Nusseibeh not without a hint of provocation. "But let's ensure that we Arabs can also finally enjoy the rights and opportunities provided by such a State." (ANSAmed).

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