A professional friend who teaches how to produce a highly entertaining TV talk show gives the following advice: begin with those who espouse the most extreme opinions and then conclude with the rational moderate centrist ones.
This advice of the talk show trainer is no longer relevant in the Middle East. The moderate rational centrist point of view has long disappeared from political discussion. All speakers are radical and the moderate political center has long collapsed.
Take for example the Palestinian Israeli conflict. The rational opinion is that the two state solution - Israel and Palestine - on roughly the 1967 borders is the most acceptable way out of the decades old conflict. But other than lip service of world leaders, this solution is nowhere close to reality.
Younger Palestinians as well as many Palestinians in the diaspora have been frustrated with the ineptness of the Palestinian leadership; the continuation of settlement activities and the impracticality of the two state solution are calling for a more radical solution. They are calling for a one state solution that is based on democratic equality for its citizens.
The new Palestinian call doesn’t have the mistake of the PLO’s secular democratic state which included the need to force some new Jewish immigrants back to where they came from. This new call welcomes the entire Israeli population and at the same time wants to add the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
On the opposite side, Israelis with the possible except of Shimon Peres, are not clinging to the two solution but are suggesting their own form of a one state solution. Israel’s ruling Likud party includes government ministers who are avowed supporters of the need to annex the West Bank to Israel without giving full rights to Palestinians. The most moderate of these radicals is the current Israeli president Reuven Rivlin who is willing to concede that the Palestinian ‘natives’ be allowed some sort of local parliament of their own alongside the Israeli Knesset.
‘One state’ agreement
The Israeli “one state” supporters are in agreement on two important issues. That the state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean shall always be a Jewish state. Secondly they all agree that the Gaza strip should not be part of this annexation process.
The moderate rational centrist point of view has long disappeared from political discussion. All speakers are radical and the moderate political center has long collapsedDaoud Kuttab
These Israeli annexationalists, however, differ as to how they plan to annex the West Bank. Some, including deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely want a gradual annexation initially of the 65% of the West Bank declared as “Areas C” in the Oslo Accords and which is predominantly full of Jewish settlers. While annexation supporters like the Israeli president want the act to be done in one move although he doesn’t explain how he proposes to keep the Jewish majority in a state he wants to be both ‘democratic and Jewish.’
To counter the issue of citizenship the Israeli Jewish One State supporters range in their opinions from expecting millions of new Jewish immigrants to putting a five year wait for Palestinians to get citizenship to Palestinians after they learn Hebrew and prove their allegiance to the “Jewish” state.
Naturally it is this last part that is the key to the issue of political equality. No Israeli thought is given to the fact that this process of denying Palestinians equal political rights would expand the apartheid situation that the world had rejected in South Africa (and which exists now in the occupied West Bank) to the entire state.
Of course there is no equivalence between the Palestinian call for a civilian one state solution where the state is run equally by its citizens all of whom have the same political rights and the lopsided Jewish state which gives political prominence to Jews.
But with either of these One State solutions not being practical at the present time, the entire narrative I being shifted to an absurd one. At this rate, the moderate realistic solution will suddenly become upholding the status quo. Israeli leaders wanting to stay relevant in a world that will oppose either One State solution, will most likely buy time meanwhile Jewish settlements and settlers continue to eat up Palestinian lands in the occupied territories.
The Two State solution might be impractical and undesirable and the Palestinian version of the One State solution might be the only long term solution, there is no doubt that the worse of all worlds is simply keeping the status quo as it is now. Every time that a politician gives lip service to the two state solution without an action plan to realize, the status quo of occupation and colonial settlement is given more oxygen to live and continue.
The sooner that the world understands this reality and works against it, the sooner that a sane reasonable solution can be found.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.