Alternative Palestinian Agenda
The Binational Idea in Palestine and Israel: Historical Roots and Contemporary Debate
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict which began over a hundred years ago gained impetus after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and even more after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel in 1967. The 1967 occupation has also transformed the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians from a purely external one to one which also now involves the Palestinian citizens of Israel, now (2001) numbering 0.9 million against 0.4 million in 1967. Since 1967 several proposals to reach a peaceful solution between the Jews and the Palestinians were made by international organisations, states and individuals. Invariably the ideas offered by negotiators, Israelis and Palestinians alike were based on the principle of territorial and political separation between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Indeed, the Oslo processes, the result of secret negotiations between the representatives of Israel and the PLO, are perceived by the public and by politicians, researchers and political scientists alike as leading to separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967.
In my opinion, however, the Oslo Accords do not necessarily lead to separation, but rather to its opposite. They create a joint setting, providing Israelis and Palestinians with a limited degree of separation, within which each group would conduct its own affairs separately, while the two continued to live within the same political framework. The essence of the change that has taken place is expressed, on the one hand, by granting the Palestinians a more equal group status than in the past, after many years of the repression of their need for equality and independence by force, and, on the other hand, by granting more personal rights to the Palestinians as individuals, towards self-rule within a territorial and institutional Palestinian autonomy.
I argue here that variegated processes transform political separation into a solution which will be irrelevant, inapplicable, and unable to deal effectively with the problem we are faced with. Furthermore, a solution involving the development of a liberal democracy is impossible because of the ethnic nature of the Jewish and Palestinian national movements, which do not allow the development of a common civil identity. Therefore, the only remaining solution allowing the achievement of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement must be based on the establishment of a binational , Palestinian-Israeli state in mandatory Palestine.
This article deals with the issue of binationality in the Jewish-Palestinian framework in Israel/Palestine. In the first part I present the relevant theoretical background, and in the second I set forth the guidelines which lead me to think that the binational solution in Israel/Palestine is the possible solution. In the third part I discuss the historical sources for the progress of the idea in Jewish and Palestinian thought. In the fourth, I enumerate the forces preventing a separation between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading to the need to consider a solution based on establishing a common political framework. In the fifth part I try to evaluate the support and the opposition to this idea and its chances of being accepted in the Jewish and Palestinian publics, and in the final part I present general guidelines for a binational settlement between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the joint state of Israel-Palestine.
Theoretical Background: Majority and Minority in Split Societies
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, local, regional and international politics have engaged in an ongoing debate seeking an appropriate answer to the challenge presented by an enormous mosaic of groups of different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. The situation was aggravated by the collapse of the Communist bloc and the end of the Cold War. The new situation allows a greater number of groups than before to raise different demands whose goals are the basic human needs of identity, equality and security (Burton 1990). The very fact that these groups are active and make demands suggests that they will put up a stubborn fight in order to realise these needs.
Struggles between groups are not insoluble. The solutions lie in a reasonable and appropriate response to the demands and needs of the different groups on the two sides of the conflict, and can be assured by implementing specific techniques to ensure stability and public order in societies suffering from deep rifts between different ethnic or national groups.
Guidelines to a solution of such problems between groups are arrived at by combining the demands and needs of the groups with the reactions of the majority and the state to their demands and needs. In the theoretical literature dealing with the solution of conflicts in plural states which are deeply split on an ethnic, religious and national basis, two levels of guiding principles, individual and group levels, for a just and democratic solution for the status of groups emerge, (Gurr 1993; Gurr and Harff 1994). The individual level of liberal rights touches upon the basic rights of the individual members of the groups: the legitimate claim to those rights in virtue of the fact of their being equal citizens of the state, rather than from their membership of certain groups. Here one may discern the political, social, economic and cultural rights to which any citizen of the state may lay claim. The pure application of a system based solely on such rights produces a liberal majority democracy, where groups are not recognised as such, and the state is not a party in the struggle between the groups but rather grants all citizens equal rights as individuals, based on their citizenship.
Secondly, the group level. Many groups in history have pursued their right for group equality (see Horowitz 1985: 601-52). In addition to the equal rights enjoyed by its individual members and their full partnership in the running of state affairs, a group may demand some form of autonomy. One outcome of such a development is the transformation of the state formally and essentially into a binational polity (or a multinational one, in accordance with the number of groups in the state). The essence of this system is the recognition of groups as essential component of the public peace, and a distribution of power, benefits and rights on a group, and not simply an individual basis. An obvious example is the settlement between the Flemish and the Walloon communities in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada (Lijphart 1977; Smooha 1990; Vos 1996).
How can states respond, in fact and in theory, to these individual and group rights? A fundamental choice suggests itself at a theoretical level: oppression or accommodation. The majority can oppress the non-dominant groups by using different methods, ranging from expulsion or extermination, to a rule with partial democratic rights for the members of the minority group, or through a rule devoid of democratic rights (Fein 1993; Kuper 1971, 1977; Smooha 1990; Horowitz 1985; Gurr 1993). All such methods are problematic for one principle reason: they reject the demands and needs of the weak groups, at both the personal and group levels. The application of such techniques by states has frequently led to violent conflicts within the states, sometimes leading to genocide and mass expulsion, or, on occasion, bringing about the fall of the state.
A second way to address conflicts in split societies is by reaching settlements based on establishing equality between the different groups. This requires the abolition of discrimination against minority groups by the dominant majority. This can be done by granting equality to all the groups. This can be done either through negotiations between the different groups, or through negotiations between the state, ruled de facto by one group, and the oppressed groups. In practice, equality is achieved only if one of two processes is employed: either territorial division, or a commitment to living in a common political framework, in which the dominance of one group-and the identification of the state and the political system with that group-is annulled. Such an annulment can be expressed by a liberal democratic leadership renouncing group favouritism, or by the establishment of a consociational democracy, based on a recognition of group affiliation and an appreciation of it as part of the arrangements of ruling and the distribution of power (cf. Lijphart 1977; 1984; Smooha and Hanf 1990).
2. Separation and Rule in Israel/Palestine and the Binational Future
Today, about 4.6 million Jews and 3.8 million Palestinian-Arabs (1.9 million in the West Bank, 1 million. in Gaza, and 0.9 million in Israel) live in Palestine/Israel. Most of the Jews came to the country in different waves of immigration, beginning in 1881 and continuing till today, taking account, of course, of the natural growth of the immigrant population. The Palestinian-Arabs are the part of the Palestinian people which has remained in Israel/Palestine after various waves of expulsion and emigration which took place over the last century. Formally, the Palestinians in the country are divided into three major groups, in terms of their connection to Israel as the state ruling the domain: the Palestinian citizens of Israel, numbering about 900,000; the Palestinians in Jerusalem, most of them Israeli subjects and not citizens, numbering about 200,000; and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, partly citizens of the Palestinian National Authority and partly under direct Israeli occupation, numbering altogether 2.7 million. In addition to these three groups there exists a fourth living in the (Palestinian) Diaspora in the Arab world, Europe and North America. This group comprises about 50 per cent of all Palestinians (Zuriek 1997: 21; Zakaria 1997: 21).
Israel, the ruling state in Palestine/Israel, is an ethnic state based on the dispossession of the Palestinians. Their dispossession was carried out on the ideological, structural and practical level, both in the area of the distribution of power and material means, retaining all the while exclusive rights for Jews. Democracy in Israel is limited as regards its openness towards the Arab citizens of Israel (Ghanem 1998: 2001; Rouhana and Ghanem 1997), and non-existent as regards the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (Benvenisti 1988). The system has an inflammable potential for conflicts on different levels, which undermine any hope of sustained stability. Its continuation encourages dangerous reactions, both within the Green Line and outside it, including the possibility of some kind of regional engagement on the part of the Arab states. In order to ensure stability for the future it will be necessary to arrive at a fairer arrangement for the Palestinians, both Israeli citizens and those in the West Bank and Gaza. This could take one of the following three forms: a territorial division; the establishment of a joint liberal democratic state with equal rights for all citizens; or, the establishment of a joint state with specific arrangements for the distinctive groups, that is a binational state.
My basic working premise is that separation between Jews and Arabs, or at the least, between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, is impossible (see below). The establishment of a liberal state is likewise impossible (see below). The only remaining option for settling the relations between the Jews and the Palestinians is the establishment of a binational state in all of Israel/Palestine, based on specific arrangements for the two groups within one political system.
In a binational Palestinian-Israeli framework the ethnic/national, Palestinian/Israeli split will be an important structural component of the political system. This would be based on the four principles of consociationalism:
a wide coalition between the political representatives of the Jews and the Palestinians;
right of veto for the representatives of both groups on essential questions;
proportionality as regards the distribution of social goods, and with respect to political and public institutions; and
a high degree of personal and institutional autonomy for each group in the running of its internal affairs.
In practice, certain primary conditions exist which permit, allowing for basic fluctuations, the establishment of such a system. In spite of the Oslo process, the Palestinians in the territories still live under Israeli rule, whether direct or indirect. If certain conditions were fulfilled-mainly an end to Israel's insistence that an equal Palestinian state not be established, and the abandonment of its determination to annexe large portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip-most of the Palestinians in these territories would give up their aspiration to establish a Palestinian state (for reasons which will specified further), at which point the Palestinian National Authority would instead become a phase towards the establishment of a binational system. The subjects of the Palestinian National Authority, then, would constitute a joint front with the Arabs of Israel, and in a binational reality with the Jews would work towards transforming the polity of the region practically and formally into a binational state which would respect both groups of people. Jews not wanting any part in a binational system, preferring to hold on to their hegemony and control, would have to deal with a variety of factors (which I shall specify below), including the Palestinians' demand for personal and group equality in a joint system.
3. Historical Sources for the Binational Idea
The discussion on the possibility of establishing a binational state as an expression of the existence of a binational society in Israel/Palestine in not at all new. The first to raise the idea, and to a certain extent the only ones to do so, were Jews. Its origins are in the beginnings of Jewish immigration and settlement in the country at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginnings of the twentieth century. It began as an internal debate within the Jewish society, part of whose intellectual elite initially entertained serious misgivings about creating a Jewish majority in the country and a Jewish state, separate from the Arab world and the Arab majority in Palestine. On the whole, they called to view the Arab majority (mainly the Muslims) as not being hostile to the Jews and to Zionism, in contradistinction to the Christian minority, which was hostile to the Jews and to the Jewish project. They praised the positive qualities of the Arabs, and perceived them both as individuals and as members of another national group, whose claim to the land was no less legitimate than the Jewish one. They perceived the Arabs as being able to cope with the settlement of Jews, thanks to the help and development they brought to the region, and therefore as being ready to think of a combination of the two groups in one political framework.
These thinkers, such as Eliyahu Sapir, Itzhak Epstein, Yosef Luria, Nisim Malul, Rabbi Benjamin and even the Zionist leader Yosef Usishkin, acted at first as individuals and voiced their uncertainties as to the establishment of a separate Jewish state in the country. Their uncertainties were based on their estimation that the Arab majority would not permit the establishment of a separate Jewish state. They suggested mixing with the Arabs, through creating Jewish enclosures in areas not controlled by Arabs. The two societies living side by side would form the infrastructure for the establishment of the binational state. The need for co-operating with the Arabs was boosted by the rise of the Young Turks to power in Istanbul at the beginning of the century, and by their open hostility to the Zionist project. These Jewish thinkers mostly saw themselves as good Zionists, considering that their path would further the realisation of Zionism, whose purpose was, in their view, the rejuvenation and development of the Jewish people in Palestine, rather than necessarily the establishment of a separate Jewish state (Gorny 1985: 47-55).
The different ideas raised by these Jewish leaders and thinkers were first consolidated in the establishment of the Brit Shalom movement, founded in 1925 by Arthur Ruppin and most of the thinkers mentioned above who favoured the idea of a joint, binational state or society. This movement supported the integration of the Jews in the East, and rejected their view of themselves as a chosen people superior to the Arabs. Ruppin was the first to speak explicitly of 'the Land of Israel as the state of the two nationalities'. In doing so he converted into a definite operational idea Epstein's plea from the beginning of the century for the recognition of the double right of the two nations in the Land of Israel (Gorny 1985: 150-51).
Brit Shalom was a clear deviation from official Zionism, but nevertheless it perceived itself as a Zionist movement relying on the words of Zionist activists. Indeed, in their first pamphlet they claimed, giving supporting quotes from Herzl, Ahad Ha'am, Rabbi Benjamin, A. D. Gordon and Yitzhak Epstein, et al., that their ideas were rooted in Zionist thinking. On the basis of this claim they set forth their desire to establish in Palestine a state of two nations living with total equality of rights (Gorny 1985: 151). They suggested Switzerland and Finland as prototypes for their aspiration, and demanded the establishment of institutions, such as parliament, where the two nations would be represented in complete equality, irrespective of the relative numerical strength of the Arabs and the Jews. This offer arose in opposition to ideas voiced by moderate Arabs at the time, to establish institutions with proportionate representation, an opposition induced by the fear that the majority would deprive the minority of its rights.
Ben Gurion addressed the issue in the early 1930s, stating that the proposed state would need to maintain a balance between Jews and Arabs, so that Jews would not rule the Arabs, and Arabs Jews. This position was adopted in 1931 by the Mapai council (Amitay 1988: 23). In the 1940s and 1950s the idea of a binational state was raised mainly by Hashomer Hatza'ir (The Workers' Party) in Israel, founded in 1946 through a union of 'The National Kibbutz, Hashomer Hatza'ir' and 'The Socialist League'. This party, rejecting the state as a form of social organisation, supported at first the foundation of a binational society, and spoke later of 'a binational state'. The party saw this stance as unquestionably Zionist and as fulfilling the purpose of Zionism. Its founding congress in 1946 declared:
The congress stresses the urgent need for a change in the political way of the Zionist movement as defined by the 'Biltmore plan'. We shall strengthen our fight for victory of the alternative political platform, based on the following: uninterrupted development of the Zionist project, real international supervision, and the existence of political equality in a binational regime between the Jews and the Arabs in Israel.
As far as Hashomer Hatza'ir was concerned, its goal to establish a binational state was in conformity with the British Mandate's determination (Amitay 1988: 20-23).
The Ahdut Ha'avoda-Po'aley Zion Party, the future partner of Hashomer Hatza'ir in the establishment of 'The United Workers Party' (Mapam) in 1948, was opposed to the binational idea since its inception in 1944. Rather, it supported the establishment of a 'national home for the Jews in the Land of Israel' in the form of a Jewish-socialist state throughout the land of Israel, opposing any division of the country. At the time it committed itself formally to maintaining equality of rights in the Hebrew state, but resisted the idea that such equality would assume the form of sovereignty and territory (Amitay 1988: 20-21).
The two sections of Mapam were opposed in principle to the UN partition plan of 29 November 1947. Immediately following the foundation of the state on 14 May 1948 the two flanks split on the binational idea. The Ahdut Ha'avoda Party continued to believe in the possibility of uniting the country, if necessary through a war initiated by Israel, and so opposed the annexation of the West Bank to Jordan and Egypt's rule over the Gaza Strip. They continued to believe in the possibility of establishing a socialist Jewish state which would accord the Arabs equality, though not in the form of sovereignty and territorial control. Furthermore, they claimed that there was no justification for establishing 'another Arab state' in addition to the existing thirteen. Hashomer Hatza'ir, on the other hand, agreed with the division from a tactical point of view, but, in accordance with the division plan, supported the establishment of an Arab state, to be ruled by 'progressive' Arab forces, which would form a mainly economic alliance with the state of Israel. All this was with a view to becoming in the future one binational , Arab and Jewish state (Amitay 1988: 159-161).
The discussion within Mapam continued to trouble the activists on both wings. The argument formed around the idea of a 'territorial party' and the enrolment of Arabs as fully-fledged members. This would be an expression of binationality in the party, as a model for the future state of affairs in a binational state. The argument brought on the splitting of Mapam in 1954. Hashomer Hatza'ir continued to retain the name Mapam, and Ahdut Ha'avoda-Po'aley Zion resumed its original name, and began publishing a daily newspaper, Lamerhav (Amitay 1988: 159-61).
The aspiration to create a binational state barely appeared on the Arab side. It is wrong to believe that the desire to establish a secular, democratic Palestinian state, raised by several groups within the national Palestinian movement since the late 1960s (Gresh 1985; Al-asmar, Davis and Khader 1978), involved the concept of binational ism. A secular democratic state would manifest itself through the privatisation of the distinctive ethnic, religious and national affiliations of Arabs and Jews: no national framework would be important, and, more significantly, would be the state's concern. Rather, the model of a secular democratic state would presume on the abandonment of distinctive national affiliations as a major component in regulating the relations between the citizens of the future state. It would also focus on the personal-civilian aspect which would dictate the relations between the state and the members of the groups, and between the members of the groups themselves.
The binational state model, on the other hand, is based on the principle of the recognition of two national identities, which would be taken into account as a major component in the regulation of the relations within the state. In practice, this would permit the expansion of the control of both Jews and Palestinians to all the domains in Israel/Palestine, limited only by the need to take into consideration the wants of the members of the other collective, competing as a group and as individuals for the same resources the land offers to all its inhabitants. It is clear, then, that the national Palestinian movement rejected consistently the possibility of a binational state, and did not even consider it as a tactic during the search for a solution with Israel. Historically, one would be hard pressed to find any support whatsoever for the idea on the Palestinians side, whether officially or unofficially. It is only recently that a number of Palestinians from the Diaspora and from among the citizens of Israel has begun to voice the opinion that the binational idea might provide an alternative to a separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis (Kimmerling 1998).
4. The Contemporary Debate: Factors Raising the Likelihood of the Establishment of a Joint Binational State
A working premise justifying separation is based on the principle of reaching an agreement on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolution 242, that is, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I will list below the factors delaying such a separation, and perhaps even making it impossible as a political act whose implementation would require a physical, territorial and national separation. These factors demand that, sooner or later, we begin to consider an entirely different strategy, namely joint rule throughout the country by representatives of both groups. This seems to be the only practicable way to make progress towards solving the continuing conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians over the control of the land.
A. Different expectations of the separation. For most Palestinians, separation should lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state throughout the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This state should be able to co-operate on various issues, from a position of power and free choice, with the different states in the region, including Israel. This is the Palestinian leadership's guideline in negotiating with Israel.
The Israeli public is more evenly divided in its position. Most Israelis support a certain separation, and a great part also supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, limited in its sovereignty and its territory (Arian 1997). The main political parties in Israel, including the Labour Party which has removed from its constitution its opposition to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, are not willing to accept an independent Palestinian state, sovereign and equal to Israel in these respects. The perception of most Israelis and their political representatives can be summed up as a longing to 'get out of the conflict', and leave the Palestinians to deal with their problems, while retaining absolute control over security and foreign affairs, with the ability to threaten the Palestinians (and make good the threat) through closures or other punitive measures at any time. Of course, a significant portion of the Israeli public will not accept even partial Palestinian independence or sovereignty. The current Sharon government, at least, and any similar government in the future, will depend upon the support of this minority.
These positions reveal that Israel cannot offer the minimum which the Palestinians require to move from a conflict situation to a peaceable one. Furthermore, there is a high likelihood that this situation will not change rapidly, seeing that the processes of the change in the Israeli position are limited by other factors which prevent separation. These factors are as follows:
B. Common issues: There are several common issues between the two parties concerning the two parts of the land to be divided, and these call for a common approach. Issues such as water resources, environment, employment, a product market, routes of passage, ports, etc., cannot be separated. These shared concerns are currently a major factor hindering separation, and will be a major obstacle to its implementation.
On a number of these issues, Israel, as the ruling power, insists that it remains the sole ruler. According to various Israeli sources, Israel cannot share its absolute control over these areas with anyone. Even the government which signed the Oslo Accords could not decide on these issues in the agreement, and left them for the negotiations on the final settlement. In truth, no possible final agreement scenario would allow these common issues to be in the exclusive control of one of the parties, even assuming both sides were in favour. Therefore, they will continue to be factors obstructing separation and supporting the establishment of a common system throughout the country.
C. The settlements. The Israeli-Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are the result of the settling undertaken by Jews, or by the government of Israel since 1967. These settlements today house 160,000 settlers (not taking into account East Jerusalem, which I will consider separately), 5,000 in the Gaza Strip, and the other 155,000 in the West Bank. These settlers, religious and secular, are motivated by a variety of reasons, ideological and financial (JMCC 1997).
The settlements are spread over large areas and control many parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If we add the roads leading to them, it becomes obvious that much of the territories are under the control of the settlers and are used by them. This obstructs the cohesion of the areas ruled by the Palestinian authority, and will be a major impediment to the territorial consolidation of the Palestinian entity, which is the supposed outcome of the separation between the two peoples (Aronson 1996). Furthermore, the settlers, for the most part armed, are a major source of harassment to the Palestinian populace. They are leaders in the expropriation of Palestinian lands, and are an inflammatory influence in the various steps taken against the Palestinians. In addition, several Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been killed or injured by the settlers (B'tzelem, data published on 26 December 1996).
Obviously the Palestinians cannot accept a situation where most of the settlements continue. For the Palestinian entity to succeed the Palestinian demand for the removal of the settlers must be unequivocal and resolute. Of course, the main question is whether it is objectively possible for the government of Israel to uproot the settlers. The answer depends on several variables. Assuming that the current government continues in power, and even gets a second term, there is no reason to expect a change in its basic attitude: obviously it will not agree to uproot the settlers, nor be able to do so. Indeed it will make it much more difficult for any future government to realise such a step, rendering it practically impossible to carry out. In such a case, the two sides would have to examine the possibilities of resolving the conflict while allowing the settlers, or at least most of them, to remain. Such an arrangement is practicable only within a common system, and not in a separation of the nations and the country. The settlers and their aspirations have been and will continue to be a major stumbling-block to separation, and will force the leadership of both peoples to consider other solutions, such as a binational state.
D. East Jerusalem. After the end of the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel, Jerusalem was divided along the cease-fire line into West Jerusalem, under Israeli control, and East Jerusalem, administratively a part of the West Bank, ruled by Jordan and, together with the rest of the West Bank, annexed by her in April 1950. Israel occupied Jerusalem with the rest of the West Bank in the June 1967 war, and annexed it with an amendment to the Rule and Justice Regulations order, passed in the Knesset already by 27 June 1967. The following day the government of Israel announced the annexation of about 70,000 dunums from the territory of East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem (B'tzelem 1995).
After the annexation, Israel granted the status of permanent residents to those Palestinians in East Jerusalem who participated in the census held following the annexation. Those receiving the status of a resident could apply for Israeli citizenship and be granted it, provided they met the basic requirements of swearing allegiance to Israel, renouncing any other nationality, and having a knowledge of Hebrew. Most Palestinian residents of Jerusalem still refuse Israeli citizenship and regard their future as similar to that of other Palestinians in the West Bank. They aspire to disengage themselves from Israeli control and be joined to the Palestinian entity ruling the other cities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is also the position voiced by the political leadership of the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
As far as international law is concerned, East Jerusalem is occupied territory and therefore the conquering country may not change its status and may not annexe it. Hence, in international gatherings Israel refuses to talk of 'annexation', preferring the phrase 'the integration of Jerusalem in the municipal administration area' (B'tzelem 1995). Naturally, the Israeli government presents East Jerusalem to Israeli public opinion as an integral part of Israel, subject to all the regulations of Israeli law.
Side by side with the annexation, Israel pursues a policy of harsh enforcement of the law on the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, with the aim of bringing them to accept Israeli control. This policy includes expropriation of lands, a large presence of security forces, neglect in municipal services and the planning and building processes, and large-scale settlement in all the annexed parts of East Jerusalem, and beyond (B'tzelem 1995). Today, about 140,000 Palestinians live in those parts of East Jerusalem which were annexed, whereas the number of Jews in those areas is 170,000. This is accompanied by a significant change in the physical landscape, the geographical distribution and in the control of the lands.
Israel has taken various steps, such as encircling the areas of East Jerusalem with Jewish neighbourhoods, and erecting Jewish neighbourhoods within it, encircling it with roads, establishing Israeli government institutions in the lands taken in June 1967, expropriating lands, and strengthening the Israeli and Jewish control over them. These steps are clearly and indisputably irrevocable. International law, the stance of most Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and even the specific section in the Oslo agreement dealing with the solution of the problem of control in East Jerusalem as a part of the final agreement, are all entirely irrelevant. Israel continues in its policy, designed to serve the national interests of the Jews, and is not willing to consider any gesture towards Palestinian control in East Jerusalem. In fact, even should the sides want a redistribution, it is now not possible to carry it out.
As in the previously described reality, where the option of separation is not possible-and where the situation is marked by the determined position of the Palestinians, supported by the Arab world, the Muslim world, and most of the states in the world, as well as by international law-the only possible solution is one of partnership in a framework whose essence is binational control of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, then, could be a model of a binational reality for the whole country.
E. Refugees. The Palestinian refugees are those Palestinians who lived in Palestine and were deported, or forced to leave for other residences, whether in Palestine or outside, in two major waves. The first arose between the UN Partition Resolution 181 of 1947 and the aftermath of the 1948 war. Before and during the war, 750,000 Arabs left their homes because of the intimidating tactics of the Zionist forces. The second wave occurred after the outbreak of the June 1967 war, when 250,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. Some of the refugees in the second wave had already been driven out in 1948 (see Jarrar 1997; Tamari 1996). In the negotiations between Israel and the PLO and elsewhere, the term 'refugees' designates those Palestinians living outside the boundaries of Israel, in particular those still living in the countries of the region, and includes those whose origin is in pre-1967 Israel now living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to various data, the percentage of refugees within the Palestinian people fluctuates between 50 and 60 per cent, that is between 3.5 and 4 million, according to the latest survey undertaken by the UNRWA (The UN special agency for Palestinian refugees). Of that total, 17 per cent still live in refugee camps, and 8 per cent have no stable dwellings (see Jarrar 1997).
These refugees have not for the most part given up on their right to return to the communities from which they were exiled in 1948 and 1967, and a large part intend to return to the boundaries of mandatory Palestine in the future. The Arabs in Israel, the most moderate of all the Palestinian groups as regards the settling of the conflict, including the refugee issue, still believe for the most part that the Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes.
International decisions, chiefly Resolution 194 of the UN General Assembly (1948), acknowledge the right of the Palestinian refugees to choose between returning to their homes and receiving appropriate compensation for the houses and property left in the country. The Palestinian leadership reiterates at every opportunity the same right. Even the Oslo accords, the legal basis for the peace process between Israel and the PLO, did not reject that right, but rather postponed the settling of the question to the final agreement negotiations. This issue is being hammered out in many joint forums, and is one of the subjects of the multilateral talks, theoretically still taking place between Israel and the countries of the region, including the Palestinians.
Israel, for its part, has announced that it shall not under any circumstances agree to the return of refugees to her territory, and has even expressed reservations about the return of refugees to the Palestinian entity that will be established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Officially, it denies its responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem, usually blaming the Palestinians themselves and the Arab countries. These positions are upheld by the Israeli public, and there are no signs of any weakening in the traditional Israeli position on this issue. It is reasonable to assume that Israel will not agree to the Palestinian demands in the future, and that this issue will continue to trouble the people of the area, both Israelis and Palestinians, for a long time.
Under the present circumstances it is obvious that even if Israel were to allow the return of refugees to the Palestinian entity, this entity would be incapable financially of absorbing tens of thousands. Moreover, probably most of the refugees would not wish to 'return' to it, continuing to affirm their right and ability to return in the future to their homes within the Green Line.
In short, any separation will not be able to deal effectively with the refugee problem, and assumable that only a joint entity could create a Palestinian-Israeli balance, which will necessitate a relative opening of the borders of the state to the return of the Palestinian refugees. This would be a compensation for the absorption of tens of thousands of Jews since 1948. Only co-operation on the issue between Palestinians and Israel, following the foundation of a binational system in the country, could lead to the solution of the refugee problem.
F. The image of the 'homeland' for the Jews and the Palestinians. The Jews and the Palestinians see the whole of the country, rather than a part of it, as their homeland. Even Palestinians and Jews proclaiming their willingness for territorial compromise, still believe for the most part that the entire country is their unique and absolute homeland as far as pure justice goes: Palestine to the Palestinians, and the Land of Israel to the Jews. Their willingness to compromise derives from tactical and practical considerations. In a parallel development, the hard-liners in both camps-such as the extreme right and the believers in the 'complete Land of Israel' among the Jews, and the radical Muslims and radical left among the Palestinians-are not willing to consider compromise solutions, and hold that pure justice compels them to fight the other side relentlessly.
Territorial compromise in the form of separation will not satisfy the hard-liners. Neither will it be sufficient ideologically for the compromisers to accept the compromise. Even the Jewish left, in the form of Hashomer Hatza'ir and Ahdut Ha'avoda-Poaley Zion, reluctantly accepted the idea of partition after the establishment of the state of Israel, and did not easily give up on the idea of the entire country as one political and territorial unit (Amitay 1988). For its part, the Palestinian national movement, beginning in the early 1970s, is coming to terms, albeit slowly and painfully, with the idea of separation and territorial compromise. The reason for this pain is the difficulty of reconciling belief in a right to the entire country with the reality of partition. Only a situation in which both Palestinians and Jews could live together in a framework allowing them access to all parts of the country could satisfy the belief within both communities in their full right to the entire country.
5. Current Proponents and Opponents of a Binational Solution
The option of a binational Palestinian-Israeli state is not on the agenda of the political elites and the wider public of either Palestinians or Jews. Currently, both sides are discussing other solutions, and unless the binational option is pursued we are left only with a partition plan.
A. The Israeli side. There are two opposing camps. One, the platform of the extreme right, supports the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israel, or at least of those parts which are not massively populated by Palestinians, without offering the Palestinians in those territories full Israeli citizenship. Elements of this constituency talk of deporting the Arabs, or transferring them in an agreement (the Moledet Party and what remains of Kach), while the remainder talks of the Palestinians remaining in the territories as non-citizen subjects under Israeli rule.
The Zionist left in Israel, including the Meretz Party and some of the supporters of the Labour Party, are for separation. One of the main explanations for this support is their fear that the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will lead to the creation of a binational state, thereby marking the end of the Zionist project of establishing Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state. The fear that continuation of the occupation would lead to one political system and ultimately to a binational state is widely held among the Jewish public and within the leadership of the Labour Party and the left, as can be gauged from the use made of it in election campaigns.
There is consensus within the Jewish-Israeli public regarding the need for a separation which would not entail granting the Palestinians the right to a sovereign state. The Likud leadership favours the granting of a territorial and institutional autonomy to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, whereas the Labour leadership favours an 'autonomy plus', or a 'state-minus'. This ensures both Israeli control and hegemony in the long run, and a certain amount of self-administration to the Palestinians. Such an arrangement would involve significant territorial changes in Israel's favour, and would remove the possibility of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, with Jerusalem as its capital, as even moderate Palestinians expect. I believe that any arrangement involving continued Israeli occupation in the territories, or in part of them, or which did not satisfy the Palestinian demand for independence, may as a first stage bring about the annexation of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Israel. It could not, however, control the 'snowballing' of the Palestinian demand to be completely annexed to Israel, or of the establishment of a binational system, if the Palestinian leadership would grasp the meaning of the arrangement offered by Israel and its implications.
On the other hand, the non-Zionist left, in spite of being a very small minority, could perhaps in certain conditions instigate a renewed debate among the Israeli public on the cost of separation, and on the need for a reconsideration of the binational state option. This would be both a moral solution, and the only possible one for the continued Israeli occupation in its various forms, and as a response to the possibility of the development of a Palestinian dictatorship next to Israel.
B. The Palestinian side: Here, too, there are two principle positions. The 'Refusal Front', representing the extreme left, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which consistently supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the one geographical unit of mandated Palestine. This position, like that of the Israeli right, opposes separation.
On the other hand we have the central stream which supports the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel. Dissenting from that view, Sari Nuseibeh, a senior lecturer in Bir Zeit University, raised the binational idea during the late eighties following the outbreak of the Intifada, but was ostracised and even beaten by activists in the Palestinian national movement, who perceived his demand to be a dilution of its determination to establish a Palestinian state.
We must keep in mind, though, that the Palestinian national movement is represented by Yasser Arafat and Fatah. They, in the mid-seventies, led the change from support for a unified secular democratic state to separation into two states. They could lead a reverse process, if the possibility of an independent Palestinian state were proven to be unrealisable.
Very recently, some of Arafat's political enemies, fearful for democracy and human rights under the Palestinian National Authority, together with some Palestinians who have the Israeli citizenship, have begun to discuss the binational idea as the only possibility to ensure Palestinian rights and protection from a dictatorship similar to all the Arab countries. These discussions are gaining in force, and now, after the signing of the Oslo Accords and the rise of the right in Israel, different Palestinian leaders are voicing their support, including Haidar Abd El-Shafi, Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish. These and others voice support for the idea, initiating a lively intellectual discussion.
The Jewish-American intellectual, Noam Chomsky, also recently voiced support for the binational state as a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. He did so while voicing severe criticism of the Oslo process and its aftermath, claiming that such a process would not lead to peace, but rather serve as a cover for continued Israeli rule over the Palestinians (Mitssad Shenne ['The Other Side'] 1997[no. 10]: 30-32).
6. A Possible Model for Jewish - Palestinian Relations in a Binational System
The basic premise guiding me to propose the binational Palestinian-Israeli state is that separation is not practicable: the two nations are bound to live together in a common state. True, the first phase would reflect the balance of power in the area> Jews would continue to control the Palestinians, and oppression and discrimination would deepen and grow. Several factors, however, would conspire to incorporate the Palestinians, in terms of equality both as individuals and as a political community, in the running of the state: increasing agitation among the Palestinians, both in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the willingness to initiate violence against the Jewish rule; the support of Jews in condemnation of the oppression; and the growth of public knowledge of the situation worldwide, leading to international pressure.
In conditions similar to those in South Africa in the late 1980s before the overthrow of apartheid, the Jewish public and its leadership will be forced to recognise the Palestinians as equal partners. They will have to negotiate with their representatives and reach with them an agreement as to the distribution of power and control of the resources. Separate and joint institutions will be established, such as parliaments, governments and legal institutions. Each national group would have autonomy over its own unique affairs, and common matters would be discussed in common forums where both parties were equally represented. The security forces would be comprised of both groups. The representatives of each group would have the right of veto over joint decisions, and the control over territory would be redistributed among the members of the two groups. The country would be one administrative unit, or be divided into federal and cantonial units, responsible for the running of local matters, and subject to centralised rule in the capital, Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself would have a unique distribution of power and control.
These developments, which would promote the possibility of forming a binational state, would be greatly assisted by the maturization of the peace processes, and reconciliation between Israel and its surrounding Arab nations: the peace with Egypt and Jordan, despite problems, is stable and mutually beneficial, and Israel would probably make peace accords with Syria and Lebanon in the short term. In such a situation Israel would not only be sensitive not only to Western pressures but also to its relationships with her Arab neighbours. Even if some of its leaders were to seek to get rid of the Palestinians by a forced 'transfer', unlike the situations in 1948 and 1967 it could not be carried out, due to the peace agreements between Israel and its neighbours and the Israeli wish to maintain them. Overall, the peace processes between Israel and the Arab states would have a positive influence on the building of an equal and binational system in the country.
Lately, a penetrating discussion is developing, initiated mainly by those supporting the establishment of a secular democratic state. They insist that the nationalist aspirations of both groups must be bypassed, and that a secular democratic state must be established, modelled on a liberal democracy, without regard for its citizens' national affiliations. They oppose the binational idea (see Karmi 1997; Honig-Barnass 1997). In my opinion, the proponents of the liberal state do not appreciate sufficiently the power of the national affiliation for the two groups. They speak of a utopia which has no chance of being realised. Any future arrangement must take into account the national self-identification of the two groups, and the possibility of distributing control and resources on that basis.
In order to promote serious consideration of the binational model I have made suggestions for a solution of the outstanding issues. I have stressed that an essential change in the character of the relations between the Palestinian and the Israeli nations is required. This would include a change in the character of the two national movements, Zionist and Palestinian, and their relationships to the respective Jewish and Palestinian diasporas, as well as in relations with the wider Arab national movements. Changes are also required in the attitude of foreign states towards the region and its future, and in the nature of the relations between superpowers and states in the region. The proposed binational model paints a picture of inter-community relations entirely and fundamentally different from that of any other option for Jewish-Arab relations in the country.
A. The relations between the nations. Today, one group, the Jews, dominates, while the other, the Palestinians, are ruled, the outcome of the struggle between the two groups since the first Jewish wave of immigration in 1881. In a binational state the relations between the members of the two groups would be equal, reflected in an agreed distribution of power, resources, territory etc., either in a proportionate manner, or an equal one which does not take account of the numerical strength of each group. For the dominant group to relinquish its dominance, and for the ruled group to assume equality in a binational state would require an amount of pain, and perhaps also loss of lives and property. Such a change would oblige the two communities to undergo a major transformation in their attitude to each other and in their educational, social and political programmes.
B. Changes in Israel and in Palestine. In line with the changes within the two societies the two states, or the state of Israel and the Palestinian entity would have to undergo sweeping changes. Each would have to compromise on both the essential and symbolic levels. This would involve changes in the political structure, in the security forces, and in their political, economic, social and strategic perception of their position and status, both internally and with respect to outsiders. Such changes would be manifested later in the current entities becoming a new, joint entity.
C. Changes in the orientation of the two national movements. In order to ensure the survival of both the internal and external orientation of the two national movements would have to change fundamentally from a conflict situation, or at least one ruling out any possibility of living together, to one of mutual acceptance and reconciliation. In such a situation relations between the relevant parties would be fundamentally different from the situation today. This would be true of those between the national movement of the Jews in Israel and diaspora Jewry, and also of the relations between the Palestinian national movement (both in Palestine and abroad) and the Arab national movement. The ultimate goals of the movements would be to create the binational system in the country, as a result of which the growth of the separate national movement would become a means, rather than an end in itself.
Furthermore, the binational arrangement would require changes in the nature of its relationship with the rest of the world, in particular with the major powers such as the USA, the European nations and other states in the Middle East. The binational state would have to balance its ties with these countries.
In more advanced stages of the development of the binational regime, such as we find in Belgium or Switzerland, the leading examples in such matters (Lijphart 1977; 1984), there would be a need to concentrate on the implementation and development of the following major elements:
1. A broad coalition of the two parties. Stability of the binational state would be dependent upon a strong coalition between broad spectrum of the elites of both groups and the political leadership representing the majority in each group. Such a coalition would lead the country and be responsible for keeping the peace, and for running its internal and external affairs, while striving to reach consensus and compromise on problematic issues.
2. Right of veto for each of the two groups. Running the affairs of the binational state correctly would demand the possibility of either group exercising a right of veto in extreme cases, even in the other group's internal affairs. Thus, the representatives of one group would have to take account of the other group's interests.
3. Fair representation for both groups. The political and public common institutions of the binational system would have to include fair and proportionate representation for each of the groups. Each group would have a 'quota' reserved for its representatives. Certain offices such as President, Prime Minister and ministers would require the two groups to agree on rotation, or to have two people in office, one from each group.
4. Internal autonomy for each group. The internal affairs of each group, such as education, culture, municipal government, etc., would be administered separately. Such autonomy might be territorial, personal, or mixed, according to the arrangement reached between the two groups. In dealing with overlapping issues, or with regions of mixed population, both sets of representatives would have to co-operate in the correct management of even areas perceived to be separate.
Conclusion: The Present Crisis Between Israel and the Palestinians and the Future of a Solution
At the end of September 2000, Ariel Sharon, accompanied by various right-wing politicians, Israeli security personnel, and journalists, entered the plaza of the al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram al-Sharif) in Jerusalem. His visit set off a wave of demonstrations and protests among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world, and in practice terminated the Barak Government's attempt to reach an accord with the Palestinians, and, subsequently, led to Barak's replacement as prime minister by Sharon in the elections of February 2001. The confrontations between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces and settlers reached a scale unknown since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis have been killed in skirmishes and hostile operations initiated by each side in the other's territory. Inside Israel proper, members of the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine conducted operations against Israeli citizens; Israeli security forces and settlers carried out offensive operations in the territory under the control of the PA. The situation continued to deteriorate and reached a critical stage by the end of 2001. One notes the following features:
1. The Palestinian side is split. On one side, there is the official position of both Arafat's Fatah organization and the PA, which advocates presenting the 'second intifada' as a popular struggle of national liberation from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and has reservations about actions directed against Israeli civilians within the Green Line. On the other side, the main oppositionist groups (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front) hold to the radical line of a total struggle against Israel and Israelis, permitting their members to act both in the territories of the PA and in Israel proper, and presenting the confrontation as part of a comprehensive war against Israel and Zionism.
2. Israel has a national unity government headed by Ariel Sharon. This government asserts that it remains committed to the peace process, but it has failed to advance any political program that would make it possible to begin negotiations to end the occupation. On many occasions Sharon has stated his support for an interim solution based on a long-term accord that would give the Palestinians control about 40 per cent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians are not willing even to discuss such an arrangement and depict the current government as having no interest in reaching a peace agreement.
3. Officially, Israel continues to encourage Jews to go settle in the West Bank and Gaza, commending the establishment of 'new outposts' populated by a few settlers, with the object of asserting control of as much land as possible. In practice, there is an ongoing debate between the two main components of the unity government, Likud and Labour, on the continuation of this situation. In the meantime, however, there seems to be no reasonable prospect of turning the clock back and retrieving the situation that existed before the outbreak of the current round of violence in September 2000.
4. There have been no negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians since Sharon became prime minister in February 2001. The main contact has been through foreign brokers, and in the media, replete with mutual insults and accusations alleging the other's responsibility for the situation.
Relations between Israel and the Palestinians have worsened since Sharon came to power. In the field, the complexity of the relations and contacts has become increasingly onerous and the disagreements have amplified. The Palestinians continue to advocate an end to the conflict based on international resolutions, including Israeli withdrawal from the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, dismantling of the settlements, the partition of Jerusalem, and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, or payment of compensation in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194. On the other side, the Israeli public has stiffened in its rejection of all Palestinian demands as part of a comprehensive solution to the conflict. In practice, the feasibility of separation between Israel and the Palestinians is diminishing and is much less than it was a year ago.
Several options are available to the parties. The most extreme involves unilateral Israeli action aimed at producing another wave of Palestinian refugees fleeing areas adjacent to Israel proper for the heart of the West Bank, or even the East Bank of the Jordan. Of course this option would produce a wave of Palestinian and pan-Arab resistance, and wall-to-wall condemnation in Europe and even North America. This option would cost Israel dearly, which makes its implementation unlikely. However, it remains possible, and is relevant to the current situation. Another option would be prolongation of the current situation for the foreseeable future, with a concomitant willingness by both sides, and especially Israel, to pay a limited price. Such a long-term continuation of the current situation involves more Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and perpetuation of Israel's iron-fist policy vis-?-vis the Palestinians.
As time passes, isolating the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel will become increasingly impracticable and even irrelevant. This could pave the way for new thinking by many persons on both sides about the possibility of establishing a joint political entity with broad internal autonomy for each group. The continuing situation is liable to augment mutual hostility, but also the mutual dependence of the two groups. On the Palestinian side especially, more voices can be expected to call for considering the option of a joint political entity that would be the basis for a shared binational Israeli-Palestinian state. It is difficult to envision this today, but a change in leadership, and fatigue with the present situation could lead to changes in the scope, nature, and form of the longed-for peace between the two peoples.
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As'ad Ghanem, Department of Political Science, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel. Fax: 00 972-4-9948787; e-mail: Ghanem@poli.haifa.ac.il