Socialist Worker, August 8, 2008 | Issue 677
The Oslo Accords of August 1993 were supposed to lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel. Fifteen years later, after a vast increase in Israeli settlements on the West Bank, the ongoing erection of an apartheid wall and the barbaric siege of Gaza, increasing numbers of Palestinians and their supporters regard a two-state solution as unworkable.looks at the debate.
IN THE 1970s, the dominant Fatah group within the Palestine Liberation Organization dropped its demand for a unified state governing all of Palestine with equal rights for all citizens and began the process of promoting a “two-state solution.”
In the aftermath, a consensus grew among the Palestinian left that a Palestinian mini-state was the only viable solution for Palestinians. According to this argument, the best Palestinians could achieve was a state established on the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War–land that amounted to less than 30 percent of historic Palestine.
The conclusion that a two-state solution was the only viable alternative reflected several political realities. The first was the belief that Israel had become a dominant power in the region, with the backing of the United States and Europe. Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War–and the unwillingness and inability of any other states to deliver a decisive military blow against it–confirmed this conclusion.
The second factor was a shift in the thinking of the mainstream Palestinian liberation movement, toward trilateral negotiations (between the PLO, Israel and the U.S.) and away from armed struggle and a broader engagement of regional issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
While armed struggle, in itself, held no hope of winning Palestinian statehood, the trilateral negotiations among unequal powers meant that the PLO had little with which to bargain and much to lose. Once the PLO accepted peace talks and the nebulous “two-state” framework that came with them, a series of political debacles took place under the auspices of the Oslo Accords. Yet the “peace process” reinforced the idea that Palestinian statehood would happen only at Israel’s behest.
The other factor in the debate was a decline in the Palestinian secular left, the long-time proponent of the idea of a single, democratic, secular state in Palestine.
The political weaknesses of the Palestinian left–its traditions of Stalinism and its unwillingness to oppose the Arab ruling classes of other countries in the region–left it unable to meet the challenges it faced. Thus, when the armed struggle posed the possibility of regional revolutions in the 1970s and Arab governments, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon, cracked down savagely on the Palestinian resistance, the left was paralyzed.
With the demise of the secular left, the possibility of a one-state solution seemed to die as well. As a further consequence, Palestinians lost a single banner for a unified movement that represented their concerns as an oppressed nation. Since the 1948 creation of Israel on much of the land of historic Palestine, Palestinians have always been divided between those who live within Israel’s borders, those in the Occupied Territories and those in the diaspora. Abandoning a one-state solution meant accepting those divisions as permanent.
The result was that the Palestinian nationalist struggle gave rise to rival movements and rival local leaders. Israel has been able to play on those divisions and the relative weakness of the Palestinian resistance to tighten the screws on the Palestinian population to unbearable levels.
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BUT ISRAELI policies over the past 15 years, under the auspices of the Oslo Accords, have convinced increasing numbers of Palestinians that the idea of a mini-state, or a two-state solution, isn’t viable.
Rather, it leaves unresolved all the decisive issues that resulted from the creation of the state of Israel in the first place–not the least of which are the rights of the large refugee population.