Hope fading for two-state solution, says Friedrich Ebert Foundation director

Former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg said: "There were times when we had a lot of hope and talked about it. Today we still have hope, but don't talk about it."

Israeli peace activist on the Gaza border. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli peace activist on the Gaza border.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There is currently no majority for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hannes Alpen, director of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (foundation) in the Palestinian Territories said at its joint launch with Middle East Publications of the new issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal on Tuesday.
Alpen, who previously operated in east Jerusalem and the West Bank from 2005 to 2006, returned in January of this year and came to the conclusion that the two-state solution is no longer on the table for most members of Israel’s right-wing government, he said during the launch of the journal devoted to “Palestinians and Israelis at a Dangerous Crossroads.”
Part of the fading hope for a solution of any kind, let alone the two-state solution, was evidenced in the venue of the launch. In the past, new editions of the quarterly magazine, accompanied by a panel discussion between Israelis and Palestinians, were launched in venues in east Jerusalem which were more accessible to Palestinian participants.
At the previous launch at the American Colony Hotel, the event was invaded and brought to a premature end by a group of Palestinian youth who turned over tables and shouted at the publication’s co-editor Ziad Abuzayyad that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of Palestinians.
The upshot was that managements of other venues in east Jerusalem were fearful of a similar incident, and were reluctant to rent out their premises. The best alternative was the Jerusalem YMCA which, even under war-time conditions and other periods of tension, has been an oasis of harmony between Israelis and Arabs, and between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Despite the late notification of the change of venue, the hall at the YMCA was packed to capacity, indicating that there are still people who have not given up on the eventuality of peace.
FORMER KNESSET speaker Avrum Burg said: “There were times when we had a lot of hope and talked about it. Today we still have hope, but don’t talk about it.”
Recalling the euphoria at the time of the Oslo accords, Burg said: “We celebrated over Oslo, without having a clue about what it meant. Seventy percent of both communities said ‘Wow!’ – they didn’t know the details, but it was a great option.”
Burg compared the two-state solution to products in a supermarket which have an expiry date, and implied that the date has expired.
He could not see any government of Israel relinquishing its monopoly over power, energy and territory, but if there is a one-state solution, he wondered what kind of solution it would be. Would it be one of privilege for the Jews and discrimination against the Palestinians or would there be justice and equality for all? “I don’t count states,” he said. “I count right: How many rights does the collective have, and how many rights does the individual have?”
Burg, who was raised in a national-religious home, and whose late father was the long-time head of the National Religious Party, confessed that he felt a little uncomfortable because he comes from the privileged majority. “I’ll always be a Jew and an Ashkenazi,” he said. “We have the power, the resources and the energy. But who am I to tell the Palestinians: “Give up your dream.’”
Looking toward the future, Burg envisages that the solution in the final analysis will take the form of some kind of federation in which everyone will have the same rights, but this can only happen if both sides relinquish some of their political authority in order to be able to work together, he said.
DR. SARI NUSSEIBEH is the former president of Al-Quds University, former representative of the Palestinian National Authority in Jerusalem and the scion of an aristocratic Palestinian family which has lived in Jerusalem for more than a thousand years. He said he believed that people are still interested in a two-state solution, be it alive or dead. But he pointed out that the real question is not this or that, but whether there is a solution at all. “It is not clear in the present circumstances or the foreseeable future whether an agreement can be reached,” he said, and asked what could be imagined further down the road.
More of an optimist than a pessimist by nature, Nusseibeh urged his audience not to lose hope in a two-state solution, because it may still come within the next five years.
TA’AL BALAD chairman MK Ahmad Tibi, who declared himself to be a Palestinian who is an Israeli citizen, railed against those Israelis who “try to marginalize the identity of Palestinians within the Green Line.” With more than a hint of cynicism in his voice, Tibi said that: “We already have a real two-state solution – Israelis within the Green Line and settlers on the West Bank.”
Tibi charged that settlers dominate Israel’s parliament, where he said that “they are the most powerful lobby.”
He said that while he personally supported the two-state solution, there is not one minister in the Israeli government – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his Bar Ilan speech – who does the same.
Tibi claimed that he had actually asked Netanyahu whether he would support an independent Palestinian state, “and he said ‘no.’ Everyone was waiting for Godot, and Trump came instead.”
Tibi declared that rather than talk about a two-state solution, the government is talking about annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“When Jewish and Arab politics are separated, it leaves room for racism, discrimination, hatred and fear,” he said.
Turning to the upcoming conference in Bahrain, Tibi predicted that it would fail. “Ironically, those who are punishing the Palestinians economically, are holding an economic symposium to help the Palestinian economy,” he said “The Palestinians don’t want another factory – they want freedom.”
The reason that the conference will fail, he said, is that even though the Palestinians have no state and no army, “they have the ability to say ‘no.’”
Tibi underlined that the conflict with the Palestinians is not the only problem which appears to have an impasse. “We should look at what is going on inside Israel between Jews and Arabs,” he said. “The Nation-State Law tells Arabs that they will never be equal. They have no hope that there will be any change soon.”
He qualified this by saying that the Arabs are not the biggest victims of the system. “To be a Leftist in Israel these days is almost a crime. Leftists are treated even worse than the Arabs.” The Arab parties are cooperating with the Jewish Left with the aim of stopping racist bills and policies, he said.
MERETZ CHAIRWOMAN MK Tamar Zandberg, in reference to the unprecedented occurrence of two Knesset elections within a year (actually within less than six months), called this “a crisis of democracy,” which she said was no doubt related to the prime minister’s legal issues.
On the matter of annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Zandberg said that annexation has never been on the table as openly as it is now. “It’s a very disturbing reality, which she said her party is trying to block, adding that it was very worrying to hear the statements made by US Ambassador David Friedman and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.
“The question is, what kind of alternative can we present?” she asked, stressing that “Arab-Jewish political cooperation is very important.”