Avi — The injustice of the new formula

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The injustice of the new formula
By Meron Benvenisti
In recent weeks, the discussion of the chances of the struggle for the establishment of a Palestinian state as a way to resolve the conflict has become sharper and more profound, and alternatives to the formula “two states for two peoples” have been raised; despair over implementing this solution is reinforcing the idea of “one binational state.” As long as there were only “a few more or less naive Israelis, who were caught up in the foolish idea of a binational state” (Avraham Tal, Haaretz, October 14), the issue could be treated with condescending dismissiveness.
But when the matter is starting to be discussed by groups and people who belong to the heart of the political and military establishment in both the Israeli and the Palestinian camps, and the attention being devoted to it by pundits and journalists the world over is reaching new heights, the sense heightens that a process of a paradigm change has begun, and that it won’t be long before a contest erupts as to who owns the patent for the new formula. After all, the slogan “two states” is less than 20 years old, and many of those who are rejecting the binational formula scornfully and aggressively had the same hostile attitude toward the two-state formula, until it gained legitimacy – after being emptied of meaning.
The formula of two states for two peoples is being attacked from different angles and for contradictory reasons. It is also characterized from the outset by willful obstruction, whose implementation leads to the inevitable conclusions. The Israelis who did their utmost to destroy any chance of the two-state solution are now looking for a way out of the disaster they have brought upon themselves with their own hands.
First of all, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gets Israel involved in a bitter debate about “the disengagement,” which threatens a national rift, just to bring about a situation in which “this entire package that is called the Palestinian state will disappear from our agenda for an unlimited period of time.” And afterward, when it turns out that Israel has in fact succeeded in teaching the world that there is “no one to talk to” (on the Palestinian side), the top military echelons leak to Aluf Benn (Haaretz, October 19) that it may be worthwhile to examine the possibility of returning to the pre-1967 situation and to hand over the occupied territories to Syria, Jordan and Egypt – and thus to abandon “the failed attempt to share the country with Arafat and his cronies.”
The very idea that the Arab countries would agree to function as Israel’s storm troopers for the occupation is a mad notion, bordering on chutzpah. But anyone who bases the occupation regime (and the disengagement plan) on the generosity of the donor countries and the UN agencies – and is not ashamed to humiliate them and to insult their emissaries – will not hesitate to blame the “Arabs” for the situation that has been created, and to proclaim his own innocence.
It is the very processes of unilateral disengagement – the separation fence and the evacuation of the Gaza Strip – that ostensibly are implementing the territorial division of Eretz Israel and distancing the nightmare of a binational state, which in fact are laying the foundations for the binational reality and destroying the option of two states for two peoples. The Israelis believe that the fence turns the conflict into a border dispute, and that disengagement from Gaza alleviates the “demographic problem.”
However, in effect, the fence and the evacuation create total dependence by defenseless Palestinian cantons. Thus a de facto binational state is being established, which contains many deceptive indicators that enable us to nurture the illusion that it is not such a state, and even to make us feel that the worst of all evils – a binational state – has been prevented. The Palestinians, who correctly understand the significance of the processes – and who are unable to enjoy the luxury of fooling themselves – sense that Israeli activity has in fact made the two-state option impossible, and therefore there must be a return to a one-state strategy.
It must be mentioned repeatedly that a binational regime is not a prescription, but a description of the existing situation. The trouble is that the binational danger is being treated only as a possible future problem. The danger of a binational state is illustrated by its opponents not by exposing the racist and discriminatory components that are becoming rooted in everyday existence – and that are clear to everyone, except for the Israelis themselves – but by raising the empty threat called a demographic danger. The Israelis consider “womb-to-womb combat” more dangerous than their slide down the slope of racism and delegitimization.
Just as a “Palestinian state” is the vessel into which the Israelis throw all the injustices of the past, so a “binational state” is a refuge for all those who fear the future, an empty threat whose purpose is to present undefined dilemmas and theoretical constitutional constructs. In the conditions prevailing today, what difference does it make whether a person supports two states or one? This preoccupation is only an escape from genuine and immediate problems that stem from the injustices of oppression, from the damage to basic human rights and from racism. How easy it is to fall into the trap of slogans.