Hillel Barak's call
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
A New Political Program For The Israeli Left
• The purpose of this document is not to provide a wide, in depth, overall analysis of the conflict and its history.
• Although there is a large temptation to do so, this document will not attempt to suggest actions that deal primarily with the immediate (here & now) symptoms of the political problem.
• The purpose of this document is to formulate a framework for a long-term strategy, one that will deal with the essence of the political problem.
Our work as political activists should take form on two parallel levels:
1. The short rage – dealing with the everyday manifestations of the conflict.
2. The long range – dealing with the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The type of short-range activities, as well as their content and form, should be based on a long-range plan and framework of operation. This is necessary if we expect our actions to be constructive and effective.
2. The collapse of the traditional political program of the Israeli left as the reason for its current paralysis:
The breakdown of the Camp David and Taba negotiations officially marked the failure of the Oslo process that had been “on death’s bed” for quite some time. The events that took place around the eruption of the El-Aksa Intifada, on both sides of the green line, totally undermined the traditional program of the Israeli left.
These events confirmed that we will never be able to achieve a stable peace in our area unless we are able to provide a suitable solution to the following essential issues: the Palestinian refugees, the Palestinians who are Israeli residents, the future of Jerusalem, and the issue of human rights & democracy for all residents of the area.
The traditional approach of the Israeli left was characterized primarily by the concept of the establishment of a Palestinian state beside the state of Israel, based on the pre-1967 borders, removal of the settlements, and Jerusalem as the capital of both states (in one form or another). As we will illustrate below, this approach to solving the conflict is essentially incapable of providing a suitable solution to the above-mentioned issues.
This approach defined the borders of the Oslo process from the Israeli society’s perspective. This means that while the more radical supporters of Oslo hoped it would bring about the fulfillment of the Israeli Left’s plan, what happened was that the more conservative and more influential factors made sure that it will lead to much less.
The previously mentioned limitations of the Left’s approach, which also defined the limitations of the Oslo process, inevitably led to the failure of the Oslo process as a peace process. This failure brought about the collapse of the Israeli Left’s traditional political program regarding the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This collapse is the reason for the paralysis that has engulfed the Israeli Left.
The only types of activities that the Israeli left is capable of organizing are those of protest and solidarity. The left knows what it is against, it knows who is being oppressed, but it does not have any serious suggestion how to mobilize to change the current situation. Today’s Israeli left does not have a positive political program that can provide a serious alternative solution to the current situation, it does not have a plan it can offer as an answer to the voices from the right that say “so what do you offer?”
• It is crucial for us to define a positive political plan/strategy/program.
3. A positive program:
It was previously stated that the inability to provide suitable solutions to the essential issues of the conflict, was the cause for the failure of the Oslo process. In this perspective, any serious and realistic alternative political program that is presented, must offer a framework that will enable the fulfillment of all of the following essential conditions:
1. Right of return for the Palestinian refugees.
2. A democratic (no discrimination) future for the Palestinian residents of Israel.
3. A sovereignty-structure in Jerusalem answering the needs of all religions.
4. Establishing a democratic society based on the principles of human rights, for all residents of the land.
Before continuing, an explanation is owed for the statement made earlier (in section 2) that the framework of the solution offered by the traditional political program of the Israeli left, based on “two states”, is essentially incapable of meeting the above conditions. Here are the primary arguments:
1. This solution does not contain a commitment to human rights and democracy in the area as a primary value. We have witnessed in the Oslo accords and in the realities that followed, how this issue was totally neglected in favor of other interests, and as a result the situation of human rights and democracy in the area reached an all time low. There is no dispute on the fact that the current Intifada broke out, not only as a result of the Israeli oppression, but also as a result of the despair from the Palestinian Authority. The main reasons for this were the lack of democracy, offenses against human rights, and the corruption that characterizes the PA.
2. The “Two State” solution talks about a state of Palestine beside the state of Israel. The state of Israel, in this solution, is meant to be a modification of the current state of Israel only in its geographical borders but not in its essential nature. The state of Israel is intended to stay the state of the Jewish people, and as such will not grant true democracy and full equality to its Palestinian residents. Israel will continue to discriminate against its Arab citizens, will not allow any serious return of Palestinian refugees to its area (since this will compromise Israel’s Jewish demographic nature), and although a solution to the issue of Jerusalem will be technically possible, it will be problematical with a high tendency to complications.
It is possible to conduct a more penetrating and broader political analysis of the conflict and present additional powerful arguments, but the above two arguments are all that is needed to demonstrate that the “Two State” solution, is in fact essentially incapable of meeting the conditions needed for obtaining peace.
The only practical and realistic solution that can meet all the requirements needed is a solution based on the concept of ONE state, which is Democratic and Secular (this means that the rights of the residents are not affected by his/her religion/ethnicity/race etc, on the other hand members of all religions enjoy full freedom of religion). Although it requires a large conceptual adjustment, and although it might seem unattainable, this is in fact the only solution that is pragmatic and realistic, and will offer a stable and long-term solution for the conflict.
One democratic-secular state will be able to offer full equality to both Jewish, Palestinian, and any other residents. There will be no problem for the Palestinian refugees to return to all parts of the land, a united Jerusalem will be the capitol and members of all religions will be able to enjoy full freedom of religion. The state will be able to grant all residents full human and civil rights, any resident will be able to live in any area he wishes, Palestinians could live in Hertzelia and Jews could live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (a right that would have been denied from both groups in a “Two State” solution).
One of the largest barriers that are currently standing in the way of promoting the “One State” solution is the belief shared by both Israelis and Palestinians that “The other side” will not be prepared to accept this solution. Factual information gathered in public opinion polls conducted by the JMCC (www.jmcc.org), shows that among the Palestinian public almost 25% support this solution (latest poll was conducted June 2001). One can reasonably assume that this percentage will rise if there is a similar display of support from the Jewish-Israeli side. The real problem is with the Israeli public; current figures regarding the support for “One State” are not available but can assumed to be very low. Nevertheless, according to estimates based on academic research, about 20% of the Israeli public have the potential of supporting this solution in the immediate future.
4. Establishing a new political frameworks based on the new program:
In order to advance this new political program, it is necessary to establish a new political framework (movement, front, coalition, etc.) that is based on the following principles:
1. The movement will struggle to protect the human rights, to guarantee full equality, and to promote the joint interests of all residents of the area.
2. The movement will act to promote the idea of “One Democratic-Secular State” as the only possible solution for the conflict.
3. The movement will be based on activists from among the Palestinian refugees and from among the residents of the land between the Jordan River and the sea. This includes Israel Jews, 48’ Palestinians, and 67’ Palestinians, all working together towards a joint future in the area.
I call upon all interested, to join the activists working these days on the establishment of a new political framework.