The 1949 truce border underpins the international communitys refusal to legalise Israels occupation. We must hold any changes to it accountable
Donald Trumps remarks at his press conference with Binyamin Netanyahu that he could like whatever solution Israel and Palestine come up with put the international community in an uncomfortable posture. Until then, the world could feign that a two-state solution was doable, despite Israels relentless settlement building, and offer the occasional protest, such as Trumps own: Hold off on settlements for a bit.
All this Israel could, and did, disregard. Indeed, things have gone so far that four key ministers in Netanyahus government are able to say they dont want a Palestinian country at all. Netanyahu himself insists on security control west of the Jordan river. In fact, the late former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, hailed as the great peacemaker, also wanted security control west of the Jordan, which would have placed serious limits to such a states sovereignty.
That raises the question: why want a country at all? As a minimum, a sovereign nation should be able to guarantee the security of its citizens within its borders.
When Palestinians accepted the two-state solution to the conflict, as advocated by the late chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation( PLO ), Yasser Arafat, at the Palestinian National Council in 1988, that entailed accepting reality. It entailed recognising Israels existence and accepting a nation on simply 22% of Mandatory Palestine. It also brought the promise of liberty from occupation, a place in the community of nations, a capital in cherished Jerusalem, and an objective to the suffering and dispossession of Palestinian refugees and exiles.
Instead, the dispossession continued. When Israel and the PLO signed the first Oslo agreements, in 1993, the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territory was around 260,000. By now it has nearly trebled. Worse , none of the versions of statehood on the table since the Israeli occupation began in 1967 50 years ago this June have reached anything near a truly sovereign Palestinian state.
Whatever Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and David Friedman, the presidents fervently pro-settlement selection for US ambassador to Israel, have schemed, it will be much further from a sovereign Palestine than ever and likely to consist of autonomous enclaves under Israels control. The Israeli settler movement is by now too strong and too intent on colonising the whole of Palestine.
After Trumps commentaries, there is a groundswell of voices among Palestinians and their advocates calling for a democratic, secular state of Palestine covering the entire territory of what was Mandatory Palestine under British rule, until 1948, and what is now Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
But if a sovereign Palestinian state in the occupied territory has not been possible, how can a democratic state of Israel/ Palestine be achievable, one in which all citizens enjoy all human rights individual and collective, political, social, and economic?
I believe that either a two-state or one-state answer could run. Whether Palestinians and Israelis live in two separate nations or in a single state that includes both peoples, all must be equal under the law. In a Palestinian state, for example, neither women nor religious minorities should be treated as second-class citizens. The same should plainly also apply to Israel, whose Palestinian citizens , now one-fifth of the population, are discriminated against in access to land, country budget allocation, education and other spheres of life.
The question is not one state or two, but how to get there. And the irony is that the best available tools to get from grim today to hopeful tomorrow are those based on the nation system.
Any changes Israel has constructed beyond the green line the 1949 armistice line that are not strictly needed to manage the occupation until it objective are illegal under international law. The planting of settlers and settlements in Palestinian province is a crime. And the fact that the UN general assembly recognised Palestine a non-member commentator state in 2012 has enabled Palestine to file a suit at the international criminal court. This is why I recently called on Palestinians not to let go of the green line.
Although the European union and the US have not yet employed measures such as sanctions as they did when Russia occupied the Crimea in order to hold Israel accountable, they have also not been willing to sign off on Israels occupation. To legitimise it would be a grievous jolt to the international order that brought peace, at the least in the west, after the two world wars. That is why the major powers, including the UK, voted for UN security council resolution 2334 in December, reaffirming the illegality of settlements, and why the US abstained, allowing it to pass before Trump took office. Many of those in the global solidarity motion that supports boycott, divestment and sanction( BDS) against Israel are focused on Israels actions beyond the green line.
For Palestinians living with dreamings of freedom, justice and equality, this is a terrible day. Holding on to the green line and working for accountability will and must eventually bring an end to occupation, dispossession and discrimination, whether it be in two states, or one.
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