Israeli settlements could cause one-state solution

PLO leader warns that settlers in the West Bank are making a free-standing Palestinian state impossible

By Juan Cole
November 5, 2009 9:06PM (UTC)
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The West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit is seen through a barbed wire fence, Friday, Sept. 4, 2009. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to approve some hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before slowing settlement construction, two of his aides said Friday, in an apparent snub of Washington's public demand for a total settlement freeze. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) (Associated Press)

Saeb Erekat, chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization Steering Committee, said Wednesday that Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas should be frank with the Palestinian people and admit to them that there is no possibility of a two-state solution given continued Israeli colonization of the West Bank.

It is morally and ethically unconscionable to leave millions of Palestinians in a condition of statelessness, in which they have no rights. (Warren Burger defined citizenship as the "right to have rights" as my colleague Margaret "Peggy" Sommers pointed out in her new book.) Therefore, if there isn't going to be a two-state solution, there will have to be a one-state solution, in which Israel gives citizenship to the Palestinians. (As it is, 20 percent of Israelis are Palestinian Arabs and that proportion will grow to 33 percent by 2030, if they are not expelled by sometime-Moldavian-night-club-bouncer and now foreign minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman.)


Al-Jazeera English has a video interview with Saree Makdisi on Erekat's statement:

The Israeli colonies in the West Bank are actively encouraged by the Israeli government. Haaretz reported last winter on a hitherto secret database on the settlements kept by the Israeli government:


An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements -- about 75 percent -- construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents. . .

The settlements in which massive construction has taken place on private Palestinian lands. Entire neighborhoods built without permits or on private lands are inseparable parts of the settlements. The sense of dissonance only intensifies when you find that municipal offices, police and fire stations were also built upon and currently operate on lands that belong to Palestinians. 

The USG Open Source Center translated some of what Erekat said in an interview with Al-Hayat published on Sunday:

Erekat: Difficult Meeting

In his turn, Erekat has stressed to Al-Hayah that the meeting with Clinton was "frank and difficult." Erekat added that Abbas insisted that if the US Administration wanted to resume the peace process, then it would have to compel Israel to halt the settlements, including the natural growth, and to start the negotiations from where they stopped in 2008. Erekat added: "It is very clear that the US side has only achieved from Israel stances that reject its commitment to halt the settlements, and hence the US Administration, as chairman of the International Quartet, has to reveal the side that refuses and hinders the launch of the peace process, namely Israel."

Erekat continued: "If the US Administration cannot compel Israel to halt the construction of settlements, who will believe that it will be able to compel Israel to withdraw to the borders of 4 June 1967, to withdraw from Eastern Jerusalem, and to resolve the issue of the refugees according to the UN resolutions, with Resolution No. 194 at their forefront?"

Erekat stressed that Abbas, in his meeting with Clinton, reiterated his rejection of "the Palestinian state with interim borders," and also rejected Netanyahu's proposals of constructing 3,000 housing units in the settlements, and excluding Jerusalem from any agreement on the settlements; he said "this is rejected chapter and verse."

Erekat attributed the difficulty in yesterday's meeting between Abbas and Clinton to the Israeli stances rejecting the implementation of its commitments stipulated by the "Road Map." Erekat stressed that the US Administration would have to reveal the side that hinders the resumption of the negotiations.

In reply to a question by Al-Hayah about whether Clinton exerted yesterday any pressure on Abbas, Erekat said: The issue has nothing to do with pressure, but with interests. He pointed out that President Obama, in his meeting with Abbas in May 2009, described the establishment of an independent Palestinian State within 24 months as "US higher interest."

Erekat added: "The United States has 230,000 soldiers in the region. If it thinks that it can solve the problems through the use of Marines and through wars, then it is completely mistaken." Erekat stressed: This region needs to drain the quagmire of the Israeli occupation as an introduction to security and stability. He continued: "Here, we are talking about a system of interests. We have shown all possible preparations to fulfill all our commitments, but the Israeli side has not yet recognized its commitments." 

I think the whole thing is over with. I can't see a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank as it is now configured, and I can't imagine the Netanyahu government halting settlements.

Juan Cole

Juan Cole is collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan. He runs a news and commentary webzine on U.S. foreign policy and progressive politics, Informed Comment. His new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires (Nation Books), has just been published.


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