The Oslo agreements were based on bad faith from the Israeli side, were implemented with even lesser good faith, and 30 years later we all see the result: violence is rising, settlements are widening, settlers’ attacks on Palestinian civilians are becoming an habit, and the apartheid regime in the West Bank consolidates itself by the day. What is maybe even worse: very few Israelis and Palestinians believe that a solution, any solution, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible. Without such belief, without a hope for a better future, political action becomes very difficult.
Reading the recently published protocol of the discussion in the Israeli government prior to the adoption of the Oslo agreement, it is very clear that Israel had no real intention to grant Palestinians independence or a state of their own. The “autonomy” promised to the Palestinians was no more than a tool to prolong the Israeli total control over the whole of the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea, while relieving Israel from its duties as an occupying power to run the daily lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Yet despite the fact that a Palestinian state was not originally part of the Oslo agreements, this process was later very much identified with the two states solution. After Oslo, the idea of an independent Palestinian state was accepted as a basis for all negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The failure of Oslo is therefore conceived also as the failure of the “classical” two state model.
So if Oslo failed, if the two states model identified with Oslo seems no more relevant as a solution, does that mean there is no solution? Does that mean we’re heading toward one state, which in the “best” case will require dismantling the state of Israel, and in the worst and more likely case, mean apartheid and even worse?
Oslo was understood by most Jewish-Israeli public as a tool to separate themselves from the Palestinians. The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the building of the separation wall in the West Bank and the effective creation of Palestinian enclaves in areas A and B, surrounded by Israeli army and settlements, were all part of the concept.
The failure of Oslo is also a failure of the separation idea. Although they are two peoples with distinct national identities, Jews and Palestinians are geographically intertwined. Both peoples view the entire land as their homeland. For the Jews, that extends to Hebron in the West Bank as much as to Tel Aviv; for the Palestinians, Jaffa as much as Ramallah.
What’s necessary isn’t separation, but equality and partnership; individual and national equality between all of the residents of this land – through an end to the occupation, dispossession, and unequal privileges – and real partnership between these two groups.
My view, and that of my Palestinian and Jewish partners in the A Land for All movement, is that there’s a way to reach that equality and that partnership through an Israeli-Palestinian confederation, entailing the following principles:
Two independent states, Israel and Palestine, along the 1967 borders.
A federated structure with shared institutions governing human rights, security, the economy and other issues of mutual interest.
Open borders and freedom of movement for the citizens of both states, who can live anywhere they’d like.
Jerusalem will be an open city, the capital of both states, overseen by a joint municipal government.
Restitution for all past wrongs, without creating new ones.
When we started out 11 years ago, this idea seemed like a fantasy. Today it seemed even more fantastic to implement the two states solution, as it was framed through the Oslo process with the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of settlers, the partition of Jerusalem and the practical renunciation by the Palestinians on the Right of Return to the lands from which they were exiled 75 years ago.
The one state solution, on the other hand, seems also very difficult as it ignores the national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis and their rights for self determination in a state of their own.
A confederation is not a perfect answer. But between a failing two state solution, an existing apartheid state and a single democratic state too far away, it seems the best solution adopted to the situation on the ground.