Israel is a project pre-primed for ethnic cleansing and genocide

Consequences of deception

Oslo and the two-state ‘solution’ lay behind the events of October 7, argues Ghada Karmi. Suffice to say, we disagree with her well-meaning one-state ‘solution’

One would have thought that the events of October 7 would have led politicians to try and draw some important lessons about the problems created for Palestine and Palestinians. But what it actually did was revive talk about the so-called two-state solution. It is really most remarkable that the lesson learned from October 7 was not, as one might have hoped, a re-evaluation of the whole story of Palestine that led us to that point. Why did this happen? How did we get here?

We are seeing that world leaders and western politicians are now reviving the talk about a ‘solution’ which has never happened and is never going to happen. But the international consensus on this remains.

There has never been a proposal on how to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians which has enjoyed as much support as the two-state solution. We have a line-up of very important world bodies, from the United Nations, which in 2012 voted to admit Palestine as an observer, non-member state, while a majority of the states represented at the UN general assembly have recognised the existing Palestinian state. Likewise, the European Union supports the two-state solution, as well as the United States, the Arab League and, last but not least, the Palestine Liberation Organisation itself.

But what is the ‘two-state solution’? It proposes a division of historic Palestine - mandate Palestine, however you want to call it - into two very unequal portions: 78% was supposed to go to what is now the Israeli state. The other 22% of the territory of original Palestine are the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

But, when we examine that a bit more closely, we realise that this solution is a nonsense. It has never got anywhere and never will - for very good reasons. Firstly, it is deeply unfair on the Palestinians to give such a large majority of the original territory where all of them used to live to the colonial settlers, and to reserve just a fifth of the original Palestine for them. You do not have to be a genius to realise that 22%, even if it happened, cannot possibly accommodate all the Palestinian refugees.

And the refugees are not incidental. Of course, western politicians do not want to talk about them and certainly Israel does not. The reality is, however, that they are the very core of the Palestinian story. Five to six million refugees are living in UN refugee camps, while many more millions, including myself, are living in exile. All these people need a solution and it cannot be met by pushing them all into 22% of the original Palestine. This is not acceptable, especially as people should have the right to return.

However, there is a second, extremely important reason why the two-state solution cannot happen, which is logistics. If you look at the map of Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the problem immediately becomes clear. There is simply no territory on which to establish the Palestinian state. Without the Israelis being forced to remove their settlements, there is no way that what is left now of the original Palestine can form the territory of the Palestinian state.

Thirdly - as if the two issues raised so far were not enough - Israel itself has rejected the two-state solution. No Israeli leader has ever accepted the creation of a Palestinian state.

PLO concessions

So why do western politicians continue to talk about the two-state solution as if it were a realistic peace plan? We need to go back a little bit to see how it came about.

In 1974, the Palestine National Council (PNC) - that is, the parliament in exile of the Palestinian people - dropped its goal of total liberation of the entire land and started talking about setting up an authority on whatever land was liberated. In 1977 the PNC first called this a “Palestinian governing authority” - the earliest time when this question was spoken about from the Arab perspective.

Saudi Arabia picked it up in 1982 and produced what was called the Fez Plan, which spoke about two states. And from that moment on the idea became familiar. This led to the so-called Declaration of Independence, which was agreed at the 1988 Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers, and spelled out that there would be a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders - 22% of the original Palestine - and this was coupled with recognition of Israel.

Those are the steps that led to the idea of something called the Palestinian state on the 1967 territories, and that, of course, formed the basis of the Oslo agreement, which was drawn up in 1993 between Israel and the PLO. So, in other words, the two parties to this Oslo accord were a state, on the one hand, and an organisation on the other.

In this agreement Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, while the PLO agreed to recognise Israel within “secure, safe borders”. The PLO also agreed to give up “terrorism” - which really meant resistance to Israeli occupation. And it promised to amend the PLO international charter published in the 1960s by removing all clauses which were potentially ‘offensive’ to Israel.

Why did the Palestinians enter into an agreement that was so unequal and so unfair? Well, one has to remember the background. Following on from the first Gulf War, in which the PLO supported Saddam Hussein, the organisation’s funding dried up. Nobody wanted to acknowledge or accept the PLO any more - it had become almost irrelevant. That had followed on from the 1982 war in Lebanon, when, thanks to Israeli pressure, the PLO was expelled from Beirut, with its fighters ending up in places like Tunis and Yemen - in other words, they were really very far from where the actual action was. And so by 1992-93 the PLO had become increasingly irrelevant and bankrupt.

In addition to that, during the first intifada in 1987, an alternative leadership looked as if it was coming to the fore - a leadership from inside the Palestinian territories, making the PLO itself even more irrelevant.

So Yasser Arafat decided that the only way forward was to negotiate directly with Israel, not have the involvement of any third parties. There were secret negotiations in Norway, which led to the formal drawing up of the Oslo accords.

What did either side get out of that? As far as the PLO was concerned, it was back on the scene - relevant once more and able to steer the Palestinian political process from then on. At the same time, it was, of course, in Israel’s interest. The Oslo accords created the conditions in which Israel could offload the Palestinians in the occupied territories, who had become what was called a “demographic threat” to the Zionists - they did not want all these non-Jews. So here was a wonderful way of separating from them: all the Palestinian population centres occupied by Israel were given a certain autonomy. They now had the Palestinian Authority, which ran civil affairs - but, of course, not political affairs.

That was great for Israel. It was separate from the officially recognised Palestine, while at the same time retaining control of all the borders of this so-called autonomous area. Sea, land and air all remained under Israel’s control. It was a very cheap way for the Israelis to offload both the Palestinian areas and the Palestinian population.

That begs the question: did Arafat and the PLO not know that this would happen and that this was exactly what the Israelis wanted? Well, in my opinion they did know. But they got to a point where Arafat believed that if the PLO could get a foothold in the occupied areas it could advance Palestinian aims in a piecemeal way.

This is a bit like the salesman who pushes his foot in the door, so you cannot shut it. He talks to you and you end up saying, ‘All right, you can come into the hallway’, and then after a bit he gets into other parts of the house. This might sound flippant, but I believe that it was actually the sort of thinking that Arafat employed. To him, this approach seemed like it was the only way to get the Palestinians back into Palestine.

The results of the Oslo agreement were not good for the Palestinians at all. Under it Israel never kept to any of its deadlines or undertakings. The area that it conceded had no sovereignty of any kind and, as I pointed out before, all borders were controlled by Israel. And, of course, the extending of settlements continued.

By October 7 2023, we had a Palestinian territory full of Israeli settlements, in which no possibility of a Palestinian state could be envisaged. Palestinian rights had been downgraded by recurrent, so-called peace-process negotiations, which only benefited Israel and not the Palestinians at all.

At this point, I would like to quote a short abstract from my new book, One state:

The Palestinian strategy in Oslo was a despairing strategy. To salvage something from which to regenerate the remnants of Palestine, even though the price was high. Without this sacrifice, it seemed to Arafat and his successors that Israel would finish what it had started in 1948: the destruction of the Palestinian people, the loss of the land that remained to them and possibly their total expulsion. That matters should have come to this point, where people were forced to delegitimise their own national cause, renounce their legal rights and recognise the theft of their land by others as legally and morally acceptable, as implied in Palestine’s recognition of Zionism, is the stuff of tragedy.

‘Peace’ process

Needless to say, the whole ‘peace’ process suffers from one major flaw: the parties are hugely asymmetrical. The power is clearly on one side and not on the other. Palestinian rights, as I pointed out, had to be downgraded to make a negotiation about any kind of settlement possible.

In terms of a solution, I believe, as my book indicates, that there is only one way to solve the issue. And that is by the creation of a democratic state, with equal rights of citizenship and equal rights in every other way. I am not in any sense implying that the Israelis would accept this or that either the government or the population would be happy with it. And the Palestinians would find it quite difficult as well, to live with their former oppressors and the people who occupied their land, etc. So it is not based on some idea of utopian friendship and everybody suddenly loving everybody. Of course not.

It is about recognising that there really is no other end point - unless Israel gets away with expelling all the Palestinians, which it currently appears to be wanting to do. While there is a Palestinian population in historic Palestine, the only way forward is for those two communities to learn to live together in a democracy where they have equal rights. They do not have to love each other, but in time, of course, people get used to a new situation.

This is an edited version of Ghada Karmi’s talk to ‘Why Marx?’ on February 15 2024. The ongoing discussion and education series takes place every Thursday at 7pm. See www.whymarx.com.

Ghada Karmi’s book, One state, is available at www.plutobooks.com/