This was originally published in +972 Magazine.
Twenty, 10 or even five years ago I would have counted myself among those genuinely optimistic about the prospects of Kerry’s “peace” talks. These days I am not quite as optimistic, but nevertheless, there is a chance for these talks to lead to something positive. This as an opportunity to organize toward an end to the occupation and a just peace.
To be sure, there is much reason to be negative. In recent days the Israeli government chose to release 104 prisoners but simultaneously announced thousands of new settlement homes, digging its heels deeper into the region that is supposedly the basis of a new Palestinian state.
So how these talks can be anything more than an opportunity for Israel to grab more land? The best answer mustered by some optimists is that perhaps economic incentives being offered to Palestinians will be enticing enough for them to make “the necessary compromises.” Or perhaps that Netanyahu finally understands this is the way he can create for himself a legacy as a “great” leader.
The prospects aren’t great. Still, something has been kicked loose on the political level.
Perhaps now is the time for the grassroots to push that something toward a just peace – and away from the usually inequitable proposals that inevitably end in continued occupation and conflict.
The movement I grew up in believed that a bi-national state was the best way to facilitate freedom and self-determination for all the peoples that called this land home up until 1948. The idea was to build a state that emphasized two equal national identities.
That movement, my community and my family all moved toward supporting two-states not because of the xenophobic idea that there is a demographic time bomb in play, but because it could (have) be(en) the best way toward liberation for both peoples given the obvious need for a necessary calming space after years of occupation and conflict.
Given the reality that there are half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the evident intention to make room for more in the coming months, that solution may not be the best one even if it once was.
So what would be an acceptable outcome of the next nine months of peace talks?
Two-state solutions that might be fair aim at creating sovereign space for the two peoples to develop as national cultures. The shortfall of any two-state solution is that it severely limits where both Jews and Palestinians can (re)set down roots and perhaps even visit, such as holy places. Indeed, a fair two-state solution would allow for access to holy sites, family, friends and water.
The actual proposals that have been put on the table over the last 20 years all included provisions that limit sovereignty for Palestinians over borders, military and airspace.
At the same time, the missing element in many one-state plans is that most of the people here (both Palestinians and Jews) feel good about individual rights being high on the list of requirements for any sustainable future, but also emphasize the need for collective self-determination and rights: cultural and religious practices, holidays, language rights, and rights of return.
While a bi-national state, as it was envisioned once upon a time, is probably not in the cards for the near future, it is becoming more and more apparent that a two-state solution that allows for maximal access to homelands and the best chance for enshrining culture into national institutions lies in some iteration of a union of states.
There are 99 problems facing these talks, including, but not limited to, the questionable intentions of the United States, the lack of actual power that Palestinians have under occupation, Israeli settlement expansion – and let’s not forget that all of this is taking place under the oppressive boot of neoliberal capitalism. Still, there is hope.
Twenty, ten or five years ago you might have said that a union of two states was a fantasy a century away and I might have agreed. Today, it might just be the best hope for a just peace. Today we can shed our allegiances to this-many-states or that-many-states and place our allegiance with self-determination for all peoples.
Even if the current situation is good for some, an end to the status quo is possible. We have less than nine months to organize, educate, lobby, get involved in nonviolent direct action and push the diplomatic process toward the demand that any agreement, at the very least, must ensure an end to the occupation and guaranteeing civil and human rights in any and all states that come out of the process.
A. Daniel Roth is an educator and journalist living in South Tel Aviv. He was born and raised in Toronto and lived in a commune of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in New York City. Daniel is a member of the All That’s Left collective. You can find more of his writing and photography at allthesedays.org. Follow him on Twitter @adanielroth.