RAMALLAH, February 21 (JMCC) - Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh details his proposal for a federation with Israel from his new book in an interview
with Der Spiegel
Nusseibeh says that the two-state solution is no longer possible, and then outlines his proposal for giving Palestinian civil rights in Israel in an interim phase.
SPIEGEL: Do you want to give up the 1967 borders which have been the basis of all the peace plans?
Nusseibeh: It is extremely hard for the most imaginative of us to see how to work out a redrawing of the map in order to give us, the Palestinians, East Jerusalem as capital. But secondly, there are the Israeli settlers. Can you take away half a million people? No, you cannot. Nothing is impossible, mathematically speaking. But we are talking about politics, and in politics not everything is always possible.
SPIEGEL: So we should admit to ourselves that the two-state solution is dead?
Nusseibeh: Mathematically speaking, a two-state solution is an excellent solution. It causes minimum pain and it is accepted by a majority on both sides. Because of this, we should have brought it into existence a long time ago. But we did not manage to do so.
SPIEGEL: Who is to blame for that?
Nusseibeh: First of all, it took Israel a long time to accept that there is a Palestinian people. It took us, the Palestinians, a long time to accept that we should recognize Israel as a state. The problem is that history runs faster than ideas. By the time the world woke up to the fact that the two-state solution is the best solution, we had hundreds of thousands Israelis living beyond the Green Line (ed's note: the 1949 Armistice Line that forms the boundary between Israel and the West Bank). There is a growing fanaticism on both sides. Today, the pursuit of a two-state solution looks like the pursuit of something inside a fantasy bubble.
SPIEGEL: What are the alternatives?
Nusseibeh: The final political form doesn't matter that much. The important thing is that both sides can agree on it and that the basic principles of equality and freedom are upheld. They can be upheld in the context of one state, of two states, of three states, or in the context of a federation or a confederation of states.
SPIEGEL: In your book you propose that, in a joint single state, Palestinians should be given civil rights, but no political rights. The Jews could run the country while the Arabs could at last enjoy living in it, you write. Could that work?
Nusseibeh: Yes, as a transition. Ever since the occupation began, we have been denied basic civic rights, on the promise that a solution or a state is around the corner. For 20 years, we have been promised that. But they should not keep the Palestinians living in the basement until a solution is found. I suggested we be allowed to have basic rights. Allow us freedom of movement, allow us to live and work wherever we want. Allow us to breathe.
SPIEGEL: Where do you want to draw the borders? Along ethnic lines?
Nusseibeh: Yes, I am proposing a federation between Israel and a Palestinian state based upon the demographic placement of populations in the country.
SPIEGEL: And you think Israelis would accept that?
Nusseibeh: Oh yes, they would love that. Israelis who wish for a predominantly Jewish state may well find this a reasonable solution, because even if they somehow manage to get rid of the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, which they regard as a demographic burden, they will still feel in the long term that they have a problem with the Arabs in Israel. What I am suggesting is not totally crazy. This idea has always been there. If you go back in Jewish history, you will find Israelis suggesting it right from the beginning, like (the prominent intellectual and cultural Zionist) Martin Buber.
SPIEGEL: What would be the benefit for Palestinians in such a federation with Israel?
Nusseibeh: They would have freedom of movement -- they could settle and work wherever they want. That's a huge benefit. And more than that: According to the classical two-state solution, there is no return of (Palestinian) refugees to Israel, only to the West Bank or Gaza. But in a future map which is solely drawn the way I am proposing it, chunks of what is now Israel could become part of a Palestinian state. And therefore, many refugees might actually be able to go back exactly to their hometowns.