“Ho hum, here we go again,” I was thinking as I sat at a dining-room table with a group of Palestinians and Israelis discussing the prospects for peace in their respective homelands. The animated discussion centered on trying to persuade each other that a single state solution is better or more attainable than a two state solution, or visa versa. One participant began to poll the group on this question. “Would a Palestinian State along side of Israel be attainable or desirable? Would a single secular state encompassing both populations be better?”
The choice presented was between two nationalistic models, and the only change I have seen in twenty years of that debate is the both solutions have become increasingly unworkable. A late arrival joined the group and was quizzed immediately as to which alternative he would choose. “Neither,“ he answered. “I would look to a regional confederation leading to a wider Middle East Union.” It was as if we have all been stuffed in a box for so long, and somebody finally opened the box and let fresh air in.
The latecomer was Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, (ICAHD). He reframed the Middle Eastern quagmire by moving out of the framework of the nation-state and by envisioning a solution that meets the security, economic and identity needs of all parties. This solution involves a two step process leading to a regional confederation among Israel, Palestine and Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt – somewhat parallel to the European Union.
His analysis and proposal are set forth in the paper, “A Middle East Union: a Two-Stage Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
His thesis is also set out, less extensively, in a very useful new book, Obstacles to Peace: A Re-Framing of the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict, published by PalMap of GSE, (2004). The short book contains useful, accurate background and historical information on the conflict and reasons why the nationalist solutions will not work.
Of particular interest is the inclusion of 14 full color, clear, reproduceable, maps illustrating the border changes over the years and the realities of the various proposals for change. These maps, copied into a projectable form would enhance anyone’s talk or presentation on the conflict.
Obstacles to Peace is available from PalMap; of GSE, 8 Jamal Abdul Nasser St. Bethlehem, West Bank. Via Israel. Email: [email protected]. Cost is $20.00. It may be ordered through your local bookstore.
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