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Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “key to sustainable peace in the Middle East”, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, maintaining that the lack of any progress only “furthers radicalization across the region”
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 15 2022 (IPS) - The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates back to the mid-1940s, is one of the longest military confrontations defying a permanent solution – even as it continues to be on the agenda of the United Nations whose primary mandate is the maintenance of international peace and security.
But regrettably there has been no peace nor security in the long-festering battle for a Palestinian homeland.
The multiple peace plans floating around Middle Eastern and Western capitals included a proposed “one-state solution”, a “two- state solution” and the 1993 “Oslo Accords”, a peace treaty based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 aimed at fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”.
But none of them really got off the ground.
Alon Ben-Meir, a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), has a new plan for an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation.
In an interview with IPS, Dr Ben-Meir said after 73 years of conflict, regardless of the many changes on the ground, the political wind that swept the region, and the intermittent violence between Israel and Palestine, the Palestinians will not, under any circumstances give up on their aspiration for statehood.
“Ultimately, the creation of an independent Palestinian state that exists side-by-side with Israel remains the only viable option to end their conflict”, argued Dr Meir, who has taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.
“Given however the substantive irreversible fact that were created on the ground since 1967, an independent Palestinian state can peacefully coexist with Israel only through the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation that would subsequently be joined by Jordan,” he said.
By definition, a confederation is a “voluntary associations of independent states that, to secure some common purpose, agree to certain limitations on their freedom of action and establish some joint machinery of consultation or deliberation” [emphasis added].
This is necessitated by the facts and the requirement that all sides will have to fully and permanently collaborate on many levels required by the changing conditions on the ground, most of which can no longer be restored to the status quo ante, he explained.
Excerpts from the Q&A follows:
Q: What is unique about the proposed confederation—and how different is it from several of the failed peace agreements over the last 75 years?
A: What is unique about the proposed confederation is that the three countries, as independent states, would join together on issues of common interest that cannot be addressed but in full collaboration under the framework of confederation.
It is imperative for the three main players to address the following facts on the ground and their national security collectively, as they can no longer reverse them to the status quo ante. These constitute the foundation of the confederation and include:
The interspersed Israeli and Palestinian populations in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel proper, which can no longer be separated and is the backbone of confederation;
The intrinsic religious connection all three states have to Jerusalem, including the fact that the Palestinians will never give up on East Jerusalem becoming the Palestinian capital; albeit Jerusalem can never be divided physically, and the border between East and West Jerusalem is only political and applicable for administrative purposes;
The intertwined national security concerns of Israelis and Palestinians; the need to continue the current cooperation in this critical area, and the need to further expand their collaboration once a Palestinian state is created: the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the majority of which will have to remain in place because under no circumstance will Israel ever evacuate all the settlements; the Palestinian refugees who must be resettled and/or compensated, as the right of return has never been considered as a viable option even by the Palestinians, albeit tacitly.
Thus, given the inevitability of coexistence, whether under hostile or peaceful conditions, and the interconnectedness on all the above five levels, the establishment of a confederation as the ultimate goal would allow both sides to jointly resolve and manage their differences.
The above facts must be factored in as they are not subject to a dramatic shift and are central to reaching a sustainable peace agreement.
Q: Has the proposed plan been endorsed or supported by either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority? And what about Hamas? Any reactions from any of these warring parties?
A: The proposed Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian confederation plan has been discussed with former and current officials and scholars from all three countries. It has been acknowledged and has largely been received well.
They admit (albeit not officially) that given the prevailing conditions—that is, the inter-connectedness between the three parties from the perspectives of territorial contiguity, national security, and economic development—they have little choice but to fully collaborate without compromising their independence as defined by the concept of confederation.
Although publicly Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist, privately it admits that Israel is there to stay and has no choice but to cooperate with Israel on many levels.
Under the proposed confederation, the interaction between Hamas and Israel will only increase by virtue of Gaza’s location and the need of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to connect and transact with one another, which can be done largely through Israel on land.
Q: Do you plan to submit your proposal to the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, UK, France, Russia and China?
A: Our hope is that once the three countries conclude that there is really no other viable option that will bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and recognize the inevitability of co-existence, the proposal will certainly be endorsed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, UK, France, Russia, and China.
We should bear in mind, however, that once the three countries agree to form a confederation, the Security Council need only to recognize Palestinian independence, which will not be vetoed by any of the five veto-wielding powers because they all support the establishment of a Palestinian state under conditions of peace. Beyond that, the UNSC will have no say about the formation of the confederation.
Q: Depending on the reactions of the Israelis and the Palestinians, would you amend or revise the proposal?
A: Any peace proposal, regardless of its merits, will be subject to modifications to meet some specific nuances that are of special concern to the parties involved. That said, the concept of the confederation itself will not change because it takes into consideration the many facts on the ground that are not subject to change and because it is designed to largely meet the needs and the aspirations of the three countries.
Having said that, there are still issues over which there is no consensus. Jerusalem is a case in point; the Israelis vehemently oppose the surrendering of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and it becoming the capital of the Palestinian state.
The proposal offers a solution whereby the city will remain physically undivided while respecting each other’s inherent affinity and religious connection to the holy sites.
Moreover, both Israeli and Palestinian residents will continue to move freely between the two parts of the city without any restriction, which is exactly the case at the present.
Q: Are you planning to submit the proposal to the UN Secretary-General?
A: I believe that if the UN Secretary General is to look at the proposal, he will more than likely endorse it as it is consistent with his and the majority view of the General Assembly (GA) that the Palestinians are entitled to an independent state of their own.
We are trying now to share it with as many entities—academic and political—to engender greater receptivity. In fact, the entire proposal was published in the Spring issue of World Affairs Journal, and the Journal will have an issue in December dedicated entirely to the proposal.
We will soon seek channels to convey it directly to the Secretary General in the hope that he would formally share it with all the parties involved directly and indirectly.
This includes obviously the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and Jordan, and with the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Germany, who will by playing critical roles in various capacities.
Q: If the proposal is eventually accepted by the parties, do you think it would be prudent to seek ratification by the 193-member General Assembly and the 15-member Security Council, both of which have been involved with the Palestinian issue since its inception?
A: To the best of my knowledge once the proposal is accepted by the three parties it does not need a formal ratification by the General Assembly (GA). Indecently, the GA has already granted Palestine observer status. That said, a full endorsement of the proposal by the GA will enhance both its legitimacy and scope.
As to the UNSC, given that any new application for membership in the UN must be approved by the Security Council, the 15 member states may well have to vote to grant the Palestinians the status of full member state of the UN, which will be a given under the framework of the agreed-upon confederation.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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