Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

Making Palestine Real

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this article which is offering the Palestinian people some proposals on what they ought to do. I am not Palestinian, I am Israeli. But since I have always considered myself a friend of the Palestinian people and because this article will also appear in Arabic in the daily Al Quds newspaper, I have decided to offer my thoughts on very sensitive internal Palestinian issues.

The only way that this war can have a positive outcome is if it brings about the actualization of the two states solution. Yasser Arafat declared the independence of the State of Palestine on November 15, 1988. In the words attributed to the Palestinian National Poet Mahmoud Darwish, Yasser Arafat declared “Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled. Thus the Palestinian Arab people ensured for itself an everlasting union between itself, its land, and its history… we call upon our great people to rally to the banner of Palestine, to cherish and defend it, so that it may forever be the symbol of our freedom and dignity in that homeland, which is a homeland for the free, now and always.” The State of Palestine was accepted as an observer state of the United Nations General Assembly in November 2012. As of now, 139 of the 193 United Nations member states have recognized the State of Palestine (Israel is recognized by 165). Most of the OECD nations have not yet recognized the State of Palestine including the State of Israel. All of the offices of the Palestinian Authority throughout the West Bank have signs on their buildings “The State of Palestine”. The letterhead of Palestinian Authority ministries and ministers have written “The State of Palestine”. In spite of all of this, most Palestinians themselves do not recognize the State of Palestine and they still call it the Palestinian Authority. That is mainly because the occupation continues to control their lives and they view the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with the occupation. They see the Palestinian Authority security forces proving more protection to Israeli settlers than to Palestinian citizens. It is difficult for Palestinians to view the reality of the existence of the State of Palestine when they lack basic human and political rights.

If the two states solution will once again become viable it will happen because the OECD countries, led by President Biden and the United States will recognize the State of Palestine and grant it full member state status in the United Nation. It will also become a reality when Palestinians see the international community, led by the United States applying effective pressure on Israel that the occupation must come to an end. But even if that happens and the Palestinian people don’t make the State of Palestine real for them, it will not be real.

First and foremost, the Palestinian people should hold democratic elections for a new parliament and government. The Palestinian people need to feel that their government represents them and their interests. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was officially established on June 2, 1964. On June 2, 2024 (perhaps too sort of a time frame but yet symbolic) the Palestinian people should go to the polls to elect their government and to also officially declare the PLO an institution of the past. The Government of the State of Palestine will govern over the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza at first and following state-to-state negotiations with the State of Israel, over their capital in East Jerusalem and over all of the territory that will be agreed to at the conclusion of negotiations on the border between the two states. The Palestinian Authority will no longer exist. The sovereign State of Palestine will become a reality and not a subject to be negotiated with the State of Israel. The question of Palestinian statehood cannot be under negotiations. Until there is a permanent status agreement between Palestine and Israel, the State of Palestine will be considered to be a UN member state occupied by another UN member state. This will also change the entire international legal basis for negotiations between Israel and Palestine. If anyone asks “what are the borders of the State of Palestine?” the proper response should be: “What are the borders of the State of Israel?”

The Palestinian people desire deep democratic reform of their government and it is their responsibility to ensure that it happens. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians have been calling for new elections for many years. Elections are necessary but not enough to have a state that they should desire. They must ensure the independence of the Judiciary and the separation of authorities, the freedom of the press, and adherence to a constitution that puts the rights of the people before the rights of the government. The Palestinian people need to make sure that their democracy protects itself against those who are in favor of holding elections once and never again. For the sake of the Palestinian people’s aspiration to live in peace with dignity in a state of their own, they need to make sure than when elections are held that political parties which do not believe in democracy as well as those who support the armed struggle will not legally be able to participate in elections. Islamic political parties can be legitimate, but not if they guarantee the ultimate destruction of Palestine because of adhering to violence and undemocratic principles. Palestine as a state will only be free when it believes that it must live in peace with its neighbors. In the same way, Israel will never be secure until it is willing to end its occupation and live in peace with the State of Palestine next door.

In the post-war scenario that I foresee, Gaza will no longer be Hamastan and Israel will no longer be Bibistan. There will be significant changes in the political landscapes of both Palestine and Israel. There will be new people in positions of leadership that will hopefully have to face the reality of the need to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back into the mode of negotiations for peace. The most progress ever made in negotiations between Palestine and Israel was during the negotiations between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas. After 42 negotiating meetings between them, they came closer to an agreement than ever before.

In 2012-2014 following private meetings that I held with President Abbas I delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu offers to enter into direct secret negotiations based on the agreements and understandings that had been reached between Olmert and Abbas. Netanyahu rejected those offers. After this war, renewed negotiations should be picked up from the point that was reached by Olmert and Abbas. Whoever will be negotiating on behalf of Palestine and Israel, we should recognize that progress was made in the past and that should be the re-starting point, taking into consideration, of course, developments from this current war. Furthermore, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be expanded to be based on the creation of a regional architecture for stability, security, and economic development with the direct engagement at the table of Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. All of these countries have a direct stake and interest in Israeli Palestinian peace, stability, security and economic development. Israel and Palestine cannot be left on their own to resolve the conflict, it must be an international effort backed first and directly by other regional countries.

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.
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