Amal Jamal is an Arab-Israeli academic and is head of the International Graduate Program in Political Science and Political Communication at Tel Aviv University. He is General Director of I’lam Media Center – Nazareth. He is also Co-Editor in Chief of the Public Sphere: Tel Aviv Journal of Political Science. He is the author of the book “Arab Minority Nationalism in Israel: The Politics of Indigeneity” and has published several articles in professional journals. He was born and currently lives in the Galilee.
I don’t believe in a one-state or a two-state solution, but I believe in both at the same time—it depends what kind of solution we are talking about. The institutional perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian reality is causing a lot of problems and disillusionment. The problem is not whether to have a one-state or two-state settlement, but how they can live together. In my view, as long as both sides continue to define themselves the way that they do now and we look for solutions that are based on their mutually exclusive identities and sovereignties, any institutional proposal will not work. It is about how the two sides perceive each other, themselves, and their relationship with the place. Right now it is an asymmetric relationship in which both sides see themselves in exclusive terms.
Settlements are part of a broader idea of expansionism, which became one of the most central characteristics of the Zionist movement and Israeli policies. When we talk about settlements, we are referring to Jewish settlements (there are no Arab settlements). This has to be clarified. The demographic expansions and resources are devoted exclusively to one side of the conflict, so they become not only a hurdle for any solution of the conflict, but the essence of the conflict itself since it replaces one party with another. The other side of the settlement coin is the disintegration of Palestinian communities and displacement of Palestinians from what they consider to be their homeland as an indigenous population.
Of course, settlements are illegal based on international law. If you are talking specifically about settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, they are not legitimate.
Settlements remaining or not depends on the nature of solution. If we are talking about sharing sovereignty west of the Jordan river in a one-state democratic solution, then they can stay, but for humanitarian reasons only, since they are illegal. But, if we are talking about a two-state solution with complete separation, they cannot stay. Most people living there believe in the superiority of Israelis over Palestinians and this will be a big headache in the future. Since they were illegally built, they should be part of the Israeli withdrawal from the areas of the Palestinian state. If we are talking about a two-state solution, no matter how they behave as citizens, they should be dismantled. They were illegally built, and they should pay the price.
What I believe in is closer to a one-state secular, democratic society with shared sovereignty and the idea of cantons (mini-states) like they have in Switzerland. Within the one-state, both sides would have their own state, but it would be shared spaces.
There are half a million Palestinians living in the Galilee and no matter what happens in a two-state solution, they will be under Israeli control. My ideal solution would take these issues into consideration, and there would be different autonomies established within the state based on national affiliations. It would be similar to the Swiss solution with different cantons rather than one unitary state. There would be two different parliaments and one shared parliament. A new constitution would be established and cantons would be established for each community.
In Switzerland, you have Germans, French, and Italians, but the cantons are not based on culture or language. They are based on geographic division and not controlled or dominated by one group.
The whole idea is to replace this division and separation by creating a fluid separation so people can feel like they belong and can live a certain way of life, but at the same time it is not a red line not allowing others to come in and live there. The Israeli government is creating the opposite of what I am trying to say. To see things in dichotomous terms is not going to lead to a solution. The reality is that if we want to look for a solution we have to think in more fluid and flexible terms.
With regards to land swaps, as long as it is an agreed solution based on mutual recognition and respect for the needs of both sides, then land swaps are a pragmatic option that should be taken into consideration, given that it is not imposed by the powerful side (Israel), and it takes into consideration the needs of the less powerful side (Palestinians).
Security has to be ensured by everybody. The moment you solve the conflict and answer the needs of different communities and the moment you diffuse power, in the sense that nobody can suddenly take control and hijack the state, security threats will greatly diminish. As long as this is guaranteed, it becomes necessary that one has to think about security in mutual terms. Security has to be thought of vis a vis external threats. If we think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a larger regional process, then the security concerns that we speak about now will disappear. We have to envision the solution to think about the security issue. In the post-conflict period, the security concerns will not be the same as they are now. Everyone has to share responsibility for security of all the human beings living inside the new state.
I am not for dividing Jerusalem. It should be a united city, and not just the undivided capital of Israel, but a shared city in which people can move freely from one part to another.
There can be local councils. Each area will have its own council, and there will be an overarching municipality with people sent from the different councils of the city. Hannah Arendt spoke about this idea and the unions of the councils—having one bigger municipality with all of the various councils.
The Haram/Temple Mount will be open. This dichotomous one or the other view of reality will have to disappear. It should be an open space that people can freely visit without limitations as long as there is no fear from either side that it will be captured or taken. Sharing areas is the best thing that we can think of. As long as they are respectful, Jews should have an area to pray there.
Refugees/Right of Return
First of all, there must be a recognition by Israel of a right of return. A humanitarian solution has to be offered to those who show interest in returning, but their return cannot displace other people. That’s why the solution has to be humanitarian for all sides. But, the principle of the right of return has to be recognized. And, after a certain amount of time, a new immigration law has to be passed to limit the number of people that can enter the state for Jews as well as Palestinians. This will only be after giving them their chance to materialize their right of return without the displacement of others. There is enough area where these refugees can be resettled.
I think the need of Jews for a national solution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was indispensable. The problem is that it was done in a very bad way when it comes to Jews settling Palestine. It was done in a way that made Palestinians pay the full price of Jewish sovereignty and therefore, for Palestinians, Zionism cannot be anything but a negative idea that led to tragedies that the Palestinians have suffered until this very day. Having said that, I fully understand that Jews need self-determination, and any solution for the future has to take that into consideration. Jewish security also has to be taken into consideration. But, the current Zionist narrative is selective, exclusive, and manipulative because it tells its own story and not the that of the Palestinians at the same time. This means it invests a lot of energy in denying the basic components of the Palestinian narrative. However, narratives are created and can be changed. It’s a matter of political will and good faith, and these are currently lacking.
First of all, I think it is a legitimate tool. However, I think it started as too comprehensive and immature, and not clear about the need to differentiate between Israeli policies and the state, on the one hand, and the right of Jews to self-determination on the other. It fails to differentiate between Israeli and Zionist policies from Jews. I think any legitimate means of resisting the current reality cannot be based on anti-Semitic perceptions of Israel, and has to be cautious not to fall into racism and racist language. It also has to be within the frame of a humanitarian means of resisting the oppression and inequality.
Israel cannot be considered apartheid because apartheid means a rigid and clear separation of people based on race or racial affiliation. Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t discriminate based on identity or affiliation, and it doesn’t mean that Israel hasn’t started establishing an infrastructure that echoes apartheid ideas. And this is dangerous and very problematic. Israel is a very sophisticated political system and it tries to be innovative in this regard, but it is proving itself not to be sensitive enough for the need to reconcile the other side at some point and live in peace.
Apartheid is an idea. This idea is being materialized in certain areas of life and certain geographical areas, giving the possibility and enabling some people to brand or stigmatize Israel as an apartheid state. It is much more sophisticated than apartheid, which is why it is much more difficult to face this reality.