Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. Photo by AP
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The predicted “death” of the two-state solution, which has been repeated consistently for many years now, has led to a sense of complacency and a lack of urgency regarding the current situation. In the government of Israel, this does not provoke major concern, because the present coalition’s political platform is focused on consolidating colonization rather than achieving peace. This is a government that believes it can indefinitely maintain a system whereby one group of people is privileged and another oppressed.

Among the Israeli public, it is not a central concern due to the fact that Israel is not paying any price for its systematic violations of human rights and international law, allowing its people to turn a blind eye to the millions persecuted in their name. But something is clear: We are at the point of no return. Whether we achieve a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, or enter into a long struggle for civil rights in order to defeat Israeli apartheid throughout historic Palestine, it will fall to the international community to decide.

Palestine recognized Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of our homeland back in 1988. This painful and historic compromise was not a tactical move, but a strategic choice. We have worked tirelessly to implement, on the ground, the vision of two sovereign, democratic states living side by side in peace and security. We have made every effort to reach a just and lasting peace, from the adoption of non-violent methods to resist the Israeli occupation to diplomatic steps, within the international arena, seeking to achieve overdue Palestinian rights. Acceding to multilateral treaties also helps Palestine to shape itself as a peace-loving state that respects human rights and a responsible actor on the international stage. And yet, all such Palestinian moves have been answered with aggressive responses from Israel, resulting in an absurd situation whereby acts such as sitting at the negotiating table or signing treaties on women’s and children’s rights, are met with further settlement announcements, increased violence against Palestinians and economic sanctions on an already captive economy. 

Although some sectors within Israel understand the urgency of the situation, the lack of decisive international action has undermined those who want a negotiated two-state solution and has empowered the extremists leading the Israeli government coalition. As long as no action is taken on the economic, political and diplomatic levels, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, Housing Minister Ariel and Economy Minister Bennett will continue along the same path, which is one of apartheid and colonization rather than one of justice, peace and reconciliation.

The European Union took an important step by publishing guidelines prohibiting European funding to settlements. This is a step in the right direction, but there is much more to be done in order to tackle the Israeli settlement enterprise, the main obstacle to peace. If the international community believes in the two-state solution, simple actions such as recognizing the State of Palestine; supporting Palestine’s access to international treaties; ensuring that international companies have no contracts with, investments in, or trade with, Israeli entities that have direct or indirect links to settlements; or in the case of Europe, asking Israeli settlers to apply for visas, will go a long way toward achieving this.

The reality of the “end of the two-state solution” has been reflected in the EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem and reports on human rights and freedom of worship from the U.S. State Department. It can be read in every document produced by UN organizations and can be seen all over the occupied State of Palestine. The reality is no secret. What is required, however, is more active steps from all third party states, steps which will bring their operative policy in line with their declared policy, and most importantly, with international law.

It is time for the international community to empower those within Israel who want peace rather than colonization. It is time to stop treating Israel as a state above the law. It is time for Israel to revoke dozens of laws and hundreds of policies that discriminate against Palestinian Christians and Muslims. It is time to end the immorality of prolonging the exile and occupation of an entire nation due to the incapacity of the international community to hold Israel accountable for decades of forced displacement, occupation and colonization.

Over the years I have come to know many Israelis. My belief in the prospects of peace was boosted, most of the time, after those personal encounters. I feel that many Israelis resent the notion of forever being occupiers. However, their government continues to avoid the only logical conclusion. Time does not stand still. Israelis are approaching the point where they must make a fateful choice: Are they ready to opt for the two-state solution, or abandon it forever? I am one of those who believe a two-state solution is still possible, but I am not naïve. Without international action, the prospects for a just and lasting peace will remain elusive. 

The articles that appear in this section have also been published in Hebrew and Arabic