New Horizons for Reaching Peace between Israelis and Palestinians
10 May 2017, European Parliament, Brussels
Maxime Schlee, guest author.
The conference on “Two States, One Homeland” that was held on 10th of May in the European Parliament took place in a symbolic year – 2017 marking the 70th anniversary of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine. Just as symbolic was the set-up, since the conference was organised by a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament (MEP) from the S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and EFFD groups. MEP Maria Arena (S&D, BE) opened the conference by stressing that it should be a priority for the international community to resolve the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel.
The aim of the conference was to introduce the initiative “2 States, 1 Homeland”. The initiative focuses on the idea of establishing a confederation between the two states with Jerusalem as a shared capital. Meron Rapoport, the Israeli Coordinator, and Nasri al-Batguoti, a Palestinian member, hope to have found a pragmatic and feasible approach towards reconciliation. Moreover, as Israeli lawyer and former head of “Peace Now” Moria Shlomot stresses, they believe it is the only possible solution to end both occupation and the conflict in a broader sense. With 400.000 settlers living behind the green line, she argues that separation is an illusion. Rather there should be a “common root” with shared institutions, open borders and freedom of movement, while ensuring the sovereignty of both states. This would allow for settlers to live in the West Bank as residents and resolve the question of Palestinians right of return. “But we still have a long way to go in society”, she notes.
However, one impediment is that the two peoples are losing hope that reconciliation will ever be reached. Nasri al-Batguoti considers that especially the Palestinians have suffered from years of continued humiliation, suppression, Apartheid, and the ongoing breach of international law. With the situation worsening under the regime of Israel as a regional superpower, he feels that hatred is deepening while mutual understanding is long lost. For al-Batguoti, it is the two peoples on the ground who have the power to change this. He hopes that by sharing their idea and trying to gather support for their solution, the vicious circle that has established an ideology of hate can be interrupted, saying that “a 1000 miles start with one step”.
“High fences make good neighbours” is a common phrase in Israel’s political view. It is an ideological shift away from this perception that the initiators of “2 States, 1 Homeland” hope to achieve. They do this by speaking to people on the ground and adapting their idea to the changing reality. In the past five years, each of the members of “2 states, 1 homeland” has been working on their own side. Meron Rapoport as one of the founding fathers of the initiative has held thousands of meetings in Israel, trying to cover all parts of its society by speaking to settlers, Orthodox Jews, media, politicians and private people. “We provide good answers to the conflict and touch the core issues of it by demanding mutual recognition”, he says. In sum, they encounter a positive response for their work.
Ameer Fakhoury, a lawyer and political scientist living in Haifa identifies the core problem of the intractable conflict as a lack of open and free discussion: “We rarely speak our mind. What we need is to be practical and honest”. With up to 65% of the people still hoping for a two-state-solution, he wants to contribute to design the correct political trajectory that can help to build peace. For him, this means to be open for compromise. As an indigenous Palestinian, he is willing to give Zionist Jews a space in the region: “I want to make peace with my colonists”. The consensus among the speakers is that finding a solution requires pragmatism as opposed to extremism and a strong notion of ideology. Even though Fakhoury stresses the sensation of humiliation and suppression, he thinks that the both peoples can gain from their idea: “How can I get my Palestine back? Through this solution!”