Middle East Roundtable /
Edition 4 Volume 1
A PALESTINIAN VIEW:
The devil is in the details
by Ghassan Khatib
A Palestinian state seems to be
the only part of the future Israeli-Palestinian agreement that is agreed on
by all relevant parties: Israel, the Palestinians, the United States, and
the rest of the international community. The agreement, however, is
superficial. When we look beneath the surface to understand the parties'
concept of the Palestinian statehood part of the solution, we find
differences so significant as to render their agreement on a Palestinian
state completely meaningless.
Each party to the conflict has its own final status concept, but each calls
it a Palestinian state. When the Palestinians speak of statehood, they mean
the complete Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967,
including East Jerusalem. They expect to practice their right of
self-determination by establishing an independent, sovereign, and contiguous
state that can live in peace with its neighbor Israel alongside the borders
For Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the current right-wing extremist
government in Israel, the solution is simply autonomy arrangements on the
minimum possible part of the territories that encompasses the maximum
possible number of Palestinians. The Palestinian entity would have no real
sovereignty and include no part of East Jerusalem. Sharon doesn't mind
calling this a Palestinian state.
The American concept of the Palestinian state fluctuates according to
changes in the Israeli government's composition and positions. While there
is a certain level of American influence on Israel, to a large extent the
American position and extent of maneuvering vis-a-vis the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a function of the Israeli position or extent
to which the particular Israeli government can go.
For all of these reasons, it is not very significant that the different
parties to the conflict support the idea of a Palestinian state. What
counts, instead, is whether or not they agree on two things: (1) willingness
to end the occupation, the ultimate source of violence and instability,
especially since the Palestinians are determined to continue with the
legitimate struggle until the end of this occupation; and (2) willingness to
implement the relevant stipulations of international law vis-a-vis the
conflict. So far the differences on these two issues are very wide. This
explains the ferocity of the confrontations between the sides.
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of
bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is minister of labor
in the Palestinian Authority cabinet and has served for many years as a
political analyst and media contact.
Bitterlemons-international.org aspires to engender
greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common
space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints
and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can
be reached at