Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Strange proposal from Sari Nusseibeh

Nusseibeh's proposal that Palestinians should temporarily abandon the idea of an independent state and focus on improving the quality of their life coincides precisely with the policies of Benjamin Netenyahu. Unfortunately, that proposition is not realistic. Palestinians must have a state where they have political rights and as soon as they convincingly abandon violence and unequivocally recognize Israel, they should get one.

Here is a review of Sari Nusseibeh's new book, What Is a Palestinian State Worth? from Foreign Affairs magazine.

Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, in Jerusalem, and a scion of an eminent Palestinian Muslim family, has long championed a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Here, he probes how the Israelis and the Palestinians can reach that goal. His optimal solution would be two states, but he fears that may no longer be feasible. A single state granting citizenship to all living in Israel and in those Palestinian territories that Israel conquered in 1967 seems equally unlikely. So Nusseibeh advances the idea of a single state run by the Israelis that offers the Palestinians civil and human rights but no political rights. "Simply put," he writes, "in this scenario the Jews could run the country while the Arabs could at last enjoy living in it." This striking proposal grows out of Nusseibeh's political philosophy. He recognizes the fears and hopes of the Israelis as well as the Palestinians, stresses the morality and practicality of nonviolence, and views the state not as an end in itself but as a means to the good life. This idea of a "second-class citizenship" for Palestinians, he adds, could perhaps be just an "interim step." One can appreciate Nusseibeh's laudable effort to get beyond a seemingly endless occupation and fruitless negotiations, but his stark proposal is a nonstarter. Perhaps, however, this proposal and the other painstakingly reasoned arguments in this book will provoke the parties to reconsider that ideal but elusive two-state solution.

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