[Published 12 July 2013]
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been discussing the creation of a bi-national State in the West Bank and Jordan according to Professor Richard Falk - United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.
Professor Falk is revered by the Palestinians whilst simultaneously being targeted by many others - including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay - for his controversial views on a range of matters including his suggestion that the Boston marathon bombing was a justifiable response to America’s interventionist US foreign policy and his posting of an anti-Semitic cartoon on his web site.
Writing in his blog “Citizen Pilgrimage” - Professor Falk disclosed discussions were taking place on a bi-national State during an exchange he and I were having - after he had written:
“I do agree with you about the ‘two state’ solution being a dead letter, and rather bad faith on all sides to pretend otherwise.
The question seems to me to be “What Next?” I think the Jordanian option is one answer, but not one I endorse. There is a need for this discussion, I agree to this extent.”
I then sent Professor Falk a recent article written by me arguing for the creation of a bi-national state in Jordan and the West Bank to embrace the aspirations of the Arab populations of both territories.
Professor Falk’s response on 8 July was unexpected and very encouraging:
“I have read your article with care, and it does provide a clear alternative to the two-state solution. It is also an approach that I know from my diplomatic contacts is being encouraged by Israeli negotiators in private meetings with the Palestinian Authority, and toward which the PA has not expressed outright rejection, but apparently a willingness to consider.”
Whilst expressing that he had several problems with this solution - which he enumerated - Professor Falk continued:
“Given the paucity of decent alternatives, if the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people genuinely accepted such a solution without it being imposed, it might be better than nothing, and the best among bad options.”
I addressed Professor Falk’s concerns to which he made the following response:
“Without attempting to respond point by point because there are some underlying gaps separating our positions that cannot be bridged by reasoning or compromise, I will merely express my reservations about advocating a resumption of negotiations”
Two of Professor Falk’s reservations were:
1. “I do not discern any support among Palestinians for the Jordan bi-national option that you are proposing"
This was a surprising statement in view of the fact that he had earlier indicated that Palestinian negotiators had expressed a willingness to consider such a proposal and were in fact negotiating with Israeli negotiators on such a proposal.
2. "I find no interest in this approach among Jordanians, either those in government or those in leadership roles among the various ethnicities living in the country.”
My attempt to respond to Professor Falk has been met by an impenetrable fire wall. Three efforts to contact him using three different computers have not been successful. That is unfortunate.Professor Falk was apparently unaware that the following statement had been recently made by Jordan’s Minister of Culture - Barakat Awajan:“Jordan and Palestine are joined by one culture and connected by blood, geography and sacred ties”
Professor Falk is obviously well placed to know what is going on among the Palestinians.
I would regard his comments on discussions for a bi-national State being conducted between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators as well-sourced and authentic.
Jordanian knowledge and acquiescence in those negotiations can be gleaned from the above statement by Jordan’s Minister of Culture - which incidentally was made face to face to his Palestinian counterpart Anwar Abu Aisha in Amman.
US Secretary of State Kerry has not been travelling backwards and forwards between America and the Middle East merely to have his prestige and reputation trashed in a repeat of what has occurred to previous Secretaries of State over the past 20 years.
Creating a bi-national State in Jordan has always been the solution most likely to succeed in resolving the conflict between Jews and Arabs.
It is a solution which accords with the historic, geographic and demographic realities of the region and will result in the Jews ending up with sovereignty in about 20% of Mandate Palestine and the Arabs with sovereignty in about the remaining 80%.
There will be many Jews and Arabs not happy with an outcome that does not yield them 100% and the other nothing.
That however is not what a settlement is about. A good settlement is one which leaves both sides bemoaning what they have gained.
Professor Falk’s opinion that the bi-national state is the best of many bad options will surely resonate with the Palestinians. He has their confidence and their ear. I hope he is instrumental in helping them understand the wisdom of accepting such a resolution - if further conflict and suffering is to be avoided.
Maybe indeed we might at last just be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel after travelling for more than 95 years in the darkness - witnessing conflict after conflict with intolerable suffering for both Jews and Arabs.
After all - the right to breathe is the most fundamental human right we all have.