As the Palestinians push ever closer to a state of their own, the rendering of what the state will look like, how its government will function, and how it will meet the demands of its people have become increasingly important to discern.
By almost all accounts, including the World Bank and IMF, the Palestinians are prepared for when that day comes. They have a functioning government, a security apparatus that has been praised by even the Israeli military, and an economy that shows signs of life wherever cracks appear in the stringent military occupation that prohibits freedom of movement. Several problems still persist, however, but the Palestinians have spent nearly twenty years in this endeavor, developing the infrastructure for statehood. Most notably, over the past two years and under the directive of the two-year plan initiated by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian government has shored up the necessary requisites for self-governance. Indeed, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are far more prepared than South Sudan was at the time of its ascendancy to the community of nations, which boasts barely a paved road.
Without a doubt, the Palestinian polity remains divided institutionally and geographically between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively. This will certainly need to be rectified before the state can exist in a functional way. However, given that a small coterie of activists on March 15th managed to push the two factions into a reconciliation agreement almost immediately after they began the protests, it is clear that the turbulent events of the Arab Spring hover over the Palestinian political elite and could provide a useful motivation for substantive reconciliation in the future.
Yet, as the Palestinian president headed to the United Nations to put forward an application for full statehood and membership, many more questions were left unanswered. More than twenty years have passed since a Palestinian consensus was reached regarding the two-state compromise with Israel, in which the Palestinians accepted the partition of the land along the 1967 lines. During those two decades much has changed on the ground. The land has been colonized by three times as many settlers as there were twenty years back. Jerusalem is surrounded by two rings of settlements, effectively cutting it off from the West Bank. An apartheid wall has been built throughout the West Bank with the dual purposes of separating people and confiscating land. Today, the territory Palestinians thought would constitute their state is unrecognizable from its form in the late 1980s. Thus, it is widely believed that the two-state compromise has been rendered a pipe dream, destroyed by years of expansionist Jewish settlement. Yet the prospects for the nearest alternative—a single, secular and democratic state—also remain dim at this juncture in the conflict.
It is far more practicable that in order to satisfy the aspirations of both people at this stage—Palestinians and Israelis—a solution that takes into account their mutual interests is formulated. The truth is that the aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis extend beyond the boundaries of 1967. Fortunately, I still believe it is possible to guarantee the realization of those aspirations while still holding to the two-state principle.For example, if Jews wish to visit freely and possibly even settle in the land they call Judea and Samaria, which will become part of the State of Palestine, it is only proper and equitable that Palestinians should have the same right in the land from which they were exiled, what today constitutes Israel. For forty-three years Israel has satisfied its own ambitions through maintaining the exploitative relationship of occupier and occupied. With the advent of peace based on two states, cooperative agreements should be reached to allow for the satisfaction of interests based on parity. If this can be achieved then it is possible that the solution of two states can survive and account for the needs and aspirations of its people. Essentially, Palestine and Israel, although separated into two states politically, must develop a system that at least reaches some kind of equitable arrangement for opening both countries territorially.
If this conflict still persists, then the day will come when one state is the only viable option. Of this I have no doubt. But this road is fraught with many more years of oppression, suffering and violence. I believe it is much more profitable for both sides to come to an agreement about two states that accounts for the space needed to realize the needs of its people. Through this, we can expect that the boundaries erected through conflict—both physically and psychologically—can be slowly brought down in a system of cooperation based on satisfying mutual interest.