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An independent Palestinian state must be truly independent - By DAOUD KUTTAB, Arab News



US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was very quick to answer a question posed to him during his Feb. 7 press conference in Jerusalem after meeting Israeli officials. Asked if he could see any role for Hamas in the postwar period, Blinken answered promptly with an emphatic “no.”
At the same time, Blinken repeatedly suggested that, for permanent regional peace to be achieved, an independent Palestinian state was needed. He said this having come from Saudi Arabia, where the issue of an irreversible path to an independent Palestinian state was made abundantly clear as a prerequisite for normalization between the Saudis and the Israelis.
The top US diplomat is correct in his prognosis of what is needed: a robust two-state solution. Palestinians’ freedom from occupation is the best guarantee of Israeli peace. No sane Palestinian leader would want to jeopardize the accomplishment of an independent state after decades of refugee status, occupation and siege because of a hothead here or there.
At the same time, it makes sense for the international community to be sure that a permanent solution that will produce freedom and stability will be enjoyed by both sides and will be sustainable.
But while it is clear that a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel needs to ensure that Oct. 7-type attacks do not take place, the same applies in the other direction. Washington cannot demand Israelis’ right to self-defense without providing equal rights to Palestinians.
For nearly a century, both Jews and Arabs have been struggling to find the right formula for peace and stability. Palestinians initially wanted a secular state but were inarticulate about the fate of Jews, while Israel’s independence declaration promised “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion.” However, that guarantee has been trashed in favor of Jewish supremacy, both in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Now that so much blood has been spilled and suffering inflicted on both sides, it is time for some hard decisions to be taken and then protected. Sharing power and guaranteeing equality in a single state of Palestine or Eretz Yisrael is now a pipe dream for both sides. This leaves the two communities needing to abide by the international consensus that has been repeatedly mentioned and voted on in UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions.
An independent Palestinian state alongside a secure state of Israel with clearly defined borders and arrangements is the only sane solution that can work. This means that both communities must make hard decisions. The Palestine Liberation Organization made such a decision in 1993, when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin exchanged letters of recognition and shook hands at the White House. Radical Jews rejected that, as did radical Islamists. But instead of moderates on both sides working together against the radicals, the radicals won — and we are now seeing the fruits of the failure to continue the process that began in 1993.
One can lay blame in many places, but certainly the quadrupling of Jewish settlements in areas that Palestinians were hoping would be part of their independent state did not help. We now know that Benjamin Netanyahu has always worked against the goals of the Oslo Accords and that he has always been against an independent Palestinian state.
Mahmoud Abbas and the secular Palestinian leadership were left holding the bag, not having made any progress for independence. They were unable to provide an alternative to Hamas or to stop the radical Jewish religious nationalists who have now taken over the government in Israel.
To bring back the two-state solution, the entire world must support the moderates who believe in it. For Palestinians, this means that the international community, especially the US and like-minded countries, must mean what they say about the two-state solution. This can be done with a simple vote in the UNSC recognizing Palestine as a state under occupation. US President Joe Biden does not even need to get Congress to approve.

To bring back the two-state solution, the entire world must support the moderates who believe in it.

Daoud Kuttab

Once the UNSC recognizes Palestine, elected leaders on both sides will be asked to hold serious negotiations about ending the occupation and working out all the modalities between the two states. This would be a reversal of the failed Oslo path, which was based on a gradual step-by-step approach, which turned out to be beneficial to the radicals.
Back to Blinken. Once proper guarantees and frameworks are agreed upon, elections need to be held and the elected leaders, whoever they are, should be allowed to negotiate the modalities, as long as they accept the framework. If this means that the political wing of Hamas wins either fully or partially, it should be allowed to participate in the negotiations on the two-state solution. Similarly, if Itamar Ben-Gvir and other right-wing Israeli fanatics win, the world will need to accept that. The only condition has to be that those who run for election must accept the overall framework of the two-state solution.
This is the way forward to avoid any more violence and bloodshed, while paving the way for the creation of two independent states of Israel and Palestine living in peace next to each other and respecting the regional and world order.


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