"The political project aimed at achieving a Palestinian state has become a dead end for the Palestinian national movement and threatens to fragment Palestinian identity. Palestinians have been able to maintain their identity because the project of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza was never realistic. Therefore, it is especially important to develop a political project that places the Palestinian man and woman, and not the state, at its center. . . The project must be based on a framework of justice, which means the right of return of the refugees to the Palestinian homeland, the right to live in dignity, and the right of self-determination. The project must redefine the right of self-determination, with the Palestinian man and woman at its core."

The above comments were made by Professor Nadim Rouhana at a workshop held by Mada al-Carmel on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of Palestinian citizens of Israel in this conflict.

The workshop, which discussed the proposed political solutions to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and examined whether alternatives to the two-state solution existed, was the first in a series of workshops being held by Mada al-Carmel. The participants include academics, politicians, and activists in the field. Rouhana noted that Mada al-Carmel’s objective in holding the workshops is to provide a framework for people to gather to discuss and analyze the major issues and challenges facing Palestinian society in Israel, and Palestinians in general. The need for these gatherings, he added, is especially great given the lack of political debate on these questions.

Rouhana also pointed out that Palestinians are sharply divided today: at one pole are those who favor compromise through the negotiation process, which is based on the existing balance of power, with the goal of achieving rights for some of the Palestinian people in the framework of a state-like entity that will be established on broad stretches of the West Bank and small sections of Jerusalem, a resolution that would deny the fundamental nation-state elements of sovereignty and independence. At the other pole are those who seek to preserve and strengthen Palestinian identity and society. Those who stand at this pole support an idea unrelated to the existing balance of power, and they do not have a political plan of action. Rouhana called for a new strategy and political vision, one that replaces the concept of the state with the concept of the homeland.

Attorney Hassan Jabareen, executive director of Adalah–The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, noted that the Palestinian Authority’s plan of compromise is based on the concept that the state is the essence, and that having a state would enable the Palestinian people to realize their right to self-determination. Such thinking, he stated, is comparable to the concept underlying Zionism and to Ben-Gurion’s line of thought. Jabareen added that the compromise, based on two entities (one being the State of Israel and one being the State of Palestine) and the concept of statehood, is laden with traps, especially with regard to the rights of Palestinian refugees. Jabareen argued: “If the state is the entity that ensures the right of self-determination (based on the concept shared by the Palestinian Authority and Zionism), there is no reason why the right of return cannot be realized in the framework of the future Palestinian state.”

Jabareen also argued that it was necessary to discuss the concepts and meaning of the UN’s partition resolution through a new analytical lens. It was indeed right, he said, to oppose the partition plan historically and now. However, the plan contained a number of important principles. Although the partition plan expressed the idea of a Jewish state, it did not require a Jewish majority in that state. Rather, the resolution spoke of the citizens’ right of property and the prohibition on infringing this right. The resolution also prohibited establishment of a state based on religion.

Future workshops in the series will focus on a variety of subjects, among them the role of civil society; the role Palestinian citizens of Israel should play in the negotiations to resolve the conflict; avenues of Arab-Jewish activism and dialogue; and the international arena.