What State for the Palestinians?

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VOL. 6

1976/77

No. 1
P. 3
Articles
What State for the Palestinians?
FULL TEXT

 

[The state] is a product of society at a particular stage of development; it is the admission that this society has involved itself in insoluble self-contradiction and is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to exorcise. But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, shall not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, a power, apparently standing above society, has become necessary to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of "order"; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it and increasingly alienating itself from it, is the state.

 

FREDERICK ENGELS

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, London, 1942, p. 229

 

1. INTRODUCTION 

 

There are many ways to discuss the subject of a West Bank State (WBS). One way would be to consider the possibility of such a state coming into existence through discussing the various issues, variables, and positions of the parties concerned. Another way will be to consider some political principle such as "the right of nations to self-determination" and discuss the implications of such a principle in the context of the setting up of a WBS. Still an- other method could argue for a certain position as opposed to others and try to show its superiority in light of the gains it involves and its cost-effectiveness. Yet another method might consider a sector of the Palestinian and/or Arab population and examine the implications of founding a WBS for that sector or group.

 

This analysis will not adopt any of the above approaches as its focus. It will, however, touch on some of the issues which could have arisen under the above methods. The study will consider the problem of a West Bank State - including or excluding the Gaza Strip -and Palestinian attitudes towards it. The analysis is meant as a broad and schematic approach to the subject rather than an exhaustive one. The stress will be on the kind of questions that are relevant (or deemed relevant by the Palestinians), and the variables that are and/or ought to be considered. No attempt will be made to provide exact and conclusive answers or predictions of the future. The objective of this study is to present a framework for analysis through the mapping of the various issues and different positions.

 

The subject of the WBS is a complex one. It was claimed at one stage that there is no benefit and only little virtue in discussing it. Before the 1973 October War the majority of the Palestinian resistance organizations stipulated such a discussion as futile and counter-productive. The rationale of that position was that within the framework of the objectives of the resistance- and short of what amounts to capitulation-such a solution was not on the agenda for reasons both of political feasibility - local balance of power -- and strategic consistency-recognition of the Zionist State. In short, for the majority of the Palestinian resistance the subject of a WBS was not relevant either politically or ideologically.

 

Since the October War, however, it seems that all parties to the conflict are discussing the WBS. It would, thus, be foolish to evade such a discussion.

 

2. AMBIGUITIES OF A WEST BANK STATE

 

The set of ambiguities that surround the very concept of WBS further complicates the analysis. Such ambiguities confuse the issues and give rise to a multitude of not always consistent positions. Among the ambiguities, I will mention the following:

 

A. There is a distinction between "national authority" as such and the establishment of a state. It is, thus, possible to establish a "national authority" without necessarily establishing a state. "National authority" will then mean the exercise of self-rule over any liberated areas without the institutional trappings of a state, i.e., without a bureaucracy and its implications. "National authority" does not have the finality of a state and will leave the door open for its extension. "National authority," on the other hand, could be used as a euphemism for the state. [1] 

 

B. Another ambiguity arises from the fact that there seems to exist unanimity amongst the Palestinians as far as:

 

1. Establishing national authority over any liberated land is concerned,

 

2. Rejecting the setting up of just any kind of state in the West Bank is concerned, especially of the type that will come about within a package deal that is supposed to normalize the situation in the Middle East at the expense of the Palestinians.

 

Given these two constraints (initial conditions), the relevant question is not whether to try and bring about the establishment of a WBS or not, but what kind of entity and how. If one is to assume that the ultimate objective of the majority of the Palestinian resistance is the establishment of a secular democratic state (which will satisfy the aspirations of both peoples by the institutionalization of non-discrimination and the correction of the historical in- justices being continually inflicted upon the Palestinians, without jeopardizing the rights of the Jewish people), then the central question becomes whether, in the present context of the local and international balance of power, the establishment of a WBS- assuming that it could be established - would be a positive step towards the ultimate goal of establishing a secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine, or whether it would be a substitute for the struggle towards this end and a solidification of the new status quo in the area, with two separate and exclusive national states in historical Palestine.

 

The WBS issue, therefore, is not to be isolated from the ultimate objectives of the Palestinians, and ought to be evaluated within the context of such a set of objectives.

 

C. A third ambiguity has to do with the way this entity would be achieved and with the various policies and strategies that will be employed, considering the effect of each strategy on the achievements of the Palestinian resistance and its future. Difficulties will arise when formulating exact and clear answers to, among others, the following questions:

 

1. Will the WBS be achieved through Palestinian participation in the present negotiations between the Arab states and Israel and thus necessitate a certain Palestinian acceptance of some basic principles germane to the con- text of these negotiations?

 

2. What becomes of the strategy of "armed struggle" adopted by the whole of the Palestinian resistance, and will its role be restricted to a tactic used to exercise pressure on Israel to recognize the Palestinians and negotiate with them? If so, has the turning point been reached of giving up a strategy for a yet undefined alternative?

 

3. If sufficient military and political pressure is exerted upon Israel to force it to concede to Palestinian demands, why should such demands be related to the establishment of a WBS rather than to more outstanding issues that go beyond the West Bank and predate 1967?

 

Such and similar questions will have to be answered implicitly or explicitly when considering the position vis-a-vis a WBS. The gains and losses, commitments and disengagements involved in struggling for a WBS cannot be correctly evaluated in isolation from the answers to a large network of questions of fundamentals.

 

D. If a state is to be established it is not clear whether it will be a Palestinian nationalist state or a secular democratic state that includes Jews and constitutes the nucleus of the larger proposed state. If it is a purely Palestinian state, then it could be accused of Palestinian Zionism. This will make it nonsensical to fight for a secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine. If it is a secular state open to Jews then the relationship between its Jewish population and the state is likely to be ambiguous in view of the continued existence of Zionist Israel.

 

E. It is also not clear what the relationships (states of affairs) will be between the proposed WBS and other states in the area and the world. The interest in these relations is not merely academic, for they will be an important variable in determining the path of the new state, its policies in the area, and the attainment of Palestinian objectives.

 

1. Possible relations with Israel

 

A. Peace with cooperation, special ties and links. This is unacceptable to the majority of the Palestinians now, and thus an unlikely possibility. If it should occur, it would be a stable solution for at least some time but the Palestinians will have to recognize and accept an exclusively Jewish Israel and give up the fight for a secular democratic state (SDS).

 

B. Peace with normal ties, diplomatic relations, etc. . . Still unpopular with the Palestinians, but there might be a chance for the establishment of an Arab-Jewish movement fighting for SDS peacefully. It is not clear how such an outcome will further the Palestinian objectives and it is likely thus to be rejected.

 

C. Peace with no links. Similar to the state of affairs extant between East and West Germany. This will give the Palestinians a chance to build their national state, but will restrict their demand for a SDS in the whole of Palestine to occasional verbal utterances similar to West German demands for the unification of Germany.

 

D. Peace with cold war. The cold war will ensure the absence of normal relations on the one hand and the avoidance of the use of violence on the other. It will thus enable the Palestinians not to give up their objectives whilst at the same time not being a security risk for Israel. Such a situation could exist for some time, but will have to resolve itself eventually. It is, therefore, unstable in its very nature.

 

E. Peace with limited unconventional military operations. An outcome suited to Palestinian aspirations to carry on their struggle from a supposedly secure base, but highly unstable, for it will not be tolerated by Israel and will develop, if it is to continue, into an all-out war which may not be favourable for the Palestinians.

 

F. A WBS which is part of a larger Arab front in a state of war (or preparations for war) against Israel. This outcome will depend on the kind of peace (and guarantees given) established between the Arab states and Israel. It is unlikely that Israel will accept the creation of a WBS that will be part of a hostile front against it.

 

In the present state of affairs the majority of the Palestinians will favour and fight for a WBS whose relations with Israel will be along the lines of E or F. Israel, on its part, if it is pushed to accept a WBS, will insist on either A or B. It seems, under these circumstances, therefore, that the best the Palestinians could achieve would be a WBS whose relations with Israel will be along the lines of C or D. Whether this will be acceptable to them in the light of their objectives is at best debatable.

 

2. Possible relations with the Arab States

 

Good relations between a WBS and the Arab states are a prerequisite for its survival. Consequently the WBS will have to depend on and coordinate with these states. If a peace is established between the Arab states and Israel, the proposed Palestinian state may find its policies restricted by this new attitude of its senior Arab brethren and will find it difficult not to conform. If there are contradictory attitudes among the Arab states, then the WBS may find it beneficial to use such contradictions to further the objectives of the Palestinians. It is true that the confrontation states (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan) are the ones of direct relevance to a WBS, but this does not mean that other Arab states do not have an important role. Other things being constant, the strength of the Arab states lies in their ability to stick together, so there will be a limit to Palestinian manipulation of Arab contradictions.

 

There seem to be two paramount factors that will determine the nature of the relations between the WBS and the Arab states: firstly, the kind of peace established between the Arabs and Israel with the consequent commitments and new attitudes; secondly, the status of Palestinian refugees in the Arab countries and their attitudes and relations with the new state.

 

No matter what the case will be, it is fair to assume that the Arab states, having helped in the establishment of a WBS, will divert some of their re- sources (both material and otherwise) from the Palestinian issue to their own particular local problems. The Palestinians may, thus, have to count on a more conditional support from the Arab states (not that such a support has ever been absolute).

 

3. Possible Relations with Other States

 

A. With the United States: It is most improbable that the WBS will be an American satellite. It is also unlikely that the creation of such a state will threaten the special link between Israel and the United States; on the contrary it might strengthen it. Even in the context of Palestinian concessions to American interests in the area-which some Palestinians outside the resistance, but inside the WBS might contemplate-it is unlikely that US support for Israel will be neutralized.

 

B. With the Soviet Union: The WBS will naturally have good relations with the USSR, though it is improbable that it will be a natural Soviet strong- hold, as some people would like to think. More interesting will be the kind of ties that will be established between the Soviet Union and Israel as a result of a Middle East solution, and the implications of these new relations for future Palestinian policies in the area. Similar considerations apply to Eastern European countries.

 

C. With Western Europe: The WBS could develop mutually advantageous relations with Western Europe (economic ties, etc.), but it is not clear whether such ties will extend to include support for future Palestinian objectives towards changing the nature of the Israeli state.

 

D. With the Third World: This group of countries may have the most uninhibited ties with the WBS, but even they may consider such a state as the final culmination of the Palestinian national liberation movement, and may thus be less enthusiastic in their future support. The establishment of normal relations between these countries and Israel cannot be excluded as a result of the emergence of a WBS.

 

E. With China: If China is to maintain its present structure of foreign policy and in the absence of a complete WBS identification with Soviet attitudes, then China is likely to continue its unconditional, though rather limited, support for the Palestinians. China may establish relations with Israel.

 

This sketchy and simplified consideration of the network of the relationships of a WBS only hints at the immense difficulties involved in formulating a clear understanding of the nature of the state. The limitations implied by the new set of conditions that might prevail are important in determining what kind of a state it will be. Though these conditions are not rigid and once for all settled environmental circumstances, they do set some major constraints which will play a part in deciding the course of the new state. It is impossible to formulate a responsible and intelligent attitude towards the WBS if these restrictions are ignored and isolated when the nature of the WBS and its relation to the fundamental Palestinian objectives are considered.

 

Another ambiguity has to do with the nature of struggle from the proposed WBS towards the establishment of an SDS. The reasons why such an entity will promote the objectives of the Palestinians and the anti-Zionist Jews have to be elaborated upon.

 

While not needing to commit themselves unduly to a single restrictive strategy-irrespective of objective changes-the Palestinians ought to be aware of the alternatives and their possibilities. If the WBS is not conceived by the majority of the Palestinians as a final solution, but as a stage leading to further steps towards a solution, then it is only logical to try to consider the possible ways through which this stage will lead further to the implementation of final objectives.

 

Will the strategy be that of a peaceful evolution whose primary tool will be the establishment of an Arab-Jewish front that will bring about changes in the Zionist establishment? If so, why and how does a WBS promote such an out- come and what are the effects of its absence? Or will Israeli society under its own internal contradictions and the "pressures" of peace crumble and give way to a new order of secularism and democracy? If the struggle will be military then will it be of the regular or the irregular type-or maybe a combination of both? What are the military strategic consequences of a WBS?

 

In short, what will be the strategy of the future and how will a WBS promote it? It is true that different tactics cannot be determined a priori and are a function of the specific situations and circumstances that will arise, but unless the conceptions of the future phase of the struggle are clarified, then it becomes quite difficult-not to say meaningless-to determine the effect of founding a state and the position that ought to be taken towards it.

 

One thing, however, is not ambiguous: If the kind of entity achieved on the West Bank is one that comes about through the force of Palestinian military and political action and thus has the constituents of a fighting (military and/or political, depending on the situation) state that could achieve the SDS, then there will be no Palestinian objection to such an entity. If, however, this entity is one that is granted to avoid a Palestinian threat and possible sabotage of a certain solution that will satisfy some parties without considering the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people (and is thus an emasculated body), then it will not be acceptable to the majority of the Palestinians. Unanimity on both these counts and the clarification of the above-mentioned ambiguities will necessarily dissolve the problem of whether the WBS is desirable or not.

 

A source of ambiguity that has to do with the position of the resistance more than the nature of a WBS arises from the multiplicity of views expressed by various tendencies inside the resistance and the discrepancy between verbal positions and real positions. The resistance thinks, and rightly so, that it is wrong to play its cards prematurely and to reveal in advance its strategy and tactics. (Thus, for example, it would be foolish for the leadership of the resistance to announce publicly its willingness to take part in the Geneva conference when no invitation has been issued. An announcement to that end is a political concession on the part of the Palestinians which will be lost if they are not invited.) But in the absence of a uniform and clear position it is difficult to determine what the position actually is. This by itself might serve a purpose in:

 

1. Providing more flexibility in facing new conditions and considerations by not eliminating any option.

 

2. In creating confusion in enemy ranks by encouraging diametrically opposite speculations on the real position of the resistance.

 

3. In avoiding a polarization of the situation inside the resistance between opposite tendencies which will inevitably weaken the movement as a whole.

 

4. In giving more time to the resistance to consider events and possibilities in depth and to carry a democratic discussion between the different wings to reach a uniform solution.

 

Such a situation, however, has its price:

 

1. Lack of a uniform position might be mistaken for an inability to decide and thus not knowing what is wanted and could be achieved.

 

2. It could imply the existence of radical differences inside the resistance and thus a weakening of its position.

 

3. It could promote differences by engaging different tendencies in disputes about the correct position.

 

4. It might encourage defeatist attitudes.

 

5. It creates confusion among the supporters of the Palestinians and dissipates their resources.

 

6. It encourages the attribution of positions which are not those of the resistance to the Palestinians.

 

7. It will facilitate the attempts by the enemy to spread confusion among both Palestinians and their supporters.

 

3. ARGUMENTS FOR A WEST BANK STATE

 

In this section I will try to consider some of the arguments presented by those tendencies that favour the establishment of a WBS. It will become clear as we go on that these tendencies are not homogeneous and that the WBS is promoted for various considerations.

 

A. The basic argument for the WBS that appeared after the October 1973 War based itself very much on the idea that with the prevalence of new conditions in the area, the Palestinians were faced with no other alternative but the acceptance of what appeared to be the maximum that can be achieved in the context of a settlement between the Arab regimes and Israel. The settlement being imminent, the argument went, the Palestinians have to take part in it or else they will "miss the train and will be stranded in the station of oblivion." This was the case, it was thought, because of the following factors:

 

1. After the October War the resistance lost its image as the sole fighter against Zionism in the area. The Arab armies and regimes captured the imagination of the masses at the expense of the Palestinians. Popular discussions in Arab cities and villages centered more around the technical sophistication and ingenuity of the Arab armies and the "Heroes of the Crossing" (of the Suez Canal) than the role played by the resistance before and during the war. The resistance had thus to hail the achievements of the Arab regimes and would have found it difficult to refuse what they accepted.

 

2. The Arab regimes (specifically those of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria) emerged with an increase in their strength as a result of the war and its immediate aftermath (oil embargo, etc.). There seems to exist a negative correlation between the strength of these regimes and the ability of the resistance to manipulate the situation to its advantage. (One of the reasons for the success of the resistance after 1967 was the defeat of the Arab states in the war with Israel.)

 

3. The resistance might be politically isolated from popular regimes that might accept a peace formula emerging from Geneva-type negotiations with Israel. It was claimed that such isolation could not be afforded by the Palestinians.

 

4. If peace is established in isolation from the Palestinians then the resistance might be subjected to various pressures, local and international, which could lead to its eventual liquidation. If Syria and Egypt had accepted a peace with Israel, for example, then decisive moves against the Palestinians in Lebanon would be easier than otherwise. Alternatively the movement itself could split under the weight of a final settlement which would be presented to the people as an Arab victory. On both counts the future seemed lonely and gloomy.

 

5. Perhaps the most important realization among the WBS promoters was that the strategy of armed struggle, per se, did not prepare the Palestinians to deal with the situation. The correctness and usefulness of such a strategy were never criticized and the resistance actually reasserted its commitment to revolutionary violence on every occasion both politically and in the field. But there appeared a whole set of implicit qualifications to armed struggle to accommodate the necessities of the new situation. (It is significant that one of the more popular subjects of the Palestinian political literature of that time was the lessons that could be learnt from the Brest-Litovsk treaty of March 3, 1918 between Russia and Germany. The promoters of a WBS claimed that Brest-Litovsk justified Geneva from a revolutionary point of view.) Tendencies which opposed the Geneva-sponsored WBS were accused of having no feasible alternative, of sloganeering, of using empty words and vague strategies, and generally of "infantile leftism" and/or Trotskyism. [2] 

 

B. The situation has changed since the aftermath of the October War and so did the relevant arguments for a WBS. Far from being in a weak position, the Palestinians emerged as a major force on the scene without whose cooperation no peace would be possible in the area. This was the result of the following:

 

1. Intensification of military operations inside Israel and thus making it clear for the whole world that the Palestinians cannot be ignored.

 

2. Solidification of an international third world front of friends and sympathizers who have adopted and supported the Palestinian cause.

 

3. Closer links with the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc.

 

4. The ability to penetrate the Zionist propaganda machine in the West and reach a sector, albeit limited, of Western public opinion.

 

5. International recognition and the chance to appear in the United Nations.

 

6. Inability of Arab regimes to conclude a peace with Israel. The argument for a WBS changed from that of a weak body with no alternatives to that of a strong force that can put enough pressure on Israel to make it withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The establishment of a WBS became identical to the liberation of a part of Palestine.

 

C. Another set of arguments for a WBS has to do with the problem of who represents the Palestinians. It is claimed that by accepting to negotiate a WBS the Palestinian resistance will preempt any attempt to represent the Palestinians by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the West Bank notables and traditional politicians, or an alliance of both the above.

 

D. Strategic and ideological reasons offered for a WBS include:

 

1. The establishment of a WBS is equivalent to ending Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and exercising the right of the Palestinians to national self-determination.

 

2. A WBS is the maximum that can be achieved by the resistance in the present context of affairs.

 

3. It provides the Palestinians, for the first time, with a secure base from where they can continue their struggle against Israel. Rather than always be under the mercy of some Arab government, the Palestinians would have their' own authority.

 

4. It creates a wedge between Israel and Jordan.

 

5. It is the first step towards the overthrow of the Hashemite regime and the establishment of a "national progressive" rule in the East Bank towards the eventual unification of the two banks of the River Jordan.

 

6. If Israel insists on refusing to negotiate with the resistance and establish the WBS, then the insistence of the Palestinians on such a state will sabotage any attempt at peace which might exclude the Palestinians. If the Palestinians, however, refuse to negotiate a WBS it will be easier for Israel to reach a settlement with the Arab regimes.

 

7. If a settlement is impossible to achieve, anyway, then through showing their willingness to negotiate and having their own proposals the Palestinians will not be blamed by the Arab regimes and the international community for projecting a negative attitude.

 

In the light of recent events, arguments (6) and (7) have proven to be correct and useful.

 

Such are the arguments for a WBS. Behind these arguments are different positions and attitudes towards the issue.

 

4. POSITIONS FOR A WEST BANK STATE

 

The elements that support the idea of a WBS do not belong to the same ideological camp and can be distinguished according to their understanding and conception of the WBS.

 

A. There is a minority among the Palestinians, and mostly sections outside the resistance, who consider a WBS as a final solution to the problem. Among these are the so-called "political realists" who think that the Palestinians are faced with the golden opportunity which allows them to establish their own state and give up their "futile" fight against impossible odds. This group claims that in no time the Palestinians in a WBS through their ingenuity can build a superior state (along the lines of Israel) which can play a major role in the area and fulfill Palestinian ambitions.

 

B. There is another group which shares the cynicism of the above group about the balance of power, but claims that after establishing the WBS the Palestinians can always turn their attention to and take over Jordan, whose regime they find dispensable.

 

C. Another group whose members might like to call themselves "realists" but are not cynics are those who think that by establishing a WBS the opportunity will be presented for carrying out a real Arab-Jewish struggle through the establishment of an Arab-Jewish movement which could in peaceful circumstances promote changes within the Israeli society towards its de-Zionization. Most "official" communists and some intellectuals adhere to this tendency, which might have its greatest support amongst the inhabitants of the West Bank.

 

D. The majority of the resistance would like to see a WBS which could carry out both political and military struggle against Israel. The insistence on including the military option has to do with the strategy of "armed struggle and its ability to promote changes inside Israel. Hence a distinction is made between what could, and maybe should, be fought for and what may eventually happen through peaceful evolution.

 

E. There also exists a group amongst the Palestinians who think that a political struggle against Israel is useless and not advantageous to the Palestinians, if not impossible. It is claimed that the Palestinians have asserted themselves and were able to be recognized only through the employment of military force. "Armed struggle" ought not to be given up once, and if, a WBS is created. Such a group will either envisage a resumption of guerrilla tactics and/or a wider Arab military front against Israel. This is not to deny that even for this group the objectives are still limited to the establishment of an SDS and not to "throwing the Jews into the sea."

 

F. Finally there exists a tendency which thinks that a WBS is impossible to achieve anyway, but that it should be stipulated as a Palestinian demand so as to:

 

1. Embarrass Israel politically.

 

2. Secure a Palestinian participation in negotiations.

 

3. Pre-empt a Jordanian West Bank.

 

4. Sabotage peace solutions which attempt to outflank the Palestinians and their interests.

 

This tendency stresses the tactical advantages of demanding a WBS and claims that other Palestinian objectives could be achieved in the process. It is obvious that while being, and it has proven to be so far, a clever Palestinian manoeuvre it does not reflect the real position towards a WBS.

 

5. ARGUMENTS AGAINST A WEST BANK STATE

 

In this section I will deal with the arguments presented by the tendencies that reject the idea of a WBS in the context of the present solution. It is interesting to note that the WBS which is being rejected is the same that would be rejected by a large segment of those who favour a WBS. This might seem paradoxical, but as a matter of fact is not so difficult to explain. While the rejectors concentrate their arguments against the kind of state that might emerge from taking part in Geneva-type negotiations, those who accept a WBS tend to argue for one which they would like to see emerge. The differences in objectives and principles are thus minimal and have mostly to do with other issues that are independent of a WBS. The real difference lies in the analysis [3] of the situation ensuing from the October War and the evaluations of the factors involved. Basically the argument is that the acceptors see a possibility of establishing a WBS that will be a step nearer to attaining Palestinian objectives, and therefore support the idea of a WBS, while the rejectors claim that the type of WBS that can be achieved is that which will be a substitute for more fundamental objectives for which the Palestinians have fought and died.

 

The rejectors accordingly reject the idea of a WBS. Here are some of the arguments:

 

A. After the October War the Palestinians were faced with the choice between joining (from a position of relative weakness) the Arab regimes in the negotiations with Israel, or asserting their independent route of action. The segments of the resistance that reject a WBS adopted the second alternative- at least in their political platforms. While not dissociating themselves completely from the Arab achievements of the October War, they stressed its limited objectives that precluded the Palestinians. They also asserted the existence of a workable alternative for the Palestinians. This was made up of the following items:

 

1. Increase the intensity and scope of resistance operations inside the occupied territories.

 

2. Expose the defeatist nature of any peace with Israel that excludes the Palestinians and involves fundamental Arab concessions.

 

3. Form a front of all the forces that reject taking part in the negotiations.

 

4. Intensify the struggle in Jordan for the formation of a progressive national front regime.

 

5. Prepare the Arab masses to exert pressure on their governments to encourage tendencies which are not capitulationist.

 

The principal premise upon which this alternative rested was that the Palestinian position should not be determined by the various factors in the area, but that it should itself become a determining factor for other positions. The Palestinian position should not follow causally the new relationships of the area but ought to be in a dialectical relation with them.

 

It is significant that the majority of the resistance followed most of this alternative without publicly adhering to it as forcefully as the rejectors; this further demonstrates the point that what unites the resistance is far more than what appears from a consideration of their verbal positions.

 

B. The major thrust of the rejectors' argument is directed against the nature and characteristics of a "possible" WBS. The "possibility" has to do with the considerations relevant to a settlement which could result from diplomatic negotiations involving outcomes acceptable to both parties and implicit Great Power guarantees. The condemnation is not so much of the principle of negotiation as such, as it is of the net outcome of negotiating in the present context or similar contexts. The analysis of the rejectors leads to a certain understanding of the situation and the ensuing balance of power which leads to the conclusion that in the given conditions any negotiation would be equivalent to or will lead to, almost inevitably, a major Palestinian concession (surrender) with no quid pro quo. The determinism involved is not of the vulgar mechanical type, but is conditional and concludes the analysis. The logic of the argument will thus permit negotiations under a different set of initial conditions (or major premises for the logically minded) which would be acceptable to the rejectors. The rejectors, however, insist that such conditions do not exist in actual reality now, despite the possibility of their eventual materialization. They claim that it is specifically this push to change conditions (and bring about ones more favourable to the Palestinians) that ought to be the task of the resistance at this crossroad in its development. Some of the arguments are:

 

1. The problem of recognizing Israel might seem to be a bit of a non-problem, for Israel exists and that is a fact which cannot be disputed and denied. This, however, misplaces the emphasis and distorts the real issue. Israel exists, de facto, but the whole struggle of the Arabs has been and is still directed against the nature of this existence. It started as a fight against a colonial- settler state and developed into a struggle against usurpation, exploitation, discrimination, etc., and for democracy, secularization and the establishment of a new social order. This has always been the minimum programme around which the majority of the resistance rallied. The national dimension cannot be denied but it has been superseded by a new type where what appears to be a purely national struggle has actually developed into a social struggle with- inevitably-strong national undertones. Ben-Gurion's claim that the Jewish people have developed from a class to a nation works in the opposite direction for the Palestinians who, it would be fair to claim, have developed from a nation to a class. [4] It would be an important shortcoming not to emphasize this link between the social and national struggle and understand its implications. One implication would be the eventual exclusion of reactionary Arab chauvinists and the inclusion of progressive anti-Zionist Israelis into the Palestinian movement.

 

Recognizing a Zionist Israel in a de jure fashion will be tantamount to accepting what the Palestinians are fighting against rather than merely ad mitting its existence. The former is a major political concession of basic principle, while the latter is a recognition of an existing political reality. A Palestinian dejure recognition should, it is argued, be of all non-Zionist and anti- Zionist bodies and groupings (no matter how modest in size) in Israel, rather than of the state itself. This would expose the exclusiveness of Israel and reassert Palestinian intentions towards the Jewish people without involving a contradiction with the Palestinian programme.

 

Conceding the legality of the existence of an exclusivist State of Israel will deny the right to struggle against it. Many would argue that verbal utterances and written documents of recognition will have little effect on the future of Palestinian resistance against Israel. It is argued that mutually recognized states often find themselves in a state of war. This argument neglects the specificity of the problem at hand, where the issue of recognition has been at the very basis of the conflict and is crucial to its future developments. It also treats recognition as consisting of a statement or a document neglecting the real changes it will bring about in terms of new relations, pledges and commitments.

 

2. The kind of state that could be considered and eventually emerge from Geneva will most likely have to satisfy one basic condition: It should not pose a serious threat, either now or in the future, to the well-being of the other states in the area, notably the states of Israel and Jordan. This precondition is a direct result of the nature of the negotiations and its participants. It is unlikely that enough pro-Palestinian pressure could be exerted in the negotiations to offset American, Israeli, and Jordanian interests. The consequences of such a situation will reflect themselves on the type of state that could be achieved. This WBS will thus be a demilitarized entity that will probably be run by Palestinians who are acceptable to both Jordan and Israel, and thus unlikely to be a danger to either of them. The possibility under such conditions of excluding large sectors of the resistance from running the state, despite taking part in negotiations, is not to be ruled out. Some argue that this could be the state of affairs for some time, but that things will certainly change and progressive elements will eventually take over and resume the fight to recover Palestinian rights and establish the new social order. This argument fails to explain why such a chain of events should occur, how it would occur, and what is the contribution of the establishment of a WBS to both this outcome and the implementation of more fundamental Palestinian objectives.

 

3. Perhaps the strongest argument employed b) those tendencies that favour a WBS and at the same time insist on the employment of the strategy of guerrilla warfare and "armed struggle" is the allegation that a WBS can play the role of a secure base for operations against Israel. As discussed before, it has been claimed that an important military weakness from which the resistance suffered has been the lack of a secure base to operate from. This led to only limited operations and otherwise unnecessary clashes with the host Arab countries. A Palestinian state will provide the resistance with a much needed political independence, and consequently a secure base to operate from.

 

Upon further examination this might be proven to be wrong. Rather than being a secure base, the proposed state could make it easier for both Israel and Jordan to hit harder at any attempts to struggle against them. This is so because of the following:

 

A. One strength of the resistance has been its ability to diffuse itself around and within Israel without being directly identifiable with any major and clear geographical location. Even Fatehland in the south of the Lebanon has not been a well-identified target for Israeli retaliations which, on the whole, have not been effective. The nearest thing to an identifiable target for Israel has been the refugee camp. Refugee camps are crowded, mostly with civilians who are not always active members of the resistance. Israeli bombings of refugee camps did not succeed in uprooting the resistance and have caused political embarrassment for Israel, especially when most of the casualties have been women and children. In case a WBS is used as a base for operations this strategic asset will be lost. It will be easier for Israel to carry out military operations against the more identifiable targets of a state than against dispersed outposts. Government buildings and institutions and vital economic projects of the state could be possible targets which, if destroyed by Israel, might cripple the WBS. You can always evacuate a refugee camp (and this has been done with relative success during Israeli raids), but you cannot evacuate a state. There is little that a refugee camp could lose, while a blooming state would have much to defend.

 

B. A secure base in guerrilla warfare is defined as being inaccessible directly to enemy forces. This means precisely that it should be in a location where it could not be occupied by the enemy or threatened directly. Obviously, this is not the case with a WBS which, if only because of its proximity to Israel, would be under constant threat of being occupied. It is true that proximity makes it easier for Palestinian guerrillas to hit at more targets in Israel, but it also makes it easier for Israel to hit the Palestinians harder and occupy their land if necessary.

 

There is a trend in the resistance that claims that such an occupation need not be a bad idea strategically, for it will allow for a true popular war of liberation along perhaps the Algerian model. The basic premise of this argument is that a WBS could organize the population for carrying out an effective war of liberation in case of Israeli occupation and at the same time try to build a state. Though this might be a possibility, it is difficult to see how Israel will wait for such an eventuality to materialize rather than abort it at its inception. Also, short of a detailed analysis of the terrain in the West Bank and its military feasibility, any action that might provoke an Israeli occupation will be adventuristic.

 

C. The new political climate that will prevail in the area as a result of a peace treaty with Israel and the establishment of a WBS will make it difficult for the Palestinians to continue their struggle in a military way. A newly established state with a recently acquired network of international relations and commitments will find it more difficult to recruit friends in the world to support military warfare against another state. This will consequently make it easier for an Israel that is in a relative state of peace with the rest of the area and the world to hit harder at the Palestinians and get away with it. If an understanding is established between Israel and the Arab states, and Israel and the Arabs and the Great Powers, that a WBS will be a final solution for the Palestinian problem, then it will be more difficult for the Palestinians to continue fighting Israel and easier for Israel to retaliate in strength against any Palestinian threat no matter how slight.

 

Against this it is argued that the Palestinian cause is that of all the Arabs, that the Arabs, no matter what kind of relations they establish with Israel, can never give up the cause of Palestine, which unites them more than any other factor. If the Palestinians choose to continue their fight, then the Arab masses will support them automatically and will exert enough pressure on their governments to support the Palestinians. It is difficult, it is claimed, to conceive of an Arab state that will rather have a peaceful relation with Israel than support the Palestinians. The political climate in the area could be made to change to promote Palestinian interests and, therefore, should not discourage supporters of the WBS. The position of the Soviet Union could also be manipulated to support the Palestinians.

 

The weakness of this argument is that it counts more on sheer optimism than on any kind of analysis of the present situation and possible future out- comes. The type of mechanism that will bring about the alleged changes is not specified or hinted upon. The effect of establishing a WBS on the credibility of the Palestinians in the area is ignored. Unfortunately, the Palestine problem is not the only Arab problem and the effect of what might appear to be a solution acceptable to the Palestinians (i.e., a WBS) could turn a considerable segment of Arab support from the Palestinians and towards other issues-mostly of political and economic development. It is not clear what the consequence of such an outcome will be on future Palestinian struggle, but it ought to be seriously considered. What might be presented to the Arab people as a victory and final settlement that has Palestinian participation, support and blessing, could be at the expense of future Palestinian undertakings.

 

D. The new state will have to depend economically on the economies of Israel and Jordan. [5] Its main task will be to play middle man for Israeli pro- ducts in Arab markets. To that extent its political independence will be limited. This, the rejectors claim, is the most likely outcome: i.e., the establishment of a service type economy.

 

The inflow of Arab funds could, in principle, create a new Hong Kong in the West Bank. But a Hong Kong type of society cannot be considered as an acceptable alternative for a people which has been fighting to establish a progressive social order. The economic argument should not, thus, be divorced from its social consequences and costs; to that extent the adoption of a high speed growth economy ought to be sacrificed if it generates an unacceptable type of society.

 

Because of its size (2270 sq. miles) a WBS cannot become a feasible economic entity except along the lines of a Hong Kong type situation. The other alternative is the fostering of the existing agricultural economy and its development using either Western-type technologies, which create their own set of problems, or preferably locally developed technologies. This, however, will still not be able to constitute a growth economy of the type that could create a modern viable state.

 

It is sometimes rhetorically argued that the West Bank is "a part of our homeland which we had no hand in choosing and therefore we are willing to live in it even if it is only a piece of desert." It is difficult to answer such utterances for they do not appeal to the faculty of reasoning but to feelings and emotions. It is very true that this is "a very dear slice of our homeland" and that its liberation from Israeli occupation is a great feat, no matter how rich or poor or economically feasible it is, but there is a difference between a stage in the liberation of the totality of the homeland and the establishment of a state. The rejectors insist that the West Bank must be liberated from Israeli occupation, but they cannot accept the proposed consequence of establishing a state that will inevitably have an air of finality to it. Again there do not seem to be differences in real attitudes and final objectives, but in the analysis of the situation and what could be achieved from it.

 

Another argument cites the example of Israel and the success of its economy despite the initial size of the country. This fails to point out the vast quantities of foreign aid that subsidize the Israeli economy, and make it possible, and the huge size of expenditure on the military sector and war industries. Both conditions are not in accordance with Palestinian aspirations. If the Palestinians have something to learn from Israel in terms of the building of their economy it will be more from the kibbutz movement and the use of cooperatives, both of which seem to be suffering from an important crisis in present-day Israel.

 

E. Assuming that a viable economy could be built in the West Bank, there still remains a formidable set of basic issues to be settled. One issue has to do with the material benefits of a WBS. The process of state building necessitates the importation of talents that are peculiar to the middle classes. These classes will have to play a central role in building the state. The main benefits will thus be reaped by Palestinian middle classes now living in the West Bank and abroad. It is true that other classes could better their earnings and might have something to gain, but on a relative scale they will have less to benefit from. In other words, most of the benefits will go to the people who need it least. This poses both a moral problem (which though it might be dismissed as "soft" and "irrelevant" is still very important), and a social and political one. If the state is not to be a pseudo-socialist [6] one, and there is very little chance that it will be, then the problem of the distribution of income could be an acute one. The expectations of the poorer segments of the Palestinians will be frustrated.

 

It could be argued that the problem of income distribution and its relation to growth is a feature of almost all non-socialist economies, even the most advanced ones, and thus it might not be a valid criticism to use against a WBS. In other words, the argument goes, of course there are problems involved in building a state and an economy, no one will deny this and only a few have illusions about easy solutions, but such problems are to be faced and attempts should be made to solve them. The initial criticism thus throws the baby out with the bath water. Claiming problematic consequences to the establishment of a WBS does not constitute an argument against a WBS. It also denies the possibilities of tackling the problem and attempts to solve them.

 

This seems to be a fair objection to the criticism. It does still seem odd, how- ever, for the resistance, which is supposed to represent the most downtrodden segments of the Palestinians, to support an outcome that will at best ignore the interests of these segments and promote the influence of a different class. On the other hand, this argument against a WBS is not an isolated and only one (if it were, then it might be considered a feeble one); it has consequently to be taken in conjunction with other arguments and the net effect considered.

 

F. An outcome which is closely related to the above issue is the future role of the fighters of the resistance in a WBS. While the size and achievements of Palestinian university graduates and technicians are often exaggerated, there is usually little mention of the social peculiarities of the fighters that made the resistance possible. These are not mostly skilled graduates and trained technicians.

 

Consider, for example, a refugee from one of the camps in the Lebanon who joined the resistance after finishing school or leaving his job in 1968 at the age of 20. He has probably lost a friend or relative in Jordan in 1970 and several others in operations against Israel. In 1976 he is 28 years old, politically aware, militarily trained, highly skeptical of others' intentions, and still determined to liberate Palestine and establish an SDS. At the present junction he feels that he has fought and sacrificed everything to achieve what appears to him to be a recognition of his existence and an interim step towards total liberation, i.e., the WBS. The new state for him is the result of his and his comrades' struggle and commitment. He will consequently have high expectations of what the state can provide him. After all, it is his creation. It is fair for him to expect a central role in building the state. The identification in the mind of the Palestinian commandos of their struggle with the establishment of a WBS, and their conceptions of its future role cannot be exaggerated.

 

The question is, what could a WBS provide this fighter? If it is a demilitarized state he would not be able to join the army. He might not want to join the army, despite the fact that that is the only occupation which he is trained for, if the army is not fighting. It will be too late for him to enter university and get a degree. Such a degree will not be sufficient anyway in a competitive market and at his age. He is not an economist, an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, or a scientist, etc., to find a useful job. His family has always lived in the camp so he has no money to start a little business or invest in a venture. He might not want to become a small businessman if recompensed by an agency or subsidized by his government. He has not fought so long for that. Obviously, he is no intellectual to talk and write his way through. Joining the already swelling government bureaucracy does not satisfy him.

 

One source of frustration might be the affluence and power of the "new class" of Palestinians that will crowd the state. The typical resistance fighter might find it difficult to believe that the state he has fought for is mostly run by the type of Palestinians who were not always directly part of his struggle. He might not tolerate this outcome. Not only will he feel alienated in a state of technocrats and merchants, frustrated by unfulfilled aspirations, crippled by obvious handicaps and disadvantages, but he will eventually be looked upon by the new citizens as a potential troublemaker, especially if the shift in power moves away from his comrades in the resistance and towards Palestinian "politicians. "

 

It could be argued that the fighters of the resistance through their political awareness will come to realize that a WBS ought not to be considered as a solution for all their problems. The essential reason for a WBS is the liberation from Israeli occupation of a part of Palestine. If it could be used as a base for the implementation of further Palestinian objectives, then it is to be made use of. If not, then the Palestinians will feel free to revise their tactics and adopt appropriate ones to suit the new situation. It follows that the fighters ought to distinguish, and this can be achieved through political work, between this stage in their national struggle and the later one of social revolution. The establishment of a WBS is the exercise by the Palestinians of the right to national self-determination and is not the conclusion of their social struggle. The fighters might change into the working class of the new state and can continue their struggle in their new capacity. A WBS is not a substitute for the continuation of the struggle, but a step in it.

 

Here again one is confronted with the complex problem of the nature of the possible WBS. The apparent differences in positions arise partly from the consideration of different types of a WBS. While the rejectors direct the argument against a final state, those who support a WBS stress that it does not have to be so.

 

There are other differences, some of which could be demonstrated when considering the above counter-argument. The argument assumes that national liberation precedes social change and leads to it. It is not clear why this should be the case, despite the Chinese and other experiences. Whether a partial national liberation that does not manifest itself in an improvement in the social conditions and relations, and whose relation to the future phase of the struggle is at best ambiguous, ought be supported or not is not always clear. It is clear, however, that an end of occupation and political independence are to be fought for. It follows that the crucial question is whether a partial national liberation that creates a set of unfavourable social and economic relations could be a step towards total national and social liberation. There is obviously no a priori and ready answer to this question. Every case ought to be considered on its own merit in the light of some basic general principles. The relationship of the part to the whole ought to be carefully studied. In Lenin's words: "In individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected." That is why what is important in this case, now more than ever, is the correct identification of the situation and the right analysis of the factors concerned. ". . .The important thing is to find the particular link in the chain which one must grasp in order to hold the whole chain, and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link."

 

It is equally unclear why a short-term alternative that involves partial national liberation and no favourable social manifestations is to be preferred to a long-term alternative where national and social liberation are fought for simultaneously. The second alternative does not, as such, negate the theory of stages and can actually make use of it. Attempts to equate this alternative with an "all or nothing" outlook are not justified and quite misleading.

 

G. One of the most important arguments against a WBS does not relate to the fact that the West Bank and Gaza constitute only 22 percent of the area of Palestine, but that such a state will deal directly with only one-third of the Palestinians. The status of the rest and the consequent implications of the state for them are often ignored.

 

There are three main concentrations of Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza: those living in Israel (400,000), in Jordan (1 million), and in the rest of the Arab countries and the world (700,000). About one million of those living outside Israel are refugees living in camps.

 

Ideally it should be possible to accommodate all the Palestinians in a WBS. (The area of Hong Kong is less than the West Bank and Gaza, and its population is more.) In actual reality the problem is more difficult. Among the factors involved are the following:

 

1. The majority of the Palestinians may not want to "return" to the West Bank or Gaza if they do not originally come from there. This is supported by the fact that they did not want to live there before 1967.

 

2. It is obvious that those who might choose to go to a WBS cannot immediately do so. They have to be channelled through some agency like the 'Jewish Agency" (the World Zionist Organization). The amount of planning and organization is formidable and will stretch over a long period of time.

 

3. It will be easier for the better-off amongst the Palestinians (the middle classes) abroad to instate themselves in the WBS. This means there will be less opportunity and space for the poorer segments.

 

4. The concentration of a large population in a small area will dictate a certain pattern of economic and social relationships and growth which might not be acceptable.

 

5. There is no indication of the status of those Palestinians who do not want to go to the West Bank, or those who cannot go there. Their predicament might not be appreciated by themselves or the host governments. On the other hand, it might be so well appreciated that a clash could result which might not be to the advantage of the Palestinians. The creation of a state may provide an excuse to host governments to harass and intimidate the refugees into leaving. It is not always clear what will happen to the refugee camps and their administration. Will they be developed to become permanent features? Will they be replaced by a different form of habitation? Will they be closed and their inhabitants compensated and expected to find a different mode of existence? It is evident that as long as they remain refugees, the creation of a WBS will make it more difficult for those Palestinians who cannot/do not want to go to the West Bank and Gaza.

 

The political consequences of such a situation are formidable. What will be the relationship between the refugees and the new state? How will it develop? What relationship will the refugees have with host governments? Can the Palestinians in the refugee camps carry out armed struggle if a WBS is established? Is it not conceivable that a clash of interests might develop between the beneficiaries of the new state and those whose situations might worsen? Could this lead to a civil strife between the two factions?

 

The main question is how to relate the refugees' political aspirations to a WBS and the consequent implications for the future.

 

6. Another set of Palestinians whose interests are not directly connected to a WBS are the 400,000 who live in pre-1967 Israel. Those are the sections that have suffered direct occupation and oppression since 1948. Are they to move to a WBS? Will that not increase and promote the total exclusiveness of Israel? Will it not be easier for Israel to make them leave, one way or another, if a WBS exists? How will these factors relate to the objective of an SDS?

 

It is clear that a WBS does not consider the immediate interests of these Palestinians nor does it hint at their future. It is not clear how a WBS will promote the immediate and long-term interests and aspirations of these segments.

 

7. If a WBS is conceived as a final solution (and the majority of Palestinians do not think of it as such), then it will be a solution that ignores more than half the Palestinians. It is equally true that the privileged half includes the most prosperous, and thus least needy for a solution, amongst the Palestinians. It would be ironical for the resistance movement, whose roots and base are founded in the camps amongst the most wretched of the Palestinians, to deliver a solution that will benefit those who contributed least to its struggle.

 

H. One argument for the state has to do with who represents the Palestinians. It has been claimed that the Palestinians have to take part in Geneva- type negotiations to pre-empt any attempt to represent them by other parties. Those who reject the WBS reject this argument in light of the following:

 

1. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has already been recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinians by a majority of the international community including the Arab states, the Eastern bloc, the non-aligned countries and the United Nations with its affiliated bodies.

 

2. The PLO is the only Palestinian political organization. If a real solution is sought to the Middle East conflict it cannot bypass the PLO and succeed.

 

3. If the problem of representation is stressed to isolate Jordan it does not seem to be succeeding. Jordan is requested to attend peace negotiations by all parties.

 

4. Similarly for the West Bank notables: The PLO will have to negotiate and/or clash with West Bank notables and traditional politicians in case the project of a state becomes an actuality.

 

5. The problem of representation and that of accepting a mini-state are separate problems. It is misleading to confuse them. Is the PLO the representative of the Palestinians only if it accepts the project of a WBS?

 

The Palestinians have been often ignored as a people by the rest of the international community. At best they were looked upon as merely refugees without any consideration for their political aspirations. This has created a complex set of attitudes and feelings amongst the Palestinians which made them particularly sensitive to the issue of recognition. It is not unfair to claim that one of the major achievements of the Palestinian resistance since 1967 has been to assert the existence of a distinct and separate Palestinian people whose interests cannot be by-passed. This has led to a defacto recognition by all the world, and a de jure recognition by the majority of states. There seems to be unanimity today about the necessity of a solution for the so-called Palestine problem. (This is not usually motivated by any special sentiment for the Palestinians, but by an awareness of the impossibility of reaching a solution to the Middle East conflict without including some Palestinian participation.)

 

This outcome which the Palestinians achieved through the force of their "armed struggle" was not enough to relieve their anxieties about recognition. It also generated a new eagerness for respectability and a need for being accepted rather than just recognized.

 

These feelings and attitudes explain to a great extent the background of recent Palestinian politics vis-a-vis the WBS. Those who relate Palestinian representation exclusively to accepting a WBS operate within this framework. The rejectors would call for a distinction between representation and other issues of policy. They are aware of the psychological dimension, but would warn against the danger of drifting-under the pressure and stress of the above-mentioned factors-from the stated objectives of the resistance.

 

I. The strategic and ideological reasons for rejecting a WBS as presented- implicitly or explicitly-by the rejectors are the following:

 

1. Accepting the project of a state bound by the constraints discussed in B is not a positive step towards the implementation of Palestinian objectives, but a substitute for the fulfilment of these objectives. Any solution- even an interim one-that consolidates exclusivist national entities cannot provide a satisfactory basis for a long-term peace. It cannot be regarded as a victory for the Palestinians if it only delays and hinders the attainment of an SDS. The principle of the right to national self-determination, if it is to be appealed to, cannot be exercised in a piecemeal fashion by a minority of the population of a nation and only on a fraction of its land.

 

2. The essential struggle of the Palestinians is directed against the nature of Zionism. The salient characteristic of Zionism for the Palestinians is its exclusive character, which denies the Palestinians the right to live in their country. The problem of "land" is only one aspect of the issues involved, and it should not replace the central problem and cause its abandonment. It is misleading to consider the Palestinian cause as only that of a people looking for a state of their own on a piece of land. This is a popular debasement of a more noble struggle.

 

3. The resistance since 1967-and before-did not include in its programme the establishment of a WBS: Arafat clearly stated on August 5, 1970, that "we are not concerned with what took place in June 1967, or in eliminating the consequences of the June War."

 

The extreme "land fixation" logic would lead to the absurd conclusion that the Palestinians could be settled anywhere in the Arab world-land not being a scarce commodity. (It is no coincidence that this argument is used by Israel.) An alternative and derivative absurdity could involve the recreation (reconstruction) of the exact geographical peculiarities of the land of Pales- tine somewhere else in the area and the settlements of the Palestinians in the "New Palestine" (which should not be financially impossible considering the size of idle Arab oil income).

 

Beside leading to absurd conclusions, "land-biased" conceptions of the Palestinian problem empty the political content of the struggle and encourage images of primitive conquests ("and throwing the Jews into the sea") . [7] The issue of land should be weighed and considered within the broader political context, which in the case of a WBS is on the whole not to the advantage of the Palestinians.

 

J. The Palestinian resistance is an essential part of the general Arab revolutionary movement. It is the vanguard of the forces of change in the Arab East. The rejectionists present this as the proper context in which objectives and achievements are to be evaluated. The interdependence of the resistance and the Arab left is essential for the survival of both.

 

The Arab masses, it is claimed, have always supported the Palestinians in their fight both militarily and politically. On its part the resistance, where present, has done its best to support progressive Arabs fighting to improve conditions in their own societies. This relationship is most clear in the case of the Lebanon where the gains of the Lebanese left would have been almost impossible were it not for Palestinian support, while the Palestinian military presence in the Lebanon would nave certainly been quite difficult in the absence of the effective backing of progressive Lebanese.

 

If the establishment of a WBS involves the effective dissolution of the resistance, then this will be a major drawback for the Arab progressive movement. On the other hand, the benefits from a WBS for this movement (whose role in the fight for Palestine has been as important as that of the Palestinian resistance which constitutes a part of it) are at best dubious. The rejectors are thus against a WBS because the criteria for its acceptance do not consider the interests of the people of the whole area but a small segment of them.

 

The conflict is partly between Palestinian and Arab nationalism and partly between conservative and progressive-cum-revolutionary conceptions of the Palestinian struggle. The types involved are the following:

 

1. Palestinian nationalist and conservative:

 

The fight is to liberate the land of Palestine for the Palestinians.

 

Palestinian interests are the only ones to be considered.

 

Non-Palestinian Arabs involved in the fight play a secondary role and ultimately have almost no role in a Palestinian entity.

 

No substantial contradictions exist between Arab regimes and the struggle for liberation if intelligent diplomacy is employed by Palestinians.

 

No revolutionary ideology needs to be adopted and all countries could be convinced of the justice of the Palestinian cause.

 

The type of society which may exist in a future Palestinian entity is not important for the process of liberation.

 

If an SDS is to be accepted, it will be only as a faute-de-mieux. The future of the Jewish community in Palestine is not one of the immediate concerns of the Palestinians.

 

2. Palestinian nationalist and progressive:

 

Not all Palestinians are automatically considered as comrades-only those with progressive ideologies.

 

The liberation of Palestine involves the elimination of reactionary Palestinians from the resistance.

 

The Palestinians have a duty towards all progressive elements that helped them in their fight; their views and interests are to be considered when taking any decision.

 

Only progressive Arab regimes will help the Palestinians.

 

The adoption of a progressive social philosophy is essential. Not any Palestinian rule is considered as a national authority, only that by progressive Palestinians.

 

A conception of imperialism and its role in the area is essential.

 

An SDS is the final objective of the Palestinians, which will ensure a true solution based on justice.

 

3. Arab nationalist and conservative:

 

The liberation of Palestine is a step towards the fulfillment of the Arab dream of nationhood.

 

The Palestinian issue is essentially an Arab problem and has to be thus evaluated: Regional gains ought to be weighed against national objectives.

 

The Palestinians are only one segment of the liberation forces whose core is made up of Arabs everywhere. Any decision on Palestine has to be Arab.

 

Arab nationalism is the path for liberation; all other ideologies are subservient and may distract from the real issue.

 

All Arab regimes have a role to play, though some have betrayed the cause.

 

Allegiance is to the nation and not to any particular class, group or region.

 

Any Arab rule in a part of Palestine is favoured, no matter what the nature of that rule is.

 

An SDS is not a final objective; the final objective is the unified Arab nation.

 

4. Arab nationalist and progressive:

 

The liberation of Palestine is the liberation of the Arab masses and thus Arab individuals from the remnants of colonialism and backwardness towards a new social order.

 

The Palestinians are the vanguard of the forces of change in the Arab world; their duty is not solely towards their physical land.

 

A progressive ideology is essential - it has to consider the whole area as its constituency and not only one region.

 

To build a viable progressive society, it is necessary to consider the area as a whole.

 

The effective liberation of Palestine cannot take place in isolation from social and political changes in the Arab world. Most Arab regimes are both reactionary and anti-progressive nationalism.

 

An SDS in Palestine is to be regarded as the core of an SDS in the whole area.

 

It is interesting to note that "acceptors" and "rejectors" belong to all the above types, though they are not evenly distributed. Most rejectors belong to type 4 while most acceptors belong to type 1.

 

Another ideological reason presented by the rejectors against a WBS has to do with the present political climate in the area, the types of parties involved in discussing a settlement, and the ability of the Palestinians to manipulate the situation to their own benefit. Accepting a WBS in the present circumstances will have the following consequences on the general political variables in the Middle East:

 

1. A Palestinian participation in the present form of negotiations will present the Arab regimes with a Palestinian cover under which they can make major concessions to a Zionist Israel which otherwise would have been quite difficult to account for in front of their people. For reasons of their own, which are not totally unrelated to the desire to remain in power, Arab regimes might want to reach any solution with Israel. In the absence of Palestinian cooperation, the ability of such regimes to reach solutions of this type is highly limited. This is partly because of the sentiments of their own people, and partly because of the ability of the rejectionist camp to cash in on such sentiments.

 

The rejectionists consider most regimes involved in the process of settlement as being mostly interested in their own sustenance rather than in a genuine solution. On the other hand, these regimes are aware of their inability to reach a settlement that does not include the Palestinians in some form. The rejectionists, therefore, maintain that the power of the Palestinians lies in their rejection of, and thus their ability to inflict damage on such solutions. If they are to take part in the negotiations, this mere acceptance will benefit and strengthen the Arab regimes much more than any potential gain for the Palestinian point of view.

 

2. The conservative Arab regimes and forces in the area have been on the ascendant since the 1973 war. Egypt's move to the right, the influence of oil money, the increased importance of Saudi Arabia, and the recent rehabilitation of Jordan have been instances of this revival. These regimes and forces have presented themselves as an alternative to the progressive and/or revolutionary trend in Arab politics. The settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been one of the main implicit promises of this camp. The solution is conceived as being possible only through the exertion of American pressure on Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied in 1967 and not to object to the creation of a WBS for the Palestinians. Such a solution, furthermore, is mostly regarded as a final solution which will effectively entail the disengagement of these regimes from any further Palestinian struggle. The policy to be adopted is a combination of Arab concessions to the interests of the United States in the area (limiting the Soviet influence, "opening" the economy, "controlling" the local left, etc.) and the exercise of intermittent and mild pressures (threats of oil embargo, controlled and limited flirtations with the Soviet Union, etc.).

 

To take part in a settlement sponsored by these forces will mean a direct Palestinian contribution to the advance and success of this trend. This, the rejectors claim, is in direct contradiction to the interests of the Arab masses, and will thus be a step backwards in the political, social, and economic development of the area. Attempts must, therefore, be undertaken by progressive and revolutionary Palestinians to abort such an outcome.

 

The progressive sectors among the acceptors do not deny the danger of the reactionary trend and are well aware of it. They claim, however, that the revolutionary forces in the area could overcome this trend through asserting their presence in any negotiations.

 

3. The rejectors emphasize the imperialist nature of the present settlement. They claim that the United States is the main sponsor of negotiations and thus the outcome is most likely to promote American interests in the area. Imperialism, they argue, is presently involved in a reformulation of its presence in the Middle East. This involves a move from almost a complete reliance on Israel to a redistribution of roles where the Arab regimes would play a more important part. An American solution to the conflict will consolidate imperialist presence and interests through the extension of its political and economic influence to both sides.

 

6. POSITIONS AGAINST A WEST BANK STATE

 

There are different tendencies amongst those who reject a WBS. The existence of different types of acceptors is, as seen in (4), determined mostly by the multitude of conceptions of the nature of a WBS. In the case of the rejectors, however, the tendencies are determined by the interests and the ideological commitments of the different sectors of the rejectors:

 

A. There are some Palestinians who reject a WBS because they reject negotiations with Israel under any circumstances. Their objection is a matter of principle. (Such a view has been popularly presented to be that of the majority of the rejectors. This is not true, despite the fact that such an impression could be sometimes justified if one considers some of the rhetoric of rejection.) The rejection is not of a certain type of state, but of negotiations with Israel as such. This group is usually made up of elements with a limited political perspective.

 

B. The majority of the rejectors consider a WBS in the present environment to be an obstacle to the fulfilment of progressive Palestinian objectives.

 

This group does not rule out negotiations if they are to lead to an improvement of the resistance position, but they refuse to consider present- type negotiations because of the basic concessions they involve. This view will not, therefore, eliminate the possibility of having negotiations similar to those that led to victory in Vietnam. It is, however, stressed that negotiations, as such, should not constitute the main strategy of the resistance and ought to certainly be condemned in the present situation.

 

C. Another group of rejectors belong to the purely nationalist camp. They are either Palestinian nationalists, for whom a WBS is far from the total liberation of Palestine, or Arab nationalists who refuse to compromise on any part of the Arab homeland (in this case the totality of Palestine). Purely nationalist sectors of the Syrian Nationalist Party are also among this group. Such purely nationalist types need not be revolutionary, though they some- times are. They are to be distinguished from revolutionary Palestinians who are also progressive nationalists. [8] (An example is the Arab Nationalist Movement [ANM], which was a purely nationalist movement that developed into the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], which is a revolutionary group with a progressive nationalism.) This is the case because the ideology of this sector is formulated in purely nationalist terms which are void of any progressive social content.

 

D. One of the major groups that might reject a WBS comprises those Palestinians who have no immediate gains to reap from such a project. Those living within pre-1967 Israel and the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps might reject a WBS because it does not serve their interests or improve their situation.

 

E. The fighters of the resistance organizations in general might not approve of a WBS if that would deny them the right to continue their military struggle against Israel. If the resistance is to be dissolved in the state apparatus then such a state is likely to be opposed.

 

F. A few individuals among the Palestinians reject a WBS because they think that such a rejection will improve the chances of the Palestinians to ex- tract a better deal in case of a settlement. This group does not necessarily oppose present-type negotiations. The strategy to be adopted preceding and during negotiations projects the Palestinians as being divided into "hard" and "soft" elements. This will increase the manoeuvrability of the Palestinians and increase their options and thus their bargaining position. The rejectors, this group argues, ought to be invented if they did not exist.

 

7. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

 

The following relationships seem to emerge:

 

A. There seems to exist for the Palestinians a trade-off between consistency with their declared political programme and relevance to the present political events in the area. If the resistance wants to be more relevant to the present mood and atmosphere, it will have to revise its original position. This will involve concessions both in strategy and objectives. Essential modifications of both the strategy of "armed struggle" and the objective of an SDS will have to be introduced. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the resistance to be consistent with its declared aims, unless new variables appear (or are created) which may radically change the situation to its benefit. The acceptors of a WBS stress the need to be relevant and distinguish between this and a sell-out of the original position. The rejectors find most Palestinian attempts to become a party to the proposed settlement involve a major strategic concession which will necessarily lead to an inconsistency with Palestinian declarations and intentions.

 

B. Another inverse relationship exists between aspirations and possibilities. The type of WBS most Palestinians would like to found is the one most unlikely to emerge. On the other hand, an emasculated WBS that is a part of an overall Arab-Israeli settlement is the one most likely to emerge. Given these likelihoods, it is essential for both acceptors and rejectors to formulate their positions in the context of the situation. Admitting the situation, of course, need not mean submitting to it.

 

C. There does not seem to be any type of elucidation of the link between a WBS and an SDS. No formulation has been provided to explain the nature of the relationship between the two. Prima facie, a WBS -if it is to be a Palestinian state next to a Zionist Israeli state-seems to be in direct contradiction to an SDS. However, as it is not being conceived as a final solution by the accepting Palestinians, it must bear some relation to the next phase. If an SDS is seriously considered to be the objective of the Palestinians, then there must be some kind of elaboration of the link with a WBS.

 

There are, furthermore, no explicit and detailed explanations of an SDS, its meaning, and implication. This is important, especially for the Jewish population of Israel, which tends to equate an SDS with either physical liquidation or acute discrimination. Consequently there exists a direct relationship between the degree of finality of a WBS and the extent of Palestinian concessions. The more a WBS resembles a final solution, the more Palestinian objectives will have to be sacrificed and yielded.

 

D. There exists an inverse relationship between the clarity of the resistance position about a WBS and the unity of the Palestinian people. As the situation and the various views on the Palestinian aspect of the settlement develop, it will become clear what type of a WBS could emerge. This will result in a need to clarify the Palestinian position if negotiations are considered seriously. The more concessions the acceptors of a WBS are willing to undertake in order to attend negotiations and secure a WBS, the more the danger of polarization among the Palestinians. The ultimate culmination of such a polarization will have to be a split and an eventual clash between acceptors and rejectors. This will manifest itself on the following levels:

 

1. A polarization and eventual split inside the various organizations in accordance with the positions vis-a-vis a WBS. This could happen either through the breakdown of an organization into several blocs and/or through a split between the leadership of an organization and its rank and file.

 

2. Open hostility and an eventual clash between the various organizations in accordance with the official position of each organization towards a WBS.

 

3. A split of other Palestinian bodies such as trade unions, student organizations, professional groups, etc., into acceptor and rejector associations.

 

The effects of such splits will clearly shatter the unity of the dispossessed and weaken the general Palestinian position.

 

E. A corollary of the above, and in case a WBS is established, is the inverse relationship that will exist between reaching such a solution and the condition and attitudes of those Palestinians who will not benefit from it. The more a WBS emerges as an apparent solution for the Palestinian problem the more difficult it will be for those Palestinians who cannot be/are not part of it. This group mainly includes the Palestinians living in pre-1967 Israel and those in refugee camps. Their condition will worsen and they might be subjected to both obvious and subtle pressures to leave to the WBS (no matter what guarantees are given to them). Their consequent attitudes will lead to a further split amongst the Palestinians.

 

F. Accepting the logic of neogitations will limit the scope of Palestinian action and thus their ability to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

 

The main strength of the resistance has been its ability to sustain a certain level-albeit limited-of military activity against Israel. One of the first consequences of negotiations will be the suspension of this weapon, i.e., military disengagement between Israel and the Palestinians. This will make it almost impossible for the resistance to effect any changes in the situation of the area and improve its position. Unlike the case of Vietnam at the time of the Paris peace negotiations, the resistance has not achieved the turning-point where it is strong enough to be able to afford to lay down its arms even temporarily.

 

There is, therefore, an inverse relationship between accepting negotiations, and the freedom of action and thus the ability to influence outcomes to the advantage of the Palestinians.

 

G. There exists a direct relationship between reaching a solution to the Palestine problem via a WBS and the disengagement between the Palestinians (and their cause) and:

 

1. Arab regimes who would like to divert their resources and energy to alternative projects, having contributed to the establishment of a WBS which for them might be a final solution.

 

2. The Arab masses, due to a cooling in revolutionary fervour and an awareness of more immediate problems that exist outside the Palestinian context.

 

Such disengagements would be major drawbacks to any future Palestinian endeavour, and could not be easily achieved if a WBS did not have the semblance of a final solution acceptable to the Palestinians.

 

H. The establishment of a WBS through the help of Arab regimes involves a major gain for these regimes. As a result, they will be stronger. Given the conservative and/or reactionary nature of those regimes there will exist an inverse relationship between the creation of a WBS and the possibility of a social, political, and economic change within the societies of these regimes. This will hinder the revolutionary trend in the Middle East, including future Palestinian effort.

 

I. There exists a direct relationship between the creation of a WBS and the ability to build a joint Palestinian-Jewish front against Zionism. This assumes an absence of open hostilities between a WBS and a Zionist Israel. It is easier to build a party (movement) that includes sectors of two societies when these societies are at peace than when they are involved in a military confrontation. This, of course, gives no indication of the possibilities of the success of such a movement under such conditions, nor its opportunity cost.

 

The discussion of a WBS is meaningful only to the extent that such a project has a fair chance of coming into existence. The possibility of various other alternative outcomes bears strongly on the usefulness of such a discussion. This article did not examine such alternatives and does not intend to imply that a WBS need be the most probable route of development.

 

A lasting peace should be between, and for, peoples of the area and not merely between their respective governments. For a peace that is established between governments in isolation of the attitudes and aspirations of their peoples can do little more than postpone a resurgence of the conflict till a later date.

 

Territorial adjustments seem to be the focal point of present initiatives in the Middle East. The present units of account seem to be kilometres and sand dunes rather than peoples and communities. The WBS is conceived by most as a territorial solution in the same manner as Sinai and the Golan Heights. This leaves the problems of discrimination, oppression, suppression, dispossession and exploitation untouched. These are the real issues at the core of the problem. Attempts at reaching a permanent solution to the conflict that are based on the establishment and consolidation of two separate exclusivist national entities, cannot provide a satisfactory basis for a long-term peace. For this outcome does not alleviate the above grievances or mitigate the ensuing sufferings.

 

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Hussein J. Agha is a Ph.D. candidate at St. John's College, Oxford University.

1. "National authority" is not an adequate translation of Sulta Wataniya which means the authority of patriots- "wataniya" meaning patriotic-rather than merely the authority of any member of a nation. The resistance does not consider, thus, the rule of reactionary West Bank notables over an independent WBS as an exercise of "national authority."

2. None of the resistance organizations belongs to the Fourth International or any of its offshoots.

3. In the case of similar analysis, the differences lie in the conclusions derived.

4. In the ghettos of Europe the Jewish people were more of a class than a nation. As they settled in Palestine they were transformed in time into a people with different classes which acquired the characteristics of a nation. When the Arab Palestinians were expelled and forced into becoming refugees, they developed a class status that tended to unify them through their dispossession. (The limitations of this reverse analogy are obvious and have to do mostly with the original Ben-Gurion muddle.) Neither "class" nor "nation" is used in any strict sense or exact definition. The exercise is to demonstrate my point rather than explicitly state it.

5. In 1970 the GNP of the West Bank was XI 472 m. Exports were XI 146 m, of which 41 percent went to Israel and 41 percent went to Jordan, while only 18 percent were exported to the rest of the Arab world. Imports were XI 293 m, of which XI 252 m came from Israel and XI 15 m from the East Bank. These figures obviously do not reflect either the real capacities of the West Bank or the path of its future economic growth. There seem, however, to exist considerable economic incentives for a WBS to establish strong economic links with both Jordan, because of traditional ties, and Israel, because of its proximity and the sophistication of its economic system. To appreciate the link with Jordan: In the mid-sixties 60 to 85 percent of Jordan's agricultural produce came from the West Bank. Forty-eight percent of its industries, 35 percent of its GNP, 40 percent of government revenues, and one-third of its foreign currency were provided by the West Bank. Natural resources, however, (phosphates, copper, potash, oil potential) lie in the East Bank.

6. I am assuming that a socialist state cannot be built in the West Bank alone in isolation from the other states in the area. This is impossible, almost by definition.

7. This argument does not deny or dismiss the popular sentiment amongst the majority of the Palestinians to "go back" to Palestine. Such a sentiment is quite natural and in a sense responsible for keeping alive the Palestinian struggle. The political channelling of such feelings, however, transcends the original problem of land and tries to locate it and to solve it within a wider political context. Otherwise it will be nonsensical and hypocritical to adopt the slogan of an SDS.

8. A progressive nationalist is someone with a progressive and revolutionary social and political ideology whose constituency of action coincides with certain national boundaries. This coincidence is due to strategic reasons having to do with the particular and specific nature of the struggle. National ideology is hence subjugated to the social struggle, but not ignored. Progressive nationalism does not consider the nation as the ultimate end of its struggle, but a means in the fight for a higher social order (such as socialism). A progressive nationalist is aware of the existence of different classes and groups with conflicting interests within the same nation. This is his main framework of reference that will determine his strategy.