JSW on The Real World

April 25, 2015

In Blog News

Israel-Palestine: The Parameters Of Mainstream Debate

by Jamie

In a recent article for Truthdig, I examined the transcripts of several European parliamentary resolutions and debates about recognising Palestine.

They revealed overwhelming support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, both overall and more narrowly amongst those at the most ‘pro-Palestinian’ end of the parliamentary spectrum.

A one-state solution, by contrast, did not feature in the discussion.

The debates also showed that the grievances against Israel which resonate abroad are those related to the occupation—the settlements and Israel’s massacres in Gaza above all. Issues related to the Palestinian refugees and to abuses inside Israel proper were on the other hand only rarely mentioned.

My conclusion:

[A]dvocacy for a two-state settlement based on international law and the international consensus is at the most ‘radical’, most critical end of the mainstream political spectrum.  It represents, not the minimum, but the maximum we can aim for while remaining within the parameters of mainstream debate.

Two further bits of evidence have emerged since the article was published to support this.

1. Scottish MPs debate recognition of Palestine

On 21 April, Scottish MPs debated the following motion:

That the Parliament believes that the recognition of the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel based on 1967 borders could be a stimulus to securing a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East and notes the opinion of many Israelis and Palestinians living in Glasgow, the rest of Scotland and beyond that resolution through peaceful means is the only option.

Almost everyone who spoke did so to endorse the motion; several had long backgrounds in Palestine advocacy.

There was no controversy about the appropriate political framework for resolving the conflict:

Among MPs at the most ‘pro-Palestinian’ end of the parliamentary spectrum (i.e. from Labour; the Greens; John Finnie, an Independent; and, with the exception of John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston), the SNP), the grievances which resonated were those related to the occupation:

In Scotland, as elsewhere in Europe, the occupation is Israel’s achilles’ heel.

2. Party manifestos

The parties have finally published their manifestos ahead of the 2015 general election. Every manifesto that mentions the Israel-Palestine conflict endorses a two-state solution.

This includes the SNP, which calls for recognising Palestine:

We will call on the next UK government to pursue a two state solution for Israel and Palestine and to support the formal recognition of a Palestinian state. (p. 18)

It also includes the Green Party, which has a stronghold in the solidarity movement hub of Brighton and is perhaps the most staunchly ‘pro-Palestinian’ party in mainstream British politics. The Greens support boycotting Israel—in the service, as their manifesto makes clear, of a two-state solution:

We seek a just, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on mutual recognition of the rights to independent statehood for Palestinians and Israelis. (p. 69)

Even at the farthest ‘pro-Palestine’ fringes of mainstream politics, there is no debate to be had about the two-state solution. It is the only game in town.

The real political fights turn on what actions (ranging from purely verbal declarations to recognising Palestine and boycotting Israel) are to be taken to bring about which kind of two-state solution (the genuine article rooted in international law, or a counterfeit based on US-Israeli might).

Solidarity activists wanting to maximise their political efficacy must intervene in these battles, rather than adopting positions which, however popular within the movement, have no support, nor even latent support, beyond it.

Jamie Stern-Weiner co-edits New Left Project and writes about the Israel-Palestine conflict here.