On this sojourn in Palestine I am blessed to be in the care of Father Ibrahim Nairouz the Anglican priest at St. Philips Nablus and The Good Shepherd Rafidia. I am thankful for his care – meeting me when I arrived, arranging a home stay, and giving me an office in St. Phillips church hall.
Father Ibrahim has no hope for a two state solution, and feels it is the wrong direction. He uses the story of King Solomon and the two women claiming motherhood of the same baby, to explain his vision for peace with justice for all people in the Holy Land.
Today, I interviewed Father Abraham in his office at St. Philip’s church to discover his vision of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli Palestine conflict. Since my previous visit to Palestine was during the John Kerry peace proposals, this is where our conversation begins.
QUESTION 1: Over the past 20 or 30 years, there have been many attempts to solve conflict in Israel and Palestine, including, during my last visit here, an attempt by John Kerry to mediate the peace process. What is your Vision for a Peaceful Resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
ANSWER: Usually the politicians try to find the easy way and the fast way but the easy way, is not always the right way…sometimes the difficult way is the right way.
The problem with John Kerry and all of the other Israeli and American politicians is that they bring an Israeli and American understanding of the problem, and an Israeli and American understanding of the solution, to the table, and they bring it to the Palestinians as a ready-made solution, as the only solution. If they want to find a viable solution they have to listen to the other side – they have to develop a solution that is both representative of the Palestinian understanding of the problem, and our understanding of the solution as well as the Israeli side. They only have one vision – usually and that is a vision which has being developed by the Israeli side.
The Story From The Book of Kings
I have been thinking about this for a long time and as a Christian, I get inspiration from the Bible and one Bible story in particular. I find in the Old Testament, in the book of Kings a story about King Solomon. The king is confronted by two women with one baby, both claiming to be the mother of the baby. To resolve the problem he proposes to cut the baby into two parts. But he was a wise man because he knew that if he cut the baby in two parts the baby would die. The important element in the story is the reaction of the two women – when he says, “okay cut the baby into two parts”, he discovers which is the real mother and which is the false one – because and the false mother says – “yes okay do it!” – where the real mother says”no ! Please do not harm the baby !- give the baby to the other woman”.
So I got the idea, the baby is the land – so we have two Nations here Palestinians and Israelis and both say that the land is their land.
The proposal..is to cut the “baby” in two parts – to cut the land and give one part to the Israelis and one part to the Palestinians and this is the two-state solution, and this means that forever the problem will never be resolved. The baby cannot live if you cut the baby; the land cannot live if it is cut into two parts.
It is like this mother, and this mother, and we only have one baby, and we have this nation, and this nation, and we only have one land. The same land the Palestinians call Palestine is the land Israelis call Israel – it is one land.So the proposal from our present day Kings, or to be correct, politicians, is to cut the “baby” in two parts – to cut the land and give one part to the Israelis and one part to the Palestinians and this is the two-state solution, and this means that forever the problem will never be resolved. The baby cannot live if you cut the baby, the land cannot live if it is cut into two parts.
The Land Cannot Be Subdivided
Palestine and Israel is a small country and the people are all integrated – living among each other, and a quarter of the population of Israel are Palestinians and now we have over half a million Israelis, although they are illegal settlers, living in Palestine. And I hope and pray that this , the holy land for both peoples, – the land of the Bible, – the land of the prophets, and all of the history and culture of all people in this land belongs to all the people,- I hope and pray it becomes one land for all of us.
There is a Jewish history although it is an ancient one and there is a Palestinian history, more recent and much longer, and both peoples have a legitimate claim to live in the land.
For me the land cannot be divided and subdivided, – the land where I was born. For instance I live in Nablus now, but I was born in Ramallah and our children were born in Ramallah, but my people come from Jaffa , so how can I get my rights in in this land if I am cut off from the places of my ancestors? If you cut me from my roots, from my heritage, and put me here on the West bank and forbid me to live in Jaffa, you cut me from my heritage and my roots.
We cannot cut the people from a place and put them in another place and say that this is peace.
We cannot cut the people from a place and put them in another place and say that this is peace. This is not peace for me, and for the vast majority of Palestinians peace means being able to go back to our ancestral homes even if just to visit. Peace means that everyone has the right to live wherever they want within the whole country.
Five Major Problems
In any of the peace negotiations we have had five major problems from the Palestinian standpoint, and the failure to resolve any one of these five problems can defeat the negotiations which will inevitably end in failure, and these are real problems and difficult problems.
Number one is Jerusalem.. Number two is borders; number three is the right of return for the refugees and their descendants. Number four is the settlements and number 5 is water..
A two-state solution means packaging these problems and putting them in the freezer – we may have a temporary form of Peace but eventually when one or other of the unresolved issues is taken out of the freezer violence and conflict will resume and the situation will be the same again.
The two-state solution means creating two enemy States beside each other.
In creating two states inevitably we deprive the other side or even both sides; of their rights .
A One-State Solution
But, in the one- state solution — the 5 main issues are lifted from the table like this:
- So in the one-state solution the border between Israel and Palestine disappears – there are no borders – it would be one land from the sea to the river.
- Jerusalem would be an open City available to everyone.
- In one state, water would be available to everyone. Palestinians would still be poor but this and living conditions would improve quickly with time.
- The return of the refugees – anyone can live anywhere they like as long as they can afford it. There would be freedom of movement- freedom of the mind and the body and the soul.
- The settlements of course, are a difficult problem and there we have to start with education on both sides , education as to how we can live beside each other, in each others towns and villages and live in peace. But the settlements on the West Bank would no longer be illegal – because it is now all one country.
We can respect each other’s differences, so those Palestinians who want to return to their original towns and villages can do so if they can buy or build homes there, and of course Jews who want to return peacefully to towns and places on the West Bank where they once lived would be welcomed back. “
QUESTION 2: Would the same body of civil law apply to all of the people in your vision of one country, one state, one land?
ANSWER: The laws and the kind of government or governments and administrations is a mechanical process and can be worked out if there is a willingness to live in peace in one country. There are lots of examples of bi-national and multi national states. If we start something called peace education – yes if we make real peace, we can begin to educate both Israelis and Palestinians to appreciate and respect each other.
I know that one hundred years ago, Jews lived in Palestinian towns and cities and lived peacefully with their neighbours. They spoke Arabic and they were part of the culture, but war in 1948 changed all that and the Jews had to leave which was very hard for them.
Palestinians at the same time were driven out of their homes and villages in what is present day Israel and made refugees on the West Bank and in the surrounding countries – over 400 villages were destroyed and over 750,000 people were driven out and their descendants now number more than 3 million people.
These settlers for the most part are foreigners from the United States and Russia and other countries and they have no interest in celebrating and continuing our middle eastern culture as the Jews in Palestine did have a hundred years ago.
I would be very happy to see the Jewish people who had lived in the towns and cities on the West Bank and their descendants return, which is quite different to the present settler population who are now populating Palestine – the West Bank – these settlers for the most part are foreigners from the United States and Russia and other countries and they have no interest in celebrating and continuing our middle eastern culture as the Jews in Palestine did have a hundred years ago”.
I did not ask Father Abraham if he felt the Israeli population would accept such a solution. I feel that that is a question I must keep for an Israeli Rabbi or a Jewish person with a vision for peace.
A One-State Solution is the Only Solution
As for my own views , I think Father Abraham’s vision is a beautiful vision. I don’t think he is naive; I think that a one-state solution is possible. In fact, I think it is the only thing that is possible now.
The two-state solution is dead. Oslo* was a disaster. Oslo was supposed to be a Five-Year Plan for the creation of an independent autonomous Palestinian state, but only the first one-fifth of the plan was implemented with the creation of areas A, B, and C which just brought further misery and hardship to the Palestinian people.
The two-state solution is still the official policy of the Canadian and American governments, and that of most other Western countries. It is about time they realized that it never was a very good idea, it is now physically impossible, and that they need to rethink and revise their policies. The Israeli government has declared publicly and by its actions that the two state solution is off the table.
MAE/ Dec 5 2016
(*Oslo Accords: Peace negotiations which were intended to create an independent autonomous Palestinian state in 5 stages resulted in the completion of only 2 of the stages which were laid out in a set of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO): the Oslo I Accord, signed in Washington, D.C., in 1993 and the Oslo II Accord, signed in Taba in 1995.)