Between a Wall and a Hard Place | بين حائط ومكان صعب


By Peter Millet

British Ambassador to Jordan

We stopped on a ridge overlooking a Palestinian valley. On the hill on the left a Jewish settlement with nest white houses and green gardens. On the right a fairly run-down Palestinian village. The valley was dry and stony sloping down to a water spring.

Suddenly we saw a trail of smoke arching up into the sky and falling  among some houses on the outskirts of the Palestinian village. Tear gas. Fired by Israeli soldiers to hold back the weekly protest by young people from the village. They were objecting to the fact that they have been denied access to their traditional water source. So they can’t water their crops and can’t earn a living.

We were visiting friends in Jerusalem last weekend and toured part of the West Bank. I wanted to see for myself the situation which dominates many conversations in Amman and occupies an awful lot of international diplomatic effort. And I wanted to think about whether and how a two-state solution could work.

On Friday we visited the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, above the Western Wall – all three stunningly beautiful and sacred places. We then toured East Jerusalem with an expert to look at settlements as well as places where Palestinian houses had been taken over by settlers. This was only a few days after the announcement of another 1,100 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, East Jerusalem, a unilateral move condemned by William Hague as both illegal and as an obstacle to international efforts to achieve peace.

Any first hand visit brings home to you immediately the enormous sensitivity of the city, sacred to three major religions. People from all over the world come to celebrate their links to the city and hold religious ceremonies in their special churches, mosques and synagogues. The close proximity of these holy sites  raises all sorts of sensitivities. It only works if the followers of all three religions are prepared to share the city and if they all respect each other’s rights. Anything that tries to change the religious or ethnic nature of a neighbourhood by compulsion is liable to spark problems.

We then went on to drive round parts of the West Bank. Here settler activity is evident not only in the 150 established illegal settlements but in 100 illegal outposts too. The United Nations has said that expropriating land from Palestinians and the construction of settlements is against international law. The UN has called upon Israel to stop building settlements and to stop the practice of facilitating the settling of Israeli citizens in Palestinian neighbourhoods. Today, there are just under 200,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem, and another 300,000 in the West Bank.

Against the backdrop of the expansion of settlements, I asked myself whether a two-state solution was feasible. The optimists still think it is – just. But time is running out. There are still Palestinians who, despite the wall that separates their villages from Israeli settlements (but often also from their land) and the daily restrictions on their freedom of movement, still hope that a deal can be done.  For them it is a question of dignity: to bring an end to the daily humiliations and frustrations they face, and to build an economy like any other, with free movement of people and goods.

It seems to me that there is no sensible alternative to a two-state solution. A one-state solution is in neither community’s interests. And continuing to deny the Palestinians the freedom and justice demanded elsewhere in the Middle East would surely be contrary to the universal values which the United Nations embodies.

And crucially, a two-state solution is the best outcome for Israel. The security and safety of their citizens and children is understandably of paramount importance and of huge sensitivity. The best way to guarantee that security is by negotiating a deal with the moderate PLO leadership currently running Palestinian policy, ending this conflict for good. As William Hague said in the Sunday Telegraph last week-end the UK goal remains the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security side by side with Israel. So our efforts will continue to press for an urgent return to meaningful negotiations leading to peace, security and dignity for all people in the region.

 

بقلم بيتر ميليت – السفير البريطاني في الأردن

توقفنا عند تلة مطلة على واد فلسطيني. كان على يسار التلة مستوطنة يهودية بيوتها بيضاء متلاصقة وحدائقها خضراء. وعلى اليمين قرية فلسطينية متهدمة الى حد ما وكان الوادي جافاً وصخرياً منحدراً حتى يصل الى ينبوع ماء.
 
فجأة رأينا دخان يتصاعد الى السماء ويدخل بين بعض المنازل التي تقع على مشارف القرية الفلسطينية. كان ذلك غاز مسيل للدموع أطلقه الجنود الإسرائيليون لتفريق الاحتجاجات الأسبوعية التي يقوم بها شباب القرية. لقد كانوا يحتجون على حقيقة أنهم حرموا من الوصول الى مصدر مياههم التقليدية ممما يعني انهم لا يستطيعون ري محاصيلهم ولا كسب عيشهم.
 
قمنا بزيارة بعض الأصدقاء في القدس الاسبوع الماضي و تجولنا في أجزاء من الضفة الغربية. أردت أن أرى بنفسي الوضع الذي يهيمن على تفكير الناس في عمان ويحتل جزء كبير من الجهود الدبلوماسية الدولية. وأردت أن أفكر في إمكانية وكيفية التوصل إلى حل الدولتين.

لقد قمنا بزيارة قبة الصخرة و المسجد الأقصى ومن فوق الحائط الغربي رأينا الأماكن الثلاثة المقدسة والمذهلة بجمالها . بعدها قمنا بجولة في القدس الشرقية مع خبير لرؤية المستوطنات والمنازل التي كان يملكها فلسطينيون واستولى عليها المستوطنون. وجاءت هذه الجولة بعد بضعة أيام من الاعلان عن 1100 وحدة سكنية أخرى في مستوطنة جيلو في القدس الشرقية والتي تعد خطوة أحادية الجانب أدانها وزير الخارجية البريطاني وليام هيغ على أنها غير شرعية وتشكل عقبة أمام الجهود الدولية لتحقيق السلام.

الزيارة الأولى للمدينة لها أثر كبير في كشف أهميتها وحساسيتها لأتباع الديانات الثلاث. فالناس تأتي من جميع أنحاء العالم للصلاة في المدينة وللقيام بطقوسهم الدينية في الكنائس والمساجد والمعابد الخاصة. إن قرب هذه الأماكن المقدسة من بعضها يثير ويزيد من الحساسيات. و إمكانية النجاح تكمن في قدرة أتباع الديانات الثلاث على تشاركهم المدينة واحترام حقوق بعضهم البعض. فأي تغيير للطابع الديني للمدينة بالإكراه حتما سيؤدي الى المشاكل.
ذهبنا بعد ذلك بجولة في الضفة الغربية. فالنشاط الاستيطاني هنا واضح ليس فقط في ال 150مستوطنة غير القانونية ولكن  في 100 موقع استيطاني غير قانوني أيضا. كما أعلنت الأمم المتحدة ان مصادرة الأراضي من الفلسطينيين وبناء المستوطنات هو مخالف للقانون الدولي. وقد دعت الامم المتحدة اسرائيل الى وقف بناء المستوطنات والتوقف عن ممارسة تسهيل توطين المواطنين الإسرائيليين في الأحياء الفلسطينية. فاليوم هناك حوالي مئتي ألف مستوطن إسرائيلي في القدس الشرقية وثلاثمئة ألف آخرين في الضفة الغربية.

وعلى خلفية التوسع في بناء المستوطنات سألت نفسي ما إذا كان حل الدولتين ممكنا أم لا. المتفائلون يعتقدون أنه لا يزال ممكنا، بصعوبة. لكن الوقت ينفذ وما زال هناك فلسطينيون، الذين على الرغم من وجود الجدار الذي يفصل بين قراهم عن المستوطنات الإسرائيلية (وفي الكثير من الأحيان عن أراضيهم) وعلى الرغم القيود اليومية على حريتهم في الحركة، يأملون بإمكانية التوصل الى اتفاق. فبالنسبة لهم هي مسألة كرامة: وضع حد للإهانات اليومية والإحباطات التي يواجهونها والسماح لهم ببناء اقتصاد مثل أي دولة أخرى مع حرية الحركة والتنقل للناس والبضائع.

يبدو لي أنه ليس هناك بديل معقول لحل الدولتين. و حل الدولة الواحدة ليس في مصلحة أي جهة. والاستمرار في حرمان الفلسطينيين من الحرية والعدالة المطالب بها في بلدان أخرى في الشرق الأوسط بالتأكيد سيتعارض مع القيم العالمية التي تجسدها الأمم المتحدة.

وحل الدولتين هو أفضل نتيجة بالنسبة لاسرائيل. سأتفهم ان أمن وسلامة المواطنيين الاسرائيليين وأطفالهم ذو أهمية قصوى. وأفضل طريقة لضمان ذلك الأمن وإنهاء هذا الصراع للأبد هو من خلال التفاوض على اتفاق مع قيادة منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية المعتدلة التي تقود حاليا السياسة الفلسطينية. وكما قال وليام هيغ في صحيفة صنداي تلغراف نهاية الأسبوع الماضي ان هدف المملكة المتحدة لا يزال إنشاء دولة فلسطينية تعيش في سلام و أمن جنبا إلى جنب مع إسرائيل. لذلك سوف تستمر جهودنا في  للضغط من اجل العودة سريعا لمفاوضات تؤدي إلى السلام والأمن والكرامة لجميع الناس في المنطقة.




  • Mohammad

    Mr. Ambassador, in case you still haven’t noticed, the two-state solution is already a failure. There’s only one state and its name is Palestine. I suggest you and your Great Britain mind your own business and look for a ‘two-state solution’ with the people of Northern Ireland..or how about you return Gibraltar to Spain first! We don’t need lectures from you, you know

    • SUSU121

      HEY BRITISH PEOPLE,,YOU HAVE BEEN THE SWORD THAT SETTLED IN  THE VERY HEART OF THE ARAB NATION,,,YOUR ROLE HAS BEEN DIABOLICAL,,WE KNOW THAT THE ARABS AND MUSLIM WILL REGAIN THEIR POWER WHEN YOU AND YOUR MASTER USA,,,WILL TURN INTO ASHES,,YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE,,,YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A MERE BLACK HEART FULL OF SPITE AND FILTH

  • Mohammad

    Mr. Ambassador, in case you still haven’t noticed, the two-state solution is already a failure. There’s only one state and its name is Palestine. I suggest you and your Great Britain mind your own business and look for a ‘two-state solution’ with the people of Northern Ireland..or how about you return Gibraltar to Spain first! We don’t need lectures from you, you know

    • SUSU121

      HEY BRITISH PEOPLE,,YOU HAVE BEEN THE SWORD THAT SETTLED IN  THE VERY HEART OF THE ARAB NATION,,,YOUR ROLE HAS BEEN DIABOLICAL,,WE KNOW THAT THE ARABS AND MUSLIM WILL REGAIN THEIR POWER WHEN YOU AND YOUR MASTER USA,,,WILL TURN INTO ASHES,,YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE,,,YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A MERE BLACK HEART FULL OF SPITE AND FILTH

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  • ahascha

    I think the one-state, two-state debate will become mainstream in two or three months when the outcomes of the UN bid start to take effect in the Palestinian popular consciousness and that of the world.  I wouldn’t keep on betting on the two-state arrangement which is a better description because it would surely not be a solution.  People in SF where I live are already talking about the possibility of a one state. 

    There are many factors to consider and many show possibility for a radical qualitative change. Change comes from where you least expect. And I’m betting that Israel will maintain it’s current course because it doesn’t know any better!

  • Anonymous

    I think the one-state, two-state debate will become mainstream in two or three months when the outcomes of the UN bid start to take effect in the Palestinian popular consciousness and that of the world.  I wouldn’t keep on betting on the two-state arrangement which is a better description because it would surely not be a solution.  People in SF where I live are already talking about the possibility of a one state. 

    There are many factors to consider and many show possibility for a radical qualitative change. Change comes from where you least expect. And I’m betting that Israel will maintain it’s current course because it doesn’t know any better!

  • bel3arabi :)

     السؤال اللي بطرح نفسه ليه عم تنشر هون؟ وشو سر هالتواصل الأنساني ونفحاته حول القضية ؟

    كسفير لدولة بريطانيا نتنمى أن توصل لدولتك رفض الشارع العربي لأية حلول لا تتضمن عودة الأراضي المحتلة كاملة لأبناء شعبها ودون الحديث عن دور لبريطانيا كصديق لإسرائيل وانما فقط الحد الأدنى بالتوقف عن دعم اسرائيل وعدم ملاحقة أو منع النشطاء البريطانيين في أداء دورهم المتسارع لمقاطعة اسرائيل واصدقاءها

    ويخلف عليك

  • bel3arabi :)

     السؤال اللي بطرح نفسه ليه عم تنشر هون؟ وشو سر هالتواصل الأنساني ونفحاته حول القضية ؟

    كسفير لدولة بريطانيا نتنمى أن توصل لدولتك رفض الشارع العربي لأية حلول لا تتضمن عودة الأراضي المحتلة كاملة لأبناء شعبها ودون الحديث عن دور لبريطانيا كصديق لإسرائيل وانما فقط الحد الأدنى بالتوقف عن دعم اسرائيل وعدم ملاحقة أو منع النشطاء البريطانيين في أداء دورهم المتسارع لمقاطعة اسرائيل واصدقاءها

    ويخلف عليك

  • Mike

    I believe a one-state solution is the only solution. Why should Palestinians be expected to take what land of theirs is given to them?   The only way of peace is that both sides must prosper economically (the main lesson from Northern Ireland) – and then when the status quo works for everyone – see the logic of first peace, and then a common state.  The state of Israel cannot be sustained longer term without peace with its neighbours.  I am not sure any state can for too long.

  • Mike

    I believe a one-state solution is the only solution. Why should Palestinians be expected to take what land of theirs is given to them?   The only way of peace is that both sides must prosper economically (the main lesson from Northern Ireland) – and then when the status quo works for everyone – see the logic of first peace, and then a common state.  The state of Israel cannot be sustained longer term without peace with its neighbours.  I am not sure any state can for too long.

  • Ahmed Abdul Allah

    Mr Ambassador, what you seriously need to consider is not whether a two state solution is the best solution or its alternatives. You should pay attention to the rapid changes taking place in the world in general and in the surrounding areas in general. The post colonial heritage that secured hegemony of British and after that American influence is rapidly crumbling. The entities that were British created like the Arab league and gulf cooperation council to make sure that unity between the countries never takes place is disintegrating from the public mind and psyche. Sooner rather than later, public opinion is going to realize the importance of political and economic unity between the currently paper-thin colonial created ruling systems. Post Sykes-Picot designed entities will cease and the grand union that encompassed all of the middle east, north Africa and gulf will reappear again. Yes Mr Ambassador, the true and real Islamic state that will unify these entities is just around the corner. It is coming back stronger and more powerful than the one your country helped destroy with the help of your lackey atatürk. It will bring justice to all whether Arabs, Jews, etc. We see it very close at hand although you think it is far fetched. So Mr Ambassador, the question to you is “what was that you were saying?”

  • Ahmed Abdul Allah

    Mr Ambassador, what you seriously need to consider is not whether a two state solution is the best solution or its alternatives. You should pay attention to the rapid changes taking place in the world in general and in the surrounding areas in general. The post colonial heritage that secured hegemony of British and after that American influence is rapidly crumbling. The entities that were British created like the Arab league and gulf cooperation council to make sure that unity between the countries never takes place is disintegrating from the public mind and psyche. Sooner rather than later, public opinion is going to realize the importance of political and economic unity between the currently paper-thin colonial created ruling systems. Post Sykes-Picot designed entities will cease and the grand union that encompassed all of the middle east, north Africa and gulf will reappear again. Yes Mr Ambassador, the true and real Islamic state that will unify these entities is just around the corner. It is coming back stronger and more powerful than the one your country helped destroy with the help of your lackey atatürk. It will bring justice to all whether Arabs, Jews, etc. We see it very close at hand although you think it is far fetched. So Mr Ambassador, the question to you is “what was that you were saying?”

  • Sami Kanafani

    Isreal is aiming twords a one state salution whereby there are no palestinians around; to them Palestine is Isreal and Jordan is Palestine!!
    They aim twords creating a new trasfare, one that will create a palestinain free Isreal and a Palestinain filled Jordan.
    Being a Palestinain myself, I thank Great Briton for it’s simpathy and ampathy, after all it was only you who gave us this problem to start with.

  • Sami Kanafani

    Isreal is aiming twords a one state salution whereby there are no palestinians around; to them Palestine is Isreal and Jordan is Palestine!!
    They aim twords creating a new trasfare, one that will create a palestinain free Isreal and a Palestinain filled Jordan.
    Being a Palestinain myself, I thank Great Briton for it’s simpathy and ampathy, after all it was only you who gave us this problem to start with.