The Oslo Accords dealt a crippling blow to the foundations of the global consensus which defined the prerequisites for a just and durable peace during the 1970s and 80s{IMREA comment: A fantastic fabrication!}– that peace was predicated on the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state alongside Israel. That peace was to occur after Israel completed its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242, and after the Palestinians recognised Israel’s existence and sovereignty in the largest part of their own national patrimony.

Negotiations between Israel and the PA are like encounters between the elephant and the fly. The current stalemate will continue to be fueled by divisions inside Israel, which now centre not on whether Oslo will end the occupation and restore a measure of normality to Israelis and Palestinians, but on the most efficient and least disruptive approach to preserving the status-quo under a more benign label. The method of repackaging the occupation is what really divided Rabin from Netanyahu, a fact that has not been lost on a sizable sector of the Palestinian community, inside and outside Palestine. While some comprehend it well, others feel it instinctively, irrespective of Arafat’s constant expressions of nostalgia for and repeated devotion to Rabin’s legacy.

Arafat has placed himself in the untenable position of being unable to deliver to either Israel and the US or to his own constituents, who were ready to scale down their aspirations but not surrender their rights. His denunciations of terror and vows to eradicate violence, repeatedly urged by the US and Israel, are seen in the Palestinian street as an ominous attack on civil liberties. Moreover, his assumption of responsibility for Israel’s security is becoming increasingly incontrovertible when that security keeps on assuming dimensions which negate Palestinian rights — water security, settlements security and demographic security, which negates the rights of refugees.

All of these factors confirm and prolong the stalemate. Oslo was not designed as a normal traditional agreement. It has now become a guarantor of disagreement and the legitimiser of the status quo. The Palestinians have no other choice but to struggle for equal rights and equal dignity. Not only had Oslo foreclosed on their option of a separate and sovereign existence; it has also denied them the right to struggle for that existence, inasmuch as most variants of the struggle are bound to be classified as either terrorism, lack of reciprocity, failure to abide by commitments or acting against peace.

The process which began in Oslo will reach nowhere because the nature of the Israeli state precludes genuine coexistence with the Palestinian people on equal basis. As long as the Zionist ideology of acquiring the land without the people prevails, a negotiated settlement based on the right of the two people to dignity and self-determination will continue to be elusive. Binyamin Netanyahu did not repudiate Rabin’s strategy; he only rejected his tactics.

Any forward movement beyond the present no peace/no war situation would require a debate of Zionist ideology and history, in which difficult questions, suppressed since the establishment of Israel, would surface. At the heart of the debate would be the main Zionist narrative and its negative portrayal of Arabs, distortion of history and the requirements of peace. Already, we are told, a post-Zionist debate is taking place inside Israel. The question is how extensively has it been followed by the general public. Political Scientist Ilan Pappe has written a series of studies on this post-Zionist critique and its manifestations in various Israeli cultural products, including films, plays, music, novels and short stories as well as in scholarly discourse. Pappe’s writings reveal how intertwined the lives of Israelis and Palestinians have become. There is an implication in his work that Israel cannot prosper as an isolated Western outpost in the region:

A democratic pluralist Israel as a part of the Mediterranean is also an Israel with many historical narratives. Such an Israel has a chance of a common future. The question of whether Zionism is a movement of national plundering or a movement of a persecuted people acting according to a human ethic, seeking compromise and peace is being increasingly raised by Israeli intellectuals. The historian Benny Morris framed the question in terms of the accuracy of the “Zionist ethos claims that we came to this land not to exploit the natives and expel them, and not to occupy them by force.”

Only when this kind of critique is broadened to include the mainstream and penetrate the consciousness of the average Israeli will the so-called peace process begin to assume some hopefuldimensions. Only when the Palestinians decide to rediscover their democratic secular state framework and begin to adapt it to the present realities will hopes for real peace be rekindled. Call it a bi-national solution, a federal system or a cantonal system on the Swiss model, the common denominators will have to be equal rights, equal citizenship, plurality, coexistence and common humanity. That requires a de-Zionised Israel and a normal polity which exists for its own citizens, devoid of any privileges based on religion, ethnicity, race or gender.

The writer is member of the Palestine National Council and Chancellor Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.