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The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Should the people decide?

This is a guest post by Daniel

Sari Nusseibeh, professor of philosophy and president of Al-Quds University, presents a novel way forward in the ongoing dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the online Dissent Up Front.

His case commences as follows:

THERE MAY still be one last chance for a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This will require an immediate but radically different approach to the international community’s efforts in peacemaking. Rather than try to engage the two sides in renewed negotiations, President Obama, acting on behalf of the Quartet, should make an offer to both sides which neither side can refuse. He should present a summary of a pre-drawn blueprint of a settlement to the leadership on both sides, and rather than asking them to enter into a new marathon of negotiations over it, or even to accept or reject it, he should simply request that they put it before their respective publics for a vote: the Israeli side through a referendum, and the Palestinian side through an electoral process.

Professor Nusseibeh’s article should be read in full as to me it seems eminently sensible. It may be a fanciful idea but I see little wrong with it. I doubt that President Obama would present a plan that ignores the substantial concern of the Israelis, their security. I also doubt that Obama would suggest a solution to the Palestinians that the population would simply never accept, since if so,what would be the point of the exercise?

After the Camp David debacle, an exasperated Ambassador Dennis Ross said ( New York Review of Books, September 20, 2001) in relation to Yassir Arafat, “I simply do not believe he is capable of doing a permanent status deal.” I have no doubt that he was correct in this assessment.

There will always be those Zionists who object to anything that may request the Israeli government do what it does not want to do and there are of course those Palestinians who have vowed never to accept the idea of a Jewish state in the region, but I hope that they are in a minority.

An ongoing theme in Harry’s Place has been the support for democracy. What better expression of democracy can there be, in this context, than a referendum?