No two-hour discussion can bring to a just end the long suffering and statelessness of the Palestinian people, and words alone cannot bring to Israelis the security they crave and need. But, according to Palestinian Ambassador to the U.S., Maen Rashid Areikat, now is the time and opportunity for these goals to be realized—through negotiation and compromise.
The lecture, “Last Chance for a Two-State Solution? A Conversation with Palestinian Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat,” was presented by the International Graduate Law Programs and brought a standing room only audience of students from across campus to Miami Law last week.
Anyone in the diverse audience of Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians, as well as Christians, Muslims, and Jews expecting a diatribe was surely disappointed by the measured, intellectual, and tactful presentation and discussion.
Areikat laid out a reasoned argument for a two-state solution as the only viable option for Israel as well as the Palestinians.
“Today, Israel has three options,” Areikat said. “One is to keep the status quo and to continue with the occupation of the Palestinian people, creating one state with two different systems; one that subjects the Palestinian people to an occupation denying their basic human rights and continuing to violate international law, and providing a privileged system to … the settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories. This option will slowly but surely push the region into an apartheid-like system.
“The second option is for Israel to accept our offer of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, living side-by-side in peace and security; ending their military occupation, allowing the Palestinians to be free and independent, and to create their own state sovereign independency,” he said. “To us, this remains the strategic option, despite all the difficulties we see on the ground.
“The third option is [to have] one bi-national state. With the demographics, with the high birthrate of Palestinians and Arabs, many projections predict that in fifteen to twenty years, the number of non-Jews in the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean will exceed the number of Jews,” he said. “This poses a serious question to the current Israeli government and to Israeli politicians: Their struggle to create a state for their own people will be undermined if a two-state solution is not realized. Therefore, it is in their best interest to push for the realization of the two-state solution – a solution that can provide both people with dignity, peace, security, stability, and possibility.”
A two-state solution would impact the entire region. “We are offering an end to the conflict; we are offering an end to all claims; we are offering to live side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. We are extending our hand to the Israelis to put this conflict, once and for all, to an end and to usher a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation, not just among Israelis and Palestinians, but will all our neighbors in the Middle East,” he said.
“Israelis need to end the conflict with the Palestinians, which would pave the way for them to normalize their relationships with all their other neighbors,” said Areikat.
An Israeli questioner suggested that for many Israelis and American Jews as well, the key to any end of the conflict is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. That, Areikat replied, is a deal breaker for the Palestinians, even though the PLO has recognized Israel’s right to exist since 1992.
“To say that we don’t want to recognize Israel as a Jewish State has nothing to do with Judaism and Jews, but it has to do with the political implications,” he said.
“The objective of our International Law Lecture Series has always been to bring to the Law School different points of view and allow for the exchange of ideas,” said Jessica Carvalho Morris, Director of International Graduate Law Programs.
“The Ambassador’s talk did just that. The question and answer session that followed was particularly lively and allowed for students and faculty to discuss this very important topic.”
The lecture was co-sponsored by UM’s Department of International Studies and the International Law Society.