Shaul Arieli
Haaretz (Opinion)
December 6, 2012 - 1:00am

In the first years of the Oslo Accords the Israeli government didn't question the Palestinian people's right to self-determination in the land of Israel. Israel also expressed this in its mutual recognition with the PLO.

Years later, Prime Minister Ehud Barak toyed with the idea that the Palestinians will settle for a "political entity" with a lower status than a state and make do with part of the West Bank and Gaza territories. But the "ripening" process he underwent made it clear to him the principle "the 1967 lines as a basis and territory swaps in a 1:1 proportion" was the only option.

Until the Palestinian statehood request from the United Nations, it seemed the Netanyahu government's withdrawal from the parameters to conduct negotiations to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel was designed to ensure that "only" this parameter isn't implemented. But going to the UN, a move intended to pull the rug from under the Israeli position - that the West Bank areas are contested rather than occupied - made it clear that Israel objected to more than that.

The Netanyahu government's reaction to the international recognition of Palestine was reflected in advancing widespread construction approvals in the places that would prevent establishing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, or a contiguous, viable Palestinian state. This indicates that many cabinet members deny the Palestinians' right to self-determination in the Land of Israel. They claim "there is no Palestinian people" and that the Arabs' rejection of the Partition Plan left the Mandatory writ promising only the establishment of a Jewish homeland unchanged.

These people ignore the fact that the Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 was the international community's - including the Zionist movement's - full recognition of the Arabs' right to self-determination in the Land of Israel. The Partition Committee's report included the dramatic international admission that "the principle of self-determination was not applied to Palestine when the Mandate was created in 1922 due to the aspiration to enable the establishment of the Jewish national home."

This admission corroborated the Palestinians' argument abut denying their political rights according to the international community's principles. Hence, the UN's partition resolution, which sought to establish an "Arab state" as well, was a valid rectification to the Mandatory writ.

Also, on the eve of the state's establishment, the Zionist movement decided to initiate the partition itself, following its evaluation of the new reality that consisted of the British government's withdrawal from its commitments, the existence of the Arab National Movement and the Holocaust's repercussions.

In February 1947 David Ben-Gurion wrote to the British faoreign minister that the only possible immediate arrangement that has an element of finality is establishing two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arab community in Israel certainly has a right to self-determination and self-rule, and Israel wouldn't think of denying or reducing that right, he wrote.

As chairman of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion expressed the Zionist movement's recognition of the right of the Arab people in the Land of Israel to self-determination and the right to divide the land. The Jewish Agency adopted Ben-Gurion's proposal in its session on June 18, 1947, saying it was and is prepared to discuss a compromise, i.e. a viable Jewish state in part of the land.

The declaration of the State of Israel "on the basis" of the partition resolution put an end to all the arguments and renders Israel's recognition of the Palestinians' rights to a state in the Land of Israel irrevocable.

This is history. But above it stands the current, threatening question: Will Israel's government realize that the partition idea, which enables Israel's existence as a Jewish democratic state, is possible only if a "Palestine" rises beside it in the West Bank and Gaza?


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