FOR decades people have been calling for a just solution to the Israel-Palestine saga but there has been little consensus on what it should be.
One-state or two, bi-lateral or federal, Jewish or Islamic; these options are the subject of fierce debate between commentators and supporters of both camps, but with little agreement.
“It always comes up. Do you support one state or two? It’s completely irrelevant. The question is what is the public prepared to support.”
And this marks the crux of Professor Norman Finklestein’s latest analysis: if those who follow the issue can’t agree on a solution, how can the wider public be expected to back one, whom without there will never be one.
So the Jewish-American has set-out to provide a solution so reasonable that it appeals to the wider public’s sense of fairness ratcheting up the pressure on Israel, via their governments, to accept an agreement.
With Israel’s international standing in decline, Finklestein believes the time is right to act.
At a two-and-a-half hour lecture at Imperial College last week, Finklestein, who has spent the last 30 years offering new perspectives and analysis on the subject, outlined his plan.
It essentially offers little new, but meets the majority of both sides reasonable demands, but if adopted by campaigners, could prove to be far greater than the sum of its parts.
It calls for a 1.9% land swap that would make the homes of 300,000 Israeli settlers (60%) part of Israel while allowing for a contiguous and viable Palestine – a proposal made by President Abbas in 2009 during more failed talks.
While the land exchange would still leave 200,000 settlers in the West Bank, he believes the majority would voluntarily return to Israel if a compensation package was on offer – as they are economic not ideological settlers – and the rest would soon leave without protection from the army.
The rest of the agreement is based on international law; right-of-return for refugees, an independent state based on 1967 borders and an end to the military occupation.
All highly disputed issues for Israel, but Finklestein trashes any contention citing rulings made by the International Court of Justice.
He said: “All 15 judges, including two Jews, said the settlements are illegal. They are not controversial, they’re illegal.
“The territories are disputed [according to Israel]. No they’re not. All 15 judges at the ICJ said they are occupied.
“Israel said Jerusalem is it’s indivisible capital but the judges say it’s occupied. There’s no dispute.”
And while the ICJ did not rule on the refugees’ right-of-return, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both acknowledged their right, he said.
The deal is so reasonable and simple, he says, the public’s sense of ethics will identify with and support it.
This was how Ghandi led the Indian revolt against the British occupation in the 40s knowing armed struggle would not work, he said.
“Ghandi said politics is not about changing public opinion it’s about getting them [the public] to change what they know is wrong [but] the public have to agree to your methods and your goal.
“It’s not about your personal morality,” he told the audience, “it’s about the public’s sense of right and wrong.”
Finklestein said with the lift from the Arab Spring and growing resentment over Israel’s behaviour now is the time to build a consensus for a final settlement.
Quoting statistics from BBC and Human Rights Watch polls he said Israel’s international image is consistently declining, even amongst American Jews who are finding it harder than ever to defend the tiny state over its human rights abuses highlighting the use of cluster bombs and white phosphorous against civilians in Lebanon and Gaza.
He said: “Most Jewish-Americans are liberal. It’s become impossible to call themselves liberal and defend that.
“There’s a broad public ready to listen, but we need to present them with a solution to the conflict or they will get frustrated and move on and it would be a wasted opportunity.”
Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians recognise the country as a Jewish state as part of any negotiations is just a reflection of its inability to defend the indefensible, he says, but has an answer for this too.
Egypt and Jordan, which both signed peace agreements with Israel, have never recognised Israel as a Jewish state and were never asked to, so why should the Palestinians?
“Little Israel doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” he said.
It all sounds so simple, but it’s not the first time someone believes they have come up with the solution to the sixty-five-year-old problem and try telling the to more radical Palestine supporters to give more land away, yet Finklestein is upbeat.
“I think we have every reason to be hopeful. People are ready to listen. We just have to get them to act. Our challenge now is to show the broad public we are the reasonable ones. We just want to enforce the law as everyone recognises it to be, with no exceptions. No-one can call this map unfair.”