The Power Of Imagination: How About A 5-State Solution For West Asia? – OpEd

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My only marriage began relatively late in life, at age 43. I convinced myself I was sufficiently mature in making this decision that it would be a lasting one. As the years passed and irreconcilable differences arose, I was determined not to become yet another divorce statistic. Marriage counseling failed to repair the widening fissures, and we devised coping mechanisms of compartmentalization to hold our fragile façade of a blended family together. The thought of splitting up was just too shameful. Admitting marital defeat would surely destroy my sense of self-worth.

Then, one summer, on a long drive home from vacation in another state with my then husband and two others, I took a turn sitting in the back seat and let my mind wander free-form as the vast, desert scenery floated by. I still resisted the concept of divorce, but for the first time I allowed myself to simply imagine what my life might look like if we separated—how our finances might be split, where I could live, what I could do to support myself, how friends and family might react and what it would feel like to emerge free from the constraints of a mismatched partnership. As the seemingly endless miles rolled on, these fantasies appeared increasingly doable and appealing.

Within months, my ex and I came to grips with the challenging task of working out arrangements for a reasonably amicable parting of the ways. We still live in the same city, yet have moved on with our lives in different directions. Since the divorce, I’ve found deep fulfillment in relationships, exploration, learning and activism, and haven’t looked back.

Let’s turn to west Asia and consider not a break-up to resolve an intractable situation but rather a coming together.  I’m not suggesting that estranged people should reside in the same household, as in a marriage, but simply consider inhabiting the same community with a live-and-let-live attitude.

Ultimately, of course, the decision on which direction to go rests with the people who live in the region, and I will outline merely one proposal designed to meet everyone’s basic needs. Any and all ideas are welcome. For now, I invite you to take some time to let your imagination wander, especially anyone who steadfastly rejects any alteration in the fundamental premise of the state of Israel and its continuation in perpetuity.

Several years ago, TRANSCEND founder Johan Galtung proposed a six-state solution, with Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt forming a Middle East Community. Palestine would be a full-fledged sovereign state along the 1967 borders of Israel, with a few small land swaps between the two. The right of Palestinians expelled in 1948 to return to Israel would be affirmed in principle, with exact numbers to be negotiated.  The inclusion of the four bordering states in a Middle East Community would provide opportunities for economic collaboration, cultural exchange and a joint security apparatus to de-escalate tensions.

A fatal flaw in Galtung’s otherwise constructive and laudable proposal is the specification of separate statehood for Israel and Palestine, an aspect of the two-state solution that was never a realistic option and even less so now. Defining borders for the two states has become practically impossible with increasing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, and any attempt to do so would likely involve involuntary displacement of both Israelis and Palestinians.

US-based human rights activist Paul Larudee, who has spent time in much of west Asia, and was on one of the first boats to reach Gaza directly by sea in 2008, noted in a recent post that,

The two-state solution was never proposed by either side, and never wanted by either of them. The Palestinians always wanted a single non-Zionist state from the river to the sea, and the Zionists wanted the river to the sea exclusively for their state.

In another post, he acknowledges that some within Israel do support two states, but that,

Israeli proponents of the two-state solution have always required the Palestinian state to have less sovereignty than the Jewish state. To the extent that such a state was acceptable at all, it needed to be disarmed and controlled, and its territory severely compromised. But in fact, Israel never accepted a Palestinian state. The most it accepted was a “road map” to a state, which allowed Israel to pay lip service to the idea while gobbling up Palestinian land, moving Zionist settlers onto it, strangling Palestinian movement and development, and stealing the natural resources. 

Let us then build on Galtung’s idea and imagine a five-state solution in a West Asian Community. Let’s drop the outdated Eurocentric term “Middle East”, and name this group of states according to where it is geographically located. Some say Zionists’ original goal was not only a Jewish state but a European one established and populated predominantly by European and European-American Jews with cultural and political alliances rooted in the West. Why not own that Israel is part of Asia?

The West Asian Community would consist of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and its initial key lynchpin:  one secular republic comprising what is now known as Israel and all of the occupied Palestinian territories, minus the occupation. While friendly ties to countries across the globe would be encouraged, war-mongering, duplicitous agents of empire—especially from the US, UK and NATO—should be kept securely at arm’s length in order to avoid falling prey to external agendas.

The beauty of a one-state solution within a five-state community is that no one would be displaced or forced to move. Palestinians who were driven away from their homeland could return if they wanted to.  All the interior borders, walls, barbed-wire fences, surveillance towers and checkpoints would be eliminated. With a robust constitution guaranteeing equal rights for all, Jews, Muslims and Christians could freely choose to live in any part of the country, from the river to the sea.

A truth and reconciliation process could be put in place to help heal past traumas, ease people’s fears of “the other” and allow them to see each other as fellow humans and neighbors. There could be two official languages, Arabic and Hebrew. The name of the country might be Palestine, Palestine-Israel or perhaps something completely different. The Soviet Union lost its name after 70+ years, as did Yugoslavia, yet the people living there continue to thrive under various other monikers. Would people give up their attachment to a name if it meant bringing true peace and security for everyone?

Would Israelis give up their attachment to Zionist ideology if it meant bringing true peace and security to everyone?  What is the antidote to the horrors of the Holocaust? Surely not the 1948 Nakba, the current genocide in Gaza, and metastasizing militarization. Why not instead ensure that every member state of the West Asian Community welcomes people of all religious faiths, including Jews? Imagine a shared commitment throughout the community and beyond to maintaining institutions and societal structures geared toward eliminating all forms of discrimination, oppression and dehumanization.

Imagine such a West Asian Community of cooperative sovereign states, encouraging cultural and economic exchanges, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence, where residents can live, work, play and travel freely regardless of their ethnicity. Galtung liked to envision what day-to-day life might look like: perhaps visiting friends and family up and down the region, having breakfast in Beirut, lunch in Damascus, dinner in Amman, then nightlife in Jerusalem. What’s not to like?

Marilyn Langlois

Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California. A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of the International Center for 9/11 Justice, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.

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