I wondered whether to write about this as it will come as a surprise to very few. Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador* to Britain, delivered, while speaking at Caabu’s Emergency Meeting on the Crisis in the Middle East held in Parliament on Wednesday evening moments after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, what seemed to be the unofficial line of the Palestinian Authority on the future of Israel and the Palestinians.
Hassassian claimed it was his personal view but if this is the approach taken by other Palestinian ambassadors then there is no hope for peace.
Hassassian offered two completely contradictory positions. He wanted a two state solution but, personally, thought that a one state solution was the only way forward. He said:
“I would like to see a two state solution, but the Oslo peace treaty is dead. If you look at the ground, what is happening today, there is nothing left to salvage of a two state solution. As a representative of the Palestinian authority I must tell you that I am for a two state solution. But I want to remove my authority cap and put it aside and become the kind of person who is observing what is left of the two state solution. Ladies and gentleman, there is no two state solution left. We have to look to other, what I call, ingenious ideas and look outside the box and the only thing that comes to my mind is very simple; there is only one solution, which is a one state solution. Of course liberals from Israel’s centrists, and extremists, are going to panic and be terrified when you say ‘One state solution'”.
Hassassian also spoke of Israel not being interested in peace and having a “war agenda” and time “being not on the side of Israel”.
He finished his speech with this:
“We (the Palestinians) are the only, the only, country in the Middle East that are practicing democracy par excellence.”
“I think they (Israel) should be lucky to have the Palestinians as their neighbours.”
During the Q&A I asked the Ambassador how long he thought, in the event of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it might take for Hamas to murder or imprison Fatah/PLO officials in the West Bank like they did in Gaza?
“If Israel strikes a deal with the PLO to relinquish the occupied territories…any kind of solution on the West Bank, any kind of a breakthrough in peace with Israel, I think, will undermine the power of Hamas.”
These are fine words, but how can Israel “relinquish the occupied territories” and still be sure that Palestinian terrorists won’t bomb Tel Aviv or Ben Gurion airport, for example? Can Israel afford to take such a risk after seeing what is unfolding in Syria with a future takeover by Islamists opposed to Israel’s existence? And just because Egypt and President Morsi are being reasonable now doesn’t mean they will always be, does it?
But far more than that, Israelis are never going to vote their own country out of existence after all they have worked for and sacrificed. Demanding a one state solution is only a recipe for further Israeli and Palestinian blood to be spilled.
At the end even a CAABU member came over to tell me he thought the Palestinian Ambassador’s rhetoric wasn’t progressing the Palestinian cause much.
Hassassian has been an ambassador here for seven years. Is such a long term normal? Or do ambassadorial changes go the same way as Palestinian elections; few and far between, if at all?
I have nothing against Hassassian. However, his call for a one state solution is deeply problematic considering that the international formula, supposedly accepted by the Palestinian Authority, is two states for two people.
As Herzl said of a future Jewish state, which seemed a distinct impossibility anywhere at the time, “If you will it, it is no dream”. If Hassassian and his fellow diplomats can’t even bring themselves to will a separate Palestinian state then they should step aside and let others take the opportunity of working towards that desired national goal.
* I am informed that Manuel Hassassian is technically not an “Ambassador” seeing that there is no formally recognised Palestinian state. He is, therefore, referred to as Palestinian General Delegate in London.