On November 29, 1947, 64 years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by 33 votes against 13 (with 10 abstentions) the “Palestine Partition Plan” advocating a two-state solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews were exuberant. The Arabs rejected the plan. Nearly six months later Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel: “…AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, (WE) HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.” The next day 7 Arab armies attacked Israel killing 6000 Jews, 1% of the entire Jewish population.

The borders proposed by the UN Partition Plan gave the Jewish minority 55% of the country, though half was the Negev desert, and in that portion 50% were Arabs.

Once the War of Independence began, Ben-Gurion promoted “Plan Dalet” as a strategic necessity and as a solution to two problems: it added 22% more land to the Jewish State and drove out much of the Arab population.

The myth that Arabs fled because their leaders told them that the Jews would rape and kill them is only partly true. The Haganah also drove out many thousands of Arabs. In the end only a small part of the Arab population remained in the new State of Israel and they became citizens. That number has now grown to 1.5 million inside the Green Line.

The question debated in Israel today concerns the meaning of a “Jewish State.” Israeli right wingers reject a two-state solution and claim that the “Jewish State” belongs exclusively to Jews regardless of the fact that thousands of Arabs have lived there for centuries. Most Israelis support a two-states for two-peoples solution, affirm the democratic character of the Jewish State and believe that all its citizens (Arabs included) have equal rights under the law according to the Declaration of Independence.

In a recent piece on this 64th anniversary since the UN Partition plan, the Israeli journalist and peace activist, Uri Avnery wrote the following:

“THE 1947 partition plan was an exceptionally intelligent document. Its details are obsolete now, but its basic idea is as relevant today as it was 64 years ago: two nations are living in this country [and] they cannot live together in one state without a continuous civil war. They can live together in two states. The two states must establish close ties between each other.

Ben-Gurion was determined to prevent the founding of the Arab Palestinian state, and with the help of King Abdullah of Transjordan he succeeded in this. All his successors, with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin, have followed this line, now more than ever. We have paid – and are still paying – a heavy price for this folly. On the 64th anniversary of this historic event, we must go back to its basic principle: Israel and Palestine; Two States for Two Peoples.”

Such, of course, is more easily said than done. To shine a bright light on the essence of the problem I recommend three important articles:

[1] An opinion piece in Al Jazeera (September 30, 2011) by Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Philosophy and President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem entitled “Why Israel can’t be a ‘Jewish State’” – www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion (once on the site, type in the title of the article in “Search” and it will come up). Nusseibeh is considered a leading Palestinian “moderate” (after reading this peace one has to ask what “moderate” means!”

[2] A thoughtful and sober response to Nusseibeh’s piece by his friend, Uri Avnery (noted above), an Israeli journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom, called “We are a People – A Response to Sari Nusseibeh” http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/we-are-a-people-a-response-to-sari-nusseibeh-1.389543. As a member of Israel’s left wing peace camp, Avnery is not hopeful for a settlement anytime soon not because of Israel’s right wing extremist government, but rather because the Palestinian identity and narrative has led them to regard Jews as nothing more than a religion and not a people.

[3] A blog by Bernard Avishai, an American-Israeli journalist and contributing Editor to the Harvard Business Review, taken from a much longer Atlantic article (November 23, 2011) (subscription only) called “The Return of ‘The Right.’” Avishai recasts the conflict based on the necessity for mutual understanding of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives – http://bernardavishai.blogspot.com/2011/11/return-of-right.html

As I ponder the complexity, intractability and politicization of this conflict I am reminded of what President John F. Kennedy said relative to the Soviet and American nuclear arms race – “This is not rocket science. These problems were made by human beings and they can be solved by human beings.”