Jeff Halper talks the future of Palestine

Jeff Halper says the two-state solution is no longer possible.

Jeff Halper, the leader of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), spoke about his ideas on the future of Palestine and Israel at Melbourne University on September 19.

The ICAHD campaigns against the demolition of Palestinian houses by the Israeli occupation regime. It has rebuilt 187 houses that had been demolished.

ICAHD works with Palestinian non-government organisations, and accepts the three principles put forward by the Palestinian NGO network: ending the occupation, the right of return for Palestinians living in exile, and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Halper said that, as in South Africa, international pressure is necessary to bring about change. Most Israelis are living a comfortable life, and do not care about the Palestinians.

However, he said that the current situation cannot continue indefinitely: “The occupation seems strong, but it has feet of clay.”

Israel relies on the United States, but the US is becoming weaker. The European Union is becoming less supportive of Israel. It recently published guidelines banning EU funding to Israeli institutions involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

But Halper said that a two-state solution is no longer possible. Israel has deliberately eliminated it as a possibility, by dividing up the West Bank with blocks of Jewish settlements. Israel has never recognised Palestinian national rights, even at the time of the Oslo peace agreement.

Halper said that Palestinian civil society organisations need to put forward a clear alternative.

He said it is necessary to accept the “bi-national reality of Palestine/Israel”, and cited Switzerland and Belgium as examples of states containing more than one nation.

The Palestinian left, while accepting Jews as equal citizens of Palestine, has been reluctant to talk of Israelis as a nation, preferring instead to talk of settler colonialism. Halper said this is a valid analysis, but does not exclude the fact that an Israeli nation has come into existence.

However, Israel as a Jewish state is not sustainable. Many Israelis are not Jewish in the religious sense. There is a high rate of emigration by young Israelis, with 20,000 living in Berlin for example.

Halper said the idea of a bi-national state could help Israelis accept a change in he current system.

For the Palestinians the solution must include the right of return, and a redistribution of land, or compensation for land which was taken from them in the past.