A former legal adviser for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas believes the so-called “two-state solution” will not resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict, citing Israel’s ongoing construction of Jewish-only settlements on Arab land.
“The two-state solution died a long time ago,” Diana Butto, a Palestinian-Canadian national, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
She said that a glance at a map of Palestine and the numerous Jewish-only settlements that have been built there made it clear to anyone that a “two-state” solution to the conflict was no longer viable.
“The Israelis have built these settlements with complete impunity,” said Butto, who for five years served as legal advisor to the PLO and Abbas.
“The only configuration that’s going to work is a one-state solution in which Palestinians and Israelis live together in a situation of peace and equality,” she added.
Butto, who was formerly involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, said such a scenario should also allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
“But we’re very far from [achieving] this right now,” she noted.
“We have to put an end to settlement colonialism,” she asserted, “but, that being said, this isn’t just an issue of land, it’s an issue of liberation and return.”
She stressed that Palestinian refugees didn’t only hail from the West Bank, but also came from Nazareth, Haifa, and other cities inside what is now Israel.
“They [the Palestinians] want to liberate these areas; they want to return to these areas,” said Butto, who is a human rights lawyer.
The roots of the conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous “Balfour Declaration,” called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Jewish immigration rose sharply during the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations “mandate” in 1922.
In 1948, with the end of the mandate period, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.
As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages were razed to the ground by Jewish forces.
The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are now spread across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip.
On May 15 of each year, Palestinians still commemorate the mass expulsion in 1948, which they refer to as the “nakba” or “catastrophe.”
For many Palestinians, the right to return to their homes in historical Palestine – a right enshrined in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 – remains a key demand.
Since its establishment, Israel has continued to misappropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank, on which it continues to build numerous Jewish-only settlements in breach of international law.
Palestinians, for their part, demand a state of their own in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.
-‘Important’ S. Africa-
Butto is currently on a one-week speaking tour of South Africa, where she is slated to attend several fundraising events, the proceeds of which will go to the Palestine children’s relief fund, which is devoted to helping Palestinian children get the medical attention they need.
Butto said South Africa was an “important country” for pro-Palestine activity because South Africa and Palestine enjoyed warm relations and saw their historical struggles as interlinked.
“We’re here to encourage this brotherhood and kinship,” she told AA.
Butto noted that, because of its history, South Africa enjoyed a kind of moral authority, adding that statements of solidarity issued by the South African government did much to help the Palestinian struggle for nationhood.
“South Africa struggled for its freedom and attained it. It’s not perfect, but you attained it,” she said.
South Africa is home to several active pro-Palestine organizations, while many South Africans are known to be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
In July, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) denounced Israel’s devastating onslaught on the Gaza Strip, urging South Africans to condemn the Israeli assault and show solidarity with the embattled Palestinians.
“The ANC condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people of Gaza,” ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte had said at the time.
“The state of Israel has turned the occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps,” he added.
The ANC went on to urge all South Africans, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds, to protest Israel’s deadly offensive and express support for the people of Gaza.