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  March 4, 2002

Speaker Advocates Two-State
Solution in Middle East
By Allison Thompson

Born shortly before the state of Israel was established, Naomi Chazan has lived through many periods of war, and devoted her entire adult life to advocating for peace. But, she says, nothing has been as disturbing as the violence that has characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the past year and a half.

"I do not recall a period that has been as difficult as the last 17 months or so," Chazan, the deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament and a member of an opposition party, Meretz, said during a lecture on campus Tuesday.

The only viable solution to the conflict is the creation of two separate states, she said. The two states should be divided along the 1967 boundaries, with adjustments made by mutual agreement and probably involving a land swap.

"These are very difficult things for Palestinians and Israelis to absorb," said Chazan, "yet they should surprise absolutely no one."

The need for a viable solution has become more evident than ever in the past several months, during which the violence has become particularly cruel, Chazan said. It also has become random, she said, citing instances of young people blown up at discos by suicide bombers, her own daughter wondering if her car had been wired with explosives, Israeli soldiers preventing pregnant Palestinian women from crossing the checkpoint to get to the hospital to give birth, and hunger spreading in the occupied territories because food shipments have been blocked.

"We are caught up in a cycle of cruel violence," she said. "Terrorism is the cruelest and worst violation of human rights I can conceive of, because it is random and is directed against civilians."

Because leaders on both sides are reacting emotionally not rationally, and taking actions that are meant as revenge or to teach the other side a lesson, the cycle continues, she said: "The tragic element is that I am not sure either side has a policy, other than to react to indignities against its own population."

Recent events have also been made difficult by the complete breakdown in trust between Palestinians and Israelis.

"The breakdown of talks last summer and the reemergence of violence meant everything we had worked on for decades fell apart virtually overnight," said Chazan.

The mistrust between the two sides highlights the worst in each society and has allowed extremists to take over the mainstream. Palestinian and Israeli leaders must work to overcome the recent failure. In order to do that, each side must begin to listen to the other, she said, noting that now neither side understands what the other is talking about.

"There's a conversation of the deaf taking place in the Middle East," she said. "There are two totally different stories and, depending on which you prefer, that's the only one you're willing to entertain. The two narratives do not lead us any closer together."

Despite the bleak nature of current events, Chazan noted that there is hope for the future. No one in the Middle East thinks there is a military solution to the conflict, she said, and that will force both sides to look for alternatives. In addition, the boundaries drawn in 1967 have been de facto resurrected, because people won't cross them. "The outlines of a political solution have become more real than in the past," Chazan said.

Any potential solution must be aimed at achieving a serious, agreed-upon reduction in violence, and getting both sides back to the negotiating table to talk about a permanent solution: "The two objectives are inherently intertwined and must be pursued in tandem," she said.

According to Chazan, the objective of any negotiation must be the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, "because that's the only way Israel's long-term interests can be served and Palestinian justice can be achieved."

Although the two-state solution is an obvious one and the only one which ensures Israel's future, Chazan noted that it won't be easy to achieve. Extremists on both sides will oppose the idea and will likely cause a civil war, she said. The only alternatives

to the two-state solution are the continuation of the current situation, which would eventually lead to a

total "apartheid" situation, or a bi-national secular state that would mean both Israel and Palestine would cease to exist.

There are currently six possible plans for achieving the two-state solution, Chazan said. Although no plan is perfect, that's a vast improvement over the fall, when there were no plans under consideration, she added.

Although resolution to the problem will take "an amazing amount of will under the circumstances," she said, "if it fails, then the Middle East will explode and it will not only be a Middle Eastern explosion but a global one."

It is in everyone's best interest, she added, "to take part in this very difficult inter-people struggle in order to bring about a just solution for all."

Chazan's talk was sponsored by the UNESCO Chair and Institute of Comparative Human Rights, and was part of the Comparative Human Rights Lecture Series.

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