Hrair Balian, director of the conflict resolution program at the Carter Center Hrair Balian, director of the conflict resolution program at the Carter Center [Enlarge]

The Nov. 29 138-9 vote making Palestine an observer state of the United Nations has done nothing to untangle the Gordian knot concerning the future of a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.

 During a Global Atlanta interview with Hrair Balian on Dec. 7, the director of the conflict resolution program at the Carter Center, made it clear that he thinks that Israel seeks to enforce a “one state solution,” and that its activities make envisioning a “two state solution” more difficult than ever.

 He states plainly that in his view should a one state solution ever be adopted, Israel eventually would be overwhelmed by the growing Palestine population. He also thinks that with the events of the “Arab Spring,” the role of public opinion in other Middle Eastern countries will be increasingly important and that the “Arab street” favors the two state solution.

 Mr. Balian met with Global Atlanta publisher Phil Bolton and Patricia Estrada, a senior at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson School of Business, who has been studying under the supervision of Dr. Ihsen Ketata at the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) concerning business-related issues in the Middle East and North Africa.

Global Atlanta: The United Nations recently granted Palestine observer state status, what are the Carter Center’s thoughts on this?

Mr.Balian: We have been encouraging this vote. I think it’s a very important milestone.

The first reason it’s a milestone is because the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been unproductive for the past 19 years, since Oslo in 2003.

Oslo was supposed to build a Palestinian state within five years. The goal was to bring about a sovereign independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. It has not.

The negotiations have been stuck primarily because of Israelis intransigence and new demands, new conditions repeatedly. The latest being the need for Palestinians to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state.

Why should the Palestinians have to acknowledge that? If Israel wishes to declare itself a Jewish state, that should not depend on the Palestinians acknowledging it. 

So the negotiations have been stuck and the mediation conducted by the U.S. has been ineffective, notwithstanding a few exceptions. And I must say that President Obama has led the least effective negotiations despite the promise with which he came to the White House.

In the meantime the illegal settlements project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to grow. Twenty years ago when Oslo was signed there were 250,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; today there are more than 600,000 settlers, all of whom are there in breach of international law I must add. 

When you travel there, you see on every hill top settlement after settlement and surrounding fenced in land, and there are roads connecting these settlements, roads that cannot be used by Palestinians.

It’s increasingly hard to imagine the two-state solution, we are moving towards a one-state outcome and that one state is obviously only Israel. The second state is dwindling, disappearing very quickly.

In my view, the vote on Nov. 29 gives a chance for these negotiations to return to where they belong, in multi-lateral settings. Not necessarily in the United Nations General Assembly, but with the U.N. assuming a key role in the negotiations process.

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