No doubt, the Palestinian people have the legitimate right to demand and to fight for national sovereignty on their historical homeland, i.e. the land of Palestine, from the sea to the river, a homeland from which they have been dispossessed by the Zionist colonial enterprise. And the role of progressive forces throughout the world is, indeed, to support them in this legitimate and extremely difficult struggle.
In 1988 the PLO, at its National Council in Algeria and under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, adopted its “historical compromise,” which was based on an equation composed of two elements: a solution to the conflict with Israel and the time factor. What is better, asked the President of the PLO, the full realization of the national rights of the Palestinian people in a century, or a small independent state now? The opinion of the President and, after a tough political discussion, of the great majority of the PNC, was to spare decades of suffering, death and destruction for the next Palestinian generations at the price of a painful and unjust compromise with Israel, in which the Palestinian people renounce implementation of their legitimate rights on more than three-quarters of their land.
The Palestinians are the only ones to be allowed to make or to reject this choice, certainly not the Israelis, even when the latter claim to defend the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what self-determination is all about.
The fact is, however, that the historical compromise did not bring about a solution: after twenty years, a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza seems to be as utopian as a “one joint State” for Palestinians and Jews. Has the situation become irreversible, as Meron Benvenisti claimed already in the mid 1980s? The supporters of the “irreversibility of the situation,” and therefore of the impossibility of a new partition plan, base their argument on “facts on the grounds”: the scope of the colonization of the West Bank, the roads and the settlements, the economic integration etc. While one should not underestimate the weight of material realities in shaping reality and future options, these realities are not what make a situation irreversible: the Soviet Empire was reversible, as was the “one thousand years Third Reich”; the 130 year French colonization in Algeria with a deeply rooted “Pieds Noirs” society, ended as did most of the colonial enterprises of the 19th century.
Neither houses nor trees, nor even huge human realizations, make a situation irreversible: as long as the victims of a certain system are fighting against it, it can be reversed. Reversibility and irreversibility are connected to the subjective factor at least as much as to the objective realities.
The comparison between the Palestinians of the Galilee and the Palestinian of the West Bank is very revealing in this instance: after six or seven years of Israeli occupation, the Palestinian population of these territories occupied and annexed by the Israeli state stopped aspiring for secession, and changed their political demands to those for equal rights, democratization and full citizenship. From that moment, the occupation of the Galilee and the Triangle became irreversible, i.e. accepted—against their will—by the primary victims of the Zionist conquest.
This is definitively not the case of the Palestinian residents of Gaza, the West Bank and even East Jerusalem, as it is not the case of the Syrian population of the occupied Golan Heights, who still consider themselves, after 40 years of occupation and a quarter century of annexation, as Syrians, aspiring to be again part of the Syrian state.
Even those Palestinians who pretend that the situation is irreversible and explain with plenty of rational argumentation why there will never be a Palestinian state, usually project their future or the future of their children onto a time when there will be no more Israeli occupation, no more settlements, no more foreign domination.
Neither the Palestinian people, nor its leadership, neither the international community nor the majority of the Israeli public (and its political leadership) consider the Israeli occupation as irreversible.