No art in the deal
The sad state of Israel-Palestine affairs
by Simon Rosenblum*
The Trump “Deal of the Century” is many things, but a peace plan it’s not. In this regard, it was dead on arrival. In reality, it’s a deal between Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu, gifting Israeli right wingers almost everything they ever wanted.
But how can that be? The plan proposes a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, does it not? Hasn’t that been the Palestinian dream? And didn’t Benny Gantz, leader of Israel’s Blue and White party, hail the Trump plan as “historic” and call it “entirely consistent with the principles of state and security,” as espoused by his party? So what could be so bad with a plan so enthusiastically supported by Netanyahu’s primary opposition? In a word: everything.
For starters, Israel gets to keep 30 percent of the West Bank and all of its settlements. Israel is allowed to annex the Jordan Valley and apply Israeli law to all of the existing Jewish settlements during the first phase of the plan’s unfolding. The Palestinians receive one third of the West Bank in this Phase 1. If, and only if, they play ball, they receive another one-third four years or so down the road. All of this would be called a Palestinian state, although it would be sliced and diced throughout by settlements, settlement roads and checkpoints. Moreover, the Palestinian capital would not really be in East Jerusalem but rather in a small Palestinian village outside of the borders of Jerusalem. There would be no territorial contiguity, to say the least!
Who in their right mind would pass on such an opportunity? Especially when Israel might be called upon to swap some desert land near Egypt and to permit Arab villages in central Israel to attach themselves to the emerging Palestinian state? (No matter that the Arab-Israelis in these villages have consistently made it clear they would oppose giving up their Israeli citizenship.) This “vision” of a plan would have been a total non-starter not that many years ago. But here we are.
How did this fine mess come about? Truth be told, the Palestinians played a large role. Since the beginning of the Oslo peace process, they turned down three peace plans – in 2000, 2008 and 2014 – all of which were generally based on the 1967 lines. The only thing the various Palestinian factions have been able to agree upon over the years is their insistence on the “right” of Palestinian refugees from past Israeli-Arab wars to return to Israel. This, of course, is something no Israeli government will ever agree to and understandably so. Add to this mix Palestinian terrorism along with the ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and you have dramatically reduced the constituencies ready, able and willing to negotiate a just and lasting peace based on a bona fide two state solution.
So what’s next? Much depends on the election results ・ and here I’m referring to the American presidential election in November. The Israeli election in March will not be such a deciding factor because the major parties in Israel already agree on the essentials of the Trump plan. The differences between them are mainly on timing and whether to call Israel’s next moves “annexation” or an application of Israeli law to the settlements and the Jordan Valley. (The latter may seem tantamount to annexation, but, under Israeli law, formal annexation would be much harder to reverse.) In any case, Trump has clearly emboldened the Israeli government ・ no matter its exact configuration post the March 2 election ・ to take some very big moves, which will endanger any security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. And, of course, such moves would weaken the already weak prospects of a genuine two state solution.
If Trump is re-elected, all these developments become more entrenched and harder to reverse. More facts will be created on the ground and the international consensus on the 1967 lines being the starting point for peace negotiations will be further eroded. The chances of the UN Security Council and/or the European Union being able to halt these developments become less likely. More and more, Israel will continue its sleepwalk into apartheid. All hell will break loose. The Zionist dream will be in tatters. But, no matter how discouraged we may be with all that is happening, we must support as best we can those brave Israeli and Palestinian moderates who continue to struggle for an honourable peace and to reverse this madness.
*Simon Rosenblum is a frequent commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was a founding member of CFPN and a former national chair. The views expressed in this article are his own do not necessarily reflect CFPN positions.