If there was any doubt about the moribund state of the two-state paradigm in Palestine, President Trump’s unveiling of the so-called “peace plan” late last month has put that doubt to rest. The “deal of the century,” which was concocted by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner in close cooperation with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American ambassador to Israel David Friedman, is not a peace plan but a “take it or leave it” fiat imposed on the Palestinians. The feeble and ailing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was told in no uncertain terms by Kushner that it’s either Kushner’s way or the highway.
Kushner’s brainchild is a poor facsimile of the colonial plan almost a century ago to establish Western and Zionist hegemony over Palestine with no regard for the political and human rights of the native Palestinian population. It has upended decades of diplomacy and legally rooted international support for two states in Palestine under U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The plan is stillborn now that the Arab League, made up mostly of “moderate” Arab leaders, has rejected the “deal of the century” because “it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
Trump’s proposal is more of a political treatise driven not by a sincere desire for peace in the Holy Land but by the cynical calculations of domestic politics in the United States and in Israel and by the political and legal travails of both leaders — Trump’s impeachment and Netanyahu’s indictment.
A Plan Favoring Israel
Any objective analyst will clearly see that the document is woefully and abashedly one-sided favoring Israel over the Palestinians on every major issue. For example, the plan places no restrictions on Israel regarding the annexation of parts of the West Bank other than to wait until after the March 2 Israeli elections.
By contrast, the plan prohibits the PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) from joining any international organization without Israel’s consent during the envisaged four years of negotiations. The PA cannot take any action against any Israeli or American citizen before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, or Interpol.
The Trump-Kushner plan envisions a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty, as Israel would have full control of the Palestinian state’s security, borders, and airspace. Israel alone will determine when to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. Israeli sovereignty will extend to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The plan gives Israel the sole right to retake military control of the Palestinian areas and the full responsibility for security at all international crossings into the State of Palestine. The plan denies the Palestinian state control of its water resources. It also places the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque — the third holiest mosque for Islam — under Israeli sovereignty and rejects Palestinian control of Islam’s sacred sanctuary of Haram al-Sharif.
Most Arab and Muslim states have viewed the plan as a pro-Israeli maximalist document that fails to satisfy the Palestinians’ most basic minimalist demands. The envisioned “State of Palestine” under this plan is a truncated entity that lacks most of the rights of other states. It is more of a mandatory autonomous construct of “natives” with minimal or no say in their political future as citizens. Even with all of these restrictions, Israel, not the Palestinians, is empowered to “create a pathway toward Palestinian statehood.”
Palestinian and Arab Reaction
As expected, the Palestinian PA in Ramallah has rejected the plan outright. Mahmoud Abbas has already indicated that he is in the process of halting all intelligence and security cooperation with Israel. If this comes to pass, the Israeli military and security will begin to assume a more visible role in areas A and B that were assigned to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo accords back in 1993.
Most Arab leaders have had to walk a tight rope. They didn’t want to snub Trump but at the same time they refrained from endorsing his peace plan. His most ardent supporters among Gulf Arab regimes, for example Bahrain and Oman, have praised his effort but not the actual plan. Kushner’s three-year effort is being relegated, together with all other failed peace plans, to the dustbin of history. Unfortunately, the world will once again blame the Palestinians for failing to take advantage of the supposed American generosity. The Arabs’ basic mantra has been, “We’ll accept anything the Palestinians accept.” Any by implication, “we’ll reject anything they reject.”
Silver Lining: Jettison the Two-State Paradigm?
The Trump plan is a requiem to the two-state paradigm, but it also contains a silver lining for the region. The plan forces Arab and Palestinians to face up to their decades-old hypocrisy about Palestine and the Palestinian cause. For years, many Arab leaders have extolled the Palestinianism of the conflict and their Palestinian “brethren” but refused to grant Palestinians visas to visit or work in Arab countries. As different countries began to focus on their wataniyya (insular nationalism), they have moved away from Arab nationalism or qawmiyya. Because the Palestinian cause was the quintessential definer of Arab nationalism, the further Arab leaders moved away from nationalism, the faster the Palestinian cause receded to the back-burner of Arab politics.
Arab leaders have continued to meet under the auspices of the Arab League to discuss Palestine, issuing lofty, and mostly hypocritical, communiques on behalf of Palestine, but in reality Palestine is no longer a top Arab concern. The Trump plan has called their bluff, and they folded. The aging Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has wallowed in the same hypocrisy about their own cause. They have always claimed that the two-state solution is the only way forward for their envisioned state, but in reality more and more of them have come to believe that a Palestinian state with all the trappings of state sovereignty is unattainable. Yet, because of the inflow of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from foreign donors, PA leaders continued to mouth the two-state mantra.
Israeli politicians, especially the right-wing governments, have also made sure that the two-state paradigm never materializes. Israeli settlements continued to expand in the West Bank, with nearly half a million settlers inhabiting the area today. A combination of Israeli settlement policy and Arab lethargy and hypocrisy has rendered the two-state solution a pipe dream.
Furthermore, Arab impotent and lethargic reaction to Trump’s decisions to declare Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel, to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to support Israeli sovereignty over the settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, and to stop referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories” has signaled to the Palestinians and to Arabs at large that Arab regimes are no longer pre-occupied with Palestine. At the recent Arab League meeting, Arab leaders supported Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of Trump’s plan, but that is as far as they plan to go. Now that the plan is dead, they will go back to business as usual, including deepening their political, security, and intelligence relations with Israel. Beyond the Arab world, Muslim leaders continue to view the Haram al-Sharif as the third holiest shrine for Islam after Mecca and Medina. Yet, they too have made it very clear years back that they would not go to war against the Jewish state over Jerusalem or the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Path Forward
Arab and Palestinian leaders should stop the two-state charade and move toward a new paradigm of dignity and basic freedoms for the Palestinian people as human beings. The PA should dissolve itself, recognize the failure of the Oslo accords, and ask Israel to re-enter the areas currently under the PA control as a formal occupying power, much like the old British mandate in the early 1920s.
If Israel re-enters Areas A and B, Arab leaders and the international community should demand that Israel grant the millions of Palestinians under its control Israeli identity cards and guarantee them basic human rights and freedoms. If Israel claims, in accordance with the Trump plan, that it has sole responsibility for all of historical Palestine between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea over the two peoples, then it should guarantee both peoples equal rights and freedoms. If the Palestinian people are denied their basic human rights and equal rights, Israel will devolve into an apartheid state and will be viewed as such by the international community, including Western countries and many American citizens. This is the only positive unintended consequence of the Trump-Kushner so-called peace plan.