A View From Palestine

Hind Khoury

There is no doubt that the polarization in the region encouraged and pushed by Israel and the United States, along with their cooption of the Gulf states and now even Sudan, are the main driving force behind the Trump plan, the so-called “Deal of the Century.” This evolved within the context of geopolitical interests far beyond the region and has included promises of investment and development plans designed to lure the Gulf countries into forging an alliance against Iran.

The “Deal of the Century” amounts to the ultimate realization of the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917 a century later by recognizing a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River while denying the Palestinians any right of self-determination. This vision lay at the heart of the Balfour Declaration, which was adopted into international law by the League of Nations. Despite their general defiance of international law, this is one piece of legislation that Trump and Netanyahu hold dear.

The Trump deal is a colonial project in both dictate and language and belongs to the 19th century. Its approach is riddled with inhumanity and affirms the concept that “might is right,” ignoring the progress made in respect to human rights and international law over the last century and especially after the two World Wars.

I would add that while the “Deal of the Century” appears to have cornered the Palestinians into submission and capitulation, this is not the case. The Palestinians are not without options, and there is light at the end of the tunnel:

  • Israel and Netanyahu in particular may be feeling very triumphant, but while they may have won a short-term victory, the long-term picture is not so rosy.
  • Demographics are not working in Israel’s favor. The Israeli Government will not be able to maintain its vision of “Greater Israel” without another expulsion of Palestinians, and the entire world should join the Palestinians in preventing this. The question remains whether the inflamed political situation in the Middle East could be exploited for such a purpose.
  • The Palestinians living in Israel are actively participating in what remains of Israeli democracy to secure equal rights and transform Israel into a democratic state for all its citizens. It is noteworthy that the Arab Joint List won 15 seats in the last elections, with approximately 20,000 Israeli Jews voting for it.
  • Israel is weakened by serious divisions among its Jewish majority, with growing internal rifts between secular and religious, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and among other Jewish ethnic groups.

Needless to say, Israeli democracy is crumbling. Three elections have failed to produce a government, and Netanyahu has managed to manipulate the democratic structure to gain control of the judiciary and the media. This does not augur well for Israel’s future.

The Trump plan is a big failure, and it will not survive as long as the Palestinians have the will to say “NO” and as long as there is the possibility of a joint struggle uniting the Palestinians and the progressive and democratic forces in Israel against fascism and racism. Universal human values will prevail.

A View From Israel

Susie Becher

There is little that I can say about the failings of the Trump “peace plan” that has not already been adequately covered in this edition of the Palestine-Israel Journal. The misnomer in the title is the word “peace,” but it is indeed a plan — not a plan to achieve peace but a plan to finally realize the Israeli right wing’s goal of annexing the West Bank and extinguishing any hope of creating a viable, sovereign Palestinian state.

Despite some wishy-washy statements by world leaders urging the Palestinians not to reject the plan out of hand and to consider it a basis for negotiations, no one who truly wants to see a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict believes that this scheme to eternalize Israeli domination of the Palestinian people can possibly get us there. Nowhere has Trump’s disdain for the State Department been more obvious than in his placing this complex issue in the hands of a bunch of inexperienced cronies whose arrogance is exceeded only by their ignorance. In fact, the plan Jared Kushner’s team came up with would be laughable were it merely a U.S. proposal put forward to the two sides for consideration. Were that the case, Israel would have welcomed it, the Palestinians would have rejected it, and it would have ended up on the trash heap of history.

The problem is that it is not a U.S. plan; it is a joint Israeli-U.S. production inspired by the messianic vision of restoring the biblical Land of Israel and drafted with no small amount of input from the Israeli settlement movement and its American supporters, primarily U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. And therein lies the rub.

As far as Trump is concerned, he delivered on his promise to present a peace plan and, after his photo op at the White House with Netanyahu at his side, his attention is now focused exclusively on November 2020. His handling (or mishandling) of the coronavirus crisis is further evidence of this, as he appears to be more interested in saving the U.S. economy — his key to reelection — than in saving American lives. Friedman, however, is still on the ground and is working closely with the Israelis to make sure that Israeli sovereignty is extended to the settlements before his term is up.

With the Israeli political opposition having been decimated through Netanyahu’s wizardry following the recent elections, the only chance of stopping this juggernaut rests with the international community. Although the release of the plan was met with rather lukewarm opposition and U.S. pressure succeeded in blocking a UN condemnation of the plan, that should not be seen as an indication of how the international community will react if annexation goes forward. The world will not accept the legitimization of Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands, not because of a moral imperative to defend the rights of the Palestinian people but because of its vested interest in the preservation of international law. It would be best if European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell spelled out exactly what he meant when he said that “steps towards annexation … would not go “unchallenged” before Israel dares to implement it. If threats do not prove sufficient to thwart Israel’s plans, however, it will be time to pull out the big guns and apply sanctions. Anything short of this will mean the end of the rule of law.