Trump adminstration's 'Vision for Peace' in Israel/Palestine

The Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace”

The Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” is supposedly a plan to solve the question of Palestine. But as Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, points out, the deal doesn’t offer Palestinians a state but

a 21st century bantustan in the Middle East. The Palestinian statelet envisioned by the American plan would be scattered archipelagos of non-contiguous territory completely surrounded by Israel, with no external borders, no control over its airspace, no right to a military to defend its security, no geographic basis for a viable economy, no freedom of movement and with no ability to complain to international judicial forums against Israel or the United States.

Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO that has special consultative status with the UN, notes that the proposal “rewards Israel for its illegal colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) by allowing Israel to annex more territory, in flagrant violation of international law,” “reaffirms the United States’ unlawful recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…[and] unilaterally strips Palestinians of their claims to sovereignty.”

As B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, puts it, under this scheme,

Palestinians will not be able to exercise their right to self-determination and will continue to be completely dependent on Israel’s goodwill for their daily life, with no political rights and no way to influence their future. They will continue to be at the mercy of Israel’s draconian permit regime and need its consent for any construction or development. In this sense, not only does the plan fail to improve their predicament in any way, but, in fact, it leaves them worse off as it perpetuates the situation and gives it recognition.

The colonial ideologists in the US media have criticized the “Deal of the Century,” but suggested that, because the Palestinians are in a weak position, they should consider Trump’s terms of surrender.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times (1/28/20) argued that

while I understand why Palestinian leaders are denouncing this plan, they should nevertheless try to make some lemonade out of these Trump lemons. It’s not as if they have a lot of great options, and their resistance to the Israeli occupation has gotten them nowhere. Palestinian leaders have been feckless and divided for some time; they boycotted the design of this plan. Still, if I were them, I’d tell Trump, “Yes, but we will use this plan as a floor in negotiations with Israelis, not a ceiling.” They would surely gain a lot of US, Arab and European good will for trying that approach. What do they have to lose?

For Friedman, the solution to decades of Israeli oppression and dispossession is for Palestinians to “make some lemonade” out of the experience; the idea that Israel should stop oppressing and dispossessing them isn’t worthy of contemplation.

NYT: Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose
“Things rarely go well for those who try to live history backward,” Bret Stephens (New York Times1/30/20) lectures the Palestinians.

The Times’ Bret Stephens (1/30/20) took a similar position based on his reading of the last seven decades:

Nearly every time the Arab side said no, it wound up with less.

That was true after it rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which would have created a Palestinian state on a much larger footprint than the one that was left after Israel’s war of independence. It was true in 1967, after Jordan refused Israel’s entreaties not to attack, which resulted in the end of Jordanian rule in the West Bank.

It was true in 2000, when Syria rejected an Israeli offer to return the Golan Heights, which ultimately led to US recognition of Israeli sovereignty of that territory. It was true later the same year, after Yasir Arafat refused Israel’s offer of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, which led to two decades of terrorism, Palestinian civil war, the collapse of the Israeli peace camp and the situation we have now.

It’s in that pattern that the blunt rejection by Palestinian leaders of the Trump plan—the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced it as a “conspiracy deal”—should be seen. Refusal today will almost inevitably lead to getting less tomorrow.

Set aside that Stephens reveals—inadvertently, it seems—Israel’s expansionist zeal, and collapses the Palestinians and two Arab states with vastly different political systems and international positions into one amorphous blob called “the Arab side.” Stephens’ colonial apology is ahistorical gobbledygook:

  • He makes it sound unreasonable that “the Arab side” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan, but the plan was wildly unfair: Jewish people accounted for less than a third of the population of Palestine and owned less than 7% of the land, but were being given the majority of the territory.
  • Israel instigated the 1967 war with surprise attacks on the forces of the Arab countries, including an assault on the Jordanian air force, before Jordan undertook a military response.
  • Syria did not reject “an Israeli offer to return the Golan Heights” in 2000: those talks collapsed because no agreement was reached over such crucial issues as borders between Syria and Israel.
  • What Arafat was offered in 2000 was not a “state,” but limited sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza, crumbs for which he would have had to forsake the right of Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948.
  • Stephens also missed a crucial detail about the Palestinian civil war he mentioned, namely that it was US-orchestrated and -sponsored.
  • His reference to “two decades of terrorism” is vague, but this would have to include such episodes as Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge, during which Israel killed 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of them children, in easily the bloodiest affair in the last two decades in Israel/Palestine.

The point of these distortions is clear: to suggest that the intransigence of Palestinians, and of Arabs in general, is the reason a just peace hasn’t been achieved, and to blame Palestinians for their own oppression.

WaPo: The Trump peace plan is a squeeze play against the Palestinians. It might work.
David Ignatius (Washington Post , 1/28/20) to Palestinians: “If you reject this deal, as bad as you think it may be, what are you going to get instead?”

David Ignatius of the Washington Post (1/28/20) wrote that “Palestinian antagonism is understandable, but what alternative would they and their supporters propose?” Well, it so happens that the Palestinians have put forth precisely such a proposal in the form of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement, which makes three demands, all of which are grounded in international law: that Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, and dismantle the illegal annexation wall; that Israel grant full equality to the Palestinian citizens of Israel; and that Israel respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

An editorial in the New York Times (1/30/20) said that

This could well be “the last opportunity” for their own state that the Palestinians will ever have, as Mr. Trump warned, or at least the makings of the best deal they can expect. Given the plight of the Palestinian people and their historic claims to land, that may not be a just outcome, but it is perhaps becoming the realistic one. Outmaneuvered by successive Israeli governments, depleted, divided, disastrously led and at risk of being shrugged aside by some longtime Arab allies, the Palestinians are running out of options.

No law of physics dictates that “the best deal they can expect” the US to offer them in January 2020 must forever be the outer limit of Palestinians’ horizons of possibility. Popular organizing can and regularly does change political conditions. But mass Palestinian resistance, with a robust global solidarity campaign for their liberation, evidently isn’t the type of solution that interests the ideological gendarmes. The function is transparent: pretend that colonial larceny underwritten by the US empire is the only option available to Palestinians, and it’ll be harder for them to build support for a just outcome.

A similar media exercise involves partially endorsing aspects of the Trump plan while rejecting others, according to criteria that takes for granted US/Israeli domination of Palestinian lives and lands.

WaPo: Trump’s peace plan won’t have a chance unless Israel shows restraint on annexation
Washington Post (1/29/20): “Israel does not have an interest in having the Palestinians give up on their dream of statehood and aspiring instead to becoming voting citizens of Israel.”

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky—who worked together in the Obama administration when it vetoed the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN—wrote an article in the Washington Post (1/29/20) headlined “Trump’s Peace Plan Won’t Have a Chance Unless Israel Shows Restraint on Annexation,” a paraphrase of the piece’s last sentence: “Trump knows annexation can doom his prospects, and he should urge Israel to demonstrate restraint so the plan has a chance.” The authors are concerned that the “peace plan”—colonization plan would be more accurate—might not work, so Israel should show “restraint” on annexation rather than, say, altogether permanently stopping annexation of territory in violation of international law. In the same vein, the authors write that:

President Trump should use his good relationship with Netanyahu to tell him that he opposes any move to annex the territories now. Trump…has already stated that he expected an initial Palestinian rejection but was buying time so that Palestinians could reflect and see what could be gained by negotiating. How is there any such time if the Israelis move to annex now?

The repetition of the word “now” tells the whole story. According to Ross and Makovsky, annexation is not a problem per se, Israel just shouldn’t do it now. This is about goalpost shifting: Under the framework Ross and Makovsky put forth, all Israel has to do to be considered fair-minded peacemakers is pause its illegal land theft—and all the US has to do to be an honest broker is secure a temporary break in colonial thievery.

Friedman—who warned that Israel could soon “become” an apartheid state, a warning he’s been issuing since at least 2002 (FAIR.org4/26/19)—said that Trump should tell Netanyahu

that before Bibi extends Israeli law to all these West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, Trump wants one thing: an unequivocal public statement that Netanyahu accepts the fact that while Israel is getting East Jerusalem, more than 20% of the core West Bank, with all its settlements, plus the Jordan Valley, the remaining roughly 70% will become an independent Palestinian state, if Palestinians agree to all sorts of security requirements.

Trump needs to say to Netanyahu: “Bibi, you say that I am the most pro-Israel president to ever sit in the White House. This plan was written with your team. I have supported your maximum position—absorbing all the Jewish settlements into Israel and all of traditional Jerusalem, and with no return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Now I need to know, the Palestinians need to know, and the world needs to know, that this is not your new starting position. Will you agree right now that the remaining land will be a Palestinian state if the Palestinians agree to demilitarization and recognize Israel as a Jewish state? But if Netanyahu is allowed to evade that question, or turns Trump down with no consequences, then this whole thing truly is a farce — it’s just the new baseline for Netanyahu’s next West Bank land grab.

Within Friedman’s parameters, it’s acceptable to force Palestinians to demilitarize but not Israel, and for Palestinians to give up their right of return, while Israel gets 20% of the West Bank on top of the 78% of historic Palestine presently called “Israel.” To Friedman, the Trumpian approach would only become a problem if Israel were to insist that Palestinians get even fewer crumbs.

Friedman, furthermore, exemplified another recurring problem in the coverage:

Without Trump getting Netanyahu to definitively end his claims to all of the West Bank, and without Palestinian leaders able to reunite their disparate political factions in Gaza and the West Bank into a single body that can theoretically say “yes” to a fair outcome for their people, while also recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Trump’s Deal of the Century will join a century-old library of failed Middle East peace plans.

He presupposes ethnocracy in historic Palestine: In his view, it’s mandatory for Palestinians to accede to a state in historic Palestine based on religious identity. Having “a Jewish state” means second class status for non-Jewish persons who live there, presently 20% of the population, and maintaining a Jewish majority by denying Palestinians the right to return to their homes, a right afforded to them under international law. For Friedman, apparently a binational, democratic state would be illegitimate, though he does not deign to explain why.

Stephens, likewise, wrote: “Critics of Israeli policy often insist that a Palestinian state is necessary to preserve Israel as a Jewish democracy. True enough.” Ross and Makovsky made the same argument, contending that

Israel does not have an interest in having the Palestinians give up on their dream of statehood and aspiring instead to becoming voting citizens of Israel. This would undermine the Zionist rationale for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

That there could be a democracy across historic Palestine, rather than “a Jewish democracy” that necessitates keeping Palestinians from their homes and rendering Israeli Palestinians second-class citizens, is not a possibility Friedman, Stephens, or Ross and Makovsky entertain.

Along the same lines, Max Boot of the Washington Post (1/28/20) criticized the Trump plan for “damaging the long-term prospects for a two-state solution.” No explanation is offered as to why it’s not a valid option to have a single state across Israel/Palestine in which members of all ethno-religious groups have equal rights, an option establishment media have long disparaged or ignored (, 6/1/18).

That this coverage is written as though ethnic partition in Palestine were the only way to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict—rejecting without consideration the possibility of one person, one vote—is indicative of the intellectual prefects’ commitment to empire, racism and colonialism.

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