FREE TO DO WHAT ISRAEL LIKES
The implication of the joint press conference of Binyamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, and what Trump said – that he does not insist on the so-called 'two-state' solution and will accept whatever the two sides may agree to – is that Israel has been given the freedom to do whatever it likes, perhaps only after coordinating with the White House for fear of the ensuing surprises and consequences," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Nothing was changed by Washington’s UN envoy’s subsequent affirmation of the U.S.'s adherence to the two-state solution, although it is studying other options. Nor is was it changed by Trump's talk of mutual concessions and of 'holding off a little' on settlements. This is only to sow dust in our eyes, for the facts show that Israel's leaders are competing with each other in producing schemes to annex all or parts of the West Bank and the Area-C territories.
Against this background, and every since Trump took office, the Israeli government has endorsed building more than six thousand new settlement units. It is also planning to authorize tens-of-thousands of other units without being denounced by the Trump administration. In fact, conflicting statements have been issued by administration officials to the effect that settlements are not an obstacle to peace, but that expanding settlements beyond their existing borders ‘may not be helpful’ in achieving peace since the area remaining [for a Palestinian state] is shrinking.
The warmth and strength of the U.S./Israeli relationship were manifest during the Netanyahu visit via the formation of bilateral committees regarding almost everything. These include a committee that will concern itself with normalizing Arab/Israeli relations (including economic relations); one on settlements; and another on the Palestinian economy, but without any political track and without involving the Palestinian side or even consulting with it.
It is true that the U.S.'s policy has yet to take final form. But one can 'judge a book by its cover.' And this 'cover' indicates that U.S./Israeli relations are even stronger than before despite the fact that they have previously enabled Israel to plant some 800 thousand settlers in the West Bank without facing any real American opposition. They have also transformed talk of the 'two-state solution' into a diversion that covers up the crime committed by successive Israeli governments – namely, that of the murder of this very same 'solution.' Nor have these successive governments buried that murdered solution properly by announcing that the Oslo Accords have been cancelled since they have long passed their date of expiry, because Israel wants the Palestinian side to continue to fulfill its commitments unilaterally.
What is new is that the Trump administration has revealed the true face of U.S. policy, which is not committed to the two-state solution in practice. And this may lead to this solution’s burial, not in order to pursue the single democratic state as some have imagined, but in order to smuggle through a ‘regional solution’ that is agreed with the Arabs and imposed on the Palestinians.
This regional solution is consistent with Netanyahu's precondition of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and continued Israeli security control West of the River Jordan. This is also consistent with Israel’s view that the Palestinians cannot accept a solution that does not include Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, and that calls for the involvement of the Arabs instead of them. And this would lead to a deal based on the following principle: An Arab/Israeli alliance against the Shiites, Iran and terrorism, in return for the Arabs' abandonment of the Palestinian cause.
Netanyahu has long been in pursuit of this regional solution as evident from his admission that it was he who called for the 'Aqaba meeting in which he participated along with the Egyptian president, the Jordanian monarch, and then U.S. secretary of state John Kerry [last year]. It was also he who rejected Kerry’s initiative, even though it satisfies a large part of Israeli demands, including recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu is also giving the impression that Israel has covered much ground on its way to establishing such an alliance. But he forgets that despite their terrible circumstances, and despite the belief held by some that priority must now go to confronting the Iranian threat rather than finding a solution for the Palestinian issue, the Arabs would find it very difficult to agree to a solution that would liquidate this cause. This would have major and serious consequences for any party that takes this line.
For one thing, forming an alliance with Israel, with the enormous threat to the Arabs that that would pose, and Arab help in liquidating the Palestinian cause with all that this means and implies especially in political and religious terms, would strengthen all the groups and forces opposed to the Arab rulers, including the takfiri, jihadi and terrorist groups.
For another, this would inflict grave harm for the Arab countries bordering Israel, especially Jordan, which fears that the liquidation of the Palestinian cause will come at its expense, by invoking views such as those that portray Jordan as the Palestinians' 'alternative homeland' because it is 'the embodiment of the Palestinian state, as Naftali Bennett and other Israeli leaders have said.
And for a third thing, despite the divisions in its political system, its weakness, sharp bilateral polarization, and its leaders' loss of direction, the Palestinian nation remains alive and continues to cling to its cause. It can launch new waves of resistance and an intifada that can change the entire rules of the game. This is something that the Palestinian leadership, despite its repeated threats, has not dared to do so far.
But having said all of this, if the U.S. clings to the two-state solution, it would be better or not as bad as abandoning it. The failure of the two-state solution via negotiations, proof of [Palestinian] good behavior, and the threats posed by 'Trump-ism', all call for a new and very different approach that proposes an urgent change in the game's rules. The new approach must be grounded in the realization that achieving national aims and rights goes via a struggle to change the balance of power, making the occupation costly for Israel and whoever backs it. This alone can pave the way to ending the occupation and establishing a sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital, or open up the horizon for the establishment of a single democratic state – which will never see the light of day except after the defeat and dismantlement of the racist, Zionist, colonialist regime of control.
The Palestinian leadership erred when it based all its policies on a wager on the U.S. and the so-called 'two-state solution.' It erred when it did not open up to other options, whereas Israel has never intended to establish a Palestinian state as evident from the fact that Netanyahu's acceptance of such a state in his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech was just a public relations exercise, and as clear from his excessive talk of the characteristics of that state and the impossible preconditions for recognizing it that no Palestinian leadership that truly represents that Palestinian people can accept.
Over the past ten years, the Palestinian leadership has pursued a policy in which it combined avoidance of confronting the occupation as much as possible even when necessary, with a refusal to accept Israel’s preconditions for a solution. This policy has led to terrible Palestinian losses and it is no longer possible to pursue it in light of the new developments and changes – especially after Trump has come to power in the U.S.
Now, the margin of maneuver is continuously narrowing. Therefore, the Palestinian leadership will either have to surrender to Israeli preconditions and diktats with or without an Arab cover; or it must prepare for an all-out confrontation with which it can transform the current situation into a new reality that allows for launching a political process that is capable of achieving the basic minimum of Palestinian rights.
What we see before us does not open up the horizon before a single democratic state, as some claim. The real prospects are for a racist colonial state that continuously expands, with the Palestinians gathered in heavily populated Bantustans. Meanwhile, these Bantustans will be severed from each other so as to force the Palestinians to accept conditions and requirements that do not permit the establishment of a state, even one with diminished sovereignty, or even self-rule with broad powers.
For Israel is ruled by leaders and parties that aim to establish Greater Israel by controlling all the land from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, expelling the largest number of [Palestinian] inhabitants possible, and by pushing those who remain into Bantustans.
"And it will continue to do so until the appropriate moment arises to force them out and expel them to Jordan and Sinai, using Bennett's pretext that there are already two Palestinian states, one in Gaza and the other in Jordan," concludes Masri.