الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   16 نيسان 2020

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RUSHING TO CONCLUSIONS
هاني المصري

 "Some have rushed to the conclusion that the coronavirus epidemic has dealt a heavy or fatal blow to Trump's vision [of an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement]," notes leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps. 

This comes as no surprise. In the past, some have claimed that it was stillborn or has no chance of success (this is true in terms of any chance that the Palestinian people may accept it, but not in terms of the notion that its stipulations for liquidating Palestinian rights and gains will not be implemented, since the U.S. and Israel are already doing so and will continue to do so unless faced with material changes), or that the Palestinians will inevitably defeat it, as they have defeated previous conspiratorial initiatives and schemes. 

My guess is that Trump's vision has been frozen temporarily in some respects, and that it faces difficulties in the wake of the coronavirus fallout that render it no longer a priority. It will face much greater economic difficulties, especially as far as raising the pledged funds from several countries. That was never viable in the first place, and was proposed by way of misinformation and temptation, as evident from the fact that most of the proposed funds were loans that were not guaranteed to be provided, and the rest were private sector investments to be provided by unknown parties or grants that no one has committed to. Trump's 'vision' was frozen due to the [March] Israeli elections and the failure to form a new Israeli government to date as well as Israel and the U.S.'s preoccupation with dealing with the coronavirus epidemic.

But I would not advise anyone to bet on the above, even if the coronavirus continues to lay waste to the Israelis and the entire world, since the U.S./Israeli committee tasked with demarcating and drawing the annexation map is continuing to work despite the epidemic, and the Israeli government wants to add even more sites than depicted [in the Trump plan] for annexation. Most importantly, annexation was raised in the coalition negotiations between Kahol Lavan and Likud, ultimately approving annexation as part of the incoming emergency or national unity government's program.

If the negotiations to form a government do not succeed, Binyamin Netanyahu will have the opportunity to form a far-right government, along with three members of the Kahol Lavan coalition after it has broken apart into three blocs. But if Israel heads for a fourth round of elections, Netanyahu and the right-wing will have a better chance of winning than before, as various polls indicate, especially in light of the lack of an alternative after the presumed replacement [i.e. Gantz] has been [politically] destroyed. 

Those who claim that Trump's vision is dead, stillborn, or will inevitably die base their view on a number of grounds, some weak or negligible, and others serious.

One serious, yet disputable perspective, is that the Palestinian cause remains alive, and the fact that half the Palestinian people remain in their homeland is conclusive evidence of the failure and defeat of the Zionist movement's settler-colonialist project, which was founded on the slogan 'a land without a people for a people without a land', and on the goal of establishing Greater Israel as 'the nation of God's chosen people on the entire promised land.'

True, the Zionist project did not succeed in achieving all its goals, but it has managed to achieve a key part of them, first by establishing Israel on 78% of historic Palestine and securing international recognition, followed by Arab recognition from the largest Arab country, Egypt, after signing the [1979] Camp David treaty, and then from Palestine and Jordan after the signing of the [1993] Oslo Accords and [1994] Wadi Araba Treaty. Then came increasing Arab collective willingness to recognize Israel, as entailed by the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative, in exchange for full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. Although Israel did not withdraw, the ball of normalization with Israel continued to roll, to the extent that we now find a sort of pragmatic Arab/Israeli alliance being articulated under the banner of 'combatting the Iranian threat', which some Arabs now view as the main threat.

All these Arab developments are founded on the Arabs' defeat in the June 1967 war, when Israeli forces occupied the remainder of Palestine [that was not taken in 1948], the Sinai, and the Golan Heights. Then it legally and officially annexed the rest of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to Israel and is now preparing for further annexation after seizing large areas of land and established settlements with over 850,000 settlers. It has dismembered the West Bank, divided it into densely populated enclaves, separated the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, driven and facilitated the [Fatah/Hamas] split (which Palestinian parties also mainly contributed to), and it works to maintain and perpetuate it.

Plans are underway to annex the parts of the West Bank that include the Jordan Valley and the settlements and may be carried out this year before the U.S. elections. This is merely a new phase on the path to annexing all of Area C, which encompasses 60% of the 1967 territories. 

Nor will all this be the end. Zionist leaders are aware and plot and endeavor to implement the Zionist movement founders' plans to establish a purely Jewish state (i.e. with an overwhelming Jewish majority) where there is no place for Gentiles. Their plans include expelling and displacing more Palestinians in a timely manner, so they do not become a majority in the Jewish state. This is why Trump's vision involves annexing the 'triangle' [Arab towns in Israel near Green Line] to the PA, which will not be permitted to become a state despite its proposed name. It also involves removing and annexing more [East] Jerusalemites to Palestinian jurisdiction.

The important thing today is to determine precisely where the Palestinian cause and the people stand. We must realize that we are in a difficult, but not hopeless situation; we hold several important cards, and the region and the world are changing, and not in Israel's favor.

The Zionist movement did not win the war although it has won many battles. It did not succeed in eliminating the Palestinian cause, which is alive despite all the damage, losses, and defeats. It did not succeed in expelling half of the Palestinians from their homeland, or in persuading the Palestinians to raise the flag of surrender. They still believe in the righteousness of their cause, and are ready to continue the struggle, and are only encouraged to pursue it by the sight of many Israeli pitfalls and weakness at home and abroad.

With Donald Trump at the helm in the White House, it has become clear to many Zionists that they have a historic chance, which may be their last, and that it must be exploited to the fullest extent possible, especially since Trump's chances of winning a second term are doubtful after his failure in confronting the coronavirus epidemic, costing him all of his accomplishments. 

Therefore, Israeli leaders, writers, journalists, and research centers are calling to use the rest of his term to annex large parts of the West Bank now, wagering that he will support this, because he needs more support from the U.S. evangelical voters who are extreme in their support of Israel, and especially since his successor will be dealing with an intractable status quo and realities that are not easily overcome.

If Trump wins a second term, the path will be open for Israeli hardliners to achieve more of their expansionist and racist ambitions and goals. If he loses and Biden wins, the latter will be dealing with realities that are difficult to undo; even if he rejects them, this will not result in changing them. U.S. administrations have swallowed the steps Israel has taken unilaterally without U.S. recognition or approval, as with the decision to annex East Jerusalem, which Congress approved in 1995, i.e., many years after its implementation. 

Will the Palestinian response to the annexation step be similar to the weak response to Jerusalem's annexation and all the other steps taken in the run-up to rolling out Trump's vision, which was even worse than expected? In this case, will waiting and wagering on Biden beating Trump prevail on the Palestinian scene, or will there be a fundamentally different response based on relying on oneself instead of others, and that is proportional to the scale of the challenges and risks?

Quite frankly, for the most part, the indications and evidence so far do not augur well. The Palestinian split continues and grows deeper despite the epidemic, to the extent that there is apparently no longer any point to proposing the goal of unity or expending efforts in its pursuit. There is an increasing recognition that the split is liable to continue, and that both sides of it prioritize preserving what they have and are working to defeat their internal rival above all, and then secure more gains if possible, forgetting that it is the occupation and its expansionist, racist, and hostile schemes that threatens them and all Palestinians. 

The end of the road is not the current situation, but rather the establishment of a Jewish Greater Israel on all of Palestine that will not accommodate all these Palestinians. Therefore, the two authorities [the PA and Hamas] will need to offer further concessions to preserve their rule. The PA in the West Bank would have to end its political role, demand an end to the occupation and the embodiment of the state, and accept the Palestinian cause's liquidation under Trump's vision, or else efforts will be made to change it and replace it with another alternative. 

As for Hamas in Gaza, it would have to accept a long truce [with Israel] in exchange for merely easing the blockade and taking steps on the path to its containment, reaching the point of recognizing Israel and abiding by the rest of the known [Israeli] terms and conditions, and cease talking about eradicating Israel via armed resistance. Hamas's weapons would be relegated to protecting its authority and ensuring its survival, and to ensuring that understandings are adhered to, no more. Otherwise, it will face tightened blockade and military aggression.

The recipe for remedying the Palestinian situation is well-known and awaits those who will follow it: Articulating a comprehensive vision that gives rise to a unified strategy to end the split based on common ground, true, full partnership, and consensual democracy befitting the phase of democratic national liberation that the Palestinian people are experiencing. It must begin by defining the national project and restoring its standing, reviving the PLO, and changing the PA's functions, obligations, and budget. 

"So I have testified, as God as my witness," concludes Masri.

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