If there was any doubt about the moribund state of the two-state paradigm in Palestine, the unveiling of the White House’s peace plan last month has put that doubt to rest. The “deal of the century,” put together by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt 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 plan is widely interpreted outside Israel and the White House as 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. The plan upends decades of diplomacy and legally rooted international support for two states in Palestine under UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
To many, Trump’s peace document comes across as 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.
Plan favors Israel
Critics see the document as 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 envisions a Palestinian state with limited political and territorial sovereignty. It 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 places the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli sovereignty and rejects Palestinian control of Islam’s sacred sanctuary of Haram al-Sharif.
What this means
As expected, the Palestinian National Authority, PA, in Ramallah has rejected the plan outright. Abbas has already indicated he is in the process of halting all intelligence and security cooperation with Israel. If this happens, the Israeli military will begin to assume a more visible role in areas A and B that were assigned to the authority under the Oslo accords back in 1993.
Most Arab leaders 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 have praised his effort – but not the actual plan.
A silver lining?
The Trump plan is a requiem to the two-state paradigm, but it also contains a silver lining for the region. The plan forces Arabs and Palestinians to face up to their decades-old hypocrisy about Palestine and the Palestinian cause. For years, many Arab leaders have extoled the Palestinianism of the conflict and their Palestinian “brethren” but refused to grant Palestinians visas to visit or work in Arab countries. They are no longer preoccupied with Palestine, which is receding to the back burner of Arab politics.
The aging Palestinian leadership has always claimed the two-state solution is the only way forward for the envisioned state, but more and more of them have come to believe such a fully sovereign state 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 right-wing governments and politicians have also made sure the two-state paradigm never materializes. Israeli settlements continue to expand, with nearly half a million settlers inhabiting the area today. This policy plus Arab hypocrisy have rendered the two-state solution a pipe dream.
Furthermore, Arab 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 preoccupied with Palestine.
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, made it very clear years ago 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.
Arab leaders and the international community should demand Israel grant the millions of Palestinians under its control Israeli identity cards and guarantee them basic human rights and freedoms. If the Palestinian people are denied their basic human rights, Israel will devolve into an apartheid state and be viewed as such by the international community, including Western countries and many American citizens. This is the only positive perspective I see about the White House peace plan.
Emile Nakhleh is research professor and director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at UNM and a former senior intelligence service officer at the CIA. A longer version was published on ResponsibleStatecraft.org.