By Baria Alamuddin
Taking a random district in the West Bank and calling it Al-Quds is no more a magical method for conjuring up a capital city than taking a swath of the Amazon jungle and calling it London.
Circling an area of the Negev desert on a map and writing “agricultural” over the top doesn’t miraculously make the sands bloom into irrigated gardens to eternally nourish the inhabitants of Gaza.
Boasting about state-of-the-art road systems, customs facilities, hospitals, and an underground tunnel connecting Gaza to the West Bank is all very nice. But given that these pledges rely on still-unconfirmed foreign donors, Jared Kushner could have promised gold-plated pavements and diamond-studded street lighting.
Previous peace plans necessitated that the wild-eyed Zionist fanatics in dozens of tiny settlement “outposts” would be sent packing back to Israel. Kushner’s plan not only gives them the right to remain, but Palestinian lands are dissected to accommodate roads and supporting infrastructure for even the most remote and provocative locations. The map provided with the plan is sufficiently vague to allow settlers to carve out additional kilometers of “natural growth.” It is difficult to imagine a bigger incentive for settlers to inaugurate hundreds of new sites, hoping that a future US president may give the nod to additional “facts on the ground.”
As well as announcing the severance of security contacts with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was right to respond with “a thousand no’s,” given Benjamin Netanyahu’s inflexibility over the fundamental issues. Fruitful negotiations require at least some shared consensus on the parameters for discussion. The deal was also angrily rejected in states circling Israel, where about 1.5 million Palestinian refugees reside. The cancelation of refugees’ right of return is just one of the issues that will have long-term consequences for these nations.
The deal’s promised incentives are dependent on Palestinians agreeing to the wholesale theft of their territories, and disarming of all militant groups. Based on previous precedents, even if Palestinians bent over backwards to do everything they were told, Israel could still exploit flimsy security pretexts to permanently obstruct the implementation of plans for industrial zones, connecting roads and other infrastructure.
The global media almost universally acknowledged that this deal offers Israel everything, while being a nonstarter for the Palestinians and trampling on the religious rights of the millions of Christians and Muslims who venerate the many holy sites in these territories. The Economist described Donald Trump’s deal as the “steal of the century,” noting that the new Palestinian “capital” amounted to a “few grim neighborhoods, such as Abu Dis and Shuafat, that sit on the other side of a hulking concrete separation barrier.”
It is easy to dismiss Trump’s proposals as a meaningless sideshow concocted by two deeply problematic leaders drowning in corruption allegations. The nauseating adoring gazes, back-slapping and effusive compliments with which this incestuously negotiated travesty was launched say everything we need to know about its intended beneficiaries.
However, with Netanyahu rushing to annex the immense territorial concessions carved from the occupied Jordan Valley, West Bank, Jerusalem and Golan Heights, we shouldn’t be in denial that this is a catastrophic game-changer; representing the demise of three decades of post-Oslo relative consensus over the parameters of a two-state deal. Future, more enlightened, US presidents will have to expend almost unconceivable political capital in rowing back on Trump’s sovereignty giveaways.
The deal’s promised incentives are dependent on Palestinians agreeing to the wholesale theft of their territories.
The Arab League issued a stronger-than-expected statement, unanimously rejecting Trump’s proposals, “which fail to address the bare minimum of the Palestinian people’s aspirations and rights, while violating established parameters of the peace process enshrined in international law and relevant UN resolutions.” The UN and EU have likewise emphasized the necessity of compliance with UN resolutions. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed none of these reservations, urging Palestinians to engage with the plan, although his foreign secretary later expressed “concerns” that Israel was rushing ahead to annex much of the West Bank.
A deal that is so fundamentally at odds with international law is only possible because of the carnage that leaders like Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have wreaked upon mechanisms of international justice and conflict resolution. Putin and Xi have gridlocked the UN Security Council, while Trump’s acolytes advocate an absolutist model of presidential power that rejects all legal constraints.
This is also visible in Narendra Modi’s heavy-handed addressing of the Kashmir question and other issues of religious and citizenship rights in India; China’s internment of more than 1 million Uighur citizens; Bashar Assad’s continued genocidal campaigns; Iran’s paramilitary expansionism; and Myanmar’s purges of the Rohingya. Nobody is awaiting serious international efforts to address these injustices and, in the absence of any reassertion of the primacy of international law, these examples will proliferate.
Nobody is happier than the likes of Daesh and Iran, which are using their many media organs to agitate against this deal. Trump and Netanyahu play into the terrorist narrative of betraying prospects for a dignified peace. Just as Al-Qaeda exploited Muslim outrage over Jerusalem, these fundamental injustices provide copious lighter fuel for the decades of violence and terrorism to come.
Kushner boasts that, for the first time, Netanyahu has committed to a two-state proposal. Why? Because this isn’t a two-state solution. The envisaged Palestinian entity (which won’t ever see daylight) lacks any trappings of statehood: Sovereignty, contiguous territories, a capital, control of borders, armed forces, etc. However, the deal also (for now) blocks the drift toward a one-state solution, in which Palestinians could enjoy fair political representation. These proposals thus represent neither a one nor a two-state solution, but instead are a recipe for apartheid.
US and Israeli experts are also describing these proposals as creating apartheid Bantustans. Israeli rights group B’Tselem warned of the consequences of Palestinians being “relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives.”
Trump and Netanyahu’s blueprint for apartheid is only sustainable as long as Israel enjoys military supremacy, underpinned by billions of dollars of US support; as long as there are no sustained mass uprisings by Palestinians; and in the absence of consolidated international pressure.
Nearly 6 million Arab citizens throughout Palestine aren’t going anywhere. These proposals address neither their grievances nor their statehood aspirations. By killing off the Oslo parameters with proposals premised on ethnic cleansing and apartheid, Kushner and Netanyahu will force Palestinian national aspirations to be expressed within new guises. For those of us who have lived through multiple historic bouts of bloodletting and conflict, we can only view the future with extreme dread.
Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
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