Hours before US President Donald Trump unveiled his “peace deal” for Israelis and Palestinians yesterday, Israeli journalist Eylon Levy tweeted that expectations should be lowered for the proposal. “Since nothing can ‘solve’ the conflict,” he wrote, “ask whether the plan ‘shrinks’ the conflict.
The occupation won’t end but it will grow smaller? Don’t ask whether the Palestinians will be free, ask whether they’ll be freer. Think on a more/less spectrum, not a dichotomy.”
Jewish Israeli journalist and editor of +972 magazine Edo Konrad responded: “Jim Crow won’t end, but will it grow smaller? Don’t ask whether the South Africans will be free, ask whether they’ll be freer.”
Levy’s writing speaks volumes about the mindset of many Israeli Jews, even those who consider themselves reasonable and anti-extremist.
Trump’s peace plan will please most Israeli Jews because they won’t need to change anything about their lives; their privileges will neither be jeopardised nor diminished. They will not need to curtail their speech or actions. They’ll be able to travel freely, cross borders and live under civilian rule. They will continue to be welcomed to international conferences and their battle-tested, occupation-enhancing technology embraced by ethno-states and despots around the world.
Palestinians will enjoy none of these “luxuries.”
Trump’s so-called peace deal offers few surprises for anybody who’s been following the trajectory of the White House in the last three years (and frankly, virtually all US Presidents for the last decades as there’s little new in this latest apartheid-endorsing plan).
Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the support of Israeli right-wing opposition leader (in name only) Benny Gantz, has unveiled the wet dream of evangelicals, the Israeli hard-right and the Israeli settler movement in one document.
All Israeli settlers will almost certainly remain in their homes, whether in fully developed colonies or hastily-erected outposts across the West Bank, and Israeli annexation will begin soon. Jerusalem will remain under complete Israeli control.
The fix is in, and Palestinians have no hope in receiving a just outcome of their legitimate claims. The Arab leaders will likely reject the plan publicly though are increasingly keen to embrace the Jewish state in their ideological war against Iran.
The European Union is hopelessly divided and increasingly populated by pro-Israel and pro-settler leaders so expect little more than a tersely worded statement from the more critical states, such as Belgium, but full-throated backing by Hungary and other like-minded nations. The UK is on-board.
The Palestinian Authority has already rejected the deal, and Hamas will follow suit.
Despite these realities, some hard-line Israeli settlers have rejected Trump’s plan. Pro-settler group Women in Green wrote that “The Land of Israel is the sole homeland of the Jewish people” and no Palestinians will ever be allowed to live freely on this territory.
This plan is not intended to bring peace or even please the Palestinians; none of them were invited to the White House announcement where far-right Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who’s dreamed of nuking the Iranian desert, sat in a room full of Islamophobes, warmongers, Arab haters and evangelical fanatics. That’s who’s driving Trump’s steal of the century.
As astute Israeli-American writer Maariv Zonszein tweeted when observing who was in the room listening to the speeches of Trump and Netanyahu: “Remember these images, of an Evangelical Zionist who believes in the Rapture and Second Coming that will annihilate Jews, in the middle of a room full of Jews, clapping on as the leader of the Jewish State nods on, pushing Zionist anti-Semitism.”
This is Christian Zionism on steroids, and it literally threatens the viability of the Palestinian people.
Voices of dissent exist in Israel, and they’re more important now than ever. Hagai El Ad, Executive Director of Btselem, wrote after Trump’s announcement: “what hasn’t changed today? Tomorrow, there will still be 14 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, five million of them Palestinian subjects who have no political rights. And all of us here, in one way or another, will remain under the rule of the same government in Jerusalem, a government that works relentlessly to advance the supremacy of one people at the expense of the other, while continually trampling its rights underfoot.
“And the future? What the Palestinians are being offered right now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts. But, the painful facts of today give rise to hope for the future, the only future that can genuinely offer peace. A future not based on supremacy for some and oppression for others, but on full equality, liberty, dignity, and rights for all.”
Today and tomorrow Bedouin villages will continue being demolished by Israel, Palestinian politicians will be demonised, and Palestinians in the Jordan Valley will keep on fighting for their lives without Israeli military or settler assaults.
Even if Trump is defeated this year, temper any expectations about what a Democratic president would deliver for the Palestinians (Joe Biden’s record is particularly troubling) though Bernie Sanders offers a glimmer of hope.
Is hope lost? Not at all. There’s a civil war in the US Jewish community around who or what represents modern Judaism, especially in relation to Israel, and this conflict will only intensify.
I welcome this wholeheartedly at a time when Washington is the only main player that could alter the dangerous status-quo in the Middle East and changing who speaks for Jews, and therefore influences US government Middle East policy, has the potential to seriously pressure Israel through withdrawing or ideally cutting “aid” entirely.
Palestinians have options to resist. They could and should end being Israel’s police force in the West Bank, crushing any dissent to Palestinian or Israeli rule. Jordan could end its peace deal with Israel. Israeli annexation will become increasingly difficult if the usually compliant Palestinian Authority gets tough (or collapses by choice or pressure).
Annexation means nothing less than apartheid being official Israeli state policy. Palestinians have a unique opportunity to unite against this injustice and push for one person, one vote, the only genuinely democratic outcome. They now have nothing left to lose and everything to gain.
Having lived and worked in the Middle East for many years, I know that Palestinians will never give up pushing for their rights, no matter what Trump, Netanyahu or Gantz try to throw in their faces.
Our responsibility is to show solidarity with their cause and reject the politics of dislocation, apartheid and permanent occupation. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy presented the options: “The world has two choices: It can recognize apartheid or it can support the one-democratic-state solution.”
As Trump and Netanyahu’s press conference ended in Washington, an instrumental rendition of “What a Wonderful World” played in the background while the assembled guests mingled and congratulated each other. The contempt shown towards the Palestinians was unmistakable.
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