Trump’s deal for Palestine: the case against compromise
With much pomp and show Donald Trump has unveiled a new plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. While heralded as the ‘deal of the century’ and tacitly supported throughout the Anglosphere, the plan has been rejected by all Palestinian factions and pronounced dead at the scene by commentators and policymakers throughout the world.
Some voices have called for pragmatism and compromise. Writing for the Telegraph, for instance, Mark Almond has called the Palestinians to ‘swallow their pride’ and accept a deal that is better than perpetuating a fruitless struggle. Palestine, he argues, is cash-strapped and has no powerful allies. The deal, while imperfect, is the clearest way out of a vicious cycle of dashed hopes, oppression and bloodshed.
Yet closer examination reveals why Trump’s deal is not only unjust and unsatisfactory but leaves the Palestinians worse off than the status quo.
Under its terms, Israeli territory would be vastly expanded. Israel would annex the Jordan Valley – the breadbasket of historic Palestine – and its sovereignty over the West Bank settlements would be recognised in undisguised violation of international law. The only restriction imposed on Israel is a four-year moratorium on building settlements – settlements which are illegal anyway.
The Palestinians would have to relinquish all hope of statehood of any consequence in exchange for what is essentially a $50 billion bribe and limited sovereignty on discontinuous scraps of their historic homeland. Along with the prospect of a capital city in East Jerusalem, the Palestinians would lose guardianship of the coveted al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian refugees would be stripped of their rights whereas Palestinians residing in Israel would effectively remain second-class citizens, since Israeli legislation upholds the right to national self-determination for Jews and Jews only. Hamas, meanwhile, is expected to disarm unilaterally and any future Palestinian state would have to permit the Israeli Defence Force to operate on its sovereign territory.
In some respects, the deal is reminiscent of the ultimatum issued to Serbia in 1914. Much like the leadership of Austria-Hungary and Imperial Germany, Trump and Netanyahu have no real interest in peace and do not expect their proposals to be satisfactory.
As many have noted, both men are struggling to stay afloat, facing impeachment and corruption charges respectively. In true spirit of Hans Ulrich-Wehler’s concept of social imperialism, both seek to redirect domestic forces for change into foreign policy adventures. Trump is appealing to his fundamentalist Christian electoral base whereas Netanyahu is banking on the support of the far-right to keep him out of prison.
The two leaders are also seeking to change the status quo in the Middle East, taking away the legal rights and bargaining power of the Palestinian people. The plan will create the legal framework for further Israeli encroachment upon their land and will ensure that Israel retains its domination over the Palestinians while washing its hands of responsibility for their welfare.
The plan is also likely to cause backlash and fuel extremism in a region already ravaged by years of war. This may in turn provide a convenient pretext for Israeli military reprisals. Surrounding Arab states will be forced to extend citizenship to Palestinian refugees, potentially causing domestic upheaval.
This is no time for false pride. It is true that Israel and its Western backers are unlikely to right all past wrongs and the Palestinian leadership may well have to accept a deal that fails to compensate their people for past injustices.
Yet accepting Trump’s proposals would be tantamount to formally acceding to an apartheid system and transforming Palestinian territory into an Israeli protectorate with no hope for improvement. The Palestinians are completely justified in their decision to reject proposals that were never intended as a route to peace.