2017-02-23

End the occupation!

By: Daoud Kuttab

It is not entirely clear what the purpose of the casual comment on the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem made by US President Donald Trump during his press conference with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu was.
 
When commenting about the form that any “ultimate deal” would look like, he said he did not care whether it would be two states or one state as long as both parties agreed to the solution.
 
Up until now, Trump has not spoken or met with any Palestinian official, so the comment may have been geared more to what Israelis can live with, rather than what Palestinians aspire to.
 
Universally, the two-state solution represents what successive US administrations and UN resolutions have talked about: an independent contiguous Palestinian state roughly on the pre-1967 border alongside the state of Israel.
 
The idea will require some land swaps and creative solutions for the Jerusalem quandary and for how to connect the West Bank and Gaza, and an agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
 
The two-state solution is also the bedrock of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that Israel rejected without the Israeli public even discussing it.
 
The one-state solution, however, is an unknown idea.
 
Progressive Palestinians and a tiny Israeli minority would like to see Palestinians and Israelis live in a single country with equal rights.
 
But this is hardly what the Zionists want and it is certainly not how Jewish settlers, now the single biggest political force in the Israeli government, see things.
 
They see the one-state solution as one in which Israel selectively annexes the West Bank land to Israel without giving equal rights to the Palestinian majority.
 
This road leads to a legislative apartheid.
 
A de facto apartheid has existed for years, but this would make the discriminatory policy made infamous in South Africa and turned into a war crime by international treaties into a de jure reality.
 
Palestinians, as well as the two countries that have peace treaties with Israel, Egypt and Jordan, immediately rejected the unclear one-state idea and insisted that the only solution is two states.
 
Israelis also seem to realise that rejecting the two-state solution will not bode well in the long term for advocates of a national homeland for Jews.
 
Early Zionists had said they wanted a state as Jewish as France is French and Britain is British.
 
While it is sometimes helpful to shake up a dormant process, the problem in adding a new unknown to the political mix is that it could lead to even more delays and procrastinations.
 
When the Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was pushed to go to the 1991 Madrid peace conference, he told Israelis he will not make any concessions, that he will negotiate for 10 years without giving up anything.
 
Another Israeli government, led by Yitzhak Rabin, reached some deal with the PLO two years later, but Shamir’s words became the Palestinians’ nightmare.
 
Not only has Israel “negotiated” without giving up land for decades, but the number of illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories has more than tripled in the meantime.
 
The Trump idea of throwing a political grenade to shake up the peace talks could easily mean even longer procrastination as everyone debates what is meant by the one-state solution, while Jewish settlers and settlements increase.
 
It is true that Trump called on the Israeli prime minister to slow down on settlement expansion for a little while, but it is unclear whether the Israelis will heed his call.
 
While the region tries to read the tea leaves coming out of the Washington meeting, the idea that America will accept whatever solution the conflicting parties will agree to sounds logical, but is totally impractical.
 
Successive US administrations have said that they cannot want peace more than the parties, but such idea played into the hands of the powerful Israeli occupiers.
 
By resorting to unidentified final results of talks, the US is giving Israel green light to continue dragging talks forever without an end in sight.
 
Peace talks require a framework and accepted references. They also require respecting the two parties without any attempts to delegitimise one party or show blatant bias in favour of another.
 
If the US is uninterested or unwilling to help the parties by insisting on a basis for peace talks, it should step aside and allow a more honest peace broker to help the parties reach the coveted solution.
 
Whatever the results of the talks will be, it is important that they include an end to the inadmissible Israeli military occupation and the illegal settlement enterprise.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net