By Dr. Daud Abdullah
“Tomorrow will look different — and tomorrow is very close.” So said Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahuin response to the just-concluded Paris conference on Middle East peace, which he denounced as “rigged”.
The Israeli leader sees a conspiracy under every bed, even those of his closest allies. Last month, he accused the Obama administration and British government of orchestrating UN Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Such colonization of occupied territory has been illegal for decades, but Netanyahu regards international law with contempt.
Now, though, he has turned on the French. By hosting the international conference they have, at their peril, crossed a red line. Netanyahu claims that the conference was “rigged by the Palestinians under French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances.” He is clearly now pinning his hopes on Donald Trump,who becomes the 45th President of the United States of America the end of this week. His hopes are well-placed; not only did Trump call on the Obama administration to veto the Security Council vote last month, but he also vowed in one of his famous tweets on 23 December that, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
Whereas government officials and civil society groups from more than 70 countries came together in Paris and affirmed their opposition to unilateral action by either party, Palestinian or Israeli, President-elect Trump has made it clear that he will consider Israel’s demands for the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, in defiance of international law. This bodes ill for any and all in the region.
Furthermore, as expected, Trump’s election has released a torrent of extremist rhetoric from the highest levels of the Israeli government. Minister of Education and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, along with other political leaders, wrote to Israel’s prime minister urging the annexation of the West Bank (which they call “Judea and Samaria”) and the amalgamation with Jordan of what remains of Palestine.
Their ambition is clearly to convince Trump to accept the proposition that “Jordan is Palestine”; this preposterous notion is nothing new. It is a Machiavellian scheme that has long been in circulation and may well return to the fore under the new US president. After all, there is a pro-Israel constituency in Washington which also advocates this idea. Elliott Abrams, for example, served as deputy national security adviser to George W Bush; he argues the point in the conclusion of his book Tested By Zion: “If Palestinians on both sides of the Jordan River became convinced that this formula would best provide security as well as decent, legitimate, efficient government, the taboo would slowly disappear.”
Accordingly, when — if —Israelis speak of “two states” today they must be called upon to explain in detail exactly what they mean. Nothing should be taken for granted. Once the massive West Bank colony-settlements of Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel are annexed to Israel, as is now proposed, that would account for 9 per cent of the occupied territory. The other, smaller settlements around Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, which Israel also wants to maintain control of, would account for another thirty eight per cent. Thus,in the best case scenario, the most that the Palestinians can even begin to hope to get is fifty-four per cent of the West Bank. In the event that this is what happens, the independent “State of Palestine” would thus come into being on a mere 11.8 per cent of historic Palestine. To put this in perspective, the 1947 UN Partition Plan — oft-cited as the international source of Israel’s legitimacy — allocated forty-six per cent of Palestine for an “Arab state” (even though the Palestinian Arabs owned ninety-six per cent of the land). Think of this when Netanyahu insists on more “concessions” from the Palestinians.
A state built on less than twelve per cent of Palestine may well be a solution of sorts, but it is clearly far from being a just one. As such, it does not carry with it any promise of peace and an end to the conflict. It is no wonder, therefore, that the direction of travel is now heading towards a federated Jordan-Palestinian state. The Palestinians and Jordanians have both rejected this out of hand, though; understandably, they insist that Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine.
Furthermore, one of the easily foreseeable outcomes of such machinations is that the annexation of the West Bank would lead to the expulsion of yet more Palestinians from their land; Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population would continue apace. The Israelis, it seems, want to realise their dream of “Greater Israel” at the expense of not only the Palestinians but also the neighbouring countries.
However appealing this may seem to some in the West who back Israel right or wrong, one question needs to be addressed. Just as Israeli politicians are demanding the international community to recognise their conquest of the West Bank, so too are they demanding similar recognition for their annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. Where will the Israeli land-grab end?
Given his penchant for showmanship and his ideological affinity with the Zionist project, President Trump may well bow to pressure and move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and endorse the annexation of 46 per cent of the West Bank for good measure, forcing the Jordanians and Palestinians to accept such a fait accompli. He should be under no doubt, however, that it will backfire on Israel and its allies in such a way that will undo all agreements with the Palestinians, not least the Oslo Accords.
The Palestinians and Jordanians have strong cards that they can use to upset the apple cart as Trump weighs up his options. There are calls within Fatah and the PLO to withdraw their recognition of Israel, for example. Similar calls can be heard in Jordan for the abrogation of the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty with Israel. They are not likely to materialise in the near future but neither is impossible if Israel continues with its brinkmanship.
Those who still insist on calling for a two-state solution must do a fact check and discern exactly what they are calling for. Netanyahu’s notion of “tomorrow” spells trouble, but not just for the Palestinians.
Beware the “two-state solution”.
– Dr. Daud Abdullah is the Director of Middle East Monitor (MEMO).