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Trump’s Plan for Israel and Palestine Means Escalating War on the Palestinians

Shabbir Lakha: Trump's proposal for Israel and Palestine flies in the face of international law and actually marks the death of the two state solution

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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu talking at the White House on January 27th 2020


Donald Trump has now announced his so-called “Deal of the Century”, and just like the Britain in the early 20th century, he plans to give huge swathes of Palestinian land to the Israeli state. There is little doubt that the timing of the announcement, which ended up being an Israel love-fest, is in large part an attempt to boost Trump’s domestic popularity with Evangelicals, and Netanyahu’s in the face of corruption charges.

The “Deal”

Leaked documents relating to Trump’s plan from June last year and again earlier this week show that the centrepiece of the proposal is to officially recognise Israeli sovereignty over illegally built settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and legitimise the annexation of East Jerusalem. Both of these things are illegal under international law. When announcing the deal, Trump said, “under this vision, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital, undivided – that’s very important – undivided.”

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 from 1967 made it clear that the annexation of East Jerusalem was illegitimate and the Fourth Geneva Convention makes it illegal for an occupying power to transfer its population into occupied territory. Both of these clear violations of international law have never been enforced, and now Trump plans to give them legitimacy.

The linchpin of Israel’s case for its occupation (and expansion thereof) of Palestinian territories is that it has no formally declared border with Palestine. The separation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem from “Israel proper” is demarcated by the 1949 Armistice agreements, and Israel has ensured that any mention of borders is considered a final-status issue that was left out of the Oslo Accords and subsequent efforts under the badly named peace process.

“At this fatal hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the United States on a historic mission to design the permanent borders of Israel and ensure our safety for future generations...”

As Netanyahu’s statement earlier today indicated, he views this settlement as part of a process of formalising those borders, and indeed a map with formal borders has been agreed upon by Netanyahu and Trump – within occupied territories and therefore permanently burying any real concept of a Palestinian state.

The US proposal officially gives legitimacy to Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley – a huge part of the West Bank which conveniently contains one of the primary sources of groundwater in the region and is a heavily militarised zone that Palestinians are not allowed to enter. In anticipation of both US legitimacy of its occupation of the Jordan Valley and backlash from Palestinians, the IDF has today deployed an additional infantry battalion to the area.

What the deal means for Palestinians

It was clear from Jared Kushner’s economic proposals in June last year, that the US cares little about the implications of this plan on Palestinians. Almost none of the $50bn earmarked for investment to a new Palestinian state would actually go to Palestinians, but rather state actors and Israeli and other corporations. Worse still, the economic proposal failed to mention the occupation of Palestinians territories or illegal settlements, and failed to explain how the US would build an airport in a fragmented West Bank with no sovereignty or a bridge between the West Bank and the Gaza strip which is still under siege.

The Oslo Accords successfully removed territorial congruity from the West Bank by putting large sections under Israeli control. At the 2000 Camp David Summit, Israel’s proposal for the West Bank was to further entrench the cantonisation by creating isolated Palestinian areas separated by Israeli recognised territory. The plan was rejected, but through the creation of settlements, the Apartheid Wall, a vast network of Israeli-only roads and hundreds of checkpoints, Israel has already gone some way in implementing this.

But they have still faced obstacles to fully fragmenting the area. The Bedouin resistance in Khan Al Ahmar and Jabal El-Baba has so far stopped Israel from implanting the E1 project which would bifurcate the West Bank and create a direct link between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim (the biggest settlement in the West Bank). The lack of international legitimacy for illegal settlements has made it difficult for settler organisations to recruit people to come and settle in the West Bank at the levels they would like and the growth the of the global BDS movement has made it financially risky for companies to operate in settlements, or between settlements like for Veolia.

But Trump’s deal of the century could change all that. Since his decision to recognise the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, Netanyahu has ramped up house demolitions and settlement building in East Jerusalem and built the “Trump Heights settlement in the Golan Heights. Legitimising the bulk of Israeli settlements in the West Bank would give the Israeli state the green light to push even further.

The death of the two state solution

While claiming that this deal is a two state solution, Donald Trump clarified that no Palestinian state would exist until “the conditions for statehood are met”, and that this meant the elimination of “terrorism”. His claim of creating a capital for an independent Palestinian state in East Jerusalem is completely contradictory to his claim that an undivided Jerusalem will always be the capital of Israel.

Undeniably, this move is in actuality the final nail in the coffin of the two state solution. There is no Palestinian state that can exist if Israel annexes its settlements in the West Bank. Anecdotally, to give you an idea of the extent of settlements, when I was there last year I was using an Israeli sim card which should have no network coverage in Palestinian territories, but because every settlement has a mobile cell tower, I had full 4G basically everywhere in the West Bank apart from the very centre of Ramallah.

This is a very dangerous situation for Palestinians who are already suffering under barbaric military occupation. It will give Israel impunity to further encroach on their rights and freedoms in the most sadistic way, and will give licence to the Presidential candidates in the third election in a year to promise far more extreme measures against the Palestinians.

The main conclusion from my trip last year was that the situation is unsustainable. Something will have to give. The Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting in the Great Return March every Friday for over a year in the face of deliberate and deadly sniper fire that has killed hundreds and injured tens of thousands. The Palestinians in the West Bank have largely been held back by the Palestinian Authority whose primary focus is on negotiations with Israel has meant it has taken on the role of outsourced Israeli security against its own people. But with the imaginary carrot of a Palestinian state no longer dangling, their legitimacy starts to evaporate.

And with living conditions set to only get worse than they already are, Palestinians will resist. Already Palestinians have begun protesting across the West Bank and will no doubt be met with violence from the Israeli forces.

A leaked version of the deal stated that the United States would punish the Palestinian Authority with sanctions and would back an Israeli military offensive against Hamas if they rejected the deal. There are dark days ahead for Palestinians and all our solidarity is needed.

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