A One-Sided Power Play For A Zero-Sum Peace Plan
With Trump’s impeachment trial and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption charges as the backdrop, the US president finally unveiled his long-awaited scheme for Israel and Palestine. President Trump has repeatedly made his biased position apparent and so the announcement on the 28th January 2020 could have somewhat been expected. However, the extent of the weightedness was shocking as the two leaders unveiled the unilateral plans that principally involve all the most forceful Isreali proposals.
For Palestinians, their worst fears were confirmed: plans for isolated Palestinian cantons adjoined by bridges and tunnels, with the assumption that all of Area C in the West Bank (the majority of its land and also where Israeli settlements are located) would be annexed to Israel, including the Jordan Valley, the breadbasket of the West Bank(Hatuqa, 2020).
Conflict has been plaguing the region since it’s conception as the opposing sides battle for what they believe is theirs and with such a mentality so heavily ingrained there is very little hope for the situation to escape the politics of power. What seems like every political interaction is reduced to zero-sum bargaining within this so called ‘two-state solution’. But while the Palestinians have very little in the way of a political voice, the Israelis occupy the main positions of government and are backed by powerful external forces, such as the US.
The End of the Two-State Solution
While the two-state plan was initially successful, characterised by a somewhat mutual recognition of legitimacy, Israel has been incessant in its encroachment into the Palestinian territory laid out by the Oslo Accords:
The size of the settlement enterprise today is four times what it was when Oslo was signed: it has grown from around 100,000 settlements in 1993 to more than 400,000 (not including East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip) today(Shinaki, 2018).
These land grabs, predominantly upheld as illegal under international law, are the main grievance of the Palestinians. Their approval of the two-state solution has dissipated because of it, along with their faith in diplomacy. With such hopelessness comes the continuation of politics by other means—terrorist violence. Trump’s plan is an impiratur for Israel’s conquest into palestine and with it, the Zionist leadership could justify further annexation of the Palestine’s territitory (Tharoor, 2020). This spells the beginning of the end for the two-state solution, heavily shifting the balance in favour of the extremist right-wing policies of Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
With the help of Washington, Israel has gathered enough power to do what it wants with nobody willing or able to enforce international law. The fact is that Israel will continue infringing on Palestine so long as it can, like Munayyar noted before the new plan was unveiled:
as [Trump] and his team have approved a right-wing Israeli wish list aimed at a one-state outcome—but one that will enshrine Israeli dominance over Palestinian subjects, not one that will grant the parties equal rights(2019).
It seems the future for palestine is bleak, particularly if it remains hopelessly tied to the deficient two-state solution. The new plan is fundamentally a colonial ratification of the status-quo, enforcing Israel’s occupancy and dominance over Palestine.
At a meeting of the Arab League in Ciaro on the 1st February 2020 where Arab leaders weighed in on the proposal, Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas officially cut ties with Israel and the US, reportedly ending security measures to combat extremism (Al Jazeera, 2020). The Gulf States largely remained on the fence largely due to geopolitical worries revolving around Iran and the strategic importance of the US in combating the threat. In spite of this, there was visible outrage amongst Arab Ministers, with one claiming: Mr Trump’s plan was the culmination of “unilateral and unjust decisions by the US” (Selah, 2020). The loss of diplomatic communication is the first big casualty of the US’s ‘peace plan’ and it will likely mean a spike in terrorism due to the loss of security intelligence.
The Possibility of a Positive Outcome?
With this new revelation comes an opportunity to finally kill the system that was doomed to fail and work to build a single state. A one-state solution would have to be characterised by universal rights, enshrined in a constitution and upheld by a legal system. This would replace the inconsistent set of laws that embody the inequalities of the region today and instead recognise the plight of both Israelis and Palestinians. In addition, there would be a necessary peacebuilding element, involving justice seeking commissions for each side, repatriation of refugees and an otherwise reconciliatory element to facilitate the transition.
Despite such seeming implausibility, this is the only way forward for both sides now. The UN has attempted many resolutions to stop the Israeli state-building campaign, all have failed and Palestinians have very little left to lose. On the other hand, the current scenario is the Middle-East’s version of appartheid and if Israel continues it risks becoming an outcast of the international community (Munayyar, 2019). What is now a wretched shell of democracy could shift to a genuine one that benefits both sides. But the foundational issue with the two-state solution is that progress within its parameters would mean a loss of control for Israel. Despite the democratic rhetoric and what seems like endless negotiations, the Israeli leadership fails to see the possibility of a win-win. There is never a move beyond the framework of negative-sum positioning and this is all for reasons outlined earlier, there isn’t a need. Unless both sides learn to settle for equality, one side will always be pushed out.
Excerpt: The Dead Cat Leviathan
With an impeachment process looming in the background, Trump has shifted the attention away from prosecution and onto his Middle-East agenda, and rather successfully in fact. Public relations efforts in this style are well recognised by political analysts as he has been using such spin since even before he was elected. As Milbank proclaimed in 2017, a great sum of Trump’s success is owed to his ability to distract the masses. The tactic is simple: constantly keep the media on its toes, never letting the headlines take a grip by the use of what are known as dead-cats: a hypothetical decaying animal placed on a conference table to change the topic of discussion to anything but the issue in play. Nevertheless, there are very real affairs at hand and as Milbank stated in his argument: “We gape at dead cats, but the wolf is at the door” (2017). This goes beyond the regular political smoke-and-mirrors, Trump evades the powers of democracy with these efforts. While the impeachment trial is still ongoing, it slowly fades in the memory only to be replaced by the next big story. And so President Trump became the leviathan of dead cats.
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