On Tuesday 28 January 2020, the White House finally released the much-anticipated so-called “peace plan”.
While its contents are unsurprising given the Trump administration’s previous pronouncements and the pro-settlement extremist team working on the plan, the extent of its farce and the audacity with which it was presented only add insult to injury for Palestinians.
Trump called the plan “a realistic two-state solution” although there’s nothing realistic about it, and called it a “win-win”, although it is not clear who else is winning other than the Israeli extremist camp.
The plan allows Israel to keep all of its illegal settlements, have Jerusalem as its undivided capital, annex large parts of the West Bank that it already controls, and control security inside the potential Palestinian state. This possible Palestinian state – contingent upon a list of Israeli security criteria – might be established after a four-year period but without sovereignty, military, or control over its borders.
In essence, the plan is a formalisation and official US endorsement of the already existing Israeli apartheid policies, also considered as war crimes. Needless to say, this is not a plan, nor is it for peace. It would be laughable, if it weren’t for the tragic impact it will have on Palestinian lives.
Despite Palestinian rejection, this proposal is consequential and can have very important and dangerous short and long-terms implications. Whereas this document can be easily dismissed as political theatrics and as a laughable unworkable proposal, its implications are significant and damaging.
1. Doing away with international law
In contravention with international law and United Nations resolutions, this proposal provides an official American stamp to further entrenching Israeli apartheid into a permanent normalised state, the formal bantustan-isation of Palestine, endorsing the capture of territory by force, and sustaining the disposition of the Palestinian people.
2. Normalising anti-Palestinian racism
To say that the proposal is biased or favourable to Israel, as have been widespread in the US media, is a gross understatement.
In addition to the exclusion of Palestinian voices and input, the entire document strips Palestinians of any agency, is full of condescending language, and reads like an Israeli document adopting extremist Israeli narratives to ensure the perpetual subjugation of Palestinians without any regard for Palestinian rights, history, or experiences.
In essence, the plan is a formalisation and official US endorsement of the already existing Israeli apartheid
The proposal adopts Israeli false narratives such as commending Israel for not destroying religious places, for its “withdrawal from Gaza” as a peace gesture, and withdrawing from 88 percent of land it captured in 1967, which the document claims Israel should not have to do.
Treating Palestinian as inferior subhumans, the language and framework strongly suggest that this conditional peace can only be made with Palestinians if they give up their rights, freedom, and dignity.
3. Presenting injustice as ‘realistic’
This plan takes Israeli violations of human rights and international law as acceptable facts, and presents reversing them as unrealistic. According to this plan, Israeli security is given priority over anything else, including Palestinian basic human rights let alone the safety and security of Palestinians, the populations who have suffered the most as victims of Israeli violence for decades.
The only concession asked of Israel is freezing settlement construction for four years while Palestinian statehood is being negotiated, without any consequences when it doesn’t. The Palestinian “state” on the other hand is conditional on impossible criteria, and if it ever materializes will remain under Israeli control, without sovereignty over its security, borders, air space, or territorial waters.
Israel retains full control of territory it illegally captured by force inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where the illegal apartheid wall is recognised as the new border. Palestinians will be concentrated in closed isolated bantustans, connected by tunnels, bridges, or roads, whereas fertile land, strategic areas, and water resources in the West Bank and all of East Jerusalem are officially annexed by Israel.
Palestinian refugees have no right to return or reparations. This supremacist plan redraws borders unilaterally, accepts war crimes as serious solutions to the conflict, and ensures the permanent subjugation of Palestinians under Israeli control, thus making a mockery of human rights.
4. Repackaging apartheid
The Trump administration’s attempt at peace makes good use of rosy and misleading language to mask its support for war crimes.
For example, the plan mentions East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State, but does not refer to the area along the 1967 line, but some neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem outside the Israeli-built wall.
Palestinians are expected to be happy to give up their rights and freedoms in return for economic development
Even the use of the concept of a “state” is misleading, as what is being proposed here is not much of a state. The plan describes the new Palestinian state as contiguous, but it clearly is not, connected only through a series of tunnels, bridges, and roads.
This euphemism is dangerous as it takes the core problems of the conflict and presents them as solutions. The reality remains that this plan changes absolutely nothing, it only exposes the real intentions of Israel and the Trump administration, and the existing apartheid reality is framed as a peace deal.
5. Rights for sale
The economic part of the plan comprises more than two thirds of the document, presented in a significantly more elaborate plan to “facilitate $50 billion in investments over 10 years”.
The fact that the economic section is given disproportionately more consideration is telling. Under this plan, Palestinians are expected to be happy to give up their rights and freedoms in return for economic development.
While it is not clear where the $50 billion will come from, the detailed proposals for improving the Palestinians’ economy and governance are not particularly novel, the main obstacle remains the Israeli occupation and military control, as Palestinian and international experts have argued for decades.
Despite these gross violations of human rights, international law, and UN resolutions, the Trump “peace plan” will likely take effect.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the press conference that, regardless of the Palestinian response, he will continue to build settlements and annex those areas recognised by the Trump plan as Israeli territory, and apply civilian law and formalise control over it.
As Palestinians remain powerless (and the Palestinian Authority ineffective, even counterproductive), Arab states continue to bow to Trump’s wishes, and European countries are incapable of anything more than empty rhetoric and condemnation, the prospects of this plan depend largely on the US presidential election.
The groundwork for this has been laid by successive US administrations and their policies towards Israel/Palestine, but 2020 will be consequential. While this plan sets new frames of reference that will be very difficult to walk back in the future, whether there will be a new administration in 2020 that can change this legacy of blind US support for Israeli violations that remains to be seen.