Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist.
During both leaders’ first meeting since the new United States administration took office, Trump repeatedly talked about the need for the Israelis and Palestinians to make peace but avoided mentioning the Palestinian leadership.
Apparently fearing the repercussions of Washington’s withdrawal of both support for the two-state solution and recognition of the legitimate Palestinian leadership, the US sent CIA chief Mike Pompeo to President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, February 14.
By sending the CIA chief rather than a political figure to visit President Abbas, the US is prioritising security issues – including joint security cooperation with Israelis – over the need to recognise Palestinian political and national aspirations.
‘Been there, tried that’
The US president’s naive comment on the two or one-state solution – saying he “can live with either one” – means Washington is likely to prolong the status quo of occupation.
Ever since the 1967 occupation, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly expressed the illegality of the occupation, as in the preamble of Resolution 242 “emphasising inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” (PDF).
By leaving the solution to the parties while, at the same time, politically bypassing the Palestinian leadership, the Trump administration is empowering the Israelis to dictate to the Palestinians any deal they want.
The sheer reality of the Israeli occupation and the absence of any political solution is a reflection of how Israel’s current tactics have not been producing any results for decades now.
The problem is that Trump and Netanyahu’s warm relationship and the former’s withdrawal of support for the two-state solution further weakens the US’ ability be an honest broker.
Hoping that Arab leaders will replace Palestinians and agree to make peace with Israel on behalf of Palestinians, is another mistaken proposal. As the saying goes, “been there, tried that”.
In the past, Arab leaders as well as Israeli and US leaders have tried to find an alternative leadership for Palestinians and have failed miserably.
For instance, Egypt and Jordan resisted pressures from Israel and the international community on who should represent the Palestinians in the 1970s, and in 1974 the Arab summit recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
|Netanyahu and Trump’s approach to the issue is pushing the region towards a more blatant and legalised form of apartheid in which the Palestinian majority in the occupied territories is stripped off their political rights while Jewish settlers enjoy full political and national rights.|
A similar attempt to undermine the Palestinian leadership took place in the 1980s in rural West Bank with the creation of an alternative to the PLO called the “Village Leagues”. This Israeli effort to alter the Palestinian leadership by appointing Palestinian collaborators also failed miserably.
The last time the US tried to bypass the Palestinians, it backfired spectacularly. Former US President George HW Bush – working with Secretary of State James Baker – pushed non-PLO Palestinian leaders to represent their people within a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation during the 1991 peace conference in Madrid. In response Israeli and PLO officials reached a secret deal in Oslo without the knowledge of Washington in 1993.
Netanyahu’s conditions to accept a two-state solution expressed in the Bar Ilan speech in 2009 have now an added element which negates the idea of an independent Palestinian state.
Dropping the commitment to a two-state solution virtually means a permanent presence of Israeli troops within the entire Palestinian territory.
Unless four million Palestinians become avid Zionists overnight, it is unlikely that they will accept and recognise a Jewish state while agreeing to live without the same political rights granted to Jews.
Netanyahu and Trump’s approach to the issue is pushing the region towards a more blatant and legalised form of apartheid in which the Palestinian majority in the occupied territories is stripped of their political rights while Jewish settlers enjoy full political and national rights.
The International Criminal Court describes this type of “institutionalised discrimination” as apartheid and sees it as a “crime against humanity”.
Moreover, the idea of a “grand deal” that includes Arab countries would similarly fail. Former US peace envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Martin Indyk referred to the idea as an “outside-in” approach.
Indyk’s proposal includes the idea of President Trump convening the leaders of the four Arab countries, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with the Quartet, made up of the European Union, the US, the UN, Russia, to announce “a set of agreed principles that would serve as the terms of reference to direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiation to achieve a two-state solution”.
Such a summit would certainly not produce the results that Netanyahu or Trump wants. The 2002 Arab peace plan is very clear that Arabs will only meet and normalise relations with Israel once Israel agrees to withdraw to the 1967 borders.
The Quartet – with the exception of US – would also reject Trump’s casual idea of giving up on the two-state solution.
If Trump and Netanyahu’s meetings are expected to produce a political breakthrough, they should bear one basic principle in mind: The art of a deal requires that the dealmaker is honest and neutral, and parties in the conflict recognise and involve with each other.
If what we saw in the White House press conference is an indication, this prerequisite doesn’t exist in the current US administration.
Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Palestinian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Palestinians Warn Trump over Endorsing ‘Apartheid’ One-State
The Palestinian Authority leadership sounded alarm over U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments endorsing a one-state solution during his meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying it would officially be an “apartheid” state against the Palestinian people.
Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said the two-state solution was already a hard-reached compromise as a basis for peaceful conflict resolution.
“(The two-state solution) represents a painful and historic Palestinian compromise of recognizing Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine,” he said. “Today, almost 6 million Palestinians live under Israeli control in all of historic Palestine, while almost 6 million Palestinians live in exile.”
Erekat added that what Netanyahu and his government officials want to achieve is “one state and two systems, apartheid.”
However, an “alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on all of historic Palestine,” he argued.
Trump met Netanyahu at the White House and the two reiterated their mutual support for one another. During a joint press conference, both leaders spoke of facilitating peace, but heavily criticized Palestine and Iran.
Trump said the U.S. will be working on peace “very, very diligently,” but “it is the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement,” later saying that both sides would need to make sacrifices to achieve peace.
The president, who referred to Netanyahu as “Bibi” throughout the press conference, said there is an “unbreakable bond” between the two countries. Trump said that he is open to both a one or two-state solution to peace, saying that he would be happy with whatever deal both sides are happy with.
Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s strong relationship with the U.S. and explained that his position on peace was the same as it has been for many years. He blamed Palestinians for stifling peace efforts and other Arab nations, as well as Iran, for targeting Israel. Trump said that he will “prevent Iran from ever developing, I mean ever, a nuclear weapon.”
Trump, almost verbatim to Netanyahu, said that Palestine was teaching its citizens from a young age to hate Israel and advocate its destruction.
When speaking of controversial Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, Trump casually turned to Netanyahu and said, “I would like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out.” The prime minister said that he was not interested in labels but rather substance.
Netanyahu and former President Barack Obama had an antagonistic relationship, despite ongoing U.S. support for Israel, and Netanyahu will be hoping for a clean slate with Trump. In December, the Obama administration abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, angering Netanyahu.
During his election campaign, Trump — like the majority of Republicans — was pro-Israeli. Shortly after his victory, Trump said regarding a peace deal between the two sides that, “as a dealmaker, I’d like to do … the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”
But a senior White House official said Tuesday that Trump would not try to “dictate a solution” and that peace did not necessarily involve Palestinian statehood. “Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that’s what the parties want, or something else. If that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them.”
The official, speaking to reporters on a condition of anonymity, said the leaders are also expected to focus on Iran. In January, Netanyahu said he would pressure Trump to renew sanctions against Iran. Trump has called the deal struck under Obama to curtail its nuclear program “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
Trump previously proposed to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from the state’s capital, Tel Aviv, to occupied Jerusalem, a call which many viewed as a provocation against the people of Palestine and a “war crime.”
Trump nominated David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel, a controversial figure who has defended illegal Israeli moves to expand the building of new housing settlements and a hard-right figure who has called liberal Jewish-Americans “worse than kapos,” a reference to the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II-era concentration camps.
Friedman has also rejected the two-state solution, which has long been a staple of U.S. foreign policy.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says when Israel, the only regime in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, “whines” about Iran’s defensive program, the brouhaha can only be taken as fake.
“The only regime in ME with nukes, ICBMs & a history of aggression whines about Iran’s means of defense. Fear-mongering hype IS fake news,” Zarif said in a post on his Twitter account late on Friday.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News that the regime and the US had a “grand mission” to confront what he claimed to be the threat of a nuclear Iran.
This came one day after Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump held a joint news conference, during which the latter termed the nuclear deal with Iran as “the worst” agreement ever and pledged to impose new sanctions on Iran to prevent the country from, according to him, developing a nuclear weapon.
Trump also described the alleged threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program as one of the “enormous” challenges facing Israel.
The claims about Iran’s nuclear program, which, following a historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, have been coming out of the mouths of the Israeli regime and the new US administration only, are largely ignored by the European and Asian powers that were involved in shaping the deal.
While Iran repeatedly said that it never pursued the building of nuclear weapons and that it only sought nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, the country agreed under the deal to apply expanded limits to its nuclear activities and provide enhanced access to international atomic monitors to its nuclear facilities.
That effectively removed the concerns of the Western countries that had been involved in a dispute with Iran over its nuclear program for over a decade. Thus, barring the new US administration, the parties to the nuclear deal with Iran have all been stressing that the deal must stand. The Israeli regime and the Trump administration, however, continue to cry foul.
Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi had denounced the anti-Iran claims as “a repetition of hollow and worthless allegations,” adding that Israel’s atomic weapons arsenal represented “the biggest threat to peace and security in the Middle East and the world.”
In a related development on Friday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed the importance of the nuclear deal, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
During separate meetings with Zarif and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Mogherini discussed the implementation of the nuclear deal.
Mogherini stressed that the JCPOA was “delivering on its objectives” and “reiterated the need for all sides to firmly stick to their commitments under” the accord.
She further underlined the need for “a full and effective implementation by all sides throughout the lifetime of the agreement.”
Iran and the P5+1 countries — the United States under its previous administration, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany — struck the JCPOA on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.
Under the agreement, and in return for the commitments made by Iran, all the nuclear-related sanctions against the Islamic Republic were terminated.