THE US APPROACH TO THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE
issue relating to Palestine is one of the many problems affecting
the Middle East. It is also one of the oldest issues and probably
the hardest to solve. Conflicts, terrorism, endless negotiations,
ignored deals and popular uprisings have entrenched the opposing
parties. A long trail of blood that, as time goes by, becomes more
difficult to unravel.
The current scenario is as follows:
- Israel is unwilling to concede anything, it continues to expand its settlements expropriating Palestinian lands regardless of the UN’s injunctions and with the US support to any violation guaranteed by its veto power at the Security Council. Israel’s military is strong, its government is run by the far right and its intention is to maintain its dominant role in the Middle East. Its only worry derives from Iranian expansionism in Syria and beyond. The Israelis are concerned by the Palestinians only because of the security threat that comes from the Gaza Strip.
- On the other hand, the Palestinian community is split between the National Palestinian Authority in Ramallah led by a weak President as is Abu Mazen, who’s negotiating power is next to zero, and the radical elements represented by Hamas in Gaza that continue to fuel the tensions with Israel through ongoing protests that cause numerous victims.
A lack of support
The Palestinian situation has worsened because even the Arab countries that once supported its cause (or rather exploited it) are now closer to Israel than to Palestine. Rather than promoting the rights of the Palestinians, Arabs are worried by the expanding Iranian sphere of influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They have no interest in supporting the Palestinian demands and entering into a collision course with Israel. In fact, they know the Israelis have the only army that could confront and possibly defeat Teheran. A marriage of convenience where disagreements from the past are not welcome.
Abandoned by everyone, the Palestinians only have two options left: to keep on fighting as is proposed by Hamas or to accept any solution that is imposed on them by a negotiation that does not care about what they have to say. It’s a choice between desperation and resignation.
This dead end for the Palestinians has been favored by the ruthless and undiplomatic stance of US President Donald Trump. After having designated his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his adviser on the Palestinian issue along chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt, Trump has decided to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. A break with the past associated with the concurrent decision to cut all funding to the Palestinians and to the UN agency tasked with delivering humanitarian aid to them, UNRWA.
The United States have chosen to stop being an impartial negotiator and to side with Israel. By doing so they have ceased to be super partes, fueled tensions in the talks and put the Palestinians with their back to the wall. Rather than a negotiator, Trump acted as a blackmailer.
The so-called US plan
For the past two years Donald Trump has claimed he is preparing a peace plan that should see the light by the end of 2018. A plan emphatically dubbed as “the plan of the century” that, according to Israeli news, should deliver its share of do’s and don’ts. A plan that has been negotiated with the Israeli government after contacts with Ramallah and that seems to address the coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians rather than solving territorial issues. Jerusalem capital of the Palestinian state has been taken off the table after the US decision to hand it over to Israel; the return of the refugees, the destruction of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, the respect of the boundaries of the Palestinian State as it was in 1967, the connection between Gaza and the West bank have all been sidelined.
Trump’s pragmatic approach doesn’t care about the principles and values associated with the Palestinian cause. He only talks money. Funds that should be provided to solve the problem and that should come from the Gulf countries. He’s allegedly offering a new capital for Palestine, in Qalqilya, in exchange for giving up any claims on Jerusalem. What Donald Trump forgets is the religious symbolism associated with Jerusalem.
Whatever the content, once the deal will be publicized the only option left to the Palestinians will be to accept or reject the proposal. The truth is the US President doesn’t care if the blackmailing of the Palestinians works or not. What he is after is the consensus of the Arab countries to his plan. What the Palestinians decide to do is irrelevant. If the Arab countries agree to the US initiative a major hurdle in their relationship with Israel will be removed. This also means that the fate of Palestine will not affect their liason with Tel Aviv anymore.
In other words, the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is a false flag to achieve another objective. And what the Palestinians choose will not influence the outcome.
Israel is the United States’ strategic partner in the Middle East and even more so now that Russia has stepped in in Syria and has increased its grip on the region. The decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem clearly goes in this direction, along with the support to the Israeli military.
demonstration in Bethlehem
The US exploits the situation in Gaza. Hamas is the ruler of the Strip after its landslide victory in the 2006 elections. And Hamas opposes the ANP and by doing so it weakens the negotiating position of Mahmoud Abbas. And this plays into the hands of those who want to diminish the role of the ANP.
Israel plays the same game. They would rather strike a deal with Hamas because of the turmoil along its southern borders than with the authorities in Ramallah. Furthermore, the Israelis know Iran supports Hamas. While Abu Mazen is trying to assert international law and universal self-determination principles, Hamas is more down to earth: sanctions that block essential goods, unemployment, economic crisis, a naval blockade, the lack of electricity and water, lack of hygiene and hospitals in meltdown. Two million people living in desperate conditions.
The ANP’s decision to block the funds for public servicemen in Gaza could backfire and push Hamas to negotiate with the Israelis rather than with Ramallah. The fact that Hamas is on the terror list of several countries is of little or no importance anymore.
Synergies for the American plan
The US are aware that it is not enough to have Israel at its side to solve the Palestinian issue. This is why they have decided to co-opt neighboring countries to its cause. Egypt is relevant on Gaza, since it contributes to the economic choking of the Strip. Cairo has its own reasons: Egyptian authorities fear that Palestinian radicals might merge with the ISIS groups that roam in the Sinai.
But there are also historical reasons: from 1948 and until the 1967 debacle, when Israel occupied the Strip, Egypt ruled over Gaza. The Palestinians took over in 1994 following the Oslo talks, but there are a number of Egyptian nationalists that still claim those territories.
The West Bank instead was part of Transjordan, the country ruled by the Hashemite kingdom after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. This was also occupied by the Israelis in 1967. Jordan has kept close ties with the West Bank and has provided economic support to the area. On another note: roughly half of all Jordanians – although no statistics exist on the topic for this very reason – are of Palestinian descent.
What the American plan seems to include is the provision to confederate the West Bank with Jordan and the Gaza Strip to Egypt. And adieu to Palestine.
The main question international observers are asking is whether this plan has any chance of success. It is hard to believe that the imposition of peace, whereby one of the two contenders takes the decisions, while the other is called in or forced to accept a deal, can bring a lasting solution. This is the case for the unilateralism of the US approach, as is for the Israeli de facto policy that has alienated any room for negotiations.
To think that the panacea for 60 years of conflict will come on the day that the United States propose to the Palestinian National Authority a make or break deal threatening to increase sanctions in case of a refusal is a mere fantasy. As the Arab Israeli citizens have realized when they turned overnight into second class people for them not being Jewish, so will the Palestinians share a similar fate if they are put under the rule of foreign countries.