Analysis of Donald Trump’s proposed “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has followed a predictable pattern. Trump supporters have hailed it as a realistic attempt to bring peace to the region. His opponents say it is a means of distracting from his impeachment and helping his ally Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing multiple corruption charges himself.
What few seem to have considered is that anyone can draw up a Middle East peace deal on the back of an envelope. Whether it goes anywhere depends largely on who that person is. Apparently Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who seems to have little credibility in either the US or the rest of the world, was the main architect of this document. It is also being claimed by Trump as a personal victory, not a triumph of US diplomacy, which will hardly aid its acceptance.
So what is different about this latest dog’s breakfast of a proposal? Ask the people of Ukraine. Whatever side they are on in that conflict, they are aware of the difference between a genuine two-state solution and that being proposed by Trump. As indeed do the people of Cyprus, China and many other places.
You do not have a two-state solution when both states are created by, and dependent on, the same sponsor and that sponsor’s agenda. All you have is a two state problem – endless disputes over boundaries, limits of authority and how the two states will work together as supposedly independent units.
You have a two state solution when states separate voluntarily and choose their own path, even when that means different sponsors, “self-determination,” and interact as equals. That is exactly what the US is trying to prevent in Ukraine.
All Uncle Sam is interested in is creating dependent states which weaken each other by trying to be independent. As anyone who has heard American commentary on anything (politics, sport, and the arts) is aware, the US still thinks the world is all about itself, and its own agenda, and everyone else is just begging for its superior system to be imposed upon them. Once again, exactly the same as the Soviet Union once did, when the US was pretending to oppose it.
Divide and misrule
The US has invested a lot of money in a different two-state, or rather several state, solution – former Yugoslavia. The war which broke that state up is not usually listed as a “frozen conflict”, but as far as the Serbs are concerned, that is exactly what it is, precisely because the US model of a two-state solution was imposed upon that unfortunate country.
You would imagine that the US would have been desperate to free Yugoslavia and its constituent republics from the baleful influence of communism. After all, as in Ukraine, the Tudjman regime in Croatia was actively encouraged to enlist the support of violent neo-fascist groups, whose wartime atrocities were still fresh in many memories, on the grounds that they weren’t communists.
Prior to the Communist takeover, Yugoslavia had been administered as a unitary state containing a number of counties. Marshal Tito, of Croat and Slovene ancestry, realised that the Serbs, as the largest of the ethnic groups in his state, were also the greatest potential threat to his continued rule. So he chopped the country up into constituent republics allegedly reflecting its ethnic composition – but with a significant minority of Serbs forced to live in other republics, and the Serb republic itself further subdivided by “autonomous regions”.
As in other Communist states, the government once seen as idealistic soon became the common enemy. It maintained control by playing off one group against another within boundaries designed to create such conflicts. The Serbs couldn’t unite, because they were under too many jurisdictions. But they could complain about not being able to unite, provoke a reaction from republics not wanting to lose their land and authority, and everyone was too busy complaining about each other to combine against Tito.
When Yugoslavia collapsed, everyone with a grievance against their neighbours would have been pacified if they had been allowed to run their own affairs, within their own natural boundaries which were easily distinguished from census data, and left their neighbours alone to do the same. This was demonstrated in the case of Slovenia, the most ethnically homogenous of the Yugoslav republics, which separated with minimal disruption despite all the others wanting a greater share of its relative material prosperity.
But this sort of multi-state solution wasn’t acceptable to the US, for the same reason it wasn’t acceptable to Tito. It insisted that the artificial boundaries of Communist times, designed to cause conflict, must be respected. It protested about every actual or alleged Serb atrocity, whilst allowing armed Croats and Bosniaks to operate with impunity within “demilitarised zones”, even when Croats were fleeing their own government in larger numbers than any other group was fleeing any other government, anywhere.
Ultimately, the US got its way through force of arms. This in itself created grievances, and maintaining the Tito boundaries, in which “self-determination” only applies to one side, created even more. Even in Bosnia, where the communities do run their own affairs within their own boundaries, any development proposal falls flat because it inevitably discriminates against one side or another, and conflict breaks out again.
The same US also opposed the former Soviet republics becoming independent when they did because it wanted to control them through their new Soviet friends, as many, such as Georgia, quickly found. Internal conflict guaranteed by the US is the only sort of two-state solution the US recognises, designed to both increase dependence and weaken those states through their latent conflicts. This is more the policy of a frightened bully than a superpower, but repeat it often enough and everyone accepts it as standard.
All mouth and no clean underwear
Donald Trump is doubtless familiar with the saying “Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard”. Indeed, he probably regards this as an entrepreneurial skill, and prides himself on having it. So he knows very well what will happen if he really does try and implement this “peace plan.”
One of the main proposals is for Jerusalem to be recognised as Israel’s “undivided” capital – but areas to the east and north of it to be a potential Palestinian capital. So on the one hand he is saying that having Jerusalem as a capital is a great thing, on the other that the Palestinians are too dirty to have this great thing themselves.
One of the main complaints of Israel’s Palestinians is not simply the dispossession of their land but that they are treated as second class citizens in that land that is rightfully theirs. This solution rubs their noses in it, in both respects.
It will provoke Israel’s neighbours and threaten Israel’s own security to condemn the Palestinians to a second class capital of a state with limited sovereignty in the bits the Israelis don’t want. If the Palestinians had said they wanted this themselves, and previously lauded the virtues of the areas they wanted as their capital, this might have formed the basis of an acceptable plan. However, for the US to draw up such a plan and introduce this discriminatory provision is quite another, as Trump should know.
The plan goes further by proposing to recognise most Israeli settlements on the West Bank as part of Israel, whilst recognising desert areas near the Egyptian border as part of a future Palestinian state. This is blatant Apartheid of the type practiced in South Africa.
According to the National Party which introduced it, that system merely provided “separate development” for each racial group – a multi-state solution, ultimately with separate black “homelands” which South Africa regarded as independent states, but not anyone else.
In practice it was a means of entrenching white hegemony by creating a legal basis to provide non-whites with greatly inferior services, and ultimately kicking them out of the country into little dumps nobody else wanted.
This “solution” did not lead to peace in South Africa – armed rebellion broke out, international ostracism followed and eventually the whites themselves dismantled the system, though its legacy, and countering it, still hangs over South Africa today. Any peace proposal which treats Palestinians as second-class non-citizens in its terms is not a peace proposal at all, merely a recipe for further conflict with people branded as terrorists for being on the wrong side.
Before women in the United Kingdom were given the vote, those campaigning for this were divided into Suffragists, who tried to achieve it through the political system, and Suffragettes, who used any means necessary. The Suffragettes mounted a terror campaign including bombing, arson, assault and attempted murder to get its way, though they probably harmed their cause more than helping it as governments then as now do not admit to giving in to terrorism.
But few talk about this terror campaign now, because the cause which provoked it is regarded as justified: the Suffragettes are “freedom fighters”, not terrorists, in the present day. Furthermore, everyone has forgotten the Suffragists: the Suffragettes, the relatively small terrorist wing of the Women’s Movement of the day, are held up as its leaders and example.
These latest “Middle East peace proposals” will cement “terrorist organiations” as the sole face of the Palestinian cause, and make them “freedom fighters” to those currently concerned about terrorism. It will exclude Palestinians from any avenue of political influence, as their second class status will have been bestowed on them, as a gift, by the superpower. It will also encourage other militant groups in the region to seek justification for their actions by allying themselves with the same cause, no other way forward being possible.
All this has been happening for generations. But there is a big difference between self-definition of a terrorist as a freedom fighter, and a superpower entrenching the oppression they are fighting against, and leaving their people no other way to pursue their cause.
The War on Peace
Trump and Netanyahu are already taking the usual way out. If you don’t agree with every aspect of these proposals, you will be branded as a latter day Hitler, who is trying to deny that Israel has a right to exist.
If Israel does have a right to exist, as most people would agree, as they don’t know the history, it also has a right to a security which guarantees that existence. Ostensibly this is what “Middle East peace deals” are supposed to be about. We never hear about peace deals to protect Arabs from Israel. Middle East peace is exclusively about protecting Israel from its neighbours, in the accepted usage of the term.
Many of the problems Israel faces are blamed on it being surrounded by hostile neighbours. However, few are prepared to discuss why they are hostile. If it is the mere fact that Israel exists, this is simply Nazism transplanted, which should be dealt with as the German variety was. If there is another reason, nobody is engaging with that despite all the conflict it continues to cause.
Israel’s neighbours, often accused of being or harbouring terrorists, do not object to the existence of the Jewish State itself. The problem is not even that Palestine was dispossessed and wiped off the map to establish it. The problem is that it was Terrorism which created Israel, terrorism which sustains it and terrorism which threatens the existence of its neighbours.
When Menachen Begin attended previous “Middle East peace talks” at Leeds Castle in England, it was pointed out that he was still wanted by the British police for terrorist offences he had committed there as a youthful Zionist. Violence against Jewish soldiers and policemen in Palestine who were seen as collaborating with the British was one of the defining features of the Zionist movement, as was murders of Palestinian Arab civilians, or indiscriminate acts such as the King David Hotel bombing of 1946.
Though it is often argued that the British were determined to leave Palestine anyway, this terrorism both created the State of Israel and determined its form. Ever since, Israel has conducted the same crimes its neighbours are usually the first to be accused of: extending its boundaries by encroaching into other countries, setting up settlements of civilian occupation forces and using violence to further its claims for territory, security on its own terms and self-determination.
Israel can do this, other countries can’t. This is why its neighbours, faced with this imbalance of force and sympathy, are hostile to it when they would rather live alongside it in peace for their own benefit. It has a blank cheque, and signed by the US, and is held to a different standard,
Trump and Netanyahu think they can play the same card forever. But when it is too obvious what card you have, the other players soon learn how to use theirs.
Already the Ambassadors of several countries have state what this disgrace of a plan actually is. The UN position is well-know, and based on international law, however, all that is moot. But though once they would be afraid of taking on the US over Israel, they aren’t afraid of taking on Donald Trump, as this is merely the latest in a long line of stunts he has pulled to damage his own country’s standing in the international community for short term gains, and convenient distraction.
Ill-conceived and stillborn
This is a deal made between the Zionist regime and America. This is not a plan of peace of prosperity, but a plan of imposition and sanctions, awaiting another intifada.” – Hesameddin Ashena, Top Advisor to President Hassan Rouhanni
“The so-called “Vision for Peace” is simply the dream project of a bankruptcy-ridden real estate developer. But it is a nightmare for the region and the world.” – Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister
Trump is trying to put forth the perfect fairy tale, as if it’s a really positive initiative the fact that he’s putting both candidates, Ganz and Bibi, around a table. However, little is known to many about the plan – what will the destiny of Jerusalem? It is clear that the Americans have already made too many mistakes in the region; there are no clean hands in the negotiations.
How about the so-called right to return for Palestinian people?
Abu Mazen doesn’t want to be involved directly at least for now. I don’t think that overall Trump will be able to create the right context for him to participate, and for Palestinians they understand the REAL purpose of this deal – to legitimise a GREAT Land Grab.
I’m worried about Trump himself. It’s that the process comes during election time in Israel, and it’s one of the most complicated passages of its history and how the political winds of Trump Netanyahu – and combined, they make a perfect storm.
Even since the British washed their hand of Palestine and walked away from their mandate the proposed two state solutions has been something that has not only divided Jews and Palestinians but bled both sides.
The legacy of impasse and encroachment and annexation by Israel of Palestinian and Syrian Land has not only destabilized the Jewish State but the larger region and the world.
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.