Trump's 'Deal of the Century' hijacked the international order. Here's how it can fight back

Trump's 'Deal of the Century' hijacked the international order. Here's how it can fight back
Comment: The PA and EU have a chance to reclaim an international order hijacked by Israeli obstructionism and American unpredictability, write Faysal and Nizar Mohamad.
7 min read
The 'peace' plan is a flagrant defiance of the international consensus on Palestinian statehood [Getty]
On 27 January, President Donald Trump announced his 'Deal of the Century', ostensibly aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In flagrant defiance of the international consensus on Palestinian statehood, the "peace plan" - a misnomer of the highest degree - showcased an attempt to formally legitimise Israel's occupation over Palestinian territories. It is a 'take-it-or-leave-it' deal that fundamentally denies Palestinians their right enshrined in international law, to self-determination and a state of their own.

Moreover, it reflects an architecture of exclusion cynically laid out by Jared Kushner, the Zionist presidential son-in-law and White House senior advisor, and designed to indefinitely subject Palestinians to the mercy of their oppressors.

But now that Israeli and American unilateralism has culminated in a plan void of all legality, this underlines the urgent need for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the European Union (EU) to pursue alternative options. So, what options lay at their disposal? 

In essence, the PA can pursue two courses of action. The first is to reinvigorate their struggle for international recognition. This begins with pivoting away from negotiating directly with Israel within the parameters of the long-deceased Oslo Accords, and towards a more assertive fight for their rights on the global stage, starting with a revitalised bid for statehood at the UN.

Against this backdrop, the PA should simultaneously bring forward legal cases against Israel at both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

As a first step, the EU must pressure Israel into accepting its responsibilities as an occupying power

There is a precedent for successful mobilisation in this domain. In 2004, the ICJ issued an opinio juris (advisory opinion) declaring the illegality of Israel's Separation Wall by citing the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Moreover, in 2015, Palestine was admitted to the ICC (Israel, revealingly, is not a member), and through the organisation has managed to open a probe into war crimes committed in the 2014 Gaza war and its aftermath.

Declaring a Palestinian state is consistent with multiple UN resolutions. From the 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, also known as General Assembly (GA) Resolution 181, to the Security Council (SC) Resolution 2334, which passed in 2016, contemporary support for Palestinian self-determination does indeed exist.

In context and provisions, the international community has long expressed its commitment - at least in theory - to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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So the Palestinians can legitimately argue that declaring statehood is 73 years overdue. Once a state is declared, it is expected to satisfy the two-thirds majority vote needed in the GA to refer it to the SC, where its rejection by an American veto is practically a forgone conclusion.

Even in the midst of a US veto, majority recognition could potentially empower the Palestinian leadership to make a case seeking protection from the UN - possibly bolstering its former calls for the deployment of an international peace keeping force. They could also push to displace American 'mediation' by seeking support from a joint coalition that includes Russia, China and the EU. However, this is predicated on the political will of these players to stand up to the US and to pressure Israel into compliance.

The second option is to facilitate a third intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation, an act of resistance legally afforded to occupied peoples under the Geneva Conventions. Currently, the PA, given its legacy of capitulation to Israeli diktat, is far from prepared for a durable confrontation with Israel, whose historic "special relationship" with the US has been heavily buttressed in light of the Trump administration's own unique sense of rejectionism.

But a third intifada would offer the Palestinian people a way to dismantle the current status quo by putting a price on Israel's intransigence. Additionally, support for such an action could help the PA mitigate the prospects of its perilous and repressive governance becoming a target of the movement. 

Dissolving security coordination with Israel in favour of supporting a large-scale peaceful protest movement could also help the PA save face with the Palestinian street, while challenging the current cost-free system of Israel's occupation - a system in which Israel subcontracts repression to the PA's  security forces, who effectively remove that burden from Israeli leadership.

Trump's tenure has made the EU much more vulnerable to American unilateralism

Given Israel's repressive practices, the road will be neither short nor bloodless. However, if the Palestinian citizens of Israel join the intifada, sustained pressure in the form of organised civil disobedience on both sides of the wall could mitigate Israel's recourse to extreme lethality. At the very least, such disruptions may finally compel the Israelis to return to the negotiating table, as it offers a vehicle through which Palestinians can raise the stakes for Israel's current sense of impunity.

The international community will also find it increasingly difficult to acquiesce under circumstances that may further ignite a region already steeped in instability. In the case that Israel's actions elicit a large-scale eruption on the Arab street, such a scenario could harm European interests in the region.

Should the EU decide to act, it in principle possesses the leverage needed to incentivise Israel to comply with international law. At US $40 billion, the EU is Israel's largest trading partner. Thirty-four percent of all Israeli exports go to Europe, and 40 percent of Israeli imports come from Europe. The EU can apply economic and political pressure on Israel until it abides by all relevant UN resolutions, and ceases all actions that undermine the establishment of a sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state.

As a first step, the EU must pressure Israel into accepting its responsibilities as an occupying power. These responsibilities are clearly defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has been adopted by 196 nations around the world.

Among other things, the Convention calls for the protection of civilians in war zones and the prohibition of unlawful appropriation of land and property by an occupying power, as is the case with 
Israel's settlements.

The European Court of Justice has already reaffirmed its opposition to Israeli settlements as well as the illegality of all Israeli economic activity occurring on occupied Palestinian land. 

On Wednesday, the UN human rights office listed 112 firms linked to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, some of which are domiciled in Europe. Applying punitive measures against these firms, which included corporate giants like Expedia, Airbnb, and Motorola, is one such route to apply pressure.


Should the EU decide to act, it in principle possesses the leverage needed to incentivise Israel to comply with international law

The EU can also choose to suspend its policing mission in the occupied Palestinian territories, also known as the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support, or EUPOL COPPS. Focused on police and justice sector reform, EUPOL COPPS has, since it was launched in 2006 under the Bush administration's Roadmap initiative, allocated millions annually towards building the institutions meant to belong to a future Palestinian state.

Israel, which wishes to see a cohesive police and security apparatus in the PA-administered areas of the West Bank capable of maintaining "calm" and "order", views these programes favourably.

Europe's historic relationship with the US is undergoing its most trying test yet. Trump's tenure has made the EU much more vulnerable to American unilateralism.

Since his election, Trump has openly ridiculed his European counterparts and suggested 
withdrawing troops from NATO.

Moreover, he has reneged on the Iran Nuclear Deal, recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, and declared Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as legal - all on the advice of the Israeli prime minister, who has also consistently campaigned on the rejection of Palestinian statehood, even demanding that the US 
sanction the ICC.

The Palestinian case offers the EU a chance to hedge its bets and reclaim an international order hijacked by Israeli obstructionism and American unpredictability, particularly in the era of Trump.

The leaders of the EU have multiple vehicles at their disposal should they decide to effect positive change. Whether or not the political will exists, however, is yet to be seen.

Nizar Mohamad is an MA student at the University of Waterloo where his research focuses on geopolitical trends in the Middle East's evolving security landscape. His thesis examines the mobilization of pro-government militias in Syria and Iraq, and he is currently co-authoring a chapter on Canadian foreign policy in the Middle East.

Follow him on Twitter: @NizarMohamad1

Faysal Abbas Mohamad is a retired Syrian-Canadian professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics. While living in Syria, he taught at the University of Tishrin, the Arab European University, and the University of Kalamoon. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada.

Follow him on Twitter:@fmohamad2

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.