Trump's one-state solution won't be an equal-rights one

Trump's one-state solution won't be an equal-rights one
Comment: If you think Trump may take a progressive direction on Palestinian rights, you're sorely mistaken, writes Sam Hamad.
7 min read
21 Feb, 2017
Trump is the first US president to openly endorse moving the embassy to Jersualem [Getty]

Speaking at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it was in his characteristically unlettered style that President Trump rescinded more than two decades of US policy when it comes to supporting a Palestinian state.

At least, that's what it sounded like he was doing. 

While some would have you believe that Trump just endorsed a one-state solution, he said, in fact, for the first time in the history of US involvement in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, that his administration had no preference to the geographical logistics of any potential peace deal. 

In other words, Trump could still support a two-state solution, but his statement last week was simply him rescinding the consensus of international law and the international community when it came to the specific nature of a Palestinian state.

Let us remind ourselves what that consensus is - a state comprising the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza.

In modern times, with the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank since June 1967, international law has worked off a series of UN resolutions relating to the "peaceful settlement on the question of Palestine", which calls for Israel to return to its pre-June 1967 borders. 

This underlines that the entirety of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as Gaza, from which the Israel military withdrew in 2005, dismantling its illegal settlements as it went, but which it has controlled by siege and military dominance ever since, belongs to the Palestinians and ought to be the basis of a sovereign, fully autonomous Palestinian state. 

Not one square inch of these territories legally belongs to Israel.

This is the consensus that Donald Trump has just ripped up.

Of course, the US has, under every president since the official "peace process" began, always played a subversive role when it came to implementing a two-state solution based on this legal consensus. 

While it has attempted to depict itself as a neutral arbiter, one hardly needs to delve into conspiracy to understand that its biases always lay with Israel. It was never about justice for the Palestinians or implementing the law, but rather attempting to pressure the Palestinians into accepting unjust Israeli demands.

It's not unreasonable to see the "peace process", beginning with the Oslo Accords, as an annexation process whereby Israel would continue to either reject Palestinian deals or offer deals that they knew the Palestinians could not accept. 

None of this means Trump's new policy is a progressive development from a Palestinian perspective - his rejection of the international consensus ought to be terrifying

All the while, Israel has been eating up the West Bank with settlements; thus, making the implementation of a just two-state solution that much harder to achieve. The US, while formally opposing settlement construction, has never lifted a finger to prevent it.

None of this means Trump's new policy is a progressive development from a Palestinian perspective - his rejection of the international consensus ought to be terrifying. He has quite literally rejected the very idea of a Palestinian state.  It might seem odd then that some voices within the Palestinian solidarity movement have reacted to Trump's statements with optimism.

Take, for example, Palestine solidarity activist Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada, who wrote in an article titled Trump-Netanyahu meeting lays ground for one-state solution that "conventional opinion views any Trump abandonment of the two-state solution as capitulation to Israel's far right… that is pressuring Netanyahu… to annex the West Bank outright… but the analysis fails to take into account the growing support amongst Palestinians for a democratic one-state solution".

Abunimah seems to be insinuating that Trump cares about the aspirations of the Palestinian people - based on Trump's statement on whether a one state or two state solution would be best - "I like the one that both parties like".

Trump here is not saying that he supports a bi-national one-state solution, where Palestinians have equal rights to Jews - Trump is not endorsing the end of the state of Israel as we know it, quite obviously.

Read more: Trump's rambling, nonsensical Netanyahu press conference leaves many bewildered

By rejecting the international status quo on a two-state solution, based on UN resolutions and international law, he is at the very best endorsing the status quo of Israel's "permanent occupation" of the West Bank, which Israel is under absolutely no pressure to end, or, at worst, he is saying to the Palestinians that it ought to be happy with whatever terms Israel places on a potential peace deal, including the full annexation of the occupied territory.

Abunimah points out that "Trump has at least acknowledged that Palestinians must agree to the terms of any agreement". However, if people imagine this means that Trump somehow meaningfully supports Palestinian self-determination, they ought to understand that such an acknowledgement was prefaced with Trump saying that Bibi must be happy.

Do people think Bibi, or any major Israeli political or social force, would be happy with a one-state solution with the equal rights of millions of Palestinians and thus the end of Israel as a Jewish state? The idea isn't even on the table.

For a truly bi-national one-state solution based on equal rights for Palestinians to emerge in the region, it would take nothing less than a social and political revolution within Israeli Jewish society. This would need to come from within Israel - it certainly cannot be imposed on a nuclear-armed power whose society, following the general zeitgeist, is moving in the opposite direction and drifting ever-more towards far right-wing popularism.

Trump doesn't even recognise the occupation as being illegal

The only chance, however remote, there ever was for a just peace in Palestine was the legal precedent of a two-state solution.

No force within Israel supports this, and neither does Donald Trump - who is the first US president to ever endorse moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, half of which is illegally occupied by Israel.

Trump doesn't even recognise the occupation as being illegal, never mind the idea that Palestinian self-determination is even remotely equal to the status quo of Israeli self-determination, if not supremacy.

Even on the question of settlements, Trump, unlike every US president, including pro-Israel zealots such as Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, has refused to condemn the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories. In his statement last week, Trump conceded that settlements were not an impediment to peace, but rather the main problem was Palestinians teaching their children to "hate".

Instead of rebuking Israel even just rhetorically for building settlements, Trump said to Netanyahu "I'd like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit". This is not in any sense a statement of opposition to settlements.

In his final few weeks as secretary of state in the Obama administration, John Kerry, with a rather futile sense, said that "the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel and their stated purpose is clear: they believe in one state" - adding that "the hope of peace" was "slipping away". 

John Kerry, when he spoke of "one state", was also not meaning a state where Palestinians in the occupied territories were given equal rights to Israelis - he was talking about one state, being an Israeli-Jewish state, with Palestinians facing a future of statelessness and the daily oppression of the occupation, with the Palestinian Authority working as a collaborating entity to police any nascent Palestinian resistance - while Israel besieges Gaza and bombs it whenever it sees fit.

Israel has been frank about this for decades. Former Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan once famously said that "we [Israel] have no solution, and you [the Palestinians] will continue to live like dogs, whoever wants will go".

This is essentially what Trump's friend Bibi supports - with Trump effectively saying that he doesn't support the idea of Palestinian land as legally belonging to Palestinians, but rather, basing his alleged support for "peace" based on the status quo, it seems he also likes things just the way they are.

In the unlikely event of a Palestinian state emerging on the Trumpian basis, it would be a state in name only - a Palestinian Bantustan ruled by the PA, with Gaza ruled by Hamas, with the same stagnating deadlocks and brutal power relations at play.

Trump is no friend of the Palestinian cause and neither are those who, through their own dogmatic obsessions with one-state despite the political realities, seek to pretend otherwise. Trump does not seek justice for Palestinians, but rather a normalisation of the already existing injustices of the status quo.   

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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.