Donald Trump, side-by-side with Israel’s right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is announcing his long-touted “plan” for Israel-Palestine as Solidarity goes to press on Tuesday 28th.
Trump talked of it as a “two states” plan, but his pointed dissociation, in the run-up to the announcement, from the USA’s long-standing formal commitment to “two states”, was more apt.
Israel’s left-wing Jewish-Arab social movement Standing Together tweeted: “The ‘deal of the century’ is not a peace deal, and there is no good news or hope in it. What’s in it then? Lies”.
The internationalist left will mobilise in solidarity with movements like Standing Together, against the Trump plan, and for an authentic “two states” settlement allowing democratic self-determination to both the Israeli-Jewish and the Palestinian peoples.
Trump talked of his text as a “deal”, or an “agreement”. But unlike previous international plans, this is not a framework for seeking agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It is a formula for US support for Israel imposing annexations unilaterally on the Palestinians.
The West Bank still has an 80% Palestinian majority (bigger proportionately than the Jewish majority in Israel), and much of the Jewish population in the West Bank is in border settlements which might be assigned to Israel in marginal land-swaps for a democratic “two states” deal.
But Trump’s outline is to put the label “Palestinian state” on an expanded version of the 30-odd% of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority now has some administrative powers, plus Gaza, and to have Israel annex a large chunk of the West Bank round the Israeli settlements and the roads connecting them.
The area annexed would include most of the Jordan Valley, thus making the “Palestinian state” a series of enclaves entirely surrounded by Israeli power, except perhaps at the Gaza border with Egypt.
The Palestinian Authority’s current territory in the West Bank is made up of 165 disconnected patches of land. Trump officials said that the plan provides for connections between them by “roads, bridges, and tunnels”. There is also talk of a land bridge between Gaza and the West Bank Palestinian Authority areas.
The plan calls for Gaza to be “demilitarised”, which can only mean a licence for Israel to invade Gaza to impose that demilitarisation and then keep tight control against the manufacture or smuggling of even low-tech weapons.
“Independence” in such conditions, where the Palestinians would depend on Israeli cooperation for trade and travel with other countries and even between the fragments of Palestinian territory, is hardly more than the powers which the Palestinian Authority now has (mostly to distribute aid money and to police the population).
The suggested “compensation” is promises of US economic aid for the Palestinian territory (Trump had previously cut off long-standing US contributions to UNRWA), an Israeli settlement freeze for four years (in the areas designated as Palestinian), and a Palestinian capital in “part of Jerusalem” (but elsewhere Trump speaks of Jerusalem being Israel’s “undivided” capital).
Netanyahu’s main rival in Israel’s general election coming up on 2 March, Benny Gantz, has already welcomed Trump’s scheme and pledged to implement it. On 21 January he came out for annexing the Jordan Valley, describing it as an “eastern defensive wall in any future scenario”, “an inseparable part of the State of Israel.”
On the left of Israeli electoral politics, the left-Zionist Meretz party has announced a coalition with Labor, now a mainstream, centrist social-democratic party which has previously participated in centre-right coalition governments, and Gesher, a centrist liberal party.
Meretz contested the last elections as part of a more left-wing bloc which also included the Greens, led by former Labor MK Stav Shaffir. Shaffir’s Greens are not participating in the new Labor-Meretz alliance. The move represents a rightwards lurch for Meretz, who had previously been emphasising the need for Jewish-Arab unity, with suggestions that a new, Jewish-Arab leadership of the party might emerge.
What remains as any sort of left option in the 2 March election is Hadash, the electoral front of the (Stalinist) Israeli Communist Party, which participates in the Joint List of Arab parties.
The Palestinian Authority has already rejected the Trump plan, and almost all Arab states are likely to reject it too.
West-Bank Israeli-settler organisations have also rejected it, on grounds of the settlement freeze and the talk of even a nominal Palestinian state. Quite likely the plan as such will never be implemented. The Israeli government will use it as license to annex a lot of the West Bank and then tell the Palestinians they can either accept the Trump terms or stew in the status quo.
Sadly, much of the left in Britain has been indifferent and unconcerned about the Israeli right wing’s annexation plans, announced by Netanyahu in April 2019.
Since those sections of the left reject “two states”, and believe only in a full-scale erasure of Israel from the map, they see annexation as making no difference.
In fact annexation will erect great new barriers to a settlement respecting the right to self-determination of both peoples. Mobilise against it!