By Ramona Wadi
Now that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured a fresh electoral victory, the US and Israel are set to continue their plans to politically eliminate Palestine.
According to the latest reports, US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” will be revealed in June, after the holy month of Ramadan. The likelihood is, that the US will bequeath yet another political vantage point to Israel by announcing the alternative to the internationally-accepted, but also flawed, two-state solution.
Although details are still scant, it has been reported that the deal will not include a Palestinian state. According to The Washington Post, the plan “does away with statehood as the starting premise of peace efforts as it has been over the past two decades.”
In what may be one of the most intentionally damaging remarks, Trump’s adviser and son in-law Jared Kushner described the deal as the US wanting Palestinians to be able “to better their lives and not allow their grandfather’s conflict to hijack their children’s future.”
US rhetoric about Israel’s colonisation of Palestine is all about normalisation, and Trump’s plan will be the culmination of a series of diplomatic actions which have politically isolated Palestinians.
Doing away with Palestinian statehood and framing colonisation as mere “conflict”, Kushner makes it sound more like Palestinians are harbouring resentment, rather than being of the receivng end of systematic ethnic cleansing and dispossession. This leaves Palestinians with nothing but the current status quo disguised as a plan for economic incentives.
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly stated it will reject Trump’s deal.
A letter penned by former diplomats to the EU takes the same stance, warning the bloc to reject the deal and remain committed to the two-state compromise.
It is interesting to note however, that the group of former diplomats, the EU and the PA are more concerned with the US’ departure from the two-state hypothesis, than with the content of Trump’s deal.
There are two main reasons for this focus. First, the details revealed so far – defining Palestinians through humanitarian aid rather than political significance – are also central to the Oslo Accords.
Second, both Trump’s deal and the Oslo Accords are about preventing the formation of a Palestinian state – the latter a covert aim which has been accomplished by determining and managing Palestinian economic dependency.
“The political aspect will not succeed without a proper economic plan,” an unnamed US official was quoted as stating. Yet Kushner has already eliminated Palestinian political aspirations from any peace agreement.
In the absence of political rights, also a feature of the Oslo Accords, Trump is planning “tens of billions of dollars in aid and investment” for the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Egypt and Jordan, having “made peace with Israel,” will also benefit from the plan.
Despite seeking to depict Trump as flouting international consensus, the details revealed so far speak otherwise. It is only the framing of the deal as an alternative to the two-state compromise that enables the international community to pit both frameworks as allegedly in opposition to each other.
The Oslo Accords have already generated dependency on humanitarian aid in the absence of a political solution for Palestinians. As Israel’s colonial policies continue to deprive Palestinians of basic necessities, the international community has been eager to contribute to humanitarian aid and development programmes, all of which provide temporary alleviation but no foundation for a thriving society with political foundations.
In 2018, The European Commission donated €46 million in humanitarian aid to cover basic necessities such as healthcare, access to water and education.
However, there has been no change in the bloc’s policy on Palestine, neither has it substantiated its criticism of Israel with punitive measures. Aid from Europe does not even begin to rectify losses to the Palestinian economy, estimated to be $3.4billion per year in 2013.
In its most recent update this year, the World Bank has described Gaza’s economy as experiencing a “steep deterioration” and only remaining functional thanks to donor aid.
Statistics continue to illustrate the fact that no matter how much financial aid is donated and pledged, there is a deficit that cannot be overcome solely through humanitarian endeavours. Aid is necessary within the context of colonialism, yet donors refuse to politicise their humanitarian aid for Palestinians, despite the fact that such necessity arises out of political violence.
Lest we forget, Palestinians were also coerced into being marginalised by a political process that is determining their lives. Aid acceptance has not resulted in autonomy, let alone independence. This will remain the case whether Trump’s plan or the two-state compromise take precedence.
Indeed, the involvement of so many international actors with vested interests in the process is prohibiting Palestinian articulation of their demands, while barely making a difference to the precarious economic conditions faced by the people.
Israel, on the other hand, does not face any deterrent for continuing to colonise Palestinian land. The more the Palestinian deprivation is discussed from an economic and humanitarian angle, the less prospects for a political solution prioritising Palestinians exist.
Trump’s deal, according to Al Jazeera, will require input from Israel, the PA and Gulf Arab states – a recipe that spells an agreement of normalisation of relations with Israel prior to meagre economic opportunities being allowed to reach Palestinians.
The US is removing the veneer which the international community is keen on maintaining, while also overtly calling for normalising relations with Israel. The latter is also a form of negotiated compromise which the EU, for example, has long practiced and applied, no matter how detrimental these relations are to the Palestinian people.
Without prospects for Palestinian independence, let alone liberation, Trump’s plan will only maintain the prevailing predicament, albeit with lucrative incentives for normalising Israel’s existence.
However, the politics which ultimately led to the two-state compromise cannot be dissociated from any forthcoming deal by the US administration.
Had Trump been less belligerent, there would be less of a diplomatic outcry over which of the deals Palestinians should abide by.
Instead of adopting a partisan approach, it is time to reject both forms of domination and allow Palestinians to define their process. Neither Oslo, nor its extension, are acceptable parameters.