Israel: towards a ‘one-state’ plan
“Marking the beginning of a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, President Donald Trump formally announced the US official policy to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week. In June this year, the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution stating that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel”. So, the US has unilaterally determined the ‘final status’ of the disputed city of Jerusalem. Precisely a Century ago, the United Kingdom helped Zionists get their ‘Promised Land’ by establishing a “national home for Jewish people” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration. Now the US has formally acknowledged the Israelis’ inherent right to exclusively own the ‘City of God’ by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital through the ‘Trump Declaration’. Indeed, both superpowers have been absolutely determined and diligent in performing this sacred duty to fulfill the ‘Biblical Prophecy’ about Israelis- the descendants of Abraham.
Based on the assumption that an independent and sovereign state of Palestine can peacefully coexist with Israel in the Middle East, the so-called two state solution is widely considered to be the only viable prescription to bring a sustainable peace in the region after putting an end to the current Israel-Palestine stand-off. The 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, UNSC Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are important milestones in the evolution of ‘two state solution’ during the last 70 years. The US was the primary architect and initiator of the so-called Oslo Process in 1990’s, whereby Israelis and Palestinians agreed to make peace after formally conforming to the two state solution.
It is quite unfortunate that now US is visibly trying to undermine the crucial two state solution. President Trump, in his December 6 speech, just maintained that the US would support a two state solution “if agreed to by both sides”. This statement essentially indicates that the US no longer absolutely adheres to this solution. So, the US now looks inclined to abandon this plan if either Israel or Palestine simply doesn’t stick to it. Noticeably, Israel is gradually drifting away from the two state solution after reviving its own ‘one state solution’. It is hardly interested in concluding the ‘final status agreement’ to create an independent Palestinian state. Currently, on the security pretext, Israel is refusing to grant sovereignty and independence to the Palestinian territories. Therefore, now it is not really hard to predict the future of the two state solution.
In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, requiring America to move its embassy to Jerusalem by December 1999 after formally recognizing it as Israel’s capital. However, this Act also contains a clause that allows the President to delay its implementation indefinitely “if the move presents national security concerns”. Therefore, Donald Trump’s predecessors have been delaying the decision about the final status of Jerusalem by wisely invoking this clause. Now, President Trump probably considers it appropriate to ‘recognize a reality’ which is ‘in the best interests of the US’. The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed at the time when the US was also spearheading a peace process in the Middle East by persuading the Israelis and Palestinians to peacefully decide a number of bilateral disputes, including the final status of the holy city of Jerusalem. This fact essentially shows that the US was hardly serious and sincere in effectively implementing the two state plan from its very beginning.
During his election campaign in 2015, incumbent Israeli Prime Minister publically announced that there would be no Palestinian state at all if he got elected. Similarly, President Trump chose a New York lawyer David Friedman to be his senior advisor on Israel during his election campaign. Friedman has been openly favoring the legalization of the controversial Jewish settlements in the West Bank besides moving the capital of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After being elected, President Trump nominated this anti-Palestinian activist to be the US envoy to Israel. Therefore, Israel just intensified its plan to construct new Jewish settlements in the disputed Palestinian territories following the electoral victory of pro-Israel Donald Trump.
As a matter of fact, the plan for establishing an independent Palestinian state under the two state solution was not such an ideal and viable plan. The West Bank and Gaza Strip, the two primary constituent parts of the proposed Palestinian state are separated by the hostile Israel land. This geographical configuration is hardly conducive to create a strong and peaceful Palestinian state. The prospects for a Palestinian state have been further marred by a number of dishonest and illegal Israeli moves. In violation of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, and against the spirit of so-called Osolo Process; Israel has constantly been expanding its Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Now more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank in addition to 200,000 in East Jerusalem. At present, Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is exclusively administrating the ‘Area A’ which is only 18% of total West Bank territory. Similarly, the PNA can’t administer the Gaza Strip which is under the de facto control of Hamas since 2007. Therefore, a few Kilometers long besieged Gaza Strip and a small number of isolated pockets in the West Bank can by no means give rise to an independent Palestinian state.
President Trump’s ‘declaration of Jerusalem’ has drawn worldwide condemnation and criticism. The EU has categorically rejected the Trump’s uncalled for Jerusalem move. In fact, no significant world leader has yet endorsed the Trump’s unilateral decision regarding the status of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a holy city to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. Therefore, recognizing this city as the capital of a Jewish state would be unacceptable to the entire world community. The recent Trump’s Jerusalem move has visibly undermined the US position to play any leading role in the Middle East peace process. The US would no longer be considered a neutral arbiter in the Middle Eastern conflicts. Therefore, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has cancelled his scheduled meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the region.
The Arab League has called Trump’s recent Jerusalem move a ‘dangerous violation of international law’ and a ‘flagrant attack on a political solution’. In fact, the Muslim world, including the Arab countries, are unlikely to take any hard stand against the US and Israel over the Jerusalem issue. The Middle Eastern countries can only attack each other, and fight proxy war in the region. The Shia-Sunni split has substantially widened in the Middle East. However, there is a possibility that some non state actors would resist US-Israel unilateral moves in this region. Hamas has called for a new ‘intifada’ against Israel. Similarly, the Iranian-backed Shia militia Hezbollah has also strongly reacted to the Trump’s Jerusalem move. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah has called on its allies to devise a ‘united strategy’ to confront Israel. With a strong military muscle, this Shia militia just inflicted a humiliating defeat on Israel in 2006. Similarly, ISIS has been wiped out of Iraq and Syria by Iran, Russia and their regional allies. Certainly, Israel will be in a severe trouble if Iran and its region allies choose to confront Israel.
At present, though not perfect and ideal, the two state solution is the only viable and available plan which provides a roadmap for a sustainable peace in the troubled Middle East. This plan has not only been frequently endorsed by the UN through its various resolutions but also it has been approved by all the stakeholders (Israel, Palestine and the US) through various peace treaties in the past. Similarly, the Muslim World, including the Arab states, has also approved and supported this plan at times. Therefore, the US and Israel cannot be allowed to sabotage the Middle East peace process through their unilateral and arbitrary actions. The world community should exert maximum pressure on Israel to make him grant Palestinians their due rights and status. Certainly, the Trump-Netanyahu duo is the greatest potential danger to the two state solution as well as the Middle East peace process.