How Palestinians should respond to Trump’s ‘one state’

Palestinians must make clear that the sole prerequisite needed for a lasting peace is justice on their lands.

detain a Palestinian protester during a protest against a promise by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to re-locate U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, in the West Bank near Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim
The only prerequisite to peace is ending Israel's military occupation of another people [Reuters]

The role of the US administration as a dishonest broker for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis could not have been better illustrated than by last week’s news conference with United States President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The meeting between these two leaders was a turning point for the Palestinians. According to The New York Times, it was the first time since the beginning of the peace process that an American president publicly disposed of the notion that the two-state solution was the only viable framework for peace.

Within the space of a few minutes, President Trump did away with decades of carefully cultivated, albeit deeply flawed and biased, American diplomacy. Yet it is still to be seen if Trump’s “new concept” will actually mean shifting away from the flawed two-state solution formula over the course of his presidency.

Netanyahu wasted no time articulating an alternative vision, which Trump appeared unable – or unwilling – to repudiate. As a prerequisite for peace, Netanyahu declared that Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state and acquiesce to continued Israeli security control over all the land west of the Jordan River.

Whether the outcome is one state or two is irrelevant as long as it is based on ending Israel’s military subjugation of the Palestinian people as the first step to fulfilling Palestinian rights. Any deviation from this prerequisite is a deviation from genuine and lasting peace.

The two leaders’ joint vision also alluded that a regional approach would be adopted to impose an agreement or a framework on the Palestinians, while normalising relations between Israel and America’s regional Arab allies.

Netanyahu’s proposed framework was the most obvious articulation of a one-state reality, if there ever was one. His version of this reality is one where Israel retains absolute territorial control over the whole land of Mandate Palestine, without conferring any political rights to the Palestinian inhabitants of that land.

This is not a new vision. Even the Israeli leader, touted as a peacemaker, Yitzhak Rabin, announced in his speech to the Knesset on the ratification of Oslo Peace Accords, “we would like this [Palestinian entity] to be an entity which is less than a state.”

This goal and the prerequisites for peace announced by Netanyahu are fundamentally flawed and diametrically at odds with the Palestinian demand for internationally sanctioned rights.

This one-state framework makes no space for the right to self-determination that the Palestinian people aspire to by creating their own state on what is now the occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Rather, Netanyahu’s framework maintains the status of the Palestinian inhabitants of the territories as second-class citizens: living within an overarching Jewish state which refuses to provide them with citizenship or political rights, in other words, apartheid.

READ MORE: US-Israel relations – Netanyahu’s ‘grand design’ for the West Bank

In fact, the only prerequisite to peace, and the one that was most starkly absent from the news conference, is ending Israel’s military occupation of another people, an act of war that is now entering its fifth decade.

Whether the outcome is one state or two is irrelevant as long as it is based on ending Israel’s military subjugation of the Palestinian people as the first step to fulfilling Palestinian rights. Any deviation from this prerequisite is a deviation from genuine and lasting peace.

And so, what must the Palestinians do following this publicly declared intention to evolve Israel’s occupation into an American-sanctioned and legitimised form of perpetual control?

For one thing, the current leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) must stop living in the myth of statehood.

Netanyahu’s vision is an honest reflection of where Israel is now. It should leave no doubt at all that the PA’s vestiges of sovereignty will never evolve beyond the administrative tasks that had been assigned to it in the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Instead of acquiescing to truncated sovereignty, Palestinians must decisively shift towards a rights-based national project that aims to achieve equality for all inhabitants in between the river and the sea.

The PLO must conclusively revoke the out-lived framework of the Oslo Accords and stop sustaining the cost of Israel’s occupation. This might well mean the immediate reconfiguration of the PA’s duties, particularly when it comes to security coordination with Israel.

This reconfiguration is crucial if the Palestinian leadership is interested in becoming a relevant actor in the diplomatic trajectories that are now unfolding.

The scheduled speech by Abbas later this month at the UN in Geneva provides a timely opportunity for him to send a resolute message to the international community that Palestinians will not play by the rules of this “peace process” any longer.

Equally important, the Palestinian leadership must confront these new threats, manifested by a most cynical Trump-Netanyahu alliance, by completing its long overdue homework. The decade-old intra-Palestinian divide is a vital starting point.

If Hamas and Fatah are interested in serving the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, they must finally put national interests above party ambitions. Achieving domestic unity will strengthen the Palestinians to resist this effort to erase their national aspirations.

Domestic unity must be premised on reviving participatory decision-making processes within the PLO. The crisis of legitimacy of the current leadership is completely debilitating. An inclusive political agenda needs to be put forward for the emergence of a future leadership that is accountable to its people and their aspirations.

While focusing on these urgent domestic reforms, the Palestinian leadership must ensure that the emerging regional alliance between Israel and other states in the region does not come at the expense of Palestinian rights.

Shifting to a rights-based struggle that does away with the performances of a defunct pseudo-state, achieving unity, and lobbying regional allies are all actions that are entirely doable and attainable, if the political will exists.

Palestinians must not stand idly by while Netanyahu, encouraged by a pliable Trump administration, solidifies Israel’s supremacist far-right vision over Palestinian land. Palestinians have a plethora of tools at their disposal in the international arena that can safeguard their rights and bring a cost to bear on Israel’s violations of them.

While doubling down on these international initiatives, Palestinians must make clear that the sole prerequisite that is actually needed for a lasting peace is justice on their lands, whatever political framework that takes.

Alaa Tartir is the programme director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. He is also a post-doctoral fellow at The Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and a visiting research fellow at the Graduate Institute’s Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding, Geneva, Switzerland. Follow Alaa Tartir on Twitter: @alaatartir

Tareq Baconi is the US-based policy fellow for Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. His book, Hamas: The Politics of Resistance, Entrenchment in Gaza, is forthcoming with Stanford University Press.