February 19, 2017

Killing the Palestinians’ hopes for statehood

Did Donald Trump declare a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict dead or did he merely state the obvious when he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House?

Trump certainly dealt a big blow to the two-state solution as the pathway to peace. He ended decades of US bipartisan political support for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside the Jewish one. In the process, he abandoned a principle adopted by the European Union and the United Nations.

There are bound to be changes, too, in the international negotiating body known as the Quartet, of which the United States is a part. The Quartet is pledged to two states achieved through negotiations and the United States appears no longer to believe in that.

Trump said he could “live with” either a two-state or a one-state solution. There are at least three problems with Trump’s de facto abandonment of the two-state formula.

First, it gives Israel, the more powerful side in an agonizingly asymmetric conflict, carte blanche to decide what should hap­pen to the occupied territories.

Second, it ends the stalwart US insistence that it is committed to a two-state process.

Third — and most dismally — it extinguishes the little hope remaining to the Palestinians that their nearly 70-year fight for justice and self-determination would one day bear fruit.

Trump said he could “live with” any solution but it is actually the Palestinians who will have to live with the consequences of his casual pronouncement. Millions of them will have to put up with an ignominious existence as second-class citizens. Rather than having dignity and rights, they will be continually stopped at checkpoints, hemmed in by encroaching Jewish settlements and denied the possibility of living as fully fledged citizens of a free nation.

That said, the slow demise of the two-state solution was increasingly obvious, with or without Trump. Last April, a report from the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process took a doleful view of the two-state solution. It pointed out the problems posed by the lack of Palestinian unity and the failure to have elections.

The Oslo process was supposed to have reached a final-status agreement by 1998. What has been achieved instead is a total collapse of belief in a two-state solution, marked by a complete lack of trust on both sides, Israel’s unbridled settlements-build­ing policy and now the US president’s refusal to press for a balanced apportioning of land, rights and responsibilities.

It is scarcely believable, however, that Israel thinks it can so easily claim for itself the right to be a “Jewish state” in which the Palestinians would be second-class citizens. Neither do right-thinking Israelis — and there are many — agree with the idea of cruelly denying Palestinians the right of self-determination.

Millions of Palestinians have lived with the dehumanising reality of occupation for far too long. Now they have a new struggle — against the end of hope.

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