This week Donald Trump, in the company of the scandal-mired Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally released his long-promoted vision for “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians. The plan itself was unsurprising, and consistent with the Trump administration’s Middle East policies and the personnel in charge of executing them.
In the US president’s vision, which might as well have been drawn up by Netanyahu himself, Palestinians are “offered” a truncated and dismembered archipelago of Bantustans connected by bridges and tunnels and subservient to the Israeli state, which will retain security control over the entirety of the land. The Israelis will keep all of Jerusalem. No Palestinian refugees will be able to return to their homes.
But wait, there’s more! Palestinians will only receive this sorry excuse for an offer, which fails to meet even basic human rights, once they satisfy several conditions “proving” they are ready for statehood.
To call this a nonstarter would be to glorify it with negotiation language it doesn’t deserve. The “offer” is little more than a calculated insult, oozing with the most colonial-minded racism, and cynically designed to elicit a rejection.
What is most striking to me about Trump’s plan, however, is not how different it is from previous American and western proposals, but rather how similar it is. Members of the peace process industry might object over the nuances, percentages of land swaps, and so on, but in the final analysis the Trump plan is born of the same bankrupt principle underlying all other American and western proposals regarding Palestine for the last hundred years: the rights of Palestinians, both individually and collectively, are inferior to the rights of Jewish Israelis in the land.
It is this principle that leads Trump and others before him to support policies and plans in which the Palestinian entity will never have true or equal sovereignty, where the rights of Palestinian refugees are ignored, where the equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel is easily and quietly dismissed. Trump’s plan is merely the latest iteration, fashioned around the current realities on the ground – themselves conditions created by Israel and supported by the United States.
For a century, western powers, formerly led by Britain and now by the US, have shaped their policy toward Palestine in deference to the demands of Zionism. Time and again, western proposals have divided, dismembered and discarded Palestinians in an effort to gerrymander a Jewish majority in a land that has historically been overwhelmingly populated by Palestinians. There is no amount of negotiation, no slick diplomacy, no cadre of state department bureaucrats that can turn this racist principle into a formula for peace.
Like much of what Trump has done during his time in office, this proposal says the quiet part out loud. So obvious is the contempt for Palestinians, so blatant is the racism, that even people who previously supported proposals based on the same dehumanizing principle are growing visibly uncomfortable.
Of course, in the unlikely event Trump’s plan for neo-apartheid finally forces much-needed introspection and a re-evaluation of US policy toward Palestine it will be an important turning point in history.
The path to peace must be based on principles of justice for all and not inequality. The Palestinians, a population struggling and surviving under decades of Israeli oppression, must be centred in the conversation and not watching from outside the room as decisions that affect their lives are made by others. We, as Americans, must recognize Palestinians’ full humanity, and wrestle with our complicity in denying it for so many decades.
Trump has laid bare his malicious vision. This is an opportunity for progressives, liberals and people of conscience, including leaders in Congress, to take a stand. Will they stand on the side of apartheid, or will they work to dismantle it with both word and deed? History will record the choices made. Those looking to make a difference can begin by demanding an end to American financing of Israel’s military.