By Finian Cunningham
Donald Trump’s rash declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital does not, of course, deserve thanks. How could it, when it in effect amounts to American complicity in supporting Israeli war crimes of illegal occupation? But one inadvertent positive outcome from the US President’s blundering is that it renews the alternative concept of a One-State solution.
Ironically, Trump’s outrageous bias towards the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu slams a nail into the coffin of the Two-State solution.
The charade of Washington acting as a neutral broker between Israelis and Palestinians is finally dead and buried with Trump’s clumsy intervention.
Washington’s true colors, always a matter of suspicion, have now come to the fore, and the world can see from its soiled banner that Washington has no credibility as an honest broker.
Over the past week, some 22 leaders of Islamic nations gathered in Istanbul to condemn Trump’s one-sided policy of nominating Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hold back. He called the United States “a partner in Israeli bloodshed”. The chorus of condemnation resounding among the conference of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation – representing some 57 nations – was not for show. Arab and Muslim nations are livid with what they see as Washington’s betrayal of Palestinian rights. Not just Palestinian rights but the rights of two billion Muslims across the world who view Jerusalem as their spiritual home, owing in part to the presence of Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
Lest we forget, Jerusalem has also special significance for Christians due to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher marking the site where Jesus Christ was crucified by the Jews, and where Christians believe Jesus, the Son of God, rose from the dead some 2,000 years ago. Palestinians also comprise Christians who venerate that church.
Notably, the mild-mannered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Istanbul conference that the US is no longer recognized as a mediator in the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.
Furthermore, Palestinian leaders are now openly repudiating the so-called Two-State solution, and are rallying behind the previously spurned One-State Solution.
Saeb Erekat who has been involved in negotiating the Two-State Solution for the past 25 years is now clearly saying that Palestinians should demand one indivisible state “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea”.
Such a vision would galvanize unity between Palestinian factions. Unlike the Fatah organization of Abbas and Erekat, more intransigent factions like Hamas have always refused to acknowledge the validity of the Israeli state, which was formed in 1948 and has relentlessly expanded since the 1967 Six Day War, usurping more and more Palestinian territory by building illegal settlements along the West Bank of the Jordan River.
A One-State solution rejects the concept that two adjacent states should coexist, one for the Israelis and one for the Palestinians. On the contrary, the former is premised on maintaining the territorial integrity of ancient Palestine, where Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and non-believers live as common citizens in a single state.
This year marks the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration when the British, who administered colonial Palestine, hatched the Zionist plan in 1917 to carve up Palestine and bestow a new Jewish state solely for Jews. It was a sordid move by the British to placate a wealthy Zionist lobby. After the Second World War, the concept of an Israeli state dedicated to Zionist Jews became a reality under a dubious Western-sponsored United Nations mandate. From then on the majority native Palestinians have either been expelled or made “strangers in their own land”.
Since 1993, when US President Bill Clinton oversaw the Oslo Accord, the Two-State solution became the only game in town. Any notion of a single state based on Palestine’s historic borders became marginalized even, it has to be said, by the Palestinian negotiators of the dominant Fatah party led by the late Yasser Arafat.
Some Arab intellectuals like the late Edward Said held fast to the One-State solution and were trenchant critics of the Two-State plan. Edward Said and others always maintained that the plan was historically flawed and futile as a peaceful settlement.
Now, those unfairly maligned critics are being vindicated. They include many Jewish people around the world who have never supported the Zionist cause of apartheid occupation in the Middle East.
Ralph Schoenman, author of A Hidden of Zionism, welcomes the death of the Two-State solution, as prompted by Trump’s latest debacle over Jerusalem. Schoenman reiterates the view that the Two-State solution was only “a trap” for the Palestinians. It was never honestly negotiated by the Israelis nor the Americans.
A quarter-century after signing the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians are further than ever from realizing the promise of establishing an independent, sovereign nation. They have been strung along by rightwing Israeli governments and Washington, both of whom cynically gave lip service to “negotiated peace deal” – one that would theoretically afford the Palestinians East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
But all the while, successive Israeli governments have shamelessly procrastinated on negotiations, while continually usurping more and more Palestinian land, bulldozing homes, building illegal settlements and erecting military security barriers.
Washington has pandered to this Israeli chicanery with unswerving servility. Bankrolling the Israeli state with $3 billion every year in military aid and shielding Israeli crimes through its veto at the UN Security Council. The power of the Zionist lobby in Washington buying off lawmakers and the White House is part of the duplicity. Another fundamental reason is that Washington’s imperialist foreign policy relies on the Israeli state as a military garrison in the oil-rich Middle East from which the US can project its own hegemonic ambitions.
Along comes Trump and through his imbecilic impetuousness, the Two-State charade is blown apart – albeit unintentionally.
What happens if Palestinians simply give up – as they now seem to be doing – on the illusions of the Two-State scenario?
Then the whole vile situation becomes glaringly visible. The entire tract of land between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea starts to resemble what it really is and what it has been for seven decades since 1948: one of brutal military occupation and suppression of Palestinian people under apartheid laws favouring Zionist Jews.
Such a scenario will be politically difficult to sustain without the fig-leaf cover of the Two-State charade. World opinion, already sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, will be even more mobilized by the brazen injustice where millions of people are mistreated like inferior subjects. In that vile situation laid bare, it would give the Palestinian cause even more legal and moral power to pursue their rights under international law.
Demographically, too, a One-State solution makes sense. In the current state of Israel, the population is approximately 8.5 million, with 2 million being Arab and 6.5 million Jews. In the Palestinian territories, the population is around 6.5 million. Thus, in a scenario of one national territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, Palestinians would potentially have democratic parity.
Furthermore, if the 4 million Palestinians living as exiles in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – expelled after the 1948 and 1967 Wars – were to demand their rightful return then the democratic balance shifts decisively in favour of Palestinians against those who uphold the Israeli state.
With an open mind, the concept of a single, undivided Palestinian nation state makes sense historically, politically and morally.
The concept of an “Israeli state” is arguably a dubious one historically. Of course, there were an Israeli and Jewish people in the region going back millennia. Coexisting alongside many other peoples of different religions. Palestine as a heterogeneous territory has much more valid claim to historical precedent than “Israel”. The latter was largely an artificial entity borne out of British colonial intrigue in cahoots with Zionist ideologues and money stuffed into the British exchequer.
Why shouldn’t there be one country, shared by Jews, Muslims, Christians and others who can all share the capital of Jerusalem and its multi-faith heritage?
Why should the Holy Land be carved up into religious-ethnic ghettos despoiled by discriminatory laws enforced down the barrel of a gun?
American foreign policy out of its own selfish imperialist interests has compounded the crimes of British colonialism by pandering to Zionist regimes and their dubious historical fantasies.
Donald Trump’s unbridled support for Israeli crimes and injustices has finally blown up the phony Two-State solution. That solution was never viable, and never meant to be viable.
By outraging Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Christians – and, it has to be said, many honest-thinking Jews – around the world, the focus is now rightly shifting to more realistic options. Ones that actually uphold the long-denied rights of Palestinians.
Russia and the European states have rejected Trump’s unilateral declaration on Jerusalem. They can therefore act as sponsors of a genuine, new initiative. Russia’s growing stature in the Middle East region as a principled and honest broker could be pivotal.
If the Muslim nations can maintain the momentum and focus they united around during the conference in Istanbul over the past week, then a brand new political framework opens up. One that jettisons the fraudulent Two-State policy and Washington’s bankrupt authority.
A One-State solution for Palestine is back on the agenda.