By Chris Doyle
18 January 2017
The international consensus on Israel-Palestine may die this Friday with the inauguration of President Trump. Arguably the so-called “West” might be witnessing its own funeral as well in a realigning of the world order. Its last hurrah was the mild UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last December on Israeli settlements, its final wake was the Paris peace conference on 14 January.
Admittedly this great consensus that had lasted at least since 1993 and that had included the majority of the planet’s nations, bar Israel, Micronesia and Nauru had achieved precious little. The two-state solution was the gold-plated panacea of this consensus, a sacred mantra that could not be challenged, that “envisions a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of those states and a fair, just, agreed settlement for refugees.”
Does an international consensus matter, even one as limp as this? A strong principled one should because as is sadly necessary to restate – this is a situation where powerful first world power is occupying the territory of a weak fragmented people for over 50 years. In boxing terms, it is a contest between a super heavyweight and a flyweight, with its hands and legs in chains.
Of course the bully wants to have free direct access to the bullied with no impartial referee. If the parties are left to themselves, Israel can dictate to the occupied the precise terms of its surrender vandalizing international law and picking over the best bits of the carcass that could have formed a viable independent Palestinian state. The settlers are indeed licking their chops at the feeding frenzy that the incoming Trump administration in Washington appears to be green-lighting.
The Netanyahu-Trump Alliance
Set against this background, it was vital that the rest of the international community does not give free rein to the Netanyahu-Trump alliance. The Paris conference tried to do this albeit in a conference many years too late, at the terminal countdown of the Obama administration and under the auspices of a French President with barely a few months left in office.
It attempted to assert that the two-state solution was still alive and that the stuttering success of a strong concerned international position as outlined and agreed upon in UN Security Resolution 2334 mattered. The 70 states represent all agreed but what next? They could not even agree on recognising a Palestinian state.
As the incoming head of Israel’s foreign ministry boasted: “The fact that the Paris conference has no follow-up is from our perspective the most meaningful accomplishment.” Israeli politicians will be expecting that this will ward off any other free-lance international peace-making efforts.
The divisions in the consensus were all too clear. Spoiler-in-chief was Britain, joined by its side-kick Australia. Theresa May’s government seems all too anxious to curry favour with Trump Tower, mortgaging principle for promise of influence. Britain only dispatched a low-level functionary to observe the Paris peace conference (even the US sent Secretary of State, John Kerry).
For May, sacrificing the risible political support her government gives Palestinians for favorable relations with Donald Trump was never a tough choice. She has shown close to zero interest in international issues and even less on the issue of Palestinian rights. Trump and Netanyahu will see this for what it is – a British Prime minister terrified of isolation having routinely offended her EU partners, desperately seeking a soft landing in Washington and above all a post-Brexit free trade deal.
The real split is over whether to exert any pressure on Israel at all. Even though Israel accumulated in excess of 600,000 Israeli civilians as settlers in occupied territory, key states refused to challenge this process except through repeated rhetoric. Everyone knows that regardless of these statements and the UN Security Council Resolution, Israel under Netanyahu will just continue to expand settlements and demolish homes with impunity.
Those failing to take Israel to task clearly have no desire to preserve the two-state solution and tacitly accept the one state reality Israel has created, one where Palestinians have semi-autonomous zones under total Israeli control.
Those involved in the Paris conference cannot simply resort to bland conference outputs and speeches. The EU, minus the UK, should not accept the role as eternal financial sponsor of the occupation as it has done for so long. It must be prepared to challenge the occupation not just criticize it. The EU must break with tradition and insist that the US should not be the sole broker for peace, a role in which it has comprehensively failed.
The EU and others must also stand firm as the guardian of international law on this conflict, insisting that this cannot be bypassed nor watered down as part of the parameters to solve the conflict. Settlements, land theft, home demolitions, torture, detention without trial, collective punishment, blockade and occupation are at the core of this interminable conflict and have to be addressed as well as the violence and insecurity both peoples suffer from.
Already basking in the new Trump universe, Israel has ramped up demolitions this January at a greater rate than in 2016, a record year. It is for those states in Paris to ensure that the Palestinian people do not get abandoned to the whims of their occupier.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio and gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. He tweets @Doylech.