Trump used the phrase “two-state solution,” and his team claims that their plan generously offers the Palestinians a “state,” with land swaps of territory.
The Trump scheme greenlights annexation and operates to preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state. The plan recognizes Israeli sovereignty over large swathes of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, including all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley. Following the Trump-Netanyahu press conference, Ambassador David Friedman announced that Israel “does not have to wait at all” to extend Israeli law to these areas. On cue, Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated that his security cabinet would vote within days (though the timing is now in doubt) to annex this territory to Israel — a step that prevents the establishment of a contiguous, viable, independent Palestinian state.
While the plan promises a “state,” the Palestinian entity it describes would lack the most basic attributes of statehood. Israel would, for example, maintain control of Palestinian airspace and territorial waters, as well as “security responsibility” over the entire territory. The ability of the Palestinian “state” to join international organizations is also circumscribed as follows: “The State of Palestine may not join any international organization if such membership would contradict commitments of the State of Palestine to demilitarization and cessation of political and judicial warfare against the State of Israel.” Palestinian authorities would not have control over their borders, which would be entirely encircled by Israeli territory.
The Trump scheme calls for permanent military occupation of Palestinian territory with only a commitment to “minimize” its security presence. In its words, “the State of Israel will maintain overriding security responsibility for the State of Palestine, with the aspiration that the Palestinians will be responsible for as much of their internal security as possible, subject to the provisions of this Vision.” It continues by stating that “should the State of Palestine fail to meet all or any of the Security Criteria at any time, the State of Israel will have the right to reverse the process outlined above” — determined at its own discretion. In that event, “[Israel’s] security footprint in all or parts of the State of Palestine will then increase as a result of the State of Israel’s determination of its expanded security needs and the time needed to address them.”
The plan provides for land swaps, but the lands to be swapped are not comparable. In exchange for giving vast, geographically vital portions of the occupied West Bank to Israel, the plan offers to give Palestinians an areas of Israel that is mostly desert, entirely disconnected from the rest of their “state.”
There is no settlement freeze. While Trump’s announcement alluded to a form of “settlement freeze,” the plan offers precisely the opposite. Under the terms of the plan, Israel is granted sovereignty over all of the existing settlements, where it can continue building as much as it wants. It only commits to not building settlements on enclaves of territory set aside for a Palestinian “state” where no settlements currently exist.
The proposal paves the way for the transfer of land that is home to some 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Israeli “Triangle” of Kafr Qara, Ar’ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia — which is home to an estimated 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel (over 15% of Israel’s Arab citizens) — could be transferred to Palestinian sovereignty under the plan. Former Israeli Foreign and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has pushed this plan for years as a means to decrease Israel’s Arab population. Palestinian citizens of Israel have roundly rejected his plan. If implemented, Israeli citizens living in Israel could suddenly be excised from the country against their will.
Trump said that Jerusalem will remain the “undivided capital of Israel,” while the Palestinians will be offered a “capital” in “Eastern Jerusalem.”
The Trump scheme provides for a Palestinian “capital” in small, non-contiguous Palestinian neighborhoods separated from the rest of Jerusalem by Israel’s separation barrier. While previous proposals envisioned a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and control over Palestinian neighborhoods there, Trump’s proposal relegates the Palestinian capital to Kafr Aqab, the Shuafat refugee camp and Abu Dis. The territory offered to the Palestinians as a capital are not part of the core of the city. The proposal excludes the Old City and large Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, from which the new Palestinian “capital” would be separated by the Israeli security barrier.
The Trump document in no way addresses Palestinian interest in obtaining any symbolic recognition for a “right of return.”
Trump’s plan provides for no return of even a single Palestinian refugee to territory inside Israel, nor even for any symbolic, nominal right of return. The Palestinian refugee issue is deeply resonant for Palestinians, symbolically and in practical terms. Purporting to resolve the refugee issue fully in Israel’s favor, by stating that there will not even be a symbolic absorption of any Palestinian refugee into Israel, is anathema to Palestinians and amounts to a poison pill.
The Trump scheme appears to place an Israeli veto on return of Palestinian refugees to the new Palestinian “state” to be created under the plan. The Trump proposal states, “The rate of movement of refugees from outside Gaza and the West Bank into the State of Palestine shall be agreed to by the parties and regulated by various factors,” including the consideration that their return not “increase security risks to the State of Israel.”
The proposal runs counter to prior agreements and international law. It promotes unilateral annexation, which is illegal under international law. The plan also rejects UN Security Council Resolutions supported by the United States, including UNSCR 242 and others. As with Trump’s foreign policy more generally, the Trump plan eschews international law and multilateralism.
The proposal is a blatantly one-sided, unilateral imposition of terms. All of the concessions to the Israeli right are locked in, clear and immediate. Everything for Palestinians is vague, far off in the future and contingent on Israel’s blessing.
The plan seems designed to elicit Palestinian rejection. This is a cynical proposal designed to shift the baseline of US foreign policy and green-light immediate annexation.
It is dangerous for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It would trample Palestinian rights and severely jeopardize Israel’s security, as well as its future as a democracy and a homeland for the Jewish people.
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