nsnbc : U.S. President Donald Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the White House on Wednesday, to hold back on settlements. Trump also departed from former official U.S. foreign policy and said he was open to accept either a one or a two-State solution, depending on what people prefer. Netanyahu for his part said settlements were a point to be discussed during talks with Palestinians. PLO Chief Negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat, issued a press release stating that a secular one-State solution would be preferable to occupation and Israeli Apartheid but that the PLO continues to support a two-State solution.
Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference before their meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump said “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made”. Netanyahu, for his part, responded by playing down the issue of settlement, saying: “I believe that the issue of the settlement is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I think it’s an issue that has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations”.
Israel approved last month the construction of 3,000 additional housing units in West Bank settlements, amidst a spate of settlement expansion in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. Regardless whether one designates the occupied parts of the West Bank as “occupied”, as “illegally annexed”, or as “disputed” area, the fact is that the settlement construction is illegal under international law because they are built on land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.
While Trump has been widely criticized for being more “Israeli and settlement friendly”, it is worth recalling that U.S. President Obama, during the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, said a solution for the Israeli – Palestinian conflict can only be found within the framework of a comprehensive solution for the Middle East. The US administration was at that time beginning to sponsor the so-called “Arab Spring” that led to disasters in Libya, Egypt and Syria. U.S. brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine and insistence on a two-State solution by the Obama administration, as well as rhetoric against settlements, never resulted in any tangible measures against Israel either.
In an equally ambiguous White House statement earlier this month, the Trump administration said “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful” in achieving Middle East peace.
Breaking the Taboo
Trump broke with the taboo on discussing anything other than a two-State solution when he said “I’m looking at two-state, one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. … I can live with either one ». The context of this statement, however, was widely ignored by most, and misrepresented in many other media. Many experts in conflict resolution, many progressive Palestinians, as well as many progressive Israelis and not to forget, the late Libyan head of State Muammar Qaddafi stressed that there will never be peace as long as negotiations are aimed at a two state solution. The territory is too small, the infrastructure to interdependent, to create two viable States, they argue.
Backing the possibility, although tentatively, PLO chief negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat issued a press release on Wednesday. Erekat stressed that the acceptance of a two-State solution by the PLO, in fact, represents a painful and historic Palestinian compromise of recognizing Israel over 78% of historic Palestine. He underpinned that today, almost 6 million Palestinians live under Israeli control in all of historic Palestine, while another almost 6 million Palestinians live in the diaspora. With reference to the continued occupation of Palestinian territories, settlement construction, and the fact that Arabs in Israel are second-class citizens too, Erekat stated:
Contrary to (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu’s plan of one state and two systems, Apartheid, the only alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on all of historic Palestine. … I urged Mr. Bercow to work towards justice for the Palestinian people, especially given the historic responsibility that the UK bears 100 years after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration. Calls by Prime Minister Theresa May to celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration are not only unacceptable but insulting to the Palestinian people. We called upon the United Kingdom to recognize the State of Palestine on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to take concrete measures in order to save the two-state solution, including to ban all Israeli settlement products.
Erekat’s statement followed a meeting with Britain’s parliamentary speaker John Bercow. It refers to the recent invitation of Netanyahu to the celebrations of the centennial of the Balfour Declaration. Earlier this month Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah, deplored Britain’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend the celebration of the centennial of the Balfour Declaration.
Viewed in a historical context, the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes – Picot agreement show that sovereignty and self-determination where as irrelevant 100 years ago as they are irrelevant today, when major powers play geopolitics. The PLO, and especially the dominant PLO member faction Al-Fatah (Fateh) have long been criticized for signing the Oslo Accords and for accepting the two-State solution.
Many PLO member organizations, including the PFLP, and former PLO members organizations like the PFLP-GC have consistently denounced the Oslo Accords as impossible and/or defeatist, and as a means to implement an Israeli-dictated one state-solution or greater Israel by stealth and deception. It must be noted that the Oslo Accords are no treaty and never were legally binding. A treaty was promised five years after the accords but was never signed.
The PLO signed the accords based on the “assumption” that Israel would, in earnest, negotiate a final settlement of these issues within a five-year period. What the PLO received from the hands of Israel was decades more of settlement expansion but no settlement. No final treaty was signed in 1998, as promised.
The prominent Palestinian scholar Dr. Edward Said criticized the Oslo Accords from the get go as “A Palestinian Surrender”. Said’s assessment of the accords as a surrender were as correct as his assessment that the product of the Oslo Accords would be “a Palestinian leadership in disarray”.
He was correct in that assessment too. These are the real achievements of the late Shimon Perez. These achievements are part of “theirstory”, the history of the Palestinians. It is unlikely that they will be published in official “his-story” textbooks.
Considering the track-record of Al-Fatah and the al-Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority which has usurped many of the functions of the PLO, it is likely that Erekat’s statement about a one-State solution was mostly posturing.
However, the number of Palestinians and progressive Israelis who admit that a two-State solution always was and always will be impossible and that a secular one-State solution with equal rights for all citizens is the only viable solution that could bring a lasting peace continues to grow.
CH/L – nsnbc 16.02.2017