Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
THE Trump administration’s quixotic Mideast policy team- whose captain is President’s son in law Jared Kushner-apparently holds a pragmatic argument that Mideast’s present status quo is dangerous not only for the Israelis, Palestinians and other partisans in the region, but a continuation of the conflict also expands hatred, violence and destruction to countries well outside the region. In this backdrop, through the encouragement and support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue recently decided to investigate the concept of an Israel-Palestine Confederation as a possible alternative to a dying two-state solution—albeit an inoperable/ fanciful and raucous peace plan.
The repeated failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during the last decades, regional unrest and destabilization throughout the Middle East, the numerical and geographical expansion of Israeli settler presence in the West Bank, and the repeated vicious cycle of violence, have all contributed to a diminished scope of a peaceful Israel-Palestine two state solution. The classic concept of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been widely viewed for decades as the only viable formula for resolving the conflict.
However, in recent years a plethora of critical voices in the region and beyond have been arguing that it is no longer – or according to some may have never been – a real prospect. So having found none of the basic solutions to be feasible, what remains is the status quo—the voice or urge of the Israeli far right who believes that the path of confrontation is beneficial than a peace discourse. Similarly, there are others who see the status quo with settlement expansion in the West Bank transforming Israel into an apartheid state. And that state, they contend, will lead to the one-state solution. However, the one state solution is not acceptable to Israel, mostly because Jewish Israelis would be or soon become a minority in new state because of demographics.
With a conspiring mindset, Netanyahu paid a secret visit to Jordan’s King Abdullah on June 17, and that the first port of call for the Trump peace team was also to Jordan’s King Abdullah. In this connection, the concept of establishing two legal entities simultaneously has been mooted: a sovereign state of Palestine, and a Confederation of Jordan, Israel and Palestine. By brokering a tri-state confederation, the American president could claim even more of an historic achievement, this time as a benefactor of both Jews and Arabs and of our own and the world’s peace and security.
A Confederation is a form of government in which constituent states maintain their independence while amalgamating certain aspects of administration, such as security or commerce. A Jordan-Israel-Palestine confederation would be dedicated above all to defending itself and its constituent sovereign states, but additionally to cooperating in fields of commerce, infrastructure and economic development, and also in administering Jerusalem’s holy sites. This trilateral confederation model, as argued, seems not only to gauge security but also future economic growth and prosperity for all its citizens.
This arrangement would encompass contiguous territories inhabited by 90 percent of Palestinians. In a three-state confederation of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, borders would be recognized but permeable. Palestinians would have the dignity and self-determination that they have been struggling to achieve in a framework that could replace hatred and mistrust with an opportunity for cooperation and friendship. Israel would not be forced back behind an insecure hermetic boundary 10 miles wide at its narrowest. Moreover, confederation would not be a complete novelty; it would reunite the peoples who inhabit the area that the British first designated as the unified territory of Palestine following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. Under this very arrangement Israeli settlers will be allowed to maintain their residency in Palestine and vice versa.
But Palestinians are preoccupied with ‘the 1948 file’ (the rights of Palestinian refugees and resident Palestinians in Israel. It is about over forty years of the true U.S. Policy… to build its client state, Israel, into a fortress and regional military power capable of furthering American interests… as the Israelis pursued their agenda of dispossessing Palestinians, stealing their land and imprisoning or killing them. It should be clear, now, that the U.S. never intended to support any Palestinian statehood. Will such a solution, based on an Arab-wide consensus, reasonably absorb Palestinian political parties’ objections? The answer comes in negative.
The Trump administration’s inability to recognise that Jerusalem is the historical, cultural, geographic and demographic heart of Palestine already set up the ultimate deal for failure. Jerusalem is the linchpin of peace. The Trump administration’s embassy move decision emboldened the rightwing, racist, ethno-sectarian and hyper-nationalist forces in Israel – and gave the Israeli government the green light to colonise more Palestinian land. True, another devious agenda is being constructed by US Mideast envoy Jared Kushner, as he in his interview, insults Palestinians and offers only economic vassalage in his vision of a high-tech, economic empowerment zone… Silicon Valley on the Med. Palestinians, stripped of sovereignty, civil and human rights, and any political future, can only serve Israelis as a captive labor force with no agency or control. This is the so called peace deal America’s latest envoy offers— accept ‘plantation slavery’ or cease to exist.
Hibernating the real prospects of conflict-pacification remains the only strategy of the Zionist government’s hawks in Tel Aviv and their political partners in Washington. Though the Trump political agenda has apparently succeeded in burying the two-state solution, yet intrinsically it has paved the way towards more hostility in the Palestinian camps. Palestinians will never accept such a plan that could snatch from them their freedom rights. As for the search from dependence (two state solution) to inter-dependence (Confederation model), the wisdom infers that with true political will, the same result of combining separation and cooperation could have also been achieved without forming a Confederation.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.