Trump’s murky search for Mideast peace?


S Qamar Afzal Rizvi

US President Donald Trump has urged the two sides —Israelis and Palestinians — to compromise on their stated position as to diffuse their tensions and discover a Mideast solution. The most important question arises here is that, which peace model he seems to have been concerned about. A peace study into the different peace options reveals that nothing seems more convincing than a two-state model, rightly endorsed by all seasoned western diplomats and their Arab counterparts.
While replying to a question about what he thinks about a two-state solution, Trump said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said. Trump’s point of view seems to have been drawing a deviated line on the US-led peace efforts since the very signing of the Oslo accords— urging the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish one. There are other so called negotiating options that the US president Trump look to be referred about. Aunitary, bi-national Israeli state, consisting thereof the occupied territories most of the West bank, with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. This proposal has been currently represented by Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home party and the right of Likud, rejects in principle the two-state solution, and giving up Jewish sovereignty over the ‘Land of Israel’. The Jewish peer view seems committed to entrenching Israel’s position in the West Bank through settlement expansion and even annexation of some or all of the West Bank via deceitful legal intervention.
Politically, Palestinians seem to lose largely from dropping the two-state outcome. As for Jews, Tel Aviv is using this shift to argue that Palestinians have been exploring maximalist ambitions unmatched with the international consensus around the two-state vision. Israel would then be justified to block any further concession to the Palestinians, thereby entrenching even more its colonization of the Palestinian territories. A one-state platform would also dismiss a large segment of Israeli society that pragmatically supports Palestinian statehood but quests for a separate future. Therefore, renouncing the two-state objective would be tantamount to straining relations with key outside players such as the United States and Europe on which the Palestinians largely depend so much in their struggle for a state.
Seen practically, crafting or running a federal power sharing system, delivering mutual grievances on land and reparations, and echoing popular acceptance of any compromise in a single state framework seems a Herculean task and certainly a remote possibility. State-minus formula: This model has been orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu, offering Palestinians enhanced self-rule without full statehood (with a permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley). Surely, for the Palestinians nothing seemed more appealing than to reject the proposal. The confederation scenario: Sometimes referred to as the three-state solution comprising an Israeli and/or Palestinian confederation with Jordan, the majority of whose population is Palestinian. Floated as an idea down the years but has never gained a popular surge as an option tabled by any of the parties. However, confederation would not be a complete novelty. It would charter a reunification of the peoples who inhabit the area that the British first benchmarked as the unified territory of Palestine after fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 via treaty of Serves.
Fundamentally, this proposal seems complex and impractical subject to the fact that it would make the Jordanian regime a third party to what is already a complicated two dimensional trajectory since the third party (Jordan) formally disengaged from the Palestinian struggle in 1988, after the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, which persuaded King Hussein that the Palestinian people had elected the PLO. The unilateral withdrawal proposal, also known as constructive unilateralism— envisaging an Israeli pull-back on its terms from parts of the West Bank, setting its own borders and separating itself from the bulk of the Palestinian population. But it has been charged of failing the peace process and has no support among international community. The Israeli model of regional approach— via warming ties with Sunni Arab states— spans the political divide in Israel, there are different views of how this relates to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has advocated that improved relations with Sunni Arab states could facilitate progress on the Palestinian issue. However, the centre-left argues that Israel’s unclear position on the Palestinian issue places limits on any deepening ties with Sunni Arab states.
In recent times, the Israeli centre-left has struggled against a tide of public apathy with respect to resolving the Palestinian issue. A majority of the Israeli public (57 per cent according to the Israel Democracy Institute’s December 2015 ‘Peace Index’ survey) is seen in high favour of a two-state solution. The UN chief has rightly warned Donald Trump against abandoning the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying there is “no alternative”.
Objectively, the model for durable peace— based on a two-state solution— only supports a comprehensive process that focus on formal negotiations. It espouses conflict resolution tools and strategies such as open space forums and consensus-building processes and accounts for technological advances that can generate a process to engage both direct and indirect stakeholders in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Trump’s policy team has to sanely and neutrally view these sensitivities attached to the Mideast peace conflict. How can the Trump administration take risk of playing with such a dwindled policy which, instead of diffusing the tensions between the two sides, could pave the way for upping the ante? For the global peace community, Trump’s notion of political jugglery is dangerous to the future of Mideast peace.
— 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.
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