US media have treated Trump’s launch of his Middle East “peace” plan as a sideshow to impeachment hearings in Washington.
But the plan, if imposed on the Palestinians by Israel, which worked with the Trump administration to develop it, would violate the rights of millions of people.
As Adalah, a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians in Israel, puts it, the plan is “no more than an attempt to bypass international legal barriers and to ignore Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”
It’s a variation of the sleight of hand attempted by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief architect of the plan, when he tried to do away with the pesky problem of multiple generations of Palestinian refugees by telling them that they are not refugees after all.
This myopic approach is ridiculous and an insult to Palestinians who have endured injustice for so long.
It also reflects the utter contempt Kushner, whose family foundation has funded activities in the settlements, has for Palestinians and their rights.
Ir Amim, a group working towards equality in Jerusalem, notes “the stark congruence between the plan and the settler right-wing agenda.”
Palestinian refugees, it should come as no surprise, do not have any rights, according to the Trump plan. Not to return to the homes and lands now in Israel from which their families were forcibly expelled. And not to compensation, either.
When the Trump plan mentions the well-being of Palestinians, it’s used as a stick to bludgeon their leadership, resistance factions and Arab states hosting refugees. The plan makes it clear that Israel bears no responsibility for Palestinian grievances, and therefore Palestinians can make no claims for accountability against it.
The plan requires the Palestinians to abandon the pursuit of war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court – efforts its authors describe as “judicial warfare against the State of Israel.”
Yet annexation is the foundation of the Trump proposal, which would hand over the areas of the West Bank most prized by Israel – its settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley.
The plan attempts to eschew the international consensus on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and other significant violations by stating that “different parties have offered conflicting interpretations of some of the most significant United Nations resolutions” related to Israel and the Palestinians.
It is a similar argument to that made by the heads of oil companies and Republican politicians who claim it is up for debate whether human activity is irreversibly altering the planet’s climate because a handful of fringe skeptics challenge the scientific consensus.
Trump’s plan recommends the transfer of more than 260,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel to a future State of Palestine.
It states that the “State of Palestine” could make up for West Bank territory lost to the annexation of Israel’s major settlement blocs by gaining “both populated and unpopulated areas” in Israel.
The populated area specified in the plan is the Triangle region in northern Israel, primarily made up of Palestinian communities such as Umm al-Fahm, Qalansawa and Tira.
While Trump’s “vision” boasts that no Palestinian or Israeli would be removed from their home, this land swap proposal would strip Palestinians in Israel of their citizenship and “place them under perpetual Israeli military occupation,” as Adalah states.
“This kind of population transfer – which has been consistently rejected by Palestinian citizens of Israel when proposed by a variety of Israeli right-wing political leaders in the past – is blatantly illegal under international law and attempts to widen the demographic scope of racially motivated separation,” Adalah adds.
Meanwhile, some 120,000 or more Palestinians in neighborhoods on the wrong side of Israel’s annexation wall in East Jerusalem would presumably lose their residency status.
An archipelago of land with no right to self-defense, the Palestinian state envisioned in the Trump plan would resemble none ever seen before, and would hardly satisfy Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Indeed there is a stark resemblance between the South African apartheid regime’s bantustans – supposedly independent states that the racist government hoped would forestall demands for Black political rights.
It also resembles the reservations that the US and Canada established for Indigenous people forced off their land by European settlers.
For these reasons, the plan has rightly been called a non-starter. But as Ir Amim warns, “the plan’s content underpins the notion that an advanced understanding has been reached between the Israeli government and the Trump administration concerning far-reaching unilateral measures.”
The group adds that the plan “reflects extensive moves that are already being implemented on the ground to strengthen Israel’s hold on East Jerusalem and to carry out annexation steps towards ‘Greater Jerusalem.’”
Gift to Temple Movement extremists
The plan also “contains blatant contradictions which constitute a flagrant breach to the status quo” at the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary compound housing al-Aqsa mosque.
The Trump plan states that “people of every faith should be permitted to pray” at the compound, marking “a dramatic shift in the longstanding policy concerning worship rights” at the site.
Since 1967, the status quo has been that only Muslims have worship rights at the site, while others may visit.
Ir Amim adds that “such changes have been one of the primary goals of the Temple Movements – radical Jewish activists committed to overturning the status quo and asserting Jewish sovereignty over the site.”
As Ir Amim observes, the plan also “calls to safeguard Jerusalem’s religious and holy sites and ensure freedom of access for worshippers of all faiths.” Except for the al-Aqsa mosque compound and “a general reference to Muslim holy shrines,” it omits sacred Muslim sites from a list of holy sites in the city.
Instead, the list includes “a significant number of Jewish and Christian sites,” and archaeological sites “never before officially regarded or recognized as holy,” Ir Amim states.
The latter sites are “located in and around Silwan and constitute the locus of the Elad settler organization’s touristic settlement operations in the area.”
Trump’s envoys have previously lent a hand (and arm) to efforts to displace Palestinians from the Silwan neighborhood for the benefit of Israeli settlers.
The Trump-Israel-Kushner plan opines that “Only through peace can the Palestinians achieve prosperity.”
But without justice, there will never be peace. Israel and its American enablers cannot escape that reality.