It didn’t take long for a hubristic Israeli right wing to press what it clearly sees as its advantage.
Indeed, less than a month had passed from when US President Donald Trump made his remarkable Jerusalem announcement – one that had apparently been in the cards right from the outset of his remarkable administration – before the ruling Likud Party struck.
First, on New Year’s Eve – a portent for the future if ever there was one – the central committee of the Likud, the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though in his absence, unanimously passed a motion to annex all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank (not including Jerusalem, which Israel long ago unilaterally annexed, contrary to international law).
Look at a map and see how much of the West Bank that is. Annexing the so-called Area C – where Israel is in full military and administrative control – would be the death (again) of the two-state solution. (Just look at that map and ask yourself how much of a chance a two-state solution ever had.)
The Likud motion is not binding on cabinet ministers, nor has it gone through parliament. It is an indication of what Likudniks consider popular policy, however. And it is also cited as a forerunnner to a bill that soon will be put before Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to implement Israeli law in all settlements – though how that differs from the situation now, where Jewish settlers come under Israeli civil law and Palestinians in the same area under military law, is not clear.
Either way, it amounts to an attempt to legislate Israel’s de facto annexation of the so-called Area C, and is being seen that way by Israeli politicians, for or against.
In addition, on 2 January, Israeli legislators passed a new law that would make it incumbent on any Israeli government to secure a super majority (80 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset) to cede any Jerusalem land (as defined by Israel’s own expanded boundary around the city) to another country.
In other words, the current Israeli parliament has put yet another significant obstacle in the way for any future government that might want to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians with the aim of creating two states.
None of this is to say that without the advent of Trump or Netanyahu’s coalition, the two-state solution wasn’t already an idea whose time had long passed.
Arguably, it was dead on arrival, aborted by Yitzhak Rabin’s insistence that the Oslo accords made no mention of Palestinian statehood, only self-determination, and the almost exponential settlement growth under his watch. That growth, of course, has only continued, unceasingly, under every Israeli prime minister and American president since. (Look at that map again and tell yourself the two-state solution had any chance.)
So while it would be tempting to say that the Israeli right is rushing to hammer in the final nail in the two-state coffin, that coffin is so riddled with final nails it seems more accurate to argue Israel’s right is rollicking through a boozy wake and canceling the mourning period to ensure that there can be no resurrection.
Ignorant and arrogant
This headlong rush has of course been encouraged by the US administration, which is in full support.
Trump, allegedly, wants Jordan to take responsibility for what will be left of the West Bank and Egypt for Gaza, which, if true, shows just how wildly ignorant and arrogant is this adminsitration. Jordan won’t take the West Bank leftovers. Why would it? No amount of money in the world could make up for the instability this would cause in a kingdom already straddling an uneasy demographic divide between so-called East and West Bankers.
So much for Washington. But the Israeli right also does not seem very clear about what it wants the new reality to be. Annexing settlements – all of which are illegal under international law, which forbids an occupying power such as Israel from transferring its civilian population to the territory it occupies – still leaves the pesky problem of all those indigenous people who live there.
In the short term, it would mean a more formal separation of areas with people (Jewish settlers) who enjoy full rights, and people (Palestinians) with no rights, no territorial contiguity, no self-determination and total economic dependence. Just like the current reality, then, but without the veneer of a peace process.
And in the longer run? Absent a Palestinian Authority (what would it do, after all?) and any role for Jordan and Egypt it is not at all clear. More ethnic cleansing? It would have to surpass the wholesale expulsion of 1948 for it to be effective. After all, there are now not far short of three million Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. And another two million in Gaza.
Or is this the start of a long, hard, winding and (perhaps) inevitable road, detouring through racism and apartheid, to a single state with equal rights for all its citizens in one, two, three generations time?
There ought to be better ways of getting there.