By Saeb Erekat
The upshot of the Trump administration’s Middle East plan was predictable for two reasons: the composition of President Trump’s Middle East team, mainly extreme supporters of Israel’s illegal colonial settlements; and the steps taken during the past three years that contradict the most basic U.S. commitments to the Middle East peace process, starting with U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the endorsement of the annexation of further occupied Palestinian territory.
The plan essentially enables Israel's colonial-settlement plans to maximize control over the people, land and natural resources of Palestine.
Trump knows that the prospects of such a dictated plan to succeed are none, but the aim is to send political messages amid his impeachment trial and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s embattled reelection effort in Israel.
The plan operates under the assumption that Palestinians are defeated and will therefore agree to anything. Such a deal may work in the world of bankruptcies and real estate but not with people aspiring and struggling to earn their freedom. The United States is once again proving that it is part of the problem and becoming more irrelevant in the Middle East.
How should the international community respond to this current plan, which tries to further normalize the acquisition of land through the use of force, setting a dangerous precedent? Those who have refused to take action by holding Israel accountable for decades of systematic violations of international law and U.N. resolutions should seriously reevaluate their policies. They have enabled Israel to get to this stage, where it moves toward annexation without fearing any repercussions. The United States has even decided to work for Israel’s campaign to save the prospects of further annexation of occupied territory belonging to the state of Palestine by lobbying the International Criminal Court against taking action on the issue.
Recognition of the state of Palestine is a fundamental step to save the prospects of peace. But much more is needed. It is the moment to impose sanctions on the Israeli occupation, banning trade with its colonial settlement enterprise and publishing the U.N. list of companies involved in the Israeli occupation. Those are just a few examples that are not contradictory to the shared goal most of the international community holds: to have a meaningful peace process that ensures securing a just and lasting peace based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border.
Abba Eban’s famous line that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” will now be repeated by apologists of Israel’s hegemony over the people of Palestine. It is clear that both the Trump administration and the Israeli government are the rejectionists here: They reject Palestine’s independence, international law and multilateralism. To reject this plan isn’t to reject peace but the contrary: Rejecting it means rejecting the perpetuation of a system of apartheid.
Now begins a new chapter of our long path to freedom. We are confident that the foundations of the international system will prevail over the attempts of those who are trying to sabotage international law. This goes beyond the scope of Palestine and Israel. The political conditions might change but not the legal status of our country. The international community must decide: Either it stands on the right side of history with the independence of the state of Palestine living side by side, in peace and security, with the state of Israel on the 1967 border — or it agrees to tolerate an apartheid regime.