By Moshé Machover – Weekly Worker, 23 February 2017
On February 15 the desiccated corpse of the two-state ‘solution’ (2SS) to the conflict between the Israeli Zionist settler state and the colonized Palestinian Arab people was finally laid to rest. One it tempted to say ‘RIP’, but it is far more likely to rest in war than peace. The interment took place at a White House press conference during which the new leader of the ‘international community’ absolved his smiling protégé Benjamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu from even pretending to pursue the phantom of the 2SS.1 This ended a long-standing official commitment of the US to the 2SS, formalized by GW Bush in his Road Map speech (June 24 2002),2 but which informally dates back to the Bill Clinton presidency.
As I explained in previous articles,3 no major Zionist party is genuinely prepared to accept a sovereign Palestinian state ‘alongside Israel’ west of the river Jordan. But whereas Labour Zionists (now part of the Zionist Camp led by Yitzhak Herzog) were ready to play along in the endless ‘peace process’, Netanyahu and most of his Likud party, egged on by their ultra-fanatic partners, had lost patience with this pretence, and were eager to edge towards annexing the West Bank (the tiny densely populated Gaza Strip is not on the menu just yet). So in April 2004 Obama’s secretary of state John Kerry concluded that due to Israel’s obstructiveness the ‘peace process’ had gone “poof”.4
Secret summit in Aqaba
In order to understand the full significance of Trump’s declaration, which effectively allows Netanyahu a free hand in dealing with the Palestinian issue, we must note two previous landmark events. The first of these was a summit meeting summoned by the preternaturally persistent Kerry as a last-ditch attempt to resuscitate the 2SS. It was held during the last week of February 2016 in the Jordanian Red-Sea port of Aqaba and was kept secret for a year, until the story was leaked to Ha’aretz (probably by someone very close to Kerry), which published it on February 19 2017.5 The participants, apart from Kerry, were Netanyahu, Jordan’s king Abdullah II and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. The president of the Palestinian (so-called) Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was not invited (in order not to embarrass him with the concessions that would be forced on him), but was kept informed.
Netanyahu was presented by his three interlocutors with an offer he could not openly refuse, as it addressed all his previous pretexts for demurring. According to Ha’aretz,
Kerry … crafted a document that included principles for the renewal of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the framework of a regional peace initiative with the participation of the Arab countries. The plan he formulated in early 2016 was identical to the one he presented at the end of that year – three weeks before Donald Trump entered the White House. The following are the six principles.
- International secure and recognized borders between Israel and a sustainable and contiguous Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed-on exchanges of territory.
- Implementation of the vision of UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan) for two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab – which recognize each other and give equal rights to their citizens.
- A just, agreed-on, fair and realistic solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees that conforms to a solution of two states for two peoples and will not influence the basic character of Israel.
- An agreed-on solution for Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, recognized by the international community and ensuring freedom of access to the holy sites in keeping with the status quo.
- A response to Israel’s security needs, ensuring Israel’s ability to protect itself effectively and ensuring Palestine’s ability to give security to its citizens in a sovereign, demilitarized state.
- The end of the conflict and of demands, which will allow a normalization of ties and increased regional security for all, in keeping with the vision of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The reference to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 is extremely significant, as it includes recognition of Israel “as a Jewish state”, a demand often raised by Netanyahu in the hope that it would be rejected by the Arab side.
Netanyahu did not, could not, reject this plan outright, but – true to form – procrastinated. Apparently he indicated that in order for Israel to accept the plan he would need to enlarge the ruling coalition to include the Zionist Camp. Accordingly he conducted talks with Herzog, telling him about the Aqaba plan and inviting him to join the government. But the latter got a clear impression that Netanyahu was not serious, and had no real intention to commit to the Aqaba plan. Nothing came out of the talks, and Netanyahu appointed the thuggish extremist Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister. Once again, Netanyahu managed to deflect a 2SS plan, this time in its final form, most favourable to Zionist ambitions.
No wonder Kerry’s parting speech on December 28 2016, in which he recapitulated his Aqaba plan, was so angry and frustrated.6
Legislation prelude to annexation
The second landmark event was the enactment by the Knesset on February 6 2017, by 60 to 52 votes, of the euphemistically named Judea and Samaria Regulation Law, better and more fittingly known as the Expropriation Law,7, empowering the Israeli government to legalize retroactively Jewish settlements in the West Bank located on land privately owned by Palestinians. What is most significant about this legalized theft is that it implicitly changes the legal status of the West Bank. Zionist robbery of Palestinian land has been going on in the West Bank since it was occupied in 1967. But so far the ‘legal’ instrument for implementing it has come in the form of edicts issued by Israeli military commanders, quoting ‘security’ or ‘military’ needs for the stolen land. This in effect treated the West Bank as occupied territory rather than sovereign Israeli territory. But – as pointed out by no other than Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin and former justice minister Dan Meridor, both Likud members – the Knesset has no power to legislate on property rights of foreigners outside Israel’s sovereign territory.8 Moreover, Israel’s attorney general Avihai Mandelblit has announced that he would be unable to defend the new law in the Supreme Court, as it is unconstitutional and is vulnerable to international legal challenge. Indeed, it is quite possible that the Supreme Court will rule accordingly. But what this legislation clearly shows is that the Israeli leadership is moving towards formal or semi-formal annexation of the West Bank.
Ominously, calls for annexation have been increasing in number and volume. At the more ‘liberal’ end of the ruling Zionist circles is president Rivlin. As noted above, he opposes the new Expropriation Law because it applies to areas outside Israel’s sovereign territory and to property of persons who are not Israeli citizens. His solution: annex the whole of the West Bank and grant its Palestinian Arab inhabitants Israeli citizenship.9 In this he is a true follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of right-wing (‘revisionist’) Zionism, who called for Jewish colonization of Palestine, suppressing forcibly the anticipated opposition of the indigenous Arabs, but then granting them equal rights.10
However, Jabotinsky was writing in the inter-war period, when there was a large oppressed Jewish population in Poland and other countries of eastern Europe, and he counted on massive Jewish immigration to Palestine that would rapidly reduce the indigenous Palestinian Arabs to a minority. The situation of the Jewish diaspora today is very different indeed. East-European Jews were for the most part exterminated by the Nazis; and the present major Jewish communities in Europe and America are not oppressed but thriving. There is little prospect of new massive Jewish immigration to an expanded Israel, sufficient to ensure a Jewish majority.
So Rivlin’s scheme is unrealistic from a Zionist viewpoint, as Ha’aretz has politely pointed out.11 The Zionist regime will not allow it. The decidedly illiberal religious fanatics and racist bigots who are in Israel’s driving seat will do it their own way, now that they feel they have been dealt a Trump card, a carte blanche from the White House. They will probably proceed stepwise, beginning with areas that are already compactly colonized by Israel and have sparser Palestinian population. Palestinian population concentrations will be isolated, squeezed and warehoused, pending eventual ethnic cleansing, when an opportunity – such as a regional conflagration – presents itself. And with the present occupant of the Oval Office this may be sooner than we may think. The outcome will be one state, Zionist style.
Will the ‘international community’ allow it? Well, Zionist expansionism can rely on promising precedents: in addition to the original 1947–49 nakba, there is also the case of the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel is not Putin’s Russia, and the Golan is not Crimea: whereas the Putin gang went through the motions of conducting a referendum before annexing the peninsula, Israel took the simpler route of ethnically cleansing most of the Golan’s inhabitants in 1967, before annexing it officially in 1981. And were any sanctions imposed on Israel? No, stupid, you have just been told that Israel is not Russia. In fact, although no country has formally recognized the annexation and accepted the ethnic cleansing, the world has got used to regarding the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and the line separating it from the rest of Syria is usually referred to in the media as Israel’s border with Syria.
The only hope of preventing a new nakba is a massive mobilisation of progressive world public opinion.
Moshé Machover is an Israeli socialist anti-Zionist activist and co-founder of the Socialist Organization in Israel (Matzpen). He is currently living in London, England. He is emeritus professor of philosophy, King’s College, London University. His most recent book is Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Resolution.
All IOA commentaries by Moshé Machover
- ‘Trump, Netanyahu Full Press Conference’, ABC News, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmfseeZt5fA>. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_map_for_peace. ↩
- For example, ‘Israel’s quest for legitimacy, <http://www.israeli-occupation.org/2014-09-18/moshe-machover-israels-quest-for-legitimacy/>. ↩
- Mark Landler, ‘Mideast Frustration, the Sequel’, New York Times, April 8 2014 <http://tinyurl.com/pn3vrto>. ↩
- ‘Exclusive: Kerry Offered Netanyahu Regional Peace Plan in Secret 2016 Summit With al-Sissi, King Abdullah’ <http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.772531>. ↩
- https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004843773/watch-live-kerrys-speech-on-israeli-palestinian-peace.html. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Regulation_Law&oldid=765605300. ↩
- Itamar Eichner, ‘Rivlin lashes out against Regulation Law’, Ynet, February 13 2017, <http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4921846,00.html>; D Meridor, ‘5 Reasons Why Israeli Lawmakers Must Vote Against the Outpost Legalization Bill’, Ha’aretz, February 3 2017, <http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.769360>. ↩
- Jonathan Lis, ‘President Rivlin: Israel Should Annex West Bank, Give Palestinians Full Citizenship’, Ha’aretz, February 14 2017, <http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.771526>. ↩
- Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘The iron wall’ (O Zheleznoi stene), published November 4 1923 in the Russian-language journal Rassvyet (Dawn); English translation <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/ironwall.html>. ↩
- Ha’aretz editorial, ‘Rivlin, Liberal or Annexationist?’, February 16 2017, <http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/editorial/1.772039>. ↩