President Trump announced his administration’s Middle East peace plan on Jan. 28, the writing of which was overseen by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with right-wing GOP megadonor Sheldon G. Adelson and evangelical Christian leaders were present during the announcement. But the peace plan is viewed by governments around the world as dead on arrival, not least of which because the Palestinians had no role in its drafting. Many observers commented that the announcement was likely timed to divert attention away from Trump’s impeachment trial at the time and Netanyahu’s recent indictment on fraud and bribery charges.
The divisive plan would provide de facto annexation of Israel’s many illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, guarantee Israel’s control a unified Jerusalem as its capital and offer the Palestinians a non-contiguous, demilitarized state with limited sovereignty along with a pledge of $50 billion in international investment.
In strongly rejecting Trump’s plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority will cut all ties with the U.S. and Israel, including those relating to security. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sonya E. Meyerson-Knox, media program manager with the group Jewish Voice for Peace, who assesses the plans many failings and alternative ways forward to achieving a just and lasting peace.
SONYA MEYERSON-KNOX: It’s not a peace plan. It was never intended to be a peace plan. It’s an apartheid plan. And I think when you look at the maps that are included in this ridiculous document, the similarities to the South Africa bantustans that they created, where you have little tiny enclaves that are somewhat connected to each other. Just because of the extent to which this plan is all about condensing the maximum number of Palestinians into the minimum amount of land. So what we’re seeing is actually a culmination of a failed U.S. policy for over 30 years. And in fact, the U.S, was never actually an honest broker in any of the peace plans or any of the peace talks that we’ve seen and under the U.S.’ tutelage, if you will, we’ve seen Israel continually violate international law. The settlements and number of settlers in the West Bank has grown.
There’s over 600,000 there now, and this plan will ensure that Israel has complete control over all major settlement blocks, which will lead to the annexation of about 30 percent of Palestinian land in the West Bank and that includes the very fertile Jordan Valley which includes massively important water resources that Palestinians will no longer have access to. Other really important components of this apartheid plan are that the right of return will be given up by Palestinians. The right of return is the idea and the belief that is sanctified and codified in international law that Palestinians have the right to return to the land that they were displaced from in 1948. And so we’re looking at 13 million Palestinians in the diaspora who are going to be told that they do not have the right to ever come home. Whereas of course under Israeli law, people who are Jewish in a way that is recognized by the Israeli state (inaudible) Jewish are allowed to become Israeli citizens and move into Israel.
We’re also seeing the insistence that the state of Israel continued to be recognized as a Jewish state, this Jewish nation state. This means that the 20 percent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens are second-class citizens and have fewer rights. That is also, of course, a classic indicator of apartheid. The other, most atrocious parts of this really reprehensible plan includes the fact that the land mass that is being proposed, or the pieces of land that are being proposed to become Palestine do not include Jerusalem, not even East Jerusalem, which is currently, you know, where Palestine has understood it will have its capital. Instead, a refugee camp outside of Jerusalem and some really underserved poor neighborhoods are going to be called something that is the capital, but not Jerusalem. That name has now been taken away from Palestinians according to this plan. And basically there’ll be no Palestinian control over their security, over their borders, over their natural resources, their airspace, and really therefore, of course, their futures.
SCOTT HARRIS: Sonya, we only have about a minute or two left, but I wanted to ask you one final important question. For many years now, the Palestinians have not viewed the United States as an honest, neutral broker in trying to achieve a just peace in the Middle East. Are there other alternatives there that may be pursued now that the Trump administration has put a gravestone on this many decades-long U.S. effort? Are there other nations out there or the United Nations themselves who could be that honest broker to try to achieve some lasting peace?
SONYA MEYERSON-KNOX: The lesson to me at least that I am seeing from this is that now that the facade has truly been pulled back and the U.S. is confirming that it never was and will not be an honest broker, there is obviously space for the international community to step forward. I’m not sure that it will. I don’t think the United Nations is particularly cohesive at the moment and the geopolitics that we are seeing at large between Russia and China and Iran, etc. – none of that is sparking any sort of confidence to that we’re going to see the international community come together and demand a just negotiation process. The U.N. itself – by getting pulled into the roadmap, which was the most recent version of trying to implement the Oslo (Accord) – also certainly has tarnished its own reputation as an honest broker.
That being said, I think the bigger lesson is really the role of international solidarity movements and finding ways to support how Palestinians can put pressure on Israel. And one of the most key ways we can do that right now is through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, which was created and is run by the Palestinian civil society groups inside of Palestine. And the extent to which we can, put international pressure on Israel the same way that there was a boycott movement against apartheid in South Africa. The same way we have seen successful boycott movements against oppressive policies against immigrant workers in California or the Selma, (Alabama) bus strike, etc. I mean, these movements do work.
And so the Palestinians have put forward a very clear call over 10 years ago about what needs to be done. And we’re seeing it grow and we’re seeing it get attacked because it’s so successful. But really rather than see if there’s space for Russia to play this role and China to do that and Iran to say this, I think it’s much more important to say, “Well, what are the Palestinians asking for?” They’re asking for us to support them in BDS and therefore creating space to actually have fair negotiations with Israel.
For more information, visit Jewish Voice for Peace at jewishvoiceforpeace.org.