‘New Palestine’ or no Palestine?

Trump’s proposal is not a basis for a state, merely a string of cantons under Israel’s military control, writes Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine.

The leaked contents of Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” proposals — drawn up by a team led by his son-in-law — will apparently resolve the issue of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by the creation of a “New Palestine.”

There will be no Palestine — merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders. The land currently militarily occupied by Israel would be divided up with a political three card trick that has been dubbed “politicide.” Egypt would assume greater responsibility for Gaza — allowing more access and trade via Northern Sinai. With Israel annexing all the settlements and land it wants in the West Bank — including the Jordan valley, into a greater Israel — Jordan would oversee land corridors into the remaining parts of the West Bank.

Apparently according Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living in the stolen territory that is to be “annexed,” is in fact merely adding to the number of second class Arab “citizens” living within Israel not entitled to full citizenship due to its racially based Nation State Law passed last year.

During the Israeli election Benjamin Netanyahu declared that there would be no Palestinian state if he was re-elected. If, as expected, the annexation includes most of the land called Area C under the Oslo agreements that would leave a mere 12 per cent of historic Palestine for the creation of a “New Palestine.” Not a basis for a state, merely a string of cantons under Israel’s military control, whatever they are called.

International law and the UN recognise the state of Israel based on the boundaries prior to 1967 when Israel’s military occupation started. Multiple resolutions say there should be a Palestinian state, but Israel has never recognised a Palestinian state nor ever defined its own borders. As the land grab and ethnic cleansing continues one can see why. Since 1967 Israeli authorities have denied that the Geneva Convention applies to its occupation and therefore it can annex territories under its military control. At other times the Conventions are used by Israel to justify treating Palestinians differently to Israeli citizens because they live outside of their sovereign territory.

So, by what criteria should the Trump deal be judged? Dictionaries define a deal as an “an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.” By any definition of a deal Trump’s fails — there is no agreement or mutual benefit. Through the force of armed and economic power it is intended to impose the deal on Palestinians as a one-sided attempt to systematically destroy and take off the table their collective rights under international law. History has shown that bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine are inherently unequal — with the US, as Trump is showing, the dis-honest broker and enforcer.

Using international law and UN resolutions as a framework — freedom, justice and equality would be good principles for a Labour ethical foreign policy to use as criteria. If the Labour Party in government or opposition were to judge on this basis the Trump deal or anything like it should be resoundingly rejected. It fails at every hurdle.

On equality — Palestinians are discriminated against in and out of Israel in almost every conceivable way — the law, right to travel, using the roads, owning property; all whilst their history and heritage is literally being wiped out on the ground and in books and language.

As regards international law, Israel is in breach on the right of return, the occupation and the siege of Gaza. The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law. UN resolutions are flouted just as regularly — over Jerusalem, the Wall or the ever-growing settlements. With every act Palestinians are denied freedom and justice. Their lands, houses, trees and water are stolen. And the world stands idly by.

The publication of the deal has been much delayed, it is now rumoured to come after Ramadan, having been postponed to avoid the Israeli elections. However, when or whether it is finally published is of less consequence than how it is being used as an agenda. The US is already implementing it, Israel is treating it as political cover to use as a blueprint to justify its actions. It is based on the belief, which has been justified in practice, that Israel has an impunity guaranteed by the US to ignore international law and treaties to which it is a party if they don’t suit its territorial ambitions.

It is the very real risk of Palestine being forcibly carved up and atomised before our eyes that underpins Labour & Palestine’s decision to make the Trump/Netanyahu plan the subject of its model motion for this year’s Labour Party conference.

It partly recognises that to be an internationalist party, Labour needs to take ownership of Britain’s historic responsibility. The Nakba took place in 1947/8 when the post-war Attlee government was in power — we walked away and allowed 700,000 Palestinians to be forcibly expelled.

From the Balfour Declaration in 1917 we have promised to protect Palestinian rights — something we have singularly failed to do during the time when Palestine was under a British mandate to the present day.

Therefore, the motion goes further than simply rejecting the Trump proposals — it argues that there must also be consequences for Israel’s continuing breaches of international law.

Our trade — be it finance, arms or goods and services — should all comply with international law. If the settlements are illegal, then surely their goods should not be freely available in our shops. If the occupation is illegal, then the arms and technology used to enforce it should not be bought and sold with Israel when we know they are going to be used to violate Palestinian human rights.

It will not be enough for us to be silent if something called a “New Palestine” is forced into existence but there is no Palestine. Those of us in the Labour Party should perhaps be inherently cautious of anything that is rebranded as “new.” Under Trump’s plan there will not be two states, just one called Israel.

It will not be a solution if it is not based on the consent of the Palestinian people recognising their international and human right to self determination and to return to their homes. It is not a solution if it doesn’t recognise equality for all. It is not a solution that Labour should accept.

You can sign the Labour & Palestine statement at https://labourandpalestine.eaction.online/statement. This article was originally published in the ‘Morning Star.’