By Rashi Seth
BOLOGNA, Italy — A tawdry deal has been made yet again regarding the livelihood of Palestinians, in their absence, ignoring their rights — but deciding their future.
As with the 1917 Balfour Declaration and UN Security Council resolution 242 to end the Six-Day War of 1967, the U.S. is determining the disposition of Palestinians and catering to the exclusive demands of one side of the conflict.
Trump’s plan entails Palestinians losing a significant portion of their territory, including over a third of the West Bank made up of illegal Israeli settlements. The proposal casually brushes aside UN resolution 242 which “emphasizes the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” or international laws that stipulate occupiers cannot settle their citizens on occupied land. According to the deal, Jerusalem becomes the undivided capital of Israel while Palestinians have the permission to declare Abu Dis as their capital, a neighborhood to the east of Jerusalem. In order to connect to Gaza, the plan suggests the construction of one of the world’s longest underground tunnels from the West Bank as the only way Palestinians can travel from one area to the other. Accepting this plan would mean a loss of Palestine’s right to control its borders. It is worth highlighting that Palestinians have already lost 40% of their territory since the1967 war. Other limitations include continuous Israeli control over Palestine’s airspace and Israel’s overarching right to decide whether or not Palestine can militarize. Under the new deal, Palestine will lose its sovereignty. Palestinian refugees will be denied the right to return, not to Israel, but to Palestine, unless Israel authorities grant their approval. “Considering the huge amount of Palestinian refugees (for instance those in Jordan), this plan is basically the end of the “right of return,” said Sara Sharif, an Italian-Jordanian first-year M.A. student of Palestinian descent. Without this approval, refugees are forced to remain in place. Meanwhile, the wishes of the Israeli right-wing are being fulfilled, especially noteworthy as Netanyahu faces reelection in a month.
The timing of this “deal” announcement provides political profit for both Trump and Netanyahu domestically. Trump effectively diverted attention from his impeachment acquittal in the U.S. Senate for crimes and misdemeanors, while Netanyahu accomplished the same as he faced charges involving bribery, corruption, and breach of trust. “Following Trump’s recent acquittal, and in the build-up to the American elections, it is an opportune time for him to rally his support base,” said Natalie Smith, an American first-year M.A. student at SAIS Europe. “This was a goal he promised to fulfill back during his 2016 campaign, and it’s finally happening. It appears, in part, to be a short term political move with minimal attention given to the long term ramifications. It is being referred to as a ‘resolution’, but how can it really be called that when both parties in the conflict were not involved in the negotiation process?”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the document within minutes after it went public, stating “Palestinian rights and hopes are not for sale.” Immediately following the plan’s publication, “#القدس ــ ثمنها ـ دم” (Jerusalem’s price is blood), started trending on Twitter, and led to protests in Ramallah, Gaza, as well as outside the American Embassy in Amman, Jordan. President Abbas rejected the idea of peace talks with Israel and America’s mediation in the process since the American embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “In any case, Abbas didn’t even need to see the plan to disapprove of it,” said Yaniv Cohen, an Israeli-American M.A. student at SAIS Europe. ”It was clearly dead on arrival because of the Trump administration [has] lost all Palestinian trust.”
It is still unclear whether the purpose of the plan was for Trump to deliver on the promises of his 2016 campaign, to divert attention from the impeachment process, or to incite popular support prior to the upcoming election cycle, but one aspect is clear — the future for Palestine remains undetermined.