In the aftermath of Trump’s disastrous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the spin from Washington and Riyadh–and the journalists and think tank analysts only too eager be spun–has been outrageous. The level of sheer delusion is stupendous. This post will offer an anatomy of delusion and why it means only more suffering and bloodshed for both Arabs and Israelis.
The Times Shills for the Two-State Delusion
The NY Times, ever the newspaper of record for the élite and their paid emissaries, purports to debate whether the two-state solution remains viable in light of Trump’s seeming endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Who does Mark Landler quote as sources? Why, think tank talking heads who earn their keep from the Israel Lobby and its donors. Landler quotes no less than four sources affiliated with Lobby, all of whom endorse a two-state solution. And none of whom have ever offered any serious analysis or balanced discussion of the one-state solution: Martin Indyk, David Makovsky, Scott Anderson, and Daniel Levy.
How many Palestinian or Arab sources does he quote? One, Saeb Erekat. And he doesn’t quote anything original from Erekat. He merely quotes statements the Palestinian made to other media outlets. He begins with Erekat saying:
…Erekat…a steadfast advocate for a Palestinian state, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “have managed to destroy that hope.” He embraced a radical shift in the P.L.O.’s goals — to a single state, but with Palestinians enjoying the same civil rights as Israelis, including the vote.
“They’ve left us with no option,” he said. “This is the reality. We live here. Our struggle should focus on one thing: equal rights.”
Once Landler lays this out, he must debunk it immediately. And he does:
Mr. Erekat’s change of heart is unlikely to change Palestinian policy. The dream of a Palestinian state is too deeply ingrained in a generation of its leaders for the Palestinian Authority to abandon it now. Israel would be unlikely to accede to equal rights, because granting a vote to millions of Palestinians would eventually lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Who is a NY TImes reporter who knows little about what Palestinians believe, to say that a two-state solution is “too deeply ingrained” to be abandoned? And note who he points to as the arbiters of what Palestinians accept or believe? “Leaders,” by whom he means the doddering old kleptocratic octogenarians who have sold out the Palestinian cause for decades. Landler makes no attempt to reach out to Palestinian activists or academics or indigenous NGOs who know much better what the Palestinian street is thinking. Does Landler think that only leaders matter? Does he think leaders this corrupt and out of touch can merely wave a magic wand and four million Palestinians will follow them like the Pied Piper of Hamelin?
Further, why would Israel’s objections to “equal rights” and a one-state solution be a reason this doesn’t become the eventual resolution of the issue? Why do we assume that Israel will always be calling the shots? Did Serbia call the shots regarding Kosovo or Bosnia after NATO intervened? Why does the resistance of a nation which threatens to take the entire region to the brink of Armageddon become an immovable obstacle? The sheer chutzpah of such an assumption is enormous.
Later, the article offers the administration’s rebuttal of the Palestinian perspective on Trump’s proclamation:
Administration officials strenuously reject the argument that Mr. Trump has foreclosed a two-state solution…He studiously avoided taking a position on the eventual borders or sovereignty of Jerusalem.
That is either an ignorant or disingenuous statement. When you recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem (not over “west Jerusalem,” as Trump could have said) and you omit any reference to Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem, then you’ve taken a crystal clear position on borders and sovereignty. You’ve said Israel has sovereignty and the Palestinians don’t. If you believe otherwise, you’re a fool or a villain (or both).
Then Landler chimes in with an affirmation of Trump’s claims of even-handedness:
Beyond the president’s words, there were other signs he is serious about his intentions. On the same day that he signed his name with a John Hancock-like flourish to a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, he quietly signed another document that will delay the move of the American Embassy to the city for at least six months — and probably much longer.
How does Trump’s recognition that he can’t immediately move the embassy for a thousand logistical reasons equate to Trump being “serious in his intentions” to be fair and balanced in weighing the claims of Palestinians? Should Palestinians view the delay in moving the embassy as a gift to them? Something that has any real benefit or meaning to them?
At this point, Landler gives voice to his first pro-Israel talking head, Martin Indyk, who makes this blindingly astute observation:
“Avoiding a move of the embassy is a way of avoiding geographic definition,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel. “Avoiding any geographic definition of their recognition of Jerusalem looks like their effort to keep the peace process alive.”
It’s hardly much of an affirmation by Indyk of Trump’s peace process. But he does seem to believe that by not moving the embassy, the U.S. believes it’s offered the Palestinians something. When of course, it’s nothing and will have no value to any Palestinian.
Landler’s coup de grâce in terms of marshalling pro-Israel analysts is David Makovsky. And his comments have to be read to be believed:
…Some longtime Middle East observers said Mr. Erekat’s talk of a one-state solution reflected anger rather than a watershed change in the Palestinian position. Given Israel’s probable rejection of equal rights, American and Israeli supporters of a two-state solution said that option, for all intents and purposes, remained the only game in town.
“I don’t want to minimize the hurt the Palestinians feel,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But there was a duality to Trump’s message that has gotten lost.”
Mr. Trump, he said, was not closing the door to negotiations on borders and sovereignty. “Both parts should be heard,” he said. While he questioned the timing of the move, he said the Palestinians could return to the table when tempers cool.
“Right now their anger is such that they probably can’t hear this,” Mr. Makovsky said. “But if he presents a plan in the first quarter, are you not going to want to hear what it is? The Palestinians still think Trump’s enough of a bulldozer that if he gave something to the Israelis on a Wednesday, he’s capable of giving something to the Palestinians on a Thursday.”
It’s quite amazing that a pro-Israel shill like Makovsky who knows the two-state solution is dead and knows that no one in power in Israel or the U.S. believes in it, can still sell a journalist like Landler a bill of goods. And note that Landler only quotes analysts who support a two-state solution and a PLO official who also has supported it till now. There are no sources here offering an alternative point of view. None. Which means this article is journalism in bad faith, whether the reporters who compiled it were aware of this bias or not.
Note that the strongest adjective Makovsky can muster to describe Palestinians emotions is “hurt.” No, hurt is when you skin your knee or sprain your pinkie. What Trump did to Palestinians is more like a shot to the gut; a paralyzing blow that deprives them of any hope and drives them into the arms of radical extremists.
I also like Makovsky’s assurance that Palestinians will return to talks once their hot-headed tempers cool down. Those pesky Palestinians always let their tribal emotions get the better of them. If they could only realize they have no choice. That what Trump offers is as good as they’re going to get. Then they’d get down to business.
The sheer ignorance of Makovsky assuming that the Palestinians will have natural curiosity about Trump’s offer and want to come back to the table to hear it is amazing. Why would Palestinians care what Trump offered them? Why would they attribute any value to it given his current and past statements? And just what does Makovsky believe Trump is going to give the Palestinians on that proverbial Thursday?
Finally, Landler ends his piece quoting the “liberal” pundit of the bunch, the guy the reporter probably feels covers his bases on the left, Daniel Levy. The only problem is that Levy isn’t “on the left.” He’s a liberal Zionist, neither progressive or leftist. And Levy too supports a two state solution. So where is the diversity of opinion this subject demands?
“It’s hard to see how you can go down that route without at some stage divesting yourself of a semblance of a self-governing authority,” said Daniel Levy, the London-based president of the U.S./Middle East Project. “You’ve got to call time on the Palestinian Authority, which never became a state.”
Instead, Mr. Levy said he believed that the peace process, and the Palestinians, were in a “transitional period,” in which the two-state solution had failed for now. But he added, “what people have done can be undone.”
Got that? Two states are dead “for now.” But not forever. That should give Palestinians hope that at some point in the vague future we men of good faith can revive it; or rather pull it out of the dustheap of failed Middle East plans, dust it off, and pretend it’s as good as new.
And what does Levy mean “what’s done can be undone?” How do you undo the death of thousands? How do you undo fierce rage against a sociopathic American president and his narcissistic Saudi and Israeli buddies who believe they can put the Palestinians on ice and ignore their legitimate claims to land, rights and nation?
The Saudi Delusion
Speaking of the Saudis, this Reuters story conveys the views of the ruling Crown Prince on these matters. If anything, they’re even more delusional than Trump or Netanyahu’s views. Before I offer a sampling, it’s worth hearing about the plan Trump is offering (and which the Saudis are endorsing):
As told to Abbas, the proposal included establishing “a Palestinian entity” in Gaza as well as the West Bank administrative areas A and B and 10 percent of area C, which contains Jewish settlements, a third Palestinian official said.
Jewish settlements in the West Bank would stay, there would be no right of return, and Israel would remain responsible for the borders, he said.
The proposal appears to differ little from existing arrangements in the West Bank, widening Palestinian control but falling far short of their minimum national demands.
A Palestinian entity. Not even a state. And even if someone wanted to call it a state, it wouldn’t be. It would be a bantustan of Palestinian villages surrounded by massive Israeli settlements. If the proposal essentially ratifies a rotten status quo, why would any Palestinian be willing to accept it?
Here is the real zinger, displaying the absolute cluelessness of the Saudis involved with this charade:
A Saudi source said he believed an understanding on Israeli-Palestinian peace would nonetheless begin to emerge in the coming weeks.
“Do not underestimate the businessman in (Trump). He has always called it the ultimate deal,” the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.
“I don’t think our government is going to accept that unless it has something sweetened in the pipeline which (King Salman and the crown prince) could sell to the Arab world – that the Palestinians would have their own state.”
In other words, because Trump offers some blather about an ultimate deal, but refuses to offer the Palestinians any details other than assure them it would be “something they would like,” then we’re to assume that it would be “sweet” enough for MbS to sell (the Saudi’s apt words, not mine) to the Palestinians. I don’t know who’s worse, Trump or MbS. It’s worse than the blind leading the blind. It’s the deaf, dumb, and blind leading the deaf, dumb and blind.
The Reuters article too suffers from a surfeit of sources who cynically ratify the status quo and the consensus as defined by the Middle East and Beltway elites:
Most Arab states are unlikely to object to Trump’s announcement because they find themselves more aligned with Israel than ever, particularly on countering Iran, said Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at Brookings Institution in Washington,
“If Saudi officials, including the crown prince himself, were particularly concerned with Jerusalem’s status, they would presumably have used their privileged status as a top Trump ally and lobbied the administration to hold off on such a needlessly toxic move,” he wrote in an article published in The Atlantic.
“It’s unlikely Trump would have followed through if the Saudis had drawn something resembling a red line.”
Even if this is true (and it very possibly is), why doesn’t anyone bother to say the obvious: that if the Saudis wish to betray the Palestinians and abandon their role as guardians of the region’s Muslim holy places (including Jerusalem), they themselves will be abandoned by the Arab and Muslim world. Why do the eminences grise think that the Saudis can act in any way they choose without paying any consequences in terms of regional influence?
In truth, the Saudis will make themselves irrelevant if they force this deal down the Palestinians throat. They will force those Palestinians who reject it to turn to Iran and its Shiite allies like Hezbollah. They will turn Hamas into leaders of the Palestinian resistance after the PA has abandoned its responsibility to defend Palestinian rights. Even those Sunni states like Jordan or Egypt who might feel compelled to go along with the Saudi plan, will do so with tepid enthusiasm. And at the first sign of failure, they will bolt from the stables like horses staring at a forest fire. Leaving MbS alone with his buddies, Trump and Netanyahu (who by then may be long gone as prime minister–perhaps even behind bars).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.