This could be a watershed moment in the Israel-Palestine conflict. That moment when one side comes to the end of the road and realizes the assumptions it made were wrong and that a new path must be charted. Until now, the Israeli, U.S. and Palestinian policy elites have chanted the two-state mantra. They did so long after there was any real hope that this option could be realized. Now it’s time to move on.
Perhaps the only bright side to Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem is that it lays totally bare the contradictions of the past. In only one way Trump is absolutely right in what he said: past presidents only promised to recognize Jerusalem, but he did it. By this, I mean that Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of U.S. policy: you simply cannot promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, recognize it as Israel’s capital and still claim you support two states and reject settlements. That’s a set of burden so heavy it would break any camel’s back. And that’s what past presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson did.
So now we have the full ugliness of U.S. policy exposed for the world to see. It can hardly be any clearer now to the world that Israel and the U.S. stand against the rest of the world in this matter, as they do in so many others (like Trump’s rejection of the climate accord) as well. Now, the question is: what will they do about it? Will they sit back and stare in disbelief at the mess Trump has made, paralyzed into a stupor? Or will they organize a united resistance and present a coherent alternate agenda?
The nations of the world like to complain about U.S. hegemony and indifference to the interests of those outside our shores. But, now is the time to do something about it. To present a coherent policy alternative. Among the concrete actions that may be taken:
- The Security Council must recognize Palestine as a full member of the UN. If the U.S. vetoes the resolution, it should be brought before the General Assembly for approval, bypassing U.S. opposition
- Every nation that hasn’t recognized Palestine must do so. All nations recognizing Palestine must demand the right to open consulates and embassy in Palestine’s capital, East Jerusalem. Israel must be forced to intervene to prohibit such developments and should be penalized as a UN member for doing so.
- Sanctions: any country opposing U.S. policy must refuse to recognize either the U.S. or Israel as useful parties on this issue. They must refuse to schedule meetings with U.S. and Israeli diplomats, including prime ministers. Bibi Netanyahu, Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump must become personae non grata. Yes, I’m talking about you, Emmanuel Macron. Don’t give Bibi a platform.
- BDS: the momentum for this non-violent resistance movement must be strengthened. U.S. laws against BDS must be vigorously fought in the courts and legislatures. We must pressure members of Congress to break from the Israel Lobby and uphold democratic, free speech values on this issue.
- Arab and Muslim oil producers must consider instituting a trade embargo or slowdown of production to the U.S. and Israel. Though this is a complicated process and may not prove feasible, it should be discussed. It worked in 1973. Though the world is much different today, there may be similar financial, commercial pressure that can be exerted.
One State, Finally
We have lingered far too long under the two-state delusion. I realize that many of my readers haven’t had such illusions. But the U.S. and PLO leadership, along with liberal Zionists and even Israeli-Palestinian political parties like Hadash have ploughed this ground over and over until it turned barren. I too until the past decade or more believed in two states.
Saeb Erekat has told international journalists that the Palestinian movement has given up on two-states. I’d like to believe that’s so. But I’ve heard too many promises broken by these guys to trust what he’s said. The PLO is now meeting in emergency session. We’ll see what results. If it does present a clear, coherent program turning away from two-states, all to the good. If it continues with empty threats and whining (without concrete action), then it will mean nothing.
One of the major reasons the PLO hangs on to two-states is that they have a sweet little deal going that permits them to strip Palestine bare and line their pockets with lucre. If they adopted a one state solution it would mean that as politicians their role would be unclear. The development of different political parties and alignments would take some time. In the meantime, the gravy train would be stalled. Corrupt politicians prefer the devil they know than the one they don’t.
Any journalist, politician, or policy analyst who pretends that two states is viable (you hear that Bernie Sanders?) is not just fooling himself, he’s standing in the path of progress toward a real, viable solution. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. In this case, the turnip is the Israeli leadership. Not just the current far-right government, but all governments going back to 1967, or even 1948. There is no Israeli government that will do what’s necessary to achieve two-states. There never has been. Therefore, we must stop this nonsense.
When we hear journalists like Mark Landler of the NY Times say that one state won’t work because Israelis won’t accept it, we must respond: why must we beg Israelis to accept one state? Why should they stand in the way of one state if they refuse any other reasonable option? Did Slobodan Milosevic stand in the way of Kosovo independence? Did he force the world to accept Serbian war crimes against Bosnia? Did the world need Franco’s or the fascists’ permission before Spain became a democracy? Did anyone need Gorbachev or the Soviet Communist Party’s permission before the Soviet Union fell? Did Honecker approve the scaling of the Berlin Wall?
No, the world came to understand that all these historical figures represented the past and that the future belonged to others. That was how they were swept away by events and the power of mass movements to bring radical change. In some of these cases, international bodies like NATO used force to implement the change. In some cases, sheer people power did the trick.
Clearly, in Israel’s case neither the fascist right nor its supporters will agree to such a national transformation. It will require a unified international opposition that exerts massive pressure on Israel. That will include economic sanctions and more. Neither that unity nor pressure exists today. But it must someday, and our jobs as activists are to move the world toward that day. And it will come. You can be sure that Israel through its intransigence, its hubris, its blind violence, will make it come.
When I saw the tree graphic above it made me think of the slogan on the U.S. dollar bill: e pluribus unum (“from many, one”). There is no reason in the long run two, in this case, can’t become one. There are, of course, a thousand reasons Israelis can come up with against it. But in terms of democracy, equality, economics and common interest, Israelis and Palestinians have much more to gain from union than to lose. If the arc of the moral universe…bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King so famously said, it does so in the case of Israel-Palestine as well.