Carrying on the legacy of colonialism in the 21st century
A lot of people already mirror the Trump peace plan with the Balfour Declaration the British government issued in 1917. Blame them not. This is what global actors do when they have power in their hands: They enforce their will unto the weak.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has its roots in an old “divide and conquer” strategy the British, as much as any other colonial power, enforced to remain on top. Arab nationalism and Zionism were the means to fulfill such a cause. Thus, the conflict that posed as the heart of all problems in the Middle-East all these years was born. Up until the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, 1967 and 1973 accordingly, it was considered as a conflict between two nationalist ideologies. As the years passed, almost every Arab state recognized the right of Israel to exist. The “war against Zionism” became an umbrella to unite the causes of political Islam (either Sunni or Shia). But the problem of displaced and living-under-occupation people with limited rights, in poverty and stateless, remained. The Palestinian question, after failed peace processes, two Intifadas and a national schism, still carries on.
The leaders of the USA and Israel appeared publicly in the White House to present a solution to this question. Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled the US plan for “Peace to Prosperity” under applause but heavy criticism also. Before jumping into details, let’s highlight some facts that preceded: In 2017, the Trump administration recognized the disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. After that, the American funding for the UN agency that supports Palestinians, the UNRWA, was reduced. In 2019, the USA recognized the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel and considered the Israeli settlements in the West Bank legitimate. There is no logical argument to contest that the USA is not biased and inclined to the Israeli side. On top of this, the so-called “deal of the century” was brought to the foreground amidst the crisis Trump and Netanyahu are facing at home, the former the Impeachment trials and the latter corruption charges, and ahead of crucial electoral battles.
The key points of the Trump peace plan to address the Palestinian question consist of two pillars, one economic and one political. The economic pillar, presented by Jared Kushner in June 2019, includes $50 billion in investment and infrastructure projects to modernize and support growth in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The political pillar is composed of all the aspects that Israelis and Palestinians were negotiating in the past on the basis of the two-state solution, but all in favor of the Israeli aspirations. Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley will not be included in the borders of the proposed future Palestine. Jerusalem will be the “undivided Israeli capital” along with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem’s outskirts. Palestinian refugees that were forced out of their ancestral homes won’t be given the “right to return”. Long story short: the USA offers Palestinian people a chance out of poverty by buying them off to abandon their sovereign existence.
It is quite common in political analysis to exclude ethics and morals in order to have a wider and more objective perspective upon the matters. But there is no etiquette to describe what is going on in this case. USA and Israel are treating Palestinians as “children of a lesser God”. They are the ones in need, in a weak position, and we, the stronger ones, can mistreat them. And of course, if they reject us, they are the ones to be blamed. We are referring to a “peace plan” that did not include in the drafting process a party in the dispute. This is not only against any sustainability prospects, but it also snubs and disrespects the Palestinians. The fate of historic Palestine is being decided, once again, not by the people living there, but by the actors that exercise power and occupation upon them.
Donald Trump argued that his plan is realistic. And this is a statement that can be explained. They say that the quickest way of ending a war is by losing it. Right now, the Palestinians are clung to a cause they have not the practical power to support. There is no hope for the Palestinian question in the upcoming future, it will remain in the background of much more significant issues in the Middle-East region. As it transformed from Arab-Israeli to Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it will be transformed once again into a Hamas-Israel exclusive conflict with no other path left to be followed. Maybe the Trump peace plan is really a historical chance. Maybe by legitimizing what the Palestinians call the “Apartheid statehood”, stripped of any dignity, they can at least live in a somewhat peaceful and prosperous environment. The implications of such development though are deeply devastating.
At the end of the day, the will of the strong will always be enforced upon the weak. But the advocates of humanitarian world order can also be powerful and enforce their will upon the ones that promote colonial ideals. That is exactly what is at stake regarding the Palestinian question and if we don’t manage to comprehend it we will be the next in line.