Suppose President Trump’s long-awaited “deal of the century” turns out to be the “flop of the century.” Frankly, this is the most likely outcome since its architects have no real feel for or understanding of the conflict and what is needed to resolve it. After the initial hype, where would its eventual failure leave us?
The principal parties would of course know all along that the putative deal is doomed and their main aim would be to avoid being held responsible for its disintegration. All their manoeuvrings would be designed to fix the blame on the other side. Attempts to indict and isolate each other would gather pace and violence — already increasing — might return with a vengeance. The toxins let loose will inevitably have global spillover.
For some twenty-six years, process has trumped outcome, but it is now in danger of being out-trumped itself — by none other than Trump himself — by the total collapse of the only internationally recognized paradigm for a solution to the conflict, a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state, broadly along the pre-1967 borders.
A new international strategy urgently needs to be devised and made ready for when the distraction of the impending Trump deal has run its course. Inherently unequal bilateral negotiations are not a realistic alternative as their ill-fated history has shown time and again. A more serious strategy would be rooted in a vision of the endgame, based on the principles of a rapid end to the Israeli occupation and fundamental equality between Palestinians and Israelis.
Our proposal takes as its starting point the need to resolve two crucial ambiguities regarding Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza, including its enforced rule over the Palestinian people and its rampant settlement policy.
First, is it, or is it not, a military occupation? The entire world, including the US — at least until Trump’s administration — thinks it is, and therefore considers the Fourth Geneva Convention and other relevant provisions of international law to apply. The Israeli government contests this on technical grounds, arguing that the Geneva Convention relates only to the sovereign territory of a “High Contracting Party”, and that Jordan and Egypt did not have legal sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip (respectively) when they previously governed these territories.