להלן מאמר של ג'רום מ. סגל, נשיא לובי השלום היהודי האמריקאי, המאמר פורסם בכלי התקשורת הפלסטיני אל קודס. סגל מנתח את יחסי ממשל טראמפ – נתניהו, את תכנית המאה שתפורסם כנראה בחודש יוני, ואת ההשלכות השונות של התגובות הפלסטיניות האפשריות לתכנית המאה. סגל מדגיש את חשיבות הצעת אלטרנטיבה פלסטינית לתכנית המאה, במידה והתכנית המאה לא תעמוד בדרישות הפלסטיניות האלמנטריות (ריבונות ובירה בירושלים), וממליץ לפלסטינים להציג את יוזמת ז'נבה כאלטרנטיבה שעל בסיסה ניתן להתחיל מו"מ מדיני.
Reflections on Palestinian Strategy — 2019
[Appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds, April18, 2019]
Shortly before the Israeli elections, David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and long-term lawyer and friend of President Trump, spoke at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Friedman, who is an active supporter of the settler movement, called attention to the “opportunity” of the current moment. He expressed concern that someday people would look back with regret and say, why didn’t we make “more progress” when “U.S. foreign policy was in the hands of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Bolton, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and even David Friedman.”
Celebrating the Trump Administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Friedman echoed the argument of the settler movement: Now is the time to move towards annexation in the West Bank. For decades, every President, Democratic or Republican, has stood in the way of such action by Israel. Now is the unique opportunity. President Trump will not prevent this, and indeed, he may even recognize this as “the reality” of 50 years of settlement activity. This opportunity may not exist, when Mr. Trump is no longer President. And unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Netanyahu subsequently announced that if re-elected he would begin the process of annexation.
Netanyahu’s pledge of Unilateral Annexation was indifferent to the fact that Israel would thereby violate the Oslo II Agreement, in particular, the clause which essentially defined the 25 year era of negotiations. It reads:
“Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
The question facing the Netanyahu government is tactical. How best to move towards annexation, while minimizing the costs of doing so? Its likely approach is this:
– They will not rush to annex. First, they will encourage the Trump Administration to put forward its long-promised “peace plan,” the “deal of the Century.”
– Then, no matter what is in the deal, they will react positively, but with enough ambiguity, so as to commit to nothing. For instance, they will say “We welcome the Trump Plan. We applaud its creative ideas. Of course, we don’t embrace every detail, but we see it as the basis for renewed negotiations, under American auspices.”
– Then, they will await the Palestinian reaction they hope for, that the PLO will denounce the plan as “a non-starter,” as “dead on arrival.” And they hope that the PLO will go further, and denounce the Trump Administration as unqualified to lead any peace process.
– Once, the Palestinians have totally rejected the Trump Plan, they will proclaim this as proof that there is no partner for negotiations on the other side. They will join with the Trump Administration in denouncing the PLO leadership.
– Then, they will announce the application of Israeli law to only the settlement blocks that would “inevitably become part of Israel under any peace agreement.”
– When it is pointed out that this explicitly violates the Oslo Agreement prohibition on unilateral annexation, they will proclaim that the Oslo period is over, and blame the Palestinians.
– If, as can be expected, such steps result in renewed violence, they will respond with overwhelming force, and use any attacks against Israelis, especially those against Israeli settlements, as justification for further steps of annexation.
As Palestinians consider their options in the face of this likely scenario, it is important to recognize the accuracy of one thing Ambassador Friedman said in his remarks to AIPAC — the Trump Administration is different.
One might think that this means merely that after Trump passes from the scene, American policy will return back to the US policies from the time the Reagan Administration opened dialogue with the PLO in 1988, including opposition to unilateral annexation and calls for halting or moderating the expansion of West Bank settlement activity.
But the possible change in US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a post-Trump era may be far more dramatic. During the Obama Administration, in 2015, Netanyahu’s decision to come to Washington and address the Congress in an effort to block Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran completely broke the US pattern of both parties backing Israeli government policy. Only 4 out of 46 Democratic Senators joined Netanyahu against the Obama Administration in a crucial vote later that year. With the Trump-Netanyahu mutual embrace, this division has deepened. At the AIPAC conference, not one of the candidates for the 2020 Presidential nomination was present, and in a Senate debate over anti-BDS legislation, none of the six Senators seeking the nomination supported the legislative provision.
Another example of change: Recently two prominent members of Congress, Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Gerald Connolly, both Democrats who regularly support Israeli policy, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they called on Congress to pass legislation “opposing any actions that sabotage a future two-state solution . . . including any expansion of settlements to new areas and any effort to unilaterally annex any or all of the West Bank.”
I’ve been a close watcher of Congress for over three decades. This is something new.
At the same time, this shift should not be over-stated. For instance, such divisions have not emerged as Democratic opposition to a ten year $38 billion military aid package. The situation is fluid. Quite possibly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could become a significant issue in the 2020 Presidential election. Whether or not this happens may depend considerably on what strategy choices the Palestinian leadership makes in the coming months. It may not be possible to prevent Israel from beginning the process of annexation of the West Bank. That remains to be seen. But it is within the power of Palestinian decision makers to significantly raise the cost to the Israeli rightwing of any decision to do so.
Here is an approach to consider:
- When the Trump Plan finally arrives, do not reject it out of hand. Study it closely. Take note of anything valuable in the plan. In some areas, especially economic development, there be some valuable ideas. Pay close attention to wording. They will not endorse Palestinian statehood, but they may not rule it out it; similarly with respect to sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the Old City.
- Very likely the plan will be so one-sided that it cannot be accepted even as a starting point for negotiations. If this is the case, then explain that even a starting point must be balanced. Do not allow the Israelis or the Trump Administration to equate rejection of the Trump Plan with rejection of negotiations.
- Most importantly: Put forward an alternative!
There are many ways to do this, each has its advantages and disadvantages, but put forward at least one counter-proposal:
- a) Most Powerful: Put forward a full alternative peace treaty that the PLO is prepared to accept. As a starting point, Palestinian officials can use the Geneva Initiative from 2002 — a full treaty developed by Israelis and Palestinians. If the 2002 Initiative is not fully acceptable, make specific modifications, but put on the table, a real document, in full detail, that you are offering to sign, or to put to a referendum if Israel will do the same.
- b) Familiar Parameters: If the idea of a full peace treaty seems too bold, then at least put forward a set of parameters that you are calling on Israel to accept as a basis for renewed negotiations. In doing this, use a framework that is familiar and acceptable to many in Israel and in the United States. For instance, with minor modifications, re-surface the Clinton Parameters of 2000; or use the secretly agreed upon parameters negotiated between Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and Abu Mazen in 2014. Or use something close to what was operative in the negotiations with Prime Minister Olmert in 2008.
- c) A New Process: Another alternative would be to call for a new process of negotiations. One possibility is to call for the United Nations to re-establish UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) which in 1947 drafted a detained plan for the division of Palestine into two states. In calling for the re-establishment of UNSCOP, it can be based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
There may be other options. The most important thing is to promote political change, both in Israel and in the United States. To do this, the Palestinian leadership needs to put forward its alternative to the Trump Plan. If it merely says, “No” it will play into Netanyahu’s hands.
Jerome M. Segal is the President of the Jewish Peace Lobby. In June 2018 he challenged Senator Ben Cardin in the Maryland Democratic Primary.
[This story originally appeared in Arabic in Al Quds, April 18, 2019]