Monday, May 21, 2018

The 12th Al Jazeera Forum: Session 5 - Palestine and the "Deal of the Century"

Two-State Solution, Long Dead, is Now Buried

On April 28-29, 2018, Al Jazeera held its 12th Forum providing an opportunity for leading scholars and other experts to discuss a variety of topics affecting the Arab world.  The website for the forum, @aljazeeraform, provides additional information and links to the videos of each session.  You can follow the Twitter coverage at #AJForum.

As I noted in my first post in this series, I am working from my notes, so I apologize in advance if I incorrectly paraphrase the remarks of any speaker. I was also reliant on the quality of the translation services and their audibility. Therefore, I am happy to make any needed edits to this summary.

For summaries of the other sessions see:
Session 5: The Palestinian Cause following the US Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the "Deal of the Century"

Session focus:

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel led to a wave of popular resentment, provided a new push in diplomacy and reintroduced the Palestinian cause to debate on the Arab and Islamic fronts and at the level of regional and global organizations and agencies.  The Palestinian cause has always been the central cause for Arabs and has dominated Arab policies and shaped Arab relations with others for decades.  It seemed that interest in this cause had deteriorated amid the Arab Spring and the various regional crises.  However, it has now returned to the surface under the title "the deal of the century."  With it, all of the portfolios that had not been resolved by negotiations since Oslo and Madrid have been reopened.  What are the ramifications of the U.S. decision on Jerusalem?  How will this decision affect the issues of peace, Jerusalem, refugees, and the two-sate solution?  What are the nature and limits of the roles played by the parties involved in the arrangements of this "deal of the century"?

Background and context for readers:

  • General history of conflict: here
  • Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem: here.
  • Palestinian cause:  here.
  • Deal of the century: here, here, here, and here.
  • Oslo accords of 1993: here.
  • Madrid conference of 1991: here.
  • Arab Peace Initiative of March 2002: here.
  • Two-state solution: here.
  • Jewish settlements in the West Bank: here.
  • Recent developments: here.
  • Ilan Pappe, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.
  • Mohsen Saleh, Director General of Al-Zaytouna Center for Studies in Beruit.
  • Hani Al-Masri, Director General and Co-Founder of the Palestinian center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat).
  • Sari Orabi, Writer and Researcher in Arab and Islamic Affairs (via satellite).
  • Ibrahim Fraihat, Professor on International Conflict Resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Georgetown University.
Key points:

Ilan Pappe:  Anything new in US policy?  If so, how is it significant?  Speaker does not see Trump move as a significant deviation from prior policy.  US Policy is based on three principles:
  • The US is the only possible mediator.
  • The US is a biased broker for peace.
  • Any two-state solution is the one envisioned by Israel.
    • No capital for Palestine in Jerusalem.
    • No right of return.
    • Israeli control. 
US agrees that international law applies, but then accepts colonization of the West Bank. It now recognizes violations of international law, but needs to protect Israel. 

US embassy move is a symbolic burial of the two-state solution that has been dead for many years.  It is OK to bury an idea that does not work.  May end US hegemony of policy.

Is it good?  No, very dangerous.  Will lead to unrest in Gaza, ongoing colonization, and increased Palestinian suffering.

But, embassy move and its underlying policy could create new opportunities.

US policy misinterprets the real reason for the conflict:
  • Zionism underlies the settler colonial movement.
    • Must eliminate indigenous population.
    • Must eliminate their political power.
US has not dealt with the essence of the situation.  Afraid to be called anti-Semitic.

Real solution lies in a one-state system with combined democratic system.
  • Will take time to achieve.
  • Use the South African model against apartheid.
    • 50 percent of Palestinians are younger than 17.
    • Women can play a bigger role, too. 

Mohsen Saleh: "Strategy of reviving a dead horse."  No benefit.  Horse is dead.  Alternative: Dismount; leave.

Oslo accords failed.  Palestinian authority (PA) serves the interests of the occupier.  "Five star colonial rule."  Cannot do anything for the Palestinian people. Israel has control of the West Bank with 800,000 settlers.  Framework lost its value.

Trump move settles the question for all in favor of Israelis.  Reflects weak leadership in the PA and Arab world.  PLO is marginalized.  No development for 25 years.

Helpless against "deal of the century."  Other Arab leaders focusing resources on other issues.  

"Deal" is a revision of prior strategy.  Pathway included normalization of relations with Arab nations.

Marketed as a business deal, but peace without meeting the demands of  Palestinians about sovereignty.  Does not meet minimum demands of Palestinians, so deal must be imposed by force.

240 projects over 70 years tried to be imposed on Palestinians.  They also failed.  This one will, too, without rebuilding of Palestinian leadership role.

Do not expect Trump to impose his will.  Palestinians should stand firm.  Accept sacrifices on long road to social justice. 

Hani Al-Masri:  "Deal" not presented officially.  Is an adoption of the Israeli view.  Does not reflect the needs of Palestinians.

Some settlements will be removed.  But, do not dismiss Palestinian state.  [My notes on the next statements are poor.] Discussing some sort of autonomy with Gaza as the head of Palestinian power.  Ramala and PA imposing will on Gaza and thereby liquidating Palestinian opposition by Hamas.

Need agreement on national agenda for Palestinians.  Need to find reconciliation among factions.

Palestinians in a strategic defensive position, not a strategic balance.

Palestinians should try to benefit from multi-polar situation with Russia and China creating counter-weights to US influence in region. 

All Palestinian factions reject the Trump deal. "Poison in the honey" has no benefit.

Without political partnership, Hamas cannot go further. 

Sari Orabi:  Trump is creating an investment/carrot environment.  

Israel feels heat of Arab public opinion, even if Arab states are normalizing relations.  Public wants to live in dignity in their own countries.

"Deal" will likely fail.

Rejection by the PA likely, but not sure if unity exists among Palestinians.  Gaza can't shoulder responsibility for peaceful protest when Palestinians are divided.  Need national Palestinian reconciliation. 

Ibrahim Fraihat:  Happening at the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour agreement.  Several other countries intend to move their embassies to Jerusalem, including Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, and the Czech Republic. 

"Deal" undermines the Arab peace initiative of 2002.  

No point to negotiation over "deal." Israel got what it wanted on a gold tray.

Q&A Session:  Two-state solution assumed a "peace camp" existed inside Israel politics, whose members would negotiate with Palestine.  None existed.  See voting record of Israelis.

Israel has succeeded.  Now need to preserve status quo.

Palestinians would compromise, but it becomes a trap.  

International community does not support a two-state solution, even if its politicians do.

Israel controls all of Palestine.  One-state solution is an apartheid model.  Palestinians face a long struggle to decolonize and democratize region.  A shorter road takes Palestinians to the wrong destiny.

American "deal" does not target Hamas or Fatah, but targets all Palestinians.

Palestinian state can occur with negotiation. 

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