Editor’s note: All opinion pieces published in the Clerk represent only the views and ideas of the author.
President Trump released his Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” on Feb. 3. As with so much else coming out of this White House lately, it’s vital to see past the administration’s rhetoric and understand an essential truth: This is not a peace plan, it’s something far more dangerous.
For proof of why calling it a “peace plan” is laughable, you need only look at its origins. The White House has had no direct talks with Palestinian representatives for over two years. The three authors of the plan—Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President; Jason Greenblatt, former special envoy to the Middle East; and David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel—are all former Trump-connected real estate tycoons or corporate lawyers, whose only qualifications are their prior records of being strong supporters of Israel’s far-right settlement movement. One need only turn to Friedman breaking with decades of U.S. policy to openly claim that Israel has a right to annex parts of the West Bank in 2019 to recognize this. The result of such planning is predictable: a deal that was never designed to bring peace to the region, just annexation.
There’s a reason I care so much about this. I was raised in a Reform Jewish community that advocates for social justice and is strongly aligned with liberal activism. I have done clothing drives, attended marches, and lobbied my members of Congress all through this community. Even so, I barely learned about the occupation at all. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn about Israel. I could have told you that the cherry tomato and drip irrigation were invented there, there were beautiful beaches in Tel Aviv and rolling hills in the Galilee; and as a Jew, it was my homeland. I was also taught that there was a lot of conflict in the region, there had been a few big wars (which Israel won), and Israel was constantly under threat from terrorist organizations like Hamas. It’s fair to say that I grew up with a very one-sided view of Israel as a result, having never been exposed to the Palestinian perspective.
It wasn’t until the last year or two of high school, when I started doing more research and talking with more friends about the issue, that I learned that the Israeli government regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians in order to build settlements, that conditions in the Gaza strip are so bad that a U.N. report warned in 2012 that the area would be unlivable by 2020, and the narrative I had been taught about Israel being a weak nation surrounded by enemies was rooted in an outdated understanding of the region that no longer captures reality. I still care about Israel despite these discoveries, which is why it’s heartbreaking to see a country that I care about deeply, that I want to be able to be proud of, embracing some of the worst impulses of the far-right. A reasonable peace plan would push back against these anti-democratic drives for unilateral control. Unfortunately, Trump’s plan empowers the worst of the Israeli right and can’t really be called a peace plan at all.
So if it’s not a peace plan, what is it? If you cut through the flowery language about a “realistic two-state solution,” it’s clear that this is an extremist proposal which gives a greenlight for Israel’s government to illegally annex major parts of Palestinian land on the West Bank. If this is realized and supported by The United States, it would kill off hope for a Palestinian state and condemn millions of Palestinians to living in isolated enclaves sourrunded by Israeli territory without full civil or political rights. It’s a human rights disaster, an indictment of Israel’s far-right government, an ongoing catastrophe for Palestinians and—important for those who care about Israel—it undermines Israel’s core status as a truly democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
It’s true that the “plan” includes lip service to a version of quasi-statehood for Palestinians and promises of billions of dollars of Gulf state investment. However, the “plan” would impose impossible conditions on the Palestinian Authority. This includes compelling the Palestinian Authority to have a stable, cooperative government in the Gaza Strip where they currently have no real control. Additionally, even if they could meet these conditions the proposed Palestinian “state” would be demilitarized, having no control over territorial waters or its own airspace. In reality, these promises should be more accurately seen as disingenuous, unworkable distractions which Trump’s team will use as a smokescreen to make Palestinians look unreasonable and mask the true intent of the plan: to green-light annexation and destroy the prospects for the type of two-state peace agreement that Netanyahu, the current right-wing Prime Minister of Israel, has pledged never to accept.
Facing all this, what can we do as students who care about human rights and basic justice? One thing is that all of us can make our voices heard and speak the truth about this annexation plan. As a member of J Street U – a Jewish pro-peace campus movement – it calls us to recommit ourselves to making sure the next United States administration dedicates themselves to standing up for human rights and diplomacy and undoing the damage wrought by the current extremist administration. We’re doing this by campaigning to change the Democratic platform to explicitly oppose the Israeli government’s occupation and annexation of Palestinian territory. To accomplish this, we need to lean into discomfort and be unafraid to have difficult conversations as we work to show those in power that today’s youth will not accept another 53 years of occupation.
Together we can fight back and undo the damage our president is doing on the world stage, but we have to get organized and make sure the next administration dedicates itself to achieving peace.
To join our campaign – and to stand up for the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and dignity – please sign our petition at: www.JStreet.org/platform. If you would like to learn more about this issue and the work we are doing at JStreet U, come to our open meeting Wednesday, February 12 at 5:00pm in DC 030. We hope to see you there!
Image: White House/U.S. Government public domain