Opinion: Buying time for Israel

By: Dr Mohammad Makram Balawi

As was widely expected, US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Middle East conflict — the so-called “Deal of the Century” — is officially dead. According to Jason Greenblatt, one of the masterminds behind the deal, the long-awaited American plan will not be presented in the near future. He has since left the Trump Middle East team and gone back to what he knows best: business.

Greenblatt’s boss, Jared Kushner, was not as blunt. He chose to kill his deal silently, by replacing Greenblatt with his former aide Avi Berkowitz, labelled by the US media as Kushner’s “coffee boy”. Since then, all the delusions of peace that the Americans saturated the region with have evaporated with the whole charade heading into oblivion.

The end result of the widely-trailed “Deal of the Century” was simply to buy time for Israel to change the status quo in the occupied West Bank, which should, theoretically, accommodate the promised Palestinian State according to the solution which the Americans and the Europeans have worked for decades to impose on the Palestinians.

In complete identification with the most radical Zionist plans, the Trump administration has stopped talking about the two-state-solution in its official discourse; this is no coincidence. It has been clear from the beginning that the US stand on the conflict shifted overtly towards the Israelis, a move in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has played a pivotal role. Zionist and Israeli politics which used to have secular left leanings have shifted to the extreme right.

Netanyahu describes this moment in time as something that will not be repeated: Israel is blessed by having the perfect US President in the White House, allowing Israel to seize more land and legitimise its actions, employing the might of the most powerful state on the planet. This president is not only willing to adopt the right-wing Israeli narrative, but has also virtually created his Middle East team in its image to serve this end. After years of America being anti-Palestinian in policy and practice, Washington is reflecting Netanyahu’s views and agenda; it is clear for all to see.

Nobody, US President or otherwise, has done so many favours for Israel as Donald Trump has: the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal; recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights; moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, thus acknowledging the occupied city as Israel’s capital; and basically accepting what amounts to the annexation of occupied Palestinian land for illegal Israeli settlements, to name but a few. Moreover, Trump closed the PLO office in Washington and cut all US aid to UNRWA, which provides essential services to millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring countries.

Generally speaking, Netanyahu has succeeded in taking Israeli politics with him. The veneer that was necessary to present Israel as a democratic country, represented by the so called Israeli left, has practically vanished. The position of all major Israeli political parties are identical when it comes to such issues as the annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley; they all approve. Even the Palestinian “Arab Israeli” members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, are isolated; no individuals or parties dare to ally with them lest they are accused of being anti-Israel.

Yet despite all of Netanyahu’s “accomplishments”, what is the end result? Is Israel more secure and an integral part of the region? Will the nightmares that have haunted Israelis for decades whereby they face an existential threat at the hands of their Arab neighbours simply vanish? Where will the Palestinians go if and when the Zionist dream of a “Greater Israel” is accomplished? Will they be deported or will they stay; if the latter, what will their status be? Finally, what kind of state will Israel be at the end of the day?

It looks as if it is an Apartheid state in the making, but can it become the epitome of a one state solution? Either way, Israel will lose. The world does not approve of its excesses any more, and Apartheid is a serious crime which will disenfranchise a large proportion of the Israeli population. Zionists meanwhile will never accept a one state solution because it is the antithesis of Zionism. Israel is falling into a trap that it has made for itself.

In fact, events over the past few years suggest that Israel is in the initial stages of a civil war for the identity of the state and its Zionist soul. The inability to form the government after two elections and the country heading to a third without anticipating any way out of the impasse is merely what can be seen on the surface.

The reality is that Trump has helped Israel to escalate its internal differences and brought it closer to its inevitable collapse. This may not necessarily be at the hands of its enemies, but down to its failure to fulfil the aspiration of the founding fathers to create a modern, secular, democratic state. In driving far to the right, a chasm is appearing at the heart of the Zionist movement which will not only lead to civil war in Israel, but also the loss of support across the Jewish diaspora.

In contrast to Netanyahu’s praise for Donald Trump, the day will come when Israelis will wake up to the fact that the worst thing that happened to them is seeing him in the White House, and having Netanyahu as their Prime Minister. The writing is on the wall, but how much time can they still buy for Israel?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author