Opinion |

Palestine Won't Play Trump's Game, in Warsaw or Anywhere Else

The White House shares the Israeli government’s illegal settlement ideology and backs its attempts to normalize relations with the Arab world while maintaining control over our country. That’s why Palestine won’t participate in Trump’s anti-Peace Plan

Nabil Sha'ath
Nabil Sha'ath
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Washington.Credit: Evan Vucci,AP
Nabil Sha'ath
Nabil Sha'ath

The policies taken by the Trump administration have undermined peace and security in our region. By fully siding with the Israeli government, they have tried to normalize the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

The Warsaw Conference is part of this context. While the obvious target of the conference is Iran, the Trump team aims to use this conference as an event to push for their vision for Israel and Palestine, one that, based on the steps they have taken, is certainly not about peace making.

The basic requirement for any peace process to succeed is to address the interests of the parties involved. Certainly, as seen in Bosnia, Ireland or South Africa, such interests cannot contradict the obligations that each party has under international law. In other words, a peace process cannot be turned into an attempt to obtain amnesty for war crimes or to make one of the parties surrender its basic rights under the UN Charter.

The interest of the Palestinian side is to have freedom and the fulfilment of its long overdue inalienable rights. It is for Palestinians to have equal rights just like any other people and to live in peace and dignity. The Israeli side used to claim that their main interest was security. At least this is how the Camp David Agreement of 1978 was designed by President Carter: Israel gets security and Egypt gets its land back.

U.S. President Donald Trump, his aide Jared Kushner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting in Jerusalem, May 2017.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Today, the Israeli interest is characterized less by security concerns and more by its intention to annex the largest percentage of occupied Palestinian territory as possible. The Israeli interest, as shown by the Israeli government, is about apartheid, not peace.

The international community has an important role to play. Once a European foreign minister told me that while he agreed with recognizing Palestine and with the need of banning Israeli settlement products from their markers, taken such steps could be "harmful" for the "peace process."

I asked whether their passive attitude towards Israeli violations of international law and UN resolutions made Israel more willingly to end the occupation, end its colonial-settlement enterprise or even to accept a meaningful peace process. He could not answer. In fact he knew the answer: Lack of international involvement has only encouraged Israel to continue deepen its colonial-settlement enterprise without fearing any international response.

Last February we presented our vision of peace before the UN Security Council. We call for a multi-party modality for negotiations, a modality based on the UN Charter, international law, and signed agreements between Israel and Palestine, with the objective of reaching peace based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border.

Even though the Israeli government may continue being supported and encouraged by the Trump administration in its illegal and destructive policies that continue to deny our rights, the rest of the international community has enough tools in order to show the Israeli government that there are consequences for violating international law, including the commitment of war crimes.

Let us be clear. First, there are the final status issues that have to be negotiated in accordance with international law in order to define the future relations between Israel and Palestine. Second, the international community is responsible when it comes to stopping Israeli violation. As long as Israel does not pay a price for the occupation, it is not going to stop it. The occupation, colonialism and apartheid are not going to end out of Israel’s “goodwill.” Only by taking concrete legal and political measures against Israeli violations will Israel understand that its interest is with ending the occupation rather than deepening and expanding it.

The numbers are known; Israel has almost tripled the number of settlers since the signature of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Today the Trump Administration has provided the Israeli government not only with impunity, but with a counterpart that shares its ideological mindset in support of illegal Israeli colonial settlements. Now the Israeli government feels empowered to take steps it would have not taken before, including the racist Jewish Nation State Law that establishes a de jure apartheid regime.

View from Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian neighbourhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, shows the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. February 1, 2019.Credit: AFP

In Warsaw they want to make the Arab Peace Initiative irrelevant, with Israel taking what it wants, normalization of relations with the Arab world, while keeping control over our country. This is doomed to fail.

Palestine is not going to attend the Warsaw Conference and it hasn’t mandated anyone to represent it there. The record of the Trump administration, from their steps on Jerusalem, refugees and settlements to their collective punishments of Palestinian patients in East Jerusalem hospitals and of Palestinian students, is clear enough in order to understand what their intentions are about.

By not attending, Palestine is not "closing the doors for dialogue." Rather it is making a point that the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace is through implementing international law. The two-state solution remains the only viable solution that can establish peace with justice in the Middle East.

Dr. Nabil Sha'ath is the international relations adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and served as Palestinian Foreign Minister from 1994 - 2005.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism