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Lord Balfour Trump Is Coming

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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File photo: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019.
File photo: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019.Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Now, after the stars have aligned and the building blocks of the next government are falling into place, it’s time for the American deus ex machina to dictate the terms of the American mandate. The “deal of the century,” as U.S. President Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace is grandiosely called, is finally going to be published. And judging by the hints and speculations that have accompanied its labor pangs – the latest of which was a report in the Washington Post – it won’t include recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 23

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Thus Israel and the Palestinians can expect a plan based on Trump’s arrogant statement in September 2018 that “If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s okay with me. If they want two states, that’s okay with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.” One could expand on that romantic poetry by adding, “If both sides are happy, that’s okay with me. And if one side is happy, that’s also okay with me.”

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Israel has already received a serious down payment on its future happiness. Trump’s recognition of its annexation of the Golan Heights and of Jerusalem as its capital is not just a demonstration of American support, but reliable proof of the direction in which Trump is heading. It looks like a plan in which the United States recognizes the greater Land of Israel, which will include not just the Golan, but also the annexation of “settlement blocs” in the West Bank.

Such a plan will surely excite Israelis and the entire Jewish people, because its beauty is that it requires no Palestinian cooperation or consent. If they reject it, as is widely expected even though not so much as half a paragraph of it has yet been published, nothing will stop Trump from turning his plan into a dictate that Israel alone can adopt without needing to pay a high price, or even any price. After all, he’s already demonstrated his ability to break china.

But all of the above applies not only to the drawing of geographic borders which embrace the reality created during 52 years of occupation. It also means the nature and character of the Jewish state will be shaped by a foreign power rather than as a result of internal Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

International law, the Geneva Conventions and UN resolutions, which in any case have been systematically violated by Israel, will be replaced by a new source of authority, one that resides in the White House and sees himself as an upgraded model of Lord Balfour. At his word, the nation-state of the Jewish people will become a state of all its citizens. 

More than half of them – the Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – will be granted a non-federative autonomy, scattered among several enclaves, with no political and diplomatic rights. The rest – Jews and Israeli Arabs – will enjoy the superior status of citizens, and will also have exclusive rights to control all parts of the new country.

Residents of the Palestinian autonomy will be able to maintain their leadership, their traditions and their religion; to set up administrative institutions and run their own budget; and in the best case, even to form elective bodies like a parliament. But the source of authority for Palestinian legislation will be Israeli legislation, which they won’t be able to affect.

Such a plan obviously can’t bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement or advance Israel’s relationship with Arab states. But it will greatly bolster the justifications for Israel’s absolute control over the Palestinians, which will now enjoy American consent. 

Israel, which persecutes civil rights organizations because it claims they serve the interests of foreign countries, will now get an entire superpower dictating its character and shaping its system of government. Such a plan wouldn’t just do enormous damage to the Palestinian people’s aspirations; it would also kill the democratic half of Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state. 

But on second thought, there’s nothing in it that the Israeli government hasn’t already done, or will do in the future, in any case.