Last week’s election of Donald Trump has sent shock waves throughout the world. In the U.S., it has emboldened some far-right elements of American society to express their racist sentiments more openly. In Israel, it has emboldened some far-right elements of Israeli society to express their racist sentiments more openly. The difference is that the far-right elements in Israeli society are senior government officials, who see Trump’s victory as a free rein to finally bury the two-state solution. They should think seriously, however, about what could come next.
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Only hours after the result was announced, several Israeli officials went as far as declaring that "The era of a Palestinian state is over." Others called upon the U.S. to break with international law and international consensus in order to recognize the illegal Israeli annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem. This should come as no surprise, since it represents the Israeli official position, but should be a cause for serious attention by the international community. Rather than preparing for any peace proposal, the Israeli government spent the eight years of Obama’s presidency expanding settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and denying basic human rights, through a whole host of oppressive policies.
During attempts to relaunch negotiations, Netanyahu refused to so much as share a map showing Israel’s proposed borders or to discuss any other final status issues, including Jerusalem and refugees. Instead, he preferred to focus on a PR campaign aimed at blaming the victims and distracting the public, while buying time for more settlement construction. Time and time again, the Israeli government has refused to honor its obligations under prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements that have been already signed and ratified by their own parliament.
Enjoying an unprecedented culture of impunity, Israeli officials ignored the calls of their closest ally to give peace a chance, and continued with their political program of turning all of historic Palestine into one single state with two systems, one for Jews and one for non-Jews.
Israel’s reaction to Donald Trump’s election only reaffirms that Tel Aviv is not interested in ending the occupation.
But no matter who the U.S. president is, Israel is running out of excuses. Although the U.S. has not acted to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, the two-state solution remains an unbreakable U.S. position. This entails the non-recognition of Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine and the rejection of Israel’s annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem. This has been a consistent U.S. policy since 1967 which hasn’t changed under any presidency.
November 15th marks 28 years of our historic compromise to recognize the State of Israel on the 1967 border, and accepting a mere 22% of what was Palestine before 1948. Since that time, Palestine’s vision of peace has been consistent, and is clearly outlined in the Arab Peace Initiative: Two sovereign states on the 1967 border, East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine and a just solution to the refugee issue based on UNGA Resolution 194. We believe that Palestinian citizens of Israel, the indigenous population of Israel, must be granted equal rights. We also believe that once this is achieved, a process of full normalization should take place between Israel and the rest of our region.
Without a partner for peace, however, there is very little we can do, except to remain where we are when it comes to Israel. We continue to explore various international forums in order to bring justice to our people, as well conducting internal preparations to vote, upon a new political program for Al Fatah and a new Executive Committee for the PLO, before the end of the year.
Despite decades of exile, occupation and colonization, Palestinians have held on to their homeland. As we have recognized the existence and reality of the State of Israel, so must Israel recognize the existence and reality of the State of Palestine. Because the only alternative to two sovereign states on the 1967 border is one democratic state for everyone.
And yet, Israel will likely intensify its current zero-sum strategy under Donald Trump’s presidency. Netanyahu was not elected to achieve a two-state solution, and not even Israel’s closest allies can now credibly claim that he has any intention of doing so. This is a myopic attitude. Though we disagree with anyone referring to our demographic reality as a threat to anyone, it is a fact that the size of the Palestinian population within historic Palestine is beginning to surpass that of the Jewish population. Mr. Netanyahu’s success in burying the two-state solution will inevitably be met with a different discussion: Equal rights for everyone living under Israel’s control. Is Tel Aviv prepared for that? Apartheid has no place anywhere in the world, including Palestine.
Dr. Saeb Erekat is the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization.