Stop West Bank annexations!

Submitted by AWL on 12 February, 2020 - 10:37 Author: Dale Street
Standing Together protest

The Trump Plan, and the announced intentions of both of the biggest political parties in Israel (Netanyahu's Likud and Gantz's Blue and White) to annex big chunks of the West Bank, have had an eerily subdued response in the Middle East.

Action on the streets across the world is needed to block the annexations. Governments are keeping quiet, or blustering, and Boris Johnson's Tory government in Britain is the Plan's strongest supporter in Europe.

The Trump Plan, announced on 28 January, gives Israel’s right wing government everything it wants – annexation of the West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel, demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip, the disarming of Hamas - and even something only some Israeli right-wingers want, the transfer to the notional future Palestinian (semi) state of a heavily-Palestinian pocket of Israeli territory.

For Palestinians it offers no more than "statehood" in the form of a scattered fragments of territory devoid of genuine sovereignty. The borders, airspace, and territorial waters of an "independent" Palestine, for example, would be controlled by Israel.

In the short term, the Plan is unlikely to be implemented, but it will provide license for the Israeli government to annex the Jordan Valley and other areas and then, over coming years, to tell the Palestinians to accept the Plan or expect worse.

There have been demonstrations and agitation inside Israel against the Plan and the annexation plans. (And, behind the scenes, so it is said, Israel's military top brass also oppose annexation, for their own reasons).

There have been street protests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the Plan, but only carefully choreographed and small-scale. Attacks on Israeli troops and police in early February appear to have been isolated incidents rather than the start of a co-ordinated violent confrontation.

This may change over time. Israeli attacks and Palestinian fatalities may trigger a broader wave of protests which morph into a popular mobilisation against the Plan. Not so far.

In the run-up to the Arab League conference held a few days after the Plan’s announcement, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wanted a motion which called for a resumption of peace negotiations and contained no criticism of Trump.
In the event, the 22-member-strong Arab League conference voted unanimously to reject the Plan. The for-show vote failed to cover up fundamental divisions.

Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were officially represented at the White House press conference at which Trump announced the Plan. Despite subsequent claims that they had been misled about the Plan’s contents, all three states subsequently issued statements supportive of it.

Kuwait, too, has declared that it “highly appreciates” US efforts to end the Israel-Palestine conflict. Saudi Arabia “appreciates the Trump administration’s efforts” and advocates talks “under the auspices of the United States.” Egypt also “appreciates the administration’s efforts” and is urging Israel and Palestinians to “carefully study” the Plan.

While calling for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, Qatar likewise “appreciates the endeavours of President Trump and the current US administration to find solutions for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Jordan, although it has long been the Arab state most disposed to cooperate with Israel, has been more forthright in its verbal condemnation of the Plan. It has stated its opposition to any “annexation of Palestinian lands” and its support for a sovereign Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders.

For many Arab governments, especially the Gulf States, a fear of the growing Iranian influence in the region and a consequent desire to maintain close military ties with the US outweigh the traditional lip-service paid to the rights of Palestinians.
States such as Qatar and Jordan still call for an independent Palestine in the borders of 1967, but they fail to denounce the “endeavours of President Trump” negating such a state.

Of course, the Palestinian Authority (PA, which nominally governs Areas A and B of the West Bank) and Hamas (which holds power in the Gaza Strip) have rejected the Plan.

“I will never accept this solution, I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem,” said PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He has dismissed the proposed Palestinian state as “a Swiss cheese state” and has pledged: “We will not kneel, and we will not surrender.”

Abbas also singled out for criticism the Plan’s requirement that a future Palestinian state recognise Israel as a Jewish state:

“There are 1.5 to 2 million Russians in Israel today. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the gates opened. To prove they were Jewish, they would go to some rabbi, pay him 100 roubles, get a certificate that they were Jewish, and go to Israel. Even among the Falash Mura from Ethiopia, believe me, the percentage of Jews is tiny.”

According to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh: “The deal of the century was born dead. It bears futile seeds and has no future. We will foil the deal at all costs.” Hamas official Abu Zuhri singled out for criticism the proposal to make Jerusalem the Israeli capital:

“Trump’s statement about Jerusalem is nonsense and Jerusalem will always be a land for the Palestinians ... The Palestinians will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain Palestinian land.”

Other Hamas spokespersons have promised that “our Palestinian people will not let these conspiracies pass” and that the Plan “will cause rage and anger among Palestinians, who will oppose the conspiracy against their legitimate rights.”

As a symbol of the across-the-board opposition among Palestinians to the Plan, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad sent representatives to the press conference at which Abbas announced the PA’s rejection of the Plan.

According to Abbas, Hamas has agreed to form a "united front" with the PA against the Plan. The actual ability of the PA and Hamas to mobilise opposition and win support from supposedly sympathetic governments falls far short of the rhetoric.

The PA has been in power for well over a decade. Elections due to be held in 2009 were cancelled and never rescheduled. The PA has "delivered" for the West Bank "establishment" but has failed on every other front, resulting in popular disillusionment and a growing level of social conflict. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2006, the date of the last elections. It too has used its power to reward its own supporters while crushing any sign of political opposition and dissent. Israel’s economic "siege" and its repeated military incursions have added to popular disillusionment and fatigue.

According to a PA spokesperson, there will be no attempt at popular mobilisations before the 2 March Israeli elections, in case Netanyahu uses them to boost his election prospects: “We’ll wait at least until the Israeli elections to see where the wind blows.”

The PA and Hamas both recognise the divisions in the Arab League and the unwillingness of many of its members to challenge the Trump Plan head on. According to the PA Civil Affairs Minister, the Arab states could become “a dagger in the Palestinian people’s side.”

Divisions within the Arab League and the reluctance of its members to condemn the Plan outright have provided an opportunity for Turkey and Iran to present themselves as the champions of the Palestinian people.

According to a statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry: “The United States’ so-called peace plan is stillborn. This is an annexation plan aimed at killing a two-state solution and extorting the Palestinian territory. Palestinian people and its land cannot be bought for money.”

Turkey would not “allow any step that will legitimise Israel’s occupation and persecution. We will always stand by the brotherly Palestinian people. We will work for an independent Palestine in the Palestinian territory.”

According to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei:

“The American plot of the ‘Deal of the Century’ will die before Trump dies. This plan is indicative of US viciousness and manipulation. They have come to negotiate with the Zionists over what belongs to the Palestinians! Palestine belongs to the Palestinians!”

Iran has promised to “work with other countries in the region at all levels to unite the Muslim world to confront the great conspiracy.” It has criticised “reactionary Arab governments” for “supporting Zionists against Palestinian groups” and is aiming to create a "united front" of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PA.

Turkey and Iran’s repression of their own national minorities is a measure of their commitment to national rights. For both governments the Trump Plan is no more than an opportunity to use the Palestinians as political pawns in an attempt to pursue their own regional-imperialist aims.

The response of the European Union to the Plan was initially non-committal: “The EU will study and assess the proposals put forward. [The Plan] provides an occasion to re-launch the urgently needed efforts towards a negotiated and viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

A later statement was far more critical. The Plan “departs from internationally agreed parameters [concerning Palestinian sovereignty].” The EU does not “recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967". "Steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged.”

That statement was issued by the EU foreign policy spokesperson. Divisions among the EU member-states – six of which are reported to back the Plan – meant that the statement could not be issued as a formal EU declaration (for which unanimity is needed).

The UK government, now freed from the Lexiters’ nightmare of the shackles of the Brussels bureaucracy, has taken probably the most pro-Plan position of all European states.

The Plan was “a serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort” and “could prove a serious step forward.” The Israeli and Palestinian leaders should “give these plans genuine and fair consideration.”

Brexit Britain wants a trade deal with the USA. Any concerns the Tories have for Palestinian rights rank much lower with them than easing the way to a deal.

Bourgeois diplomacy will not stop implementation of the Trump Plan. We must stir trade unions and campaigns committed to a genuine two-states solution to mobilise against the Plan in alliance with the pro-peace forces in Israel and their Palestinian counterparts.

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