181 pages oozing hate
Moshé Machover spoke to the London Communist Forum about Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’.
Alot was written about Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ when the so-called ‘peace plan’ was announced. At the time it was very widely commented on and I am not going into the details of what is in the 181-page document, which has been described in great detail in various articles.1 I will focus instead on just one or two points.
The less well-informed commentators said that it spells the end of the two-state solution. My comment on this is, ‘Yes and no’. It depends what you mean by ‘the two-state solution’, because there are two versions of it. The first is the illusory one, which people who were naive or wanted to deceive described as ‘a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel’.
But no-one in the know - certainly not in Israel - believed in it. It was just a confidence trick. One of the best comments in the media was written by David Hearst, who used to be a leader-writer for The Guardian. He is one of the best Middle East correspondents in the British media. But he no longer writes for The Guardian - surprise, surprise.
I would like to quote from an article that he published in the Middle East Eye on January 29, entitled: ‘Palestinians have only one option left: stay and fight’:
No-one should underestimate the historic nature of the declaration that has just taken place. The two-state solution - or the idea that a viable, contiguous Palestinian state can be created alongside a Jewish majority state - is dead. It was dead long before the Oslo accords.2
So this is the ‘end of the two-state solution’, which in reality never actually existed. (By the way, there were in fact two Oslo accords: 1993 and 1995.)
As I said, there are two versions of the ‘two-state solution’. There was an illusion created, a confidence trick. Confidence tricks are in fact based on an illusion - or, if you prefer, a stage magician’s trick. The Palestinians were sold a pig in a poke by Israel. ‘A pig’ is not exactly an appropriate animal, but I will use it: you believe there is something in the poke - it squeals; but actually it is not what you think it is.
In fact, this plan is part of a ratchet mechanism of the long so-called ‘peace process’, which was not intended to produce peace. It was all about ‘process’ and was never intended to get anywhere.
If you want to understand the background to the ‘deal of the century’, I recommend you read my article in the Weekly Worker: ‘Zionism: a quest for legitimacy’ (September 18 2014). This explains the ratchet mechanism. At each stage of the process the Palestinians are presented with a plan: ‘This is what we propose’. (This actually started not recently, but as far back as the 1940s. The United Nations resolution for the partition of Palestine was one of the stages. And it goes further back to the 1930s and the Peel Commission, which first recommended partition.)
So, each time the Palestinians and the Israelis (or, in the period before 1948, the Zionist movement) were presented with a plan, the Palestinians either accepted it or rejected it. If they rejected it, they were blamed, because now ‘we have nobody to talk to’. If they accepted, then the Israelis (or previously the Zionists) would demand further preconditions. Today we have the demand that Israel must be recognised not as just ‘a Jewish state’, but as ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people’. In other words, it belongs not to the people who live there, but to the whole of the Jewish people, who therefore have the right to colonise Palestine, and you just have to accept it.
Harsher conditions are imposed and the Palestinians, of course, are expected to reject them. But, whether they do or not, it amounts to the same thing. There is a ratchet and each time the Palestinians are offered a smaller and smaller part. It is like two people negotiating how to divide a pizza, while one of them is eating piece after piece of it. ‘Let’s discuss how to partition Palestine’, while one side is already helping itself. This is what we are currently seeing.
Even, believe it or not, Jonathan Freedland rubbished Trump’s plan in The Guardian. He pointed out that the Palestinians are not meant to accept it. It is an Israeli plan, pure and simple - and not just that, but a plan of the extreme Zionist colonisers.
It does not propose a Palestinian state in the normal sense. But that is not new - Hearst mentions that the ‘two-state solution’ was dead before the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995. He knows what he is talking about. A lot of people believed that the accords were about a two-state solution, but they were not. The possibility of a Palestinian state was never mentioned in the accords. Nor was there any mention of stopping Israeli colonisation - the settlements were just taken for granted.
Moreover, on October 5 1995, just a month before he was assassinated, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin made a speech in the Knesset, in which he said:
We view the permanent solution in the framework of the state of Israel, which will include most of the area of the land of Israel, as it was under the rule of the British mandate; and alongside it a Palestinian entity, which will be home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.
In other words,they can collect their own rubbish.
The borders of the state of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War [the so-called Green Line]. We will not return to the June 4 1967 lines.3
This is very clear: “an entity which is less than a state”. That is also what the ‘deal of the century’ proposes. But it also bears a striking similarity to the Oslo accords, which were about dividing the responsibility in the interim period for who will be in control of the area of the territory conquered by Israel in 1967.
The total area was divided into three parts. Part A would consist of the most densely populated, mainly urban areas, that would be under the ‘full control’ of the Palestinian authority (ie, it would be able to police its own dense urban population). Part B would be ‘shared control’, while part C would be under the full control of Israel ‘for the time being’. Part C included the Jordan Valley: that is, the whole strip along the Jordan river. That made parts A and B, which were fully or partly under Palestinian control, completely disjointed from Jordan, and completely surrounded by an area under total Israeli control. This meant the least densely populated, mostly rural areas, which included the best land - the Jordan Valley is an extremely fertile part of Palestine.
And it included the settlements - not only those which existed before the accords, but the numerous settlements which have now metastasised. There was nothing in the Oslo accords to prevent this: on the contrary, Israel is allowed to do this, because all planning decisions relating to construction, infrastructure, roads and so on in area C were left in its hands. Since then, this area has been very intensively colonised.
In fact, Israel was not going to colonise the Gaza Strip, which was extremely densely populated. Indeed, 10 years after the accords, Israel withdrew its presence and made it into a sort of prison. It is besieged by Israel - surrounded, completely sealed off. Israel also controls the coast and the border with Sinai (with the help of Egypt), because the sea and the short border with Sinai are the only parts not contiguous with Israeli territory.
The Gaza Strip runs along the Mediterranean, of course. It is surrounded mainly by Israel, but on one side by the sea and also by a narrow section of the Sinai Desert, which is part of Egypt. And Egypt helps to besiege it.
If you look at what Trump proposes, it is very similar. Part C of the Oslo accord is more or less the same as what the ‘deal of the century’ allocates for Israeli annexation. In other words, it will be part of the state of Israel. The rest will be run by a Palestinian authority which, exactly as Rabin said, will be “less than a state”.
So, although people believed that the Oslo accords were about a two-state solution, it was, as I said, a pig in a poke - or rather it was a cat and now the cat is out of the bag! A poke is a kind of bag, after all.
And in fact the ‘deal of the century’ is not actually Trump’s own plan. He presented it, but it is drawn up under consultation with extreme Zionist elements in Israel - not only Binyamin Netanyahu, but people even further to the right, even more ardent colonisers. It was drawn up by two people. The main author is supposed to be Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, but a co-author is David Melech Friedman, who is the US ambassador to Israel.
According to Wikipedia, Friedman
volunteered to head American Friends of Bet El Institution - an organisation that advocates against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and provides around $2 million per year to the Israeli settlement, Bet El. The organisation also received donations from the family foundation of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.4
So you can now see who is behind this wonderful plan. In presenting it, Trump was confused and referred to Friedman as “your ambassador”: ie, Israel’s ambassador … (He also referred to the al-Aqsa mosque as “al-Aqua”.)
It proposes something that is not at all like a state. If you look at it on a map, it looks a bit like Swiss cheese, full of holes. The ‘cheese’ connects one part to another without crossing any holes, but you cannot go from one hole to another without crossing the ‘cheese’. And guess which part is reserved for the Palestinians and which is earmarked for annexation by Israel. Of course, there will be roads and tunnels between the holes; but guess who is going to be in control of the whole affair?
The minimum attribute of an independent, sovereign state is control of its armed forces. Who is going to be in control of this? The document states:
Upon signing the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, the State of Israel will maintain overriding security responsibility for the State of Palestine, with the aspiration that the Palestinians will be responsible for as much of their internal security as possible, subject to the provisions of this Vision.
In other words, Israel will remain in military occupation: that is, the armed forces in control of the area will be the Israeli military and security services, the Shabak (aka Shin Bet, Israel’s MI5). But hopefully the Palestinians will be able to police their own neighbourhoods - on behalf of Israel.
Then there is the question of natural resources. I have already referred to arable land - the most fertile part of what remains of Palestine is going to incorporated into Israel, as well as other parts, which will be annexed, where there are Israeli settlements. But the second most important resource is, of course, water, without which you cannot live. But the water will be controlled by Israel. According to the ‘deal of the century’, Israel will remain in overall control. Already Israel is using by far the lion’s share of the water - Palestinians are not allowed to drill new wells, for instance.
If you go to Israeli settlements colonising the West Bank, you will see swimming pools and green lawns. But Palestinian farmers are left with a meagre allocation of water. Gaza is a catastrophe in terms of water, which is completely salinated by the incursion of sea water. Experts are saying that soon it will be impossible to live there, because there will be no usable water. One of the projects that Israel is actually using is desalination, but Palestinians are not able to enjoy this in Gaza.
So what is the bottom line of this plan? According to one writer,
A peace plan has to be predicated on both sides saving face, on both sides being able to declare some kind of victory. The plan announced is a 180-page hate letter from the Americans (and by extension the Israelis) to the Palestinians. Until one reads the entire document (and unless one knows the history of the conflict), it is hard to convey the depth of contempt and scorn this text displays towards Palestinians. It oozes colonialist supremacism.5
Who is the author of these comments? Surprisingly, his name is Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians. So, far from being an advocate of Palestinian rights, he was actually negotiating during the Oslo period and beyond on behalf of the government of Israel. And this is his assessment. I wonder what a Palestinian or a neutral person is supposed to think about it.
The question is, why now? Why was Trump impelled to ‘let the cat out of the bag’? Why was it so urgent? Well, there are several reasons why the time was ripe. First of all, Trump in this crude way, as Levy says, is showing his “scorn” towards the Palestinians in a way that “oozes colonialist supremacism”. Trump is not bothered about diplomatic finesse. The smooth formulations of traditional diplomacy are not his style - and this applies not only to Israel-Palestine. His international interventions, mostly made by tweeting, are hardly couched in traditional diplomatic language. Also, he has cottoned on to the fact that the so-called ‘international community’ (which used to be called the ‘free world’ in olden days) really does not care. They are occupied with other things.
Second, both he and his friend, Netanyahu, were at the time it was announced involved in trials. Of course, the impeachment attempt against Trump has now ended and will be forgotten tomorrow, but Netanyahu was and is still indicted on three counts of bribery and similar forms of corruption. These cases do not yet include a fourth case, for which somehow the Israeli attorney general has managed not to indict him. This relates to the submarines he ordered for the Israeli navy (which it did not actually want) and it turns out that his cousin is involved in a firm that produces parts for them. This cousin gives Netanyahu a yearly ‘contribution’ of several million dollars.
Two elections last year and one coming this year, Netanyahu hoped, would provide him with a Knesset which would give him immunity from prosecution. The ‘deal of the century’ was announced after the first two elections failed to give him what he wanted - that is to say, a ‘stay out of jail’ card - and, he hopes, the election this year finally will. (Probably not, according to the opinion polls.)
Netanyahu was very happy with Trump’s scheme. He thought that the plan would give him the green light, and he was actually told by Friedman that he could incorporate the areas earmarked for annexation before the coming election, which will take place in March. Netanyahu heads a transitional government - it is not one that has the confidence of the Knesset, which has now been dissolved. But then the other author of the plan, Jared Kushner, said that the annexation would have to wait until after the election. You have to ‘do it properly’. So apparently Netanyahu accepted that there had been a misunderstanding and is now hoping to annexe 60% of what remains of the West Bank after the election.
So, what is this pointing to in the future? Let me once more quote from the article by David Hearst in Middle East Eye. He is one of the few correspondents who understands what is going on in the Middle East and does not try to throw sand in your eyes:
You can announce as many times as you like, as US president Donald Trump did yesterday, that Israel will take over the Jordan Valley - and thus about 30% of the West Bank - and establish Israeli law over the settlements. But without physically moving greater and greater numbers of Palestinians out of the expanded state of Israel, little changes. Annexation just becomes another form of occupation.
Population transfer, mass population transfer - another Nakba or catastrophe - lies therefore at the heart of Trump’s and Netanyahu’s ‘vision’ for peace.
According to Hearst then, for all the assurances that nobody is going to be forced out, this is about population transfer. And in this light we should consider that part of the plan which proposes to at least consider annexing an area populated by Arab citizens of Israel - 10 towns in the so-called ‘triangle’ - to this new ‘Palestinian state’. They are Israeli citizens, but such a move would make them citizens of a non-state.
So, this is about annexation, creating a one-state reality. Recently I read an article by Ian S Lustick - a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a specialist on Israeli politics, who happens to be Jewish - in which he says that ‘one state’ is now a reality. And this is going to be one state under Israeli control. He adds that this will be an apartheid state and there will be a prolonged struggle to democratise it, as happened in South Africa.
One thing he ignores, however, is that Israel has an option that never existed for the apartheid regime in South Africa, which, of course, had a white quasi-class at its head. One thing it could not do was get rid of the indigenous population - for two reasons. Firstly, there were just too many black people. And the other reason, most importantly, was that the economy of South Africa depended on their labour. However, as I keep pointing out, the Israeli Zionist colonisation of Palestine is not the same as the colonisation of South Africa. It is what Marx called a “colony properly so-called”.
Marx distinguished in volume 1 of Capital three types of colonies: plantation colonies, using slaves; those colonising rich and densely populated countries, like India and Mexico, for extracting value out of them, for spoils; and the others are colonies “properly so-called”, like Australia. Israel and South Africa fall into two different categories.
In the case of Israel, Palestinians in the ‘one state’ will account for about half of the population - most of it surplus to requirement. The 20% of the population of Israel which is Arab is integrated into the economy, occupying the lowest echelons of the Israeli working class, by and large. But the majority of the Palestinians under Israeli control, in Gaza and the West Bank, play hardly any role in the Israeli economy. They mainly serve as a testing ground for Israeli military and security equipment. They are the guinea pigs on which this equipment is first used, allowing it to be extolled as something that has been tried out in actual practice, not in simulation.
When Britain sells arms to Saudi Arabia, for example, frequently they have only been tested under simulated conditions. However, Israeli products, which are high-tech and sophisticated, have often been put to the test under real conditions. So the Palestinian population do fulfil an economic function, and, as I have said, a small proportion is employed in the Israeli economy. A large part of these are employed in Israeli settlements as building workers, etc. But they are not a major part of the labour force in the Israeli economy.
And so the pressure will be increasing for ethnic cleansing. Here I am not inventing something out of a horror story: there are actual plans, which are currently being discussed. I referred earlier to an article of mine in the Weekly Worker and there I quoted Bezalel Smotrich, who is now a minister in the present government. He takes seriously the biblical myth that Zionism portrays as its deed to occupy the ‘Promised Land’ - ‘promised to us by god’.
This land was supposedly populated by ‘our ancestors’, but, even according to the myth (and it is a myth), the ‘children of Israel’ were not indigenous inhabitants in the land of Canaan. They were descended from Abraham, who came from Mesopotamia - just read the book of Genesis. He and his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob, were roaming semi-nomads in what the book of Genesis does not call the land of Israel, but the land of Canaan. It was populated by Canaanites. But, following a famine, they went to Egypt and became slaves of the Egyptian state for a couple of generations. And then they remembered that the land of Canaan was promised by god to Abraham. The book of Joshua relates how they came to the land of Canaan as conquerors, as invaders, and ethnically cleansed it. Yes, this is a myth - it has no historical validity. But the point is not whether I believe it: the point is that the Zionists who are now in the Israeli government do believe it, and take it as their template.
On April 28 2002 The Sunday Telegraph published an article by a learned Israeli military expert and historian, Martin van Creveld. The title of the article was ‘Sharon’s plan is to drive the Palestinians across the Jordan’. Why is he writing this at that time? Because by April 2002 it was clear to him, and to any person who was following what was happening in the Middle East, that there was going to be an invasion of Iraq. The British public were told in 2003 that it was something to do with a United Nations resolution or the security council. Rubbish! By that time, Tony Blair had promised George Bush that he would support him, so van Creveld knew - and in fact in the article he mentions - that this plan is a contingency for a possibility of war: for example, an invasion of Iraq. So it was on the cards.
The then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, knew about it too. But it did not work out, because the war in Iraq ended too quickly to be used as a smokescreen, under which it would have been possible for ethnic cleansing to be perpetrated elsewhere in the region. And, by the way, it was commented on at the time, although now it is forgotten, that Sharon was not too enthusiastic about the invasion of Iraq. According to him, Iraq was not the main problem. Our real target should be Iran, he said.
Israel and Iran
And this brings me to the connection between the ‘deal of the century’ and Iran. From the point of view of Israel, the real problem in the Middle East, as everyone should know by now, is Iran. Perhaps you remember Netanyahu standing in the Houses of Congress inciting action against Iran. But he did not get the kind of response he was seeking, because that was during the presidency of Barack Obama, who represented the policy of that section of the ruling class which was interested not in forcing Iran to cave in, but in making some kind of deal; in managing American global decline in a more gentle way.
But now we have Trump, who, as you know, has withdrawn from the nuclear treaty with Iran, and is trying to compel Tehran to capitulate. This accords entirely with Israeli interests. Not that he is doing it because it is in Israeli interests, but because it is part of a general policy to undo whatever Obama did (for example, Obamacare and the Paris convention on climate change). So this happens to be in the interests of Israel, which wants to bring this serious rival for influence in the Middle East to its knees.
Some people regard Iran as an anti-imperialist country, but I think this is rubbish. However, the Iranian regime is indeed an obstacle to US influence and to the wider American camp in the region. So, for that reason, there is a possibility that Iran will be attacked at some point.
As I have said, for its part Israel wants to bring down a rival power in the Middle East which is not subject to Israeli hegemony. But there is an additional reason: a war with Iran would be a useful context in which to perpetrate ethnic cleansing - Israel’s means of securing the one-state reality. Israel wants one state in the whole of Palestine, but one without a large Palestinian Arab population. So it needs a way of getting rid of a large part of that population, which is not fulfilling any useful role from the point of view of Zionist colonisation.
So this is the context, but is it going to happen? The future is unpredictable - we live in an uncertain world. But there is going to be strong pressure in this direction. Of course, from Israel’s point of view, the involvement of the United States will be essential. It is inconceivable that Israel would launch a war against Iran without US support. Israel needs the global superpower to prepare the way, or else it would suffer major casualties. Israel could be directly involved as a junior partner, or simply cheer from the sidelines, as was the case in Iraq.
The reason I keep saying this is because our role is to mobilise opinion. We need to make people aware of this danger: that war in the Middle East - and specifically against Iran - is a possibility.
. See, for example, Jonathan Cook’s ‘Trump’s “deal of the century” won’t bring peace - that was the plan’, January 29: www.jonathan-cook.net/2020-01-29/trump-deal-israel-no-peace.↩︎
. See ‘Zionism: quest for legitimacy’ Weekly Worker September 18 2014.↩︎
. The American Prospect January 30: https://prospect.org/world/don’t-call-it-a-peace-plan-israel-palestine-trump.↩︎