By ALEX KOLE
The state of Israel under the newly formed government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to annex huge swaths of the West Bank with the blessing of the Trump administration. Such a move, once it is passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, will effectively end the proposed “two-state solution” that was the centerpiece of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At the time, the PLO formally recognized the state of Israel, while Israel granted Palestinians a form of limited self-government in the West Bank and Gaza, which resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Netanyahu touted his annexation plan as the centerpiece of his campaign, and has promised to pursue its enactment this summer. Now Landau, writing for Haaretz, reports that the plan extends Israel’s sovereignty “over all of the Jewish settlements established in the West Bank since 1967, including the Jordan Valley” and is being prepared for approval by the Knesset in a matter of weeks.
Netanyahu’s plan takes advantage of the political cover the Trump administration recently granted to Israel’s right-wing political parties and their dreams of a “greater Israel.” In January 2020, the White House published its “Peace to Prosperity” plan, which states that “peace should not demand the uprooting of people—Arab or Jew—from their homes.” Landau reports that Netanyahu’s plan seizes the opportunity to codify into law what is effectively a fait accompli, which is to say that the Jewish settlements in the West Bank will now become formally part of the Jewish state.
The Trump administration’s treatment of the Jewish settlements as legitimate and immune from any land transfers that a comprehensive peace plan would require should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed its public statements. In November of last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the settlements do not violate international law but merely “recognized the reality on the ground.” Mr. Landau writes in his article that the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has taken pains to reassure Netanyahu and his allies that annexations can take place separately from an agreement by the two sides on the Trump peace plan, openly contradicting the language contained within it.
While the Trump plan pays lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state and includes language that any annexations by Israel of West Bank territory are contingent upon Israel’s agreeing to the entire plan, the reality is that there already exists an Israeli-American committee that is working to create a map that will illustrate the precise borders for Netanyahu’s annexations—essentially putting the cart before the horse.
Further complicating any attempt to create a Palestinian state based on the foundations laid out in the Oslo Accords, formal annexation of the settlements would be almost impossible to reverse, based on Israel’s Basic Law of Referendums, which as Landau reports, mandates that all “land that is subject to Israeli law would require a Knesset majority of 80 lawmakers, or a public referendum” in order to be transferred to Palestinian control.
One question moving forward is, if Israel proceeds with annexation, how would the Palestinians respond? Writing in The New York Times on June 8, David Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon report that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority are beginning to abandon administrative responsibilities laid out in the Oslo Accords and are planning to “cut the salaries of tens of thousands of its own clerks and public officers” and “slash vital funding to the impoverished Gaza Strip.”
The PA has already refused to accept payments from Israel that are collected on their behalf and represent approximately 50 percent of its operating budget. If the PA relinquishes its role as outlined in the Oslo settlement, Israel would be compelled to act as an occupying force for the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank. Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA official in charge of relations with Israel, when interviewed by The Times, captured the sentiment best when he said, “Either they [Israel] backtrack on annexation and things go back to how they were, or they follow through with annexation and they go back to being the occupying power in the whole West Bank.”
Despite the PA’s moves to relinquish its role of administering the West Bank for Israel, it’s important to recall that since the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) abandoned the armed struggle back in the 1980s, it has lost much of its stature with the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza and embraced its role as enforcers of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Furthermore, given the reality on the ground for Palestinians in the West Bank—living in economically depressed conditions, with strict limitations on their freedom of movement, and subject to constant and humiliating harassment by the Israel Defense Forces—the idea that Palestinian self-determination would be solved through a viable Palestinian state as outlined in Oslo was largely a fiction pushed on the Palestinian people by the bourgeois-nationalist PLO.
A look at the early history of the Palestine liberation movement shows that during the time of the British mandate, which lasted from the end of World War I until May 1948, the Jewish and Palestinian Arab working class united to resist foreign occupation. After the United Nations sanctioned the partition of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, Trotskyists in Palestine called the partition a blatant attempt to end the unified struggle of Arab and Jewish people against Britain and an incitement for the two nationalities to turn violently against one another. At the time, the Palestinian Trotskyists in the Revolutionary League of Palestine published in their organ, Voice of the Class (reprinted in the journal Fourth International in May 1948) the statement: “Make this war between Jews and Arabs, which serves the end of imperialism, the common war of both nations against imperialism.”
Even the PLO of the 1960s included language in the Palestinian National Charter of 1968 that considered both the Arab and Jewish people living in those lands before 1948 to be Palestinian, and Palestine to be defined as an “indivisible territorial unit (Charter, Article 2).” The armed struggle that the PLO initiated was directed against “Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine (Charter, Article 15).”
The PLO Charter did not; however, view their struggle as necessarily to be carried out jointly by the Arab and Jewish working class. To the contrary, the Charter states: “Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation—peoples and governments—with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard (Charter, Article 15).” PLO emphasis on struggle that would include participation by the neocolonial governments of the region reflected its bourgeois-nationalist political orientation. This later found its most deformed expression in the Oslo Accords it embraced in 1993, which breathed new life into the then exiled and politically isolated PLO as administrators of the occupied Palestinian territories.
At the time of our founding in December 2019, Socialist Resurgence recognized that the “two-state solution,” promoted by the negotiating parties for decades, “never was a serious option … since the scenarios entertained by Israel, the UN, and the United States always envisioned a Palestinian mini-state that would be a mere appendage of Israel, beholden to the Zionist government for military defense, customs enforcement, foreign policy, and so on.” Even elements of the PLO have recognized that a Palestinian state is a chimera, and have pivoted towards advocating for a single democratic and secular Palestine, where both Jews and Palestinians (and other ethnic groups) have equal civil and voting rights.
We in Socialist Resurgence support this call. We give unconditional support to self-determination for the oppressed Palestinian people, with the right to determine their own destiny. At the same time, we would view the struggle for a single democratic secular Palestine as providing a step that can help pave the way for class struggle and revolutionary action by both Arab and Jewish workers and the creation of a socialist Palestine. Such a movement, once and for all, would liberate Jewish and Arab workers from their bourgeois oppressors and act as a beacon for the transformation of all the nations of the Middle East into socialist republics.