The events currently occurring in the Palestinian arena, specifically the American vision for the Palestinian issue, are similar to a huge marketing campaign, as well as the sanctions that will be imposed on anyone who refuses the marketed product. This is despite the important fact that the product being marketed is not even ready yet.
The Israelis want to market a new idea, or rather, a new old idea. This idea suggests that there are various forms of sovereignty and that this could be proposed to the Palestinians. This is reminiscent of the Israelis’ past proposal of what they called functional sovereignty.
The American team responsible for the peace process is composed of a group of Zionists supporting settlements in the occupied West Bank. Therefore, it is not surprising that since the formation of the American administration we have been witnessing efforts to empty the settlement process of any content that includes any Israeli withdrawal or settlement dismantlement. Hence, this team is doing three things: buying time for the Israeli occupation and its settlement expansion, marketing ideas requiring the Palestinians to back down from the idea of an independent state, and thirdly, marketing the division of peace in the Middle East into two tracks: Arab-Israel peace and Palestinian-Israeli peace.
According to Al-Monitor, which operates mainly from Lebanon and publishes material in Arabic, Hebrew and English, the American Ambassador (a Jewish Zionist) to Tel Aviv, David Friedman, the American consulate in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the US Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, are making great efforts to propose a vision that has a regional context. What Benjamin Netanyahu is doing is trying to achieve normalised relations, as well as economic, political and military relations with Arab countries allowing him to establish Israeli influence in the region in the future. Of course, there is no reference or hints of this goal, but any amateur researcher in international relations who reads the Israeli theories, especially those of the Likud Party, and is familiar with the basics of international relations, especially the realism theory, would realise these are their goals.
Instead of announcing these goals, they announce the importance of an Arab-Israeli alliance against terrorism and Iran. According to Al-Monitor, which quoted Israeli diplomats, Netanyahu is currently looking into how he can pay the lowest price to market the idea of Arab-Israeli normalisation, along with other basic ideas, such as not withdrawing from the West Bank and maintaining full security control over it. Therefore, he proposed the idea of autonomy, but called it a different name, considering it another kind of sovereignty.
If the American initiative is ever announced, it will basically say: The Palestinians must accept the status quo in return for some facilitations in their living conditions and formal changes. The Palestinians declare their state on paper, and they can declare similar things, but will not have Israeli recognition, nothing will change on the ground, and it must be within restrictions that do not include requesting international recognition or prosecuting the Israelis in the International Criminal Court.
The Israelis raised the idea of ”functional sovereignty” in Jerusalem, during the Camp David and Taba negotiations of 2000 and 2001. It can basically be called “extensive administrative powers”, and nothing more. Nowadays, similar ideas are being marketed, but only in the West Bank.
We are not certain the Americans will reach the stage of declaring an initiative. If they do announce an initiative, it will be recognition of the Likud and Israeli initiatives for autonomy, as proposed in ideas raised in the 1970s during the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations.
Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume there are some Arab states that would accept these new ideas of an entity less than a Palestinian state and the return of the refugees, which is not yet certain, it will be the Palestinians who make the decision, specifically Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Based on all past experiences, the Palestinians will not agree to any solution that does not include a Palestinian state, and Abbas will reject such a proposal.
There is much room for speculation about future scenarios, including holding the Palestinians responsible for the failure, reaching a temporary agreement (Oslo 2) that involves the beginning of Arab-Israeli normalisation and making minor changes to the status of the Palestinians, or new negotiations (which the Palestinians have rejected with freezing settlement expansion). However, despite this, we are certain that the majority of the world superpowers are dealing with the possibility of reaching a final agreement as something far-fetched.
The Palestinians, more than anyone else, need a strategy that includes a hint to their alternative plan if a solution is not reached.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Arabi21 on 28 November 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.