Normalisation with the state of Israel and a “regional solution” to the Palestinian issue appear to be back on the agenda. What is such a solution? The “regional solution” was proposed repeatedly over many years before the “deal of the century” was mooted. It now seems to be back in an attempt to circumvent the failure of Trump’s big deal, at least thus far. Ariel Sharon referred to the “regional solution” as the long-term transitional solution; for Shimon Peres it was a temporary state; and for Netanyahu it means economic peace.
Anyone following events between Israel and Palestine will know that the former has not come close to any of the Palestinian and Arab proposals regarding a solution. What Israel has actually been doing for decades is lure both into granting more concessions without providing anything in return.
The Oslo Accords were the greatest enticement, as the agreement not only rid the Zionist colonialists of the ugly face of their occupation and its security and economic cost, but also eliminated its political cost and opened the door to the real solution that they believe in; essentially one state called Israel.
When we remember the debate that took place while Oslo was being put together, we realise the truth behind the solution. The Israelis rejected the use of the phrase “withdrawal of the Israeli army” and insisted on using the term “redeployment”. To accept “withdrawal” would have been to recognise Palestinian ownership of the land from which they were withdrawing, which they could not do; they consider it to be “Judea and Samaria”, not the occupied West Bank, and the concession of even a metre of this would destroy their pseudo-religious narrative regarding the conflict.
Oslo was just the first step towards executing the favoured Israeli solution, represented by transferring the burden of managing the Palestinian population to an authority that represents them, without making any concessions over land, especially in Jerusalem. Israel has consistently rejected any deal allowing the legitimate return of Palestinian refugees to the territories from which they were driven out in 1948.
Trump’s deal of the century wants an equation of Palestinian autonomy, without sovereignty, Jerusalem or the return of refugees, and complete Palestinian and Arab acceptance of this. It looks impossible, though, because no Palestinian leader — no matter how much they collude with the occupation, or how strong-armed they are — could accept this. What’s more, neither could any Arab leader, especially when the Palestinians reject it.
The “regional solution” is thus a “smart” continuation of the Oslo Accords and is based on utilising the solution proposed in the deal of the century without officially announcing what it is. This solution maintains the current autonomy with some improvements, mostly economic, and opening the door wide to normalisation with the Arab states. Then the status quo, which is politically rejected as the end solution, becomes the final agreement, again, without officially declaring this. With the passage of time, the conflict will become similar to simple border conflicts across the world, most of which have no actual solution.
Now, thanks to the wave of Arab normalisation with Israel that we are witnessing, the “regional solution” is being revived. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority continues to serve the occupation and preoccupies itself with internal matters, including the social security law, as if it were an independent state that does not face any external problems at all. Moreover, the PA President continues to make speeches about rejecting the deal of the century, which could disappear from the debate altogether. At the same time, the Gaza Strip could end up being normalised as a separate quasi-state, if necessary, or returned to the umbrella of the PA if a way to travel between the coastal enclave and the West Bank can be found.
The major complication in this game, which involves liquidating the Palestinian issue in an indirect way, is the PA leadership, because as long as it insists on rejecting any form of resistance to the occupation in the West Bank, and transferring its disastrous policy to Gaza, it is paving the way for the success of the conspiracy against Palestine and its people. While the PA’s central committee has made revolutionary remarks regarding the suspension of its recognition of Israel, stopping security cooperation, and disengagement from the occupation authorities, everyone is waiting for words to be turned into actions. We could be waiting for a long time.
In the meantime, thwarting the “regional solution” would depend on international and regional developments, or perhaps an uprising by the Palestinian people that turns the tables on everyone. However, everyone seems to be working to prevent such an uprising ever taking place; including, of course, the Palestinian Authority.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 28 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.