The Art of the Bigger Deal

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Adam Shatz in the LRB Blog:

Liberal supporters of a two-state solution have deplored Trump’s press conference as another example of his uncouthness, his disregard for an international consensus based on decades of international diplomacy, and, not least, his rejection of agreed ‘parameters’ for a resolution. Their mourning over the death of the ‘peace process’ ignores the fact that it has been dead for some time. A moribund process for more than twenty years, it has mainly benefited American ‘peace processors’, Israeli settlers and a narrow section of the Palestinian bourgeoisie and nomenklatura. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, has glossed Trump’s comments: ‘We absolutely support the two-state solution, but we are thinking out of the box as well.’

Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories believe that their situation has deteriorated since Oslo; some fondly remember the period before the first intifada, when they could work and travel inside Israel, or what they call the ‘48 territories’: i.e. the territory they lived in before the creation of Israel. To be able to live, work and move freely in their land has always been a stronger desire among Palestinians than statehood, especially if a minuscule, sovereign Palestine means being walled off from 78 per cent of the territory to which they still feel intimately connected.

As Yezid Sayigh argued in Armed Struggle and the Search for State (1997), the Palestinian national movement was initially driven by a vision of return and restoration, rather than the replacement of Israel’s occupation with a Palestinian state. The notion of statehood emerged gradually, out of a series of strategic defeats. With it came the bureaucratisation of the PLO and its transformation (or calcification) into a state-apparatus without a state.

If Israel were officially to abandon its commitment to the ‘peace process’ in favour of the bigger deal – continued control, even annexation, of the West Bank, as Israeli voices to the right of Netanyahu propose – Palestinians may well decide to struggle for their own ‘bigger deal’. That is what frightens defenders of the fading two-state consensus.

More here.

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