GEORGE BROWNING. Trump’s definition of peace in Israel

Feb 4, 2020

The strong prevail – the rest submit

The so called ‘peace plan’ now made public from the White House is no peace plan at all. There has been no attempt to camouflage its support for Israel’s most ambitious, expansionist plans. It lauds Israel and blames Palestine for aggression, indeed making it
clear than any part of the plan that accedes anything to Palestine will be contingent upon Israel judging that Palestine is compliant and servile. In other words there is no guarantee that even the crumbs on offer to Palestine would ever be delivered. It is improbable that a Palestinian State would ever be granted, even under these Swiss cheese conditions. It is a plan for Israel to take as much of the West Bank that it can with as few Palestinian residents as possible. It is, as many commentators have said, a plan for permanently entrenched apartheid.

The Australian government has ‘welcomed’ the plan.  What was in its head in doing so?
It is inconceivable that Australia, which fought so hard for the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, would now endorse apartheid in Palestine/Israel.

Let me try for a moment to put the best (if it is possible) interpretation on this unfortunate
message. Clearly the prevailing situation, which enables Israel to incrementally take over the West Bank in a thousand cuts, is unacceptable, cruel, humiliating, a source of continuing violence and the cause of on-going security problems. This status quo, enabling Israeli aggression and colonisation has prevailed for far too long. Every year less and less Palestinian land remains while more and more Palestinians are imprisoned for objecting to this outrage. Hope is progressively snuffed out.

So, what is the alternative?

There must be a circuit breaker. Perhaps the best light that can
be put on the government’s response is not that it is welcoming the details of
the plan, for any government interested in peace and justice could not welcome
them, but what is being welcomed is an intervention which calls for a different
way forward.

The problem is that the way forward being offered is totally unacceptable, it is known to be
unacceptable, Netanyahu and Gantz are almost certainly relying on it being
rejected by Palestinian authorities, in order that they can continue their slow
strangulation of the Palestinian people and in the process claim they offered a
way forward which was rejected.

So what can be put on the table?

Palestinians and Israelis have one unpleasant reality in common, they are both badly let down by their political leaders: the racist, extreme right-wing government in Israel
and the fractured and in-effective Palestinian Authority in Palestine. These politicians serve their own political interests and power rather than the peaceful future of their people.

It is my contention that if an independent, non-political, anonymous, poll was taken about the future of this much torn corner of the planet, a considerable majority of
Palestinians and a not insignificant minority of Israelis would vote for one
state with equal rights for all. Any sane person should agree that this is the most desirable outcome for all, given facts that now prevail on the ground. The problem with such a plan is that it faces hurdles that are as high externally as they are internally. The external hurdle is the rise and rise of dangerous nationalism that threatens the peace of the world. This nationalism crosses all political, religious, and ethnic boundaries. Its frightening face is Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, Janos Ader, Jair Bolsonaro, Xi Jinping, Mohammad Bin Salman, Ayatollah Khomeini, Vladimir Putin etc. all of whom interfere in one way or another, on either side of the Israel/Palestine impasse. Palestine is the pawn of other’s agendas as well as Israel’s ambition. Even more insidiously, the Christian evangelical right of the US to which audience Trump constantly plays, is
opposed to such a plan, willing the dominance of a Jewish theocracy that simply
does not exist.

What needs to be agreed by the free world is that when human rights prevail, when justice is given prominent place, when diversity is seen as strength not weakness, then
peace will prevail, and prosperity will replace conflict.

As a first step the Palestinian community, on their own, or with the help of Jordan, (Jordan has as much right as the US to put forward a ‘peace plan’) should put forward a version of such a bold plan, or another plan which the international community can support, as a counter to the Trump takes over proposal.

This could include:

  • Equal rights under law for all residents Freedom of religious practice;
  • Freedom of movement;
  • Equal and complimentary rights of cultural expression;
  • Equal rights of return;
  • Equal value at the ballot box;
  • Re naming of the country as Israel/Palestine or some equivalent;
  • Demolition of separation walls.

If such a plan were to be presented by the Palestinians then it should be welcomed by the Australian government in the same way, in the same spirit, and for the same reason that the present plan has been welcomed – but more honestly and vigorously.

What cannot be allowed to happen is for the current status quo to roll on year after year, decade after decade, for this will simply corral Palestinians in Bantustans and cement
Israel’s place as a pariah state. This fate is as serous for Israel as it is for Palestine.

In the meantime the most able young Palestinians and Israelis should be given the fullest possible exposure to each other and to their peers in the global community. Restrictions should be lifted for travel, and opportunity given, especially to the most able young on the Gaza strip, for overseas education and opportunity.

People who have been exposed to and communed with those who had previously been thought of as foes, can never turn back. What had been assumed to be true is proved to be false through dialogue and friendship.

The current and prospective leadership of Israel, who have stated there will never be a
Palestinian state on their watch, will never agree to such a proposal, but that
is not a reason for withholding it.

The Trump proposal is shameless. Israel must choose. It must either choose a magnanimous future with Palestinians as equal partners in a prosperous and harmonious future, or it will have chosen a path that necessitates its children and their children
maintaining an apartheid regime by military might in perpetuity. Not to choose is always to choose.

George Browning is a retired Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn

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