It took me only a few weeks on Brown’s campus to realize something notable about the political culture here — that one cannot escape becoming involved in the contentious and ongoing conversation about Israel and Palestine. This conversation waxes and wanes, surging through bi-weekly stampedes of inflammatory Dear Blueno posts, as well as the occasional op-ed or student group event. But right now, whether one prioritizes Palestinian rights, Israeli security, Jewish nationhood, anti-Zionism or the plethora of other issues at hand — this is a devastating moment for anyone who maintains a stake in the Israel-Palestine conflict or cares about the security of the region and its inhabitants.
This past Tuesday, Donald Trump finally released the political portion of his “peace plan,” geared toward solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, three years after it was first promised. I’ll get straight to the point — this proposal does nothing in the name of peace. It is a plan that supports annexation and entrenches the Israeli occupation; it is a cruel affront to Palestinian sovereignty encoded in a feigned pursuit of social justice and regional peace.
Despite the claim that the proposal presents a vision of two viable states — one for Israelis and one for Palestinians — what this plan outlines is a vision of Palestinian statehood that is nothing short of offensive. The proposal green-lights Israeli annexation of all settlements in the West Bank and much of the Jordan Valley. It also places nearly complete jurisdiction of municipal Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, while underscoring that Palestinians will have no autonomy over their borders and water sources.
Though Trump presented the proposal as a starting point for future negotiations, the 180-page outline leaves little room for discussion and was produced without any consultation of Palestinian parties whatsoever. Communications between the Trump administration and Palestinian leaders ceased after the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jared Kushner and his team seemed to write this plan fully aware that the Palestinian Authority would never accept it, on account of its unreasonable demand. This grants Israel the approval to proceed with annexation regardless of a Palestinian response — a pre-dictated outcome, evidenced by the moves Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already made toward annexation since the plan’s release.
The proposal thus results in a map of Palestine corroded by ribbons of Israeli control, a Palestine that resembles more closely a national park within Israeli borders than a state of its own. American foreign policy has long upheld the illegality of unilateral annexation, maintaining that any solution to this conflict requires the existence of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. Trump’s plan is devastating in part because it counters decades of American precedent that have maintained at least a partial commitment to holding Israel to the standards of international law.
Netanyahu promised to move forward with the plan immediately after its release on Tuesday by requesting the cabinet’s approval to annex 30 percent of the West Bank’s territory. While this request has, as of Wednesday, been postponed — a vote had been planned for Sunday — it is clear that Netanyahu will not hesitate to march quickly down Trump’s outlined path toward annexation. Continuing down this road would likely mean greater Palestinian suffering and disenfranchisement.
Another crucial part of this conversation is the relevant time and context in which this proposal has been released. Netanyahu has been indicted for corruption charges as he gears up for the third Israeli election in less than a year on March 2. At the same time, Trump faces impeachment while campaigning for reelection at the end of this year. This plan comes at a time when both leaders are in desperate need of political distraction — and particularly in the case of Netanyahu, it could be a game-changer. The Israeli prime minister’s ability to form a government and gain the upper hand over opponent Benny Gantz based on the last election, could depend on only a few thousands of voters, who may be easily swayed by the prospect of progress for an exhausted conflict.
Clearly, this is a devastating development for Palestinians, Israelis and Americans alike. But the plan’s release only cements the need for an American progressive response that is loud and powerful. Just a few weeks ago, Congress passed House Resolution 326, reiterating the condemnation and illegality of unilateral annexation. The majority of American Jews and Israelis do not support annexation.
This shows that resistance is primed and possible.
One crucial avenue for change appears in a campaign led by J Street U, the student arm of a national organization that bolsters political support for the two-state solution and commitment to Palestinian rights and democracy in Israel. Over the past few months, J Street U chapters across the country have been campaigning to change the Democratic National Committee’s platform on Israel to explicitly condemn the occupation and unilateral annexation. Chapters have been working with other progressive student groups and securing endorsements from College Democrats of America in support of this effort, which has been covered previously by The Herald, in another op-ed written by J Street U Brown leaders. The push for this policy change has never come at a more important time, when peace prospects are at their bleakest and violent annexation appears to be right around the corner.
We are coming of age in a frightening political era, both domestically and abroad. In reading this piece, you have done the important work of becoming part of the conversation. When we join campus groups, support student campaigns and stay informed and aware, we create a culture that resists violent action and misdirection. This is a critical form of resistance. So, I am encouraged by the seeming omnipresence of Israel-Palestine discourse on Brown’s campus, a discourse I anticipate will grow, transform and ultimately counter dangerous advancements such as the one dominating headlines this past week.
Zachary Federman ’23, co-president of J Street U Brown, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.