President Trump’s fraudulent Middle East deal runs roughshod over Palestinian rights, harms long-term Israeli interests, and is only the latest example of the US arrogance and disdain for international law. Essentially Trump’s offer, negotiated without any Palestinian input, requires the Palestinians to sell out their hopes for justice and a decent life free of occupation for money. Trump was attempting to satisfy Israel and its US supporters, including many of his big money donors, with this deal that would allow Israel to steal even more Palestinian land.
Former President Carter’s office said in a statement that Trump’s plan “breaches international law regarding self-determination, the acquisition of land by force, and annexation of occupied territories…. By calling Israel ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people,’ the plan also encourages the denial of equal rights to the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Robert Fisk, a British reporter and expert on the Middle East, said the deal was unique and historic: “since its belief that the Palestinians would dream of accepting such a deranged, farcical set of political demands is without precedent in the western world.”
Israel and the US have little-to-zero credibility given their failures in living up to international law and agreements they have signed. Therefore, why would the Palestinians or anyone else trust them not to renege on any deal Trump proposed, even one as biased in Israel’s favor as this proposal?
Trump’s latest proposal continues over 100 years of crimes by the Western colonial powers against Palestinians. Britain, the leading colonial power of the time, set the stage for troubles in the Middle East with its 1917 Balfour Declaration that called for a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Declaration also said that nothing was to be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities that were the overwhelming majority of the population in Palestine.
Complicating the situation, before the Balfour Declaration Britain had already promised the Arabs independence and self-determination in the Middle East, except for a small area where France had interests, if they would rise up against the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs accepted the agreement and revolted against the Ottomans. However, France and Britain had already agreed to divide up the area between themselves. This British perfidy was not unusual for a colonial power.
After WWII, Britain eventually turned over the Palestinian issue to the UN. In November 1947 the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. In September, before the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved, Loy Henderson, director of the US State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, warned:
“The UNSCOP [U.N. Special Committee on Palestine] Majority Plan is not only unworkable; if adopted, it would guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future.” Henderson added: “The proposals contained in the UNSCOP plan … are in definite contravention to various principles laid down in the [UN] Charter as well as to principles on which American concepts of Government are based. These proposals, for instance, ignore such principles as self-determination and majority rule. They recognize the principle of a theocratic racial state and even go so far in several instances as to discriminate on grounds of religion and race against persons outside of Palestine.”
Based on domestic political concerns, President Truman ignored this guidance from the State Department and supported the partition plan. For over 70 years now, with only a few exceptions, domestic political concerns have played an important role in shaping the US position in the Middle East. Trump is only the latest US president who ignored international law and human rights in his support of ongoing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics, having taught at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. Since his retirement in 1991, he has been an activist for peace and social justice.