The Deal of the Century and the Slow Shift to a One-State Solution, with Bessma Momani

Published July 3rd, 2019 - 10:17 GMT
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(AFP/FILE)

 

The two-state solution, once an acclaimed proposal to the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, is becoming obsolete.


 

And the Trump administration’s deal of the century, even if it is never unveiled, is part of a larger effort to ensure that solution cannot be renewed.

Other parts of that effort include regional leaders working more closely with Israel, Israeli settlers saturating the West Bank, and the growing realization among Palestinians that their best option is to seek equal rights within a singular state rather than attempting to break off and form their own.

The idea of a Palestine, independent from Israel, is fading from the political consciousness of the Middle East.

The idea of a Palestine, independent from Israel, is fading from the political consciousness of the Middle East.

Al Bawaba spoke with Bessma Momani, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, who has focused her career on Middle East politics and political economy. In her conversation with Al Bawba, Momani contextualizes the deal of the century, including Jared Kushner’s much-maligned ‘Peace to Prosperity’ economic plan, with the decades-long shift towards a one-state solution.


Dr. Bessma Momani (courtesy of Dr. Momani)

Although the deal is designed to empower Israelis more than ever, it may inadvertently unleash a new type of Palestinian activism; one that works within Israel’s constraining political system to ensure Palestinians have equality.

She also focuses on how Jordan, with the biggest Palestinian refugee population in the region, could be impacted by the current international pressure by the U.S. and Saudi to neutralize the Palestinian question and force Jordan to agree to the terms outlined in a future deal.

The idea of a Palestine, independent from Israel, is fading from the political consciousness of the Middle East.

For Momani, Jordan has always lived a precarious life in the Middle East.

“It has always tried to be generally within the Western orbit, supporting Western powers,” and acting as a moderating voice to the once-powerful Arab nationalism, which was the dominant political ideology for much of the mid 20th century.

When leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser called for all-out war against Israel, Jordan quietly moved to engage a diplomatic route, even if reluctantly engaged in a conflict with Israel in 1967.

“It’s also in a tense situation,”  Momani says. “Obviously it’s the host of the largest number of Palestinian refugees. It is very conscious of Palestinian rights.” At times, this balancing act, between partnering with the pro-Israel U.S. and building a country around a massive Palestinian refugee population, has faltered.

But overall, Momani notes, it is remarkable how stable Jordan has remained through the decades.

So when the U.S. called for a  workshop in Bahrain to platform the economic aspect of its much-awaited Deal of the Century, Jordan was again put in a tight spot.

It could not have explicitly rejected the U.S.’ invitation to the conference, “but at the same time, it had to effectively show its displeasure with the content of the deal, which many would argue was fantastical.”


Kushner with former British PM Tony Blair at the Manama Economic Workshop (AFP/FILE)

The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ pitch showcased in Bahrain featured glossy images of Palestinians walking to school or working and included uplifting language promising massive infrastructure overhauls, increased access to social services and international trade. All the while, the plan never once mentions the words “Palestine,” “military occupation,” or “blockade.”

“It felt like it was written by a bunch of management consultant firms with MBAs who have no concept of political reality."

Instead, readers find words like “logistical challenges,” that impede travels, critiques of the West Banks shoddy roads, and strange language on transforming Palestinian cities into 21st century Hong Kongs, without ever detailing plans for much-needed airports.

“It felt like it was written by a bunch of management consultant firms with MBAs who have no concept of political reality,” Momani says.

To get around this dilemma of attending what was functionally a business networking opportunity for regional elites and U.S. officials, Jordan sent a low-level official, as did many other nations.

More broadly, Momani views the deal of the century as yet another indicator that a two-state solution is a thing of the past. In its stead, a one-state solution could be the only remaining, viable option for peace.

As the Trump administration aggressively aligns itself with Israel, greenlighting the settling and annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, more Palestinians are calling for an end Palestinian Authority (PA) rule and full integration into a singular state with Israel that guarantees their rights.

Young leaders like Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are “tired of seeing the Palestinian issue dominate all security conversations when it comes to the Middle East.”

Momani also points to an emerging generation gap in how Arabs across the region view the Palestinian Question. Regional leaders are working more openly with Israel, while local populations have begun focusing their activism on their own local governments.

Where once it took center stage in nearly every local or regional conflict, young leaders like Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are “tired of seeing the Palestinian issue dominate all security conversations when it comes to the Middle East.”

And while Israel was widely scapegoated for many of the region’s ills during the 50-70s, local Arab populations now point to their own country’s regimes and cadres of corrupt elites as causers of their own deprivation. 

“People are far more critical of their governments: they want services, they want opportunities, they want economic prosperity, and they’re holding their own governments to account. They’re not blaming Israelis, as 20th regimes regimes did in their own propaganda they marketed to their people. 


Protesters gather at Egypt’s Tahrir Square during the 2011 Arab Spring (AFP/FILE)


All of these factors, which collectively work to naturalize Israel’s place and power in the region, may actually make Jordan’s balancing act easier to maintain, according to Momani.

In the near-future, we’ll “be at the third [or] fourth generation of Palestinians in Jordan. Already many Palestinians living in Jordan self-identify as Jordanians. Certainly that’s becoming more and more of a reality.”

“The next thing we’re going to see is the death of the PLO ideology."

Because Palestinians in Jordan dominate the country’s private sector, they have more opportunities to thrive in the country when compared to the restrictive, debt-riddled public sector. 

From this future vantage point, the collective memory of Palestine may fade and the desire for a right of return, already becoming a distant issue for many, could fade with it.

Inside Israel and the Palestinian territories, the political direction for Palestinians may move toward achieving full integration and equal rights with Israelis.

“The next thing we’re going to see is the death of the PLO ideology,” Momani argues.

“Instead, we have a very educated Palesitnian community both inside Israel proper and in the West Bank and Gaza. Increasingly they’re going to say ‘Great you’ve annexed us, you are basically in control of us. Now let’s use the court system and put to shame every newspaper; we’re going to have civil liberty struggles just like blacks did in the United States to overturn segregation.”

To listen to the full conversation, click here:


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