Palestinians should accept Trump’s peace plan and build on it
Palestinians seem to learn more about their future from Israelis than from anyone else. That makes it easier for Palestinians to justify their policy of rejectionism, which represents their historic inability to achieve anything toward liberating their country.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s extremist education minister, this week reportedly said US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” would propose the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett, leader of the racist anti-Arab Jewish Home Party, vowed he would do everything possible to prevent that from happening. Of course, he does not need to do anything because as we already know, the Palestinian leadership will reject Trump’s plan first.
Instead of unveiling a peace plan that is dead on arrival, Trump would be better served if he first developed a strategy to empower a new Palestinian leadership to replace the feeble ones of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.
They have tried to stand up to Israel’s continued atrocities and war crimes, but unsuccessfully and at great cost. Israel does not adhere to international law or shy away from committing war crimes against non-Jews. And because no one really holds Israel accountable, it can pretty much do what it wants.
The real cause of the weakness of Palestinian leadership is the rise of Palestinian rejectionists who hold sway over society through bullying and violence. Any Palestinian who dares accept a peace plan based on compromise would be targeted by these extremist activists who dominate Palestinians’ failed narrative.
They embrace a delusional ideology of turning back the clock on history and creating a single democratic state where Jews, Muslims and Christians could live as equals. But delusion works when dealing with people who are defined more by their suffering than their optimism.
The best Palestinians can expect is a foothold from which they can strengthen and rebuild their community, and narrow the huge gap that exists in the balance of power with Israel. What should matter most to Palestinians are sovereignty, statehood and real independence.
Even if the Trump plan only proposes Palestinian statehood in a limited area of the West Bank, that state could become the foundation for a stronger Palestinian future that would grow and allow its people to litigate toward equality.
What Palestinian leadership lacks is the courage to stand up to the extremists and rejectionists. Palestinians elected a government, albeit under the oppression of occupation, and that government has never had authority over its own people. Extremists have always managed to pull the rug out from Palestinian empowerment, preventing the PA from achieving anything except dismantling the Oslo Accords.
The extremists say the accords failed because they were flawed, but the truth is that the accords were dragged to failure in the wake of suicide bombings, extremist hatred, and the fanning of Palestinians’ emotions, leading them to national hopelessness.
Ironically, the accords are basically a blueprint of how Israel achieved its own independence. Israel had to fight to implement its existence. The UN partition plan did nothing but define an area. Israel took the proposed Jewish state and half of the proposed Arab state. Then it waited for the opportunity to take the rest, confident that it would do so.
Palestinians lack that confidence in themselves and their rights. They know how to yell, complain and reject. That is all the extremists will allow. But if by some miracle Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could stop looking backward and start looking forward, knowing that Palestinian justice is more powerful than Israel’s military occupation, he could initiate the first steps toward rebuilding his country.
Even if the Trump plan only proposes Palestinian statehood in a limited area of the West Bank, that state could become the foundation for a stronger Palestinian future that would grow and allow its people to litigate toward equality. As we balance the field toward becoming equal, Palestinians will weaken the Israelis.
Who knows what might happen in the future if there were two states? No one can predict the future, but you can look toward it and build, strengthen and empower. Instead of playing their normal role as rejectionists, Palestinians should embrace Trump’s plan and be strategic in moving forward, taking instead of saying no. They need to break from their all-or-nothing history. We cannot have it all, at least not in this generation, which always leaves us with nothing.
I would rather a small state serving as the foundation for a brighter future, than continue playing the role of suffering victims under an occupation in which we have absolutely no power and survive only on Israel’s whims. Take the Trump plan, shut down the extremists, look to the future, and opportunities will surely arise to make Palestine not just equal to Israel but even better.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter. Twitter: @RayHanania