We face a choice: Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people?

Battlelines are being drawn for a confrontation over Trump’s much-hyped, much-delayed “deal of the century” which is now promised soon after the end of Ramadan on June 4th – though the Palestinians are not expecting an Eid present from the American president.

Nothing has been revealed about the detailed contents of the package, but Trump’s strategy over the past two years has been to hit the Palestinians so hard that even just relenting a little can be made to seem like a generous offer.

He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, undermining the international consensus that it should be a shared capital for both countries, and he recognised the Israeli seizure of the Golan Heights, opening the door to the annexation of the West Bank.

Since then he has tried to starve the Palestinians into submission by ending US aid to Palestine, cutting UN aid to Palestinian refugees and making no attempt to stop the Israelis withholding tax receipts that legally belong to the Palestinians, causing great hardship in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Now Netanyahu has won the latest election on April 9th by promising to annex illegal Israeli settlements that control more than 60% of the West Bank.  Asked on television whether he would annex the larger settlements near the Green Line or the isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank, he said: “I am going to extend sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements. I will not uproot any [settler] and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

Anticipating the worst, the Palestinians have cut off all communication with the Trump administration, a decision confirmed this week by a new Palestinian government headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh. They believe the true purpose of Trump’s “deal of the century” is to elicit a Palestinian refusal which will provide the excuse for an Israeli annexation.
By his actions on Jerusalem and Golan Trump has not only deprived the Palestinians of what few bargaining chips they still had in a peace negotiation but also undermined the post-war consensus that led to the foundation of the United Nations –  that no country should be allowed to acquire territory by military conquest.

Former leaders or foreign ministers of 19 EU countries signed a letter calling for a united European front against what they fear the Trump plan will contain, warning that the US “has departed from longstanding US policy and distanced itself from established international legal norms [by] recognis[ing] only one side’s claims to Jerusalem and demonstrat[ing] a disturbing indifference to Israeli settlement expansion”.

“Over the last two years Trump’s strategy seems to be pursuing a policy systematically to weaken the Palestinian Authority while lifting restraints on Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank,” said one of the signatories, former foreign office minister Douglas alexanderAlexander (right).

“As Europeans we face a choice: Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people?

“Are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or alternatively are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

If the answer to that question is ‘no’, this will surely be the end for the Palestinian people’s dream of an independent state. It will probably also be the end for the United Nations and quite possibly for the European Union as a force in international relations.

Only the main western European states have the power to stop this.  There is little chance of the UK giving a lead.  The Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the  Commons earlier this month: “The world must not look away again and must do what it can. Until we do that, the increasing violence is likely to continue.”  But he has since resigned and his words are likely to remain what they are – just words.  President Macron is in a stronger position, with three years left in office and facing a White House that has no credibility on this matter. He said last October that he would issue his own peace plan in the absence of a credible American plan. The time has come for him to show some leadership.”Are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or alternatively are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

If the answer to that question is ‘no’, this will surely be the end for the Palestinian people’s dream of an independent state. It will probably also be the end for the United Nations and quite possibly for the European Union as a force in international relations.

Only the main western European states have the power to stop this.  There is little chance of the UK giving a lead.  The Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the  Commons earlier this month: “The world must not look away again and must do what it can. Until we do that, the increasing violence is likely to continue.”  But he has since resigned and his words are likely to remain what they are – just words.  President Macron is in a stronger position, with three years left in office and facing a White House that has no credibility on this matter. He said last October that he would issue his own peace plan in the absence of a credible American plan. The time has come for him to show some leadership.

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