Nimrod Barkan is an Israeli diplomat who served as the ambassador of Israel to Canada from 2016 to 2019.
Jon Allen is a senior fellow at Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. From 2006 to 2010, he was ambassador of Canada to Israel.
“Shun evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”
This verse, from the book of Psalms, encapsulates the Jewish values which have guided us for thousands of years. It also characterizes the policy Israel should aspire toward – one that realizes the Zionist dream of building a successful state, fully integrated within its Middle Eastern neighbourhood, where its citizens can live in peace, security and dignity.
This dream is threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s “peace plan.” The policy gives all of Jerusalem to Israel, creates a non contiguous set of territories in lieu of a viable state, allows for annexation of existing settlements and the Jordan Valley, and allows Israel to control the airspace, borders and seas of the so-called new Palestinian State.
In cynically exploiting the idea of a two-state solution – which has been the basis for the international community’s policy regarding Israel and the Palestinians for several decades – a coalition of supporters of Mr. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now seeks to entrench the opposite policy. The plan would take peace off the table for good, in exchange for perpetual occupation.
Having served as professional diplomats in our own and in each other’s countries, we are able to say, with great sadness but with certainty, that the Trump administration is not advancing the interests of the State of Israel. Rather, its plan serves only those who believe in the dangerous fantasy of a “Greater Israel,” as well as the whims of two influential communities – extreme U.S. evangelical Christians on one side of the ocean and the most fundamentalist of settlers on the other – on whom the two leaders’ political careers, tainted by allegations and investigations, now depend.
The dangers posed by the plan are twofold:
Firstly, it advances annexation, in a highly cynical effort to strengthen Israel’s control over the West Bank. Similar to other unilateral actions taken by the Trump administration in the region – including recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem – the plan seeks to entrench Israel’s control over land on which it has built settlements since 1967. However, one look at the map is enough to see that this will mean permanent fragmentation, creating islands of secluded Palestinian autonomy, permanently dependent on the goodwill of the country that surrounds them. Mr. Netanyahu quickly announced he would proceed to annex these territories. If it weren’t for Jared Kushner, designated by Mr. Trump to formulate a deal to solve the conflict, urging Mr. Netanyahu to wait until after Monday’s general election, the annexation of large swaths of the West Bank would already be in place.
Second, if implemented, this plan will irreparably damage Israel’s international standing. The most important institutions – from the United Nations and the European Union to the Arab League – have drafted and ratified countless resolutions calling for a two-state solution based on the 1967 ceasefire lines. The international community’s relative willingness to tolerate, until now, the current reality in the occupied territories, has been based on the pretense that it is only temporary. The Trump plan declares plainly that the “temporary” occupation is to be replaced by a permanent military regime, which does not come with full rights for those living under its control. This will never be tolerable in the eyes of the community of liberal democratic countries to which Israel seeks to belong. Ultimately, it will not be Mr. Trump who pays the price for his arrogance and pretentiousness – as he will vacate the White House sooner or later – but Israel.
The Trump plan represents a serious blow to the values shared by our countries, and the further the plan is advanced, the worse the damage. These values include the right to self-determination. That has been, from the very beginning, the main justification employed by the modern Zionist movement; the very same argument should justify the rights of the Palestinian people to realize their own aspirations.
For Israel’s sake, and for the sake of its continued security and prosperity, we must answer Mr. Trump with a resounding “no.” Instead, we must demand a pragmatic, ethical model – the only way forward that ensures a peace plan for the region. Plans for annexation must be met with concrete steps toward ending the occupation. We must strive to embark on a proper, meaningful peace process that would ensure a just and viable solution to the conflict.
We don’t even have to go as far back as the book of Psalms; we can apply the principles found in Israel’s own declaration of independence: “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness.” This is the time for true friends of Israel to remember and remind their ally that the Jewish state’s interests would be served best by the swift implementation of this noble vision.
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