Pompeo, Gantz and the End of the Two-State Solution

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Michael Richard Pompeo is becoming almost as hypnotic as Donald Trump. What he lacks in lunacy, he makes up for in wilful ignorance or just good old plain hypocrisy.

You might blame Trump for mental incapacity when he hands over the Middle East to his dumbo son-in-law; Pompeo, however, knows what he’s doing. So there he was again this week, suggesting the Iranians were breaking a solemn UN resolution by launching a ballistic missile — while himself ignoring a far more historic but equally solemn UN resolution which calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Palestinian territory. Watching his dry-as-dust performance as chancer-in-chief, you knew Pompeo would get away with it.

Not a single journalist gave the slightest indication that there might be a little double standard in the US secretary of state’s sudden concern for adherence to UN rules within hours of blithely declaring that it’s “an Israeli decision” if it wants to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank. Besides, UN Resolution 2231, calling upon Iran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons, is only five years old. UN resolution 242, passed immediately after the 1967 Middle East war – in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula – is well over half a century old. Dust. Cobwebs.

It’s not that Pompeo doesn’t understand the implications of all this. The worthless “deal of the century” concocted by the Trump administration permits Israel to annexe the Jordan Valley – 30 per cent of the West Bank – and accepts Israeli sovereignty over all illegal Israeli colonies built on Arab land in return for a bundle of cash for the Palestinians. It allows further land thefts after four years and accepts Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, vouchsafed by the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem two years ago.

The squalid new Israeli “coalition” – in which Benny Gantz betrayed his own supporters and voters by agreeing to a musical chairs premiership with Benjamin Netanyahu – merely provides the mechanism through which the Israeli leadership can enact the ultimate execution of the Palestinian-Israeli two-state solution. In July, both men will be permitted to lay claim to vast areas of the Arab territory intended for the Palestinian state. The backbone of the Palestinian aspiration for statehood is to be finally snapped.

Always supposing such a “backbone” still existed when its sick and geriatric leader is 84-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, whose continued and illegal “presidency” should have expired 11 years ago, and whose response to this territorial outrage is that he will take “appropriate measures” if the annexation goes ahead. His pitiful response, his appearance at his wooden presidential desk in Ramallah with a suitably dismal translator, provided a time-warp capsule of every Arab dictator pretending to be King Lear.

But even the decrepit old Shakespearian monarch’s threat of revenges – “what they are, yet I know not, but they shall be…the terrors of the earth” – is more eloquent than Abbas’s “appropriate” response, which will certainly have them shaking in their shoes in Jerusalem and Washington.

Gantz, more Faustus than Lear, has repeatedly said that future land-grabs must have “international consent” – now reduced to “international discussions” – and we all know what that means.

Goodbye to UN Resolution 242. Goodbye to the Oslo Agreement. Goodbye to the two-state solution, to “road maps” and EU initiatives, to all the “peace plans” of Tony Blair – remember him? – and especially goodbye to decades of US presidential appeals to Israel for “restraint”.

When even Hanan Ashrawi, a brilliant literature graduate of the American University of Beirut as well as the one surviving and doggedly inspiring representative of her people, talks only of the “unswerving determination” of Palestinians to “confront” the Israeli-American agenda for annexation, you know that Netanyahu and Gantz and Trump and Kushner – and, yes, Pompeo of course – are going to get away with it.

I loved the bit of Pompeo discretion, when he talked about “the private setting” [sic] in which “we will work closely with them [the Israelis] to share with them our views on this [the annexation]”. What he meant was that the Israeli political twins will some day soon turn up in Washington with a set of maps of their continuing colonial project in the West Bank — and the most powerful nation in the world will humbly give its approval.

For that is exactly what Pompeo said in words never hitherto uttered by a US president, let alone a secretary of state; bland, mischievous, boring words which will forever go down in history as America’s final abrogation of all responsibility for peace in the Middle East.

“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis ultimately make those decisions, so that’s an Israeli decision.” That’s what Pompeo said. And the key word was “ultimately”. The Israelis will always have the last say. They always have, of course. But now we know they always will.

Forget the Israeli “coalition” and Israeli elections – or non-elections now — and forget Bibi’s little legal problems. Forget even, for once, coronavirus. This isn’t even the proverbial nail in the coffin of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Appropriately for our times, the whole Palestinian aspiration for dignity, freedom and statehood has been sealed in a bag like a bacillus and swiftly interred. Henceforth, it can never be opened. There will be no resurrection. For health and safety reasons, the very mention of a two-state solution is buried forever. No mourners at the graveside, please.

And amid all this, we are supposed to worry about Trump’s tweeted threats against Iranian gunboats and take seriously Pompeo’s imperial diktat whereby Iran’s launching of a missile to put a satellite — yes, I’m sure it was a military satellite — into space is a probable violation of UN Resolution 2231. But this resolution ran in parallel, did it not, with a nuclear agreement which Trump personally reneged upon.

And did not UN resolution 242 after the 1967 Middle East conflict specifically emphasise “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and the need to work for “a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security”? Well sure it did. But in 1967 there was no state called Palestine. And there still isn’t. There are people called Palestinians, of course. But their land? Well, that’s now “an Israeli decision”. Ultimately.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.