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What can Trump really do in the face of a 50-year occupation?

President Trump has arrived in Israel, promising the ultimate deal. Ahead of the big day, a few political activists and commentators shared their thoughts on what, if anything, Trump can bring to the region. 

By Yaser Abu Areesha

President Donald Trump prays at the Westren Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

President Donald Trump prays at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

President Donald Trump, a man who often speaks about making the “ultimate deal” that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has landed in Israel. But despite official declarations, no one is actually sure what he wants or whether he will surprise us. What is certain is that Trump moves in mysterious ways.

The president is no longer the messiah of the extreme right in Israel, which seeks to annex the West Bank with as few Arabs as possible. The Left, for its part, looks at Trump with anxiety. Israeli and American officials have been sweating over this trip, and the only ones who have gained anything from this trip have been the Saudis, who were crowned by Trump as the leaders of the Arab world to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Palestinian side also has trouble figuring out the president. His declarations of support for the Palestinian right to self-determination or his whimsical call for either a one- or two-state solution, which themselves do little to help Palestinians who have grown tired of lip service by world powers.

As a service to our esteemed guest, and in order to combat ignorance, I decided to turn to a few political activists and ask them what, in their opinion, is the ultimate deal Trump should propose.

First end the occupation, then have a referendum

My first interviewee was Issa Amro, an anti-occupation activist from Hebron, who runs the Youth Against Settlements organization.

Issa, Trump is here. Are you excited?

Why should I be excited? Trump represents the positions of the Israeli Right, and does not adopt any stances that will allow the Palestinian people minimum rights.

Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian nonviolent Issa Amro. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But Trump said he supports the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

At the same time as adopting extreme positions that support settlements and appoints a right-wing ambassador to Israel. This only proves that he supports the extreme right in Israel. In light of this situation, he will probably propose a solution according to which the Palestinians simply need to come to terms with the occupation, without ever having any autonomy over their land.

What solution should he propose then?

The solution begins with holding Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people, for the settlements, and the occupation. The solution must take into account all the demands and rights of the Palestinian people.

One state? Two states?

I won’t get into this issue because it is less relevant at this point. Right now what is important is implementing international law, first through ending the occupation and the military regime over the Palestinian people, and putting a stop to the settlements. One cannot enter negotiations and make a decision when the Palestinian people is under military occupation. We believe the solution has two parts. After implementing international law and ending the occupation, we will hold a free and democratic referendum over the question of self-determination and the will of the people.

Who will participate in this referendum?

Every thing and person who identifies as Palestinian.

Including Palestinians in Haifa and Nazareth?

Why not? Are they not Palestinians?

Open borders

Dr. Yael Berda is one of the leading voices in the “Two States, One Homeland” movement, which operates on the premise that Jews and Palestinians live all around the country, but want separate sovereignty. The movement proposes the establishment of two nation-states — one Jewish, one Palestinian — with open borders that will allow freedom to move around, live and work throughout the whole territory for all its residents, in a confederate-like arrangement.

Dr. Berda believes that such a solution will come from within, rather than being imposed from the outside, as a result of joint Palestinian-Israeli efforts outside the political arena.

So, Yael — there’ll be two states. But what about borders? Are we looking at something like the German-French border?

The proposal is indeed very similar to the current European Union model. The plan states that Palestinians will be able to go to Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, the sea.

How can we start to implement your plan?

The first thing is to address the political situation. That some people have an ID card but no citizenship is illogical.

And how do you see the visit of Trump, who’s bringing an outside solution?

Things will become more tangible. When Trump walks around the Old City of Jerusalem it will no longer be a virtual or rhetorical issue, which is a good thing. On the other hand, we know who Trump is and what motivates him.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Would you have wanted Trump’s proposed deal to be more influenced by the Two States, One Homeland movement? 

Both the Right and the Left are starting to talk about the idea of “together and separate.” It’s the slogan of Peace Now and Standing Together, while on the Right they’re talking about a single territory, even though they’re currently speaking about it in racist and undemocratic terms. People are staring to understand that the conflict is not over the 1967 borders and the occupation, but over 1948.

Would you invite Trump for a cup of coffee?

We’ll invite anyone. When Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are refugees and descendants of refugees, can sit down with settlers from Israel’s ideological founding generation, and each can succeed in recognizing the other, then we can also sit down with Trump.

Only Palestinians can bring about a just solution for the Palestinian people

Niveen Abu Rahmoun, a prominent Balad party activist who has been marked as a potential future Knesset member, holds well thought-out views on the two-state solution and the transformation of Israel into a state of all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Niveen, Trump is on his way, and apparently with some kind of deal. Are you holding your breath? Do you have any expectations?

On the one hand he’ll bring nothing new, he’s not expected to present a formal policy plan for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, the current situation for Arabs, and the lack of desire to address the Palestinian issue, makes it legitimate for Trump to back away from the matter as well. It’s quite clear that the aim of Trump’s visit to Israel is far more about discussing the situation in the region, like Syria and Iran, than to drive the peace process.

I think the core problem curbing Palestinians’ free will is the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In order for us to be able to advance the key issues, this coordination has to stop — it’s repressing the Palestinian struggle and it silences Palestinian political movement, which helps consolidate the settlements and preserve the Israeli military regime.

Are the two-state solution and that of a state of all its citizens still on the agenda?

Yes. The idea of state of all its citizens is a basic outlook in post-Zionist circles, which seek to “normalize” a State of Israel that will have no connection to Judaism, the Zionist movement or its values. Israel would, according to this idea, have to become a country like any other, with a common civic and political identity.

This idea also means us as Palestinians giving up on being citizen-natives, as well as attempting to define “equal rights” for someone to whom it is important to use their citizenship while being a native of this land.

Trump has declared himself in favor of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Trump’s statements on Palestinian self-determination are changeable, and don’t demonstrate any desire or clear, serious political vision; therefore, I can’t take what he’s said seriously. But even if he intends or wants to initiate negotiations, they won’t be renewed. As such, I think the most important thing is for Palestinians to present themselves as resolute. Palestinians will determine how the new political map will look, and they will speak for themselves. Trump might listen, but as we know he has a very strong alliance with the stronger side in this equation, the Israeli side.

The bottom line is that Palestinians themselves are the ones who will bring about a just solution for the Palestinian people.


After this journey through different positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only one thing is clear: it won’t be easy for President Trump. Mr. President, I’m very sorry, but this isn’t Saudi Arabia, and a deal won’t come that easily — even if you do dabke while holding a pita and falafel in Ramallah.

Yaser Abu Areesha is a student at Tel Aviv University. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      (1) Niveen supports the 2SS but Israel would have to give up its connection to Judaism and Zionism. I did NOT see a parallel demand from the proposed Palestinian state whose Constitution explicitly defines a Palestinian state as an Arab state and that Islam would be the state religion, both of which officially discriminate against non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Why the difference? Why are Jews expected to give up their national religious and cultural values but not the Palestinians?

      (2) Issa Amro says Israel first “must end the occupation” and then after that everyone will sit down and figure out what to do next. In 2006, Israel took an initial step in that direction, which admittedly is not enough for Issa, in withdrawing the IDF and Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip. Not only did the Palestinian Authority refuse to cooperate or coordinate with Israel, but the situation in Gaza has become much, much worse and unstable, leading to great hardships on both the Palestinians there, but also the Jews on the Israeli side of the border with attack tunnels and rocket fire disrupting life there.
      Given this, why the heck should Israel take even more chances by doing what Issa wants without knowing what the outcome will be? Does he think we are stupid?
      BTW-note his demand that ALL Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs and presumably the refugees get a vote in his proposed referendum which will certainly ensure that Israel will be presented with a non-negotiable demand for unlimited return of the refugees, which would, of course, kill any chance for an agreement.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      These thoughtful, creative and diverse opinions regarding the ultimate deal demonstrate how complicated Israel has made things for itself, through its own actions. They reflect a deep realism and forward thinking attitude. Creative evolution under pressure. They demonstrate how far the Israeli right wing has brought everyone from the simple and constructive two state solution that Israel could have had. Now things are much farther along. To those who would complain that their ‘Jewish nationalist aspirations’ are being cramped, I say, you brought this upon yourselves by insisting on having it all in an impossible and cruel way, and if you now come to your senses at this stage you had better realize how late in the day it is and get cracking on a decent arrangement and the appropriate reigning in of your settler fanatics that that will take. The irony here is that while the Israeli Jews sat there for 50 years and refused to evolve politically, the Palestinians were, of sheer necessity, evolving and developing forward thinking and creative ideas, ideas based in universalist, creative, human rights valuing concepts. The “conflict managing” Israelis felt no need to evolve. Life was good. The “managed” Palestinians did. Nature, evolving, abhors a vacuum. New ideological life forms came about among Palestinians under severe political-military-occupation selection pressure, as it were. The Israelis were good at evolving new occupation-maintaining, population suppression forms under the pressure of subduing a restive population but that has spent itself and is an evolutionary dead end at this point.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        You are wrong in thinking there was a “simple 2-state solution” available years ago. Do you remember the infamous “3 Noes of Khartoum” from August 1967….”no peace with Israel, no recognition, no negotiations”. That lasted until Sadat in 1977. However, when he proposed negotiations with the Israelis over the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian leadership rejected them. Finally, they came around to Oslo, but HAMAS arose at the same time, along with the Iranian rejectionist-terrorist regime which also had influence within the Palestinian public (Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, etc).

        You claim that the Palestinians have been “evolving and developing forward thinking”. Where did you see this…in this article? How many Palestinians will read it? Does either the FATAH or HAMAS leadership reflect any of these “creative ideas”? The ones that have them (if they indeed are ‘creative’) aren’t in power. Why don’t they run in elections for the Palestinian leadership?….oops, wait, there haven’t been any elections for the last 11 years!.

        What about Issas’ supposedly “creative thinking”? He wants a referendum of all Palestinians to vote on a solution after Israel withdraws. Who decides who is a Palestinian. Do Israeli Jews get to vote, after all they are Palestinian Israelis, too?
        Who is going to run the Palestinian territories before this referendum is held?

        What have all these “creative thinkers” done to implement reforms in the existing Palestinian political structure? What? Nothing? Wouldn’t it be easier for Israelis to come to agreement with a functioning, democratic Palestinian entity? After all, the Jews had such a functioning democratic autonomy regime under British occupation (the Jewish Agency, the British offered to help the Arabs set one up, but they refused it).

        Bottom line-both of the “creative thinking” Arabs are proposing here the same old things the Palestinians have been demanding for decades…Israeli capitulation, no mention of peace and no offer to reach a compromise peace. Nothing new here.

        Reply to Comment
      • Firentis

        Hahaha. Yeah, the Palestinians have always been searching for creative ways to declare that they reject Jewish self-determination in ways that appeal to the West.

        There is the first guy who declares that he wants to “end the occupation” and then determine whether he wants self-determination or one state or two states. In other words he wants to get a base from which to attack Israel but would prefer to not talk about it until later.

        Then there is the silly woman that thinks that states can be divorced from borders and residency from citizenship and that she can come up with a workable and innovative alternative for nation-states while pretending that the European Union has managed to overcome questions of national conflict and self-interest. In practice she wants to surrender Israeli sovereignty in return for some sort of fragile constitutional arrangement that will last only as long as it takes for the IDF to be eliminated.

        And then there is the third lady which has come up with a new euphemism for eliminating Israel. It is now called “normalizing”. She wants a state which will have no connection to Judaism, the Zionist movement or its values. So, she just wants to eliminate the country by the name of Israel, its flag, anthem, and any connection that country has to Jews.

        So the author managed to find three people that each wants to eliminate Israel and this is meant to pass for “diverse opinions”.

        The people that need to come to their senses are the Palestinians. Israel is winning on absolutely every single dimension of this conflict. The Palestinians have failed for 100 years to prevent Jewish self-determination and it is time for them to concede defeat. When the Palestinians actually realize this they will get their own state, but it will be much smaller than what they could have gotten had they come to their senses earlier. Such is the result of starting and losing a war.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      You write “Occupation” in the title. For most Jews you should write “Liberation”. Issa, Berda and the others do not count in Israel. A few hundred of persons in total. That is why the left is weaker every day.

      Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      Here is a good explanation based on historical FACTS why the Palestinians can not and will not ever agree to a compromise peace, no matter what the terms. (Full disclosure, this article is from a “right-wing: site but that is irrelevant…just read the article).


      Reply to Comment
    5. he cant do anything atm.
      bibi would never agree to compremise.

      Reply to Comment