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Obama’s Heir
By: Mohammad Al-Sahli
June 24, 2017

Trump's return to the previous administration's files, confirms the extension of the US track on the settlement.

What has been published in Haaretz, the Hebrew newspaper, recently on the determinants of the vision of Obama's administration on the settlement, between Palestinian and Israeli sides, confirms that what was called Kerry's understandings with Tel Aviv is the basis in forming that vision.

In these understandings, Washington has adopted three basic Israeli conditions, that emphasize the need to avoid discussing the issue of Jerusalem, and not to refer to it as a potential capital for the Palestinian state, also to overstep the lines of 4th of June 1967 in favor of an unequal exchange of lands. The third condition is the consolidation of Israeli considerations when talking about the form of Palestinian entity that will be resulted from any future negotiations.

Before that, the Netanyahu government had decided with Obama administration the settlement issue, and removed it from the bilateral negotiating circle. In addition to the concurrence of American and Israeli visions about canceling the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties from which they were displaced. So, with the mounting of talks about Trump's administration interest in the perceptions of the previous administration, it is clear, that the American role in the settlement, is maintaining its normal path, and that any coming changes are reflection of the worsening Palestinian and Arab weakness.

Benjamin Netanyahu has his vision of the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is completely unrelated to the European and American initiatives or ideas toward the settlement, especially those are preceded by expressions like "ending the occupation that has begun in 1967" or "the establishment of an independent Palestinian state". The positions of successive Israeli governments about this have been consistent, since the beginning of the settlement process, about a quarter of century ago.

From this perspective, Ariel Sharon read the ''road map'' plan and faced it with 14 conditions that removed from it the headlines that provoke Tel Aviv and attract the attention of the Palestinian negotiator ,to go to the negotiating table. From this point of view, Olmert's government also dealt with American ideas, to clarify (Raf Accord) in 2008, following the Annapolis conference that was held in the previous fall. But as for Netanyahu, he succeeded in keeping the negotiating process in the stations of 2010 and 2014, away from any serious discussion for the main issues in the conflict.

Netanyahu's perspective is clear through the "economic peace" plan, in which he returns the Palestinian demand for independence, to the square of economic and administrative demands of Palestinians in the Palestinian Bank as residents, not owners. This perspective is in stark contrast to many of the headlines in the settlement, such as the borders, capital and settlements. Therefore, even during the transitional period according to Oslo Accords, Netanyahu discontinued the transferring of territories to the Palestinian Authority during his first term (1996-1999), because according to him "transferring the population" was over, and the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were not included in this transference because that means the transference of East Jerusalem to the PA, which is contrary to Israeli perspective of the settlement in general, and Netanyahu's one in particular.

After that Netanyahu has won three consecutive governmental terms since 2009, a period that has seen two opposite tracks. Firstly, at the Palestinian level, the division has been worsened and the Palestinian crisis has been accumulated. Secondly, Netanyahu's governments have engaged in implementing the expansionist policy and determining the fate of the occupied Palestinian territories in accordance with this policy, to which, Netanyahu also managed to deal with the Obama administration on settlement issues until its position was weakened and it stopped talking about it again.

With the coming of the Trump administration, the optimism of Netanyahu's government has risen and it found in the new president a qualitative shift, in favor of Israel, towards the main issues of the conflict, especially after its announcement of a new plan, in which each of these issues will be discussed, separately in order to reach an "independent" solution for it, but Netanyahu's main bet is on Trump's adoption of Netanyahu's economic peace plan, in the light of his declaration of the death of "two-state solution".

Over time, Trump's administration has discovered that the settlement process is very complicated, and that it has to take serious care of what the previous US administrations had done to this process. It also has realized that it will not be able to add something different that attracts the interest of both the Palestinians and Israelis. Therefore, the talk about the interest of Trump's administration in plans and ideas that were presented on the settlement by the previous administration politically, security and economically, which explains why Trump discontinued the launch of test balloons towards the two sides, after he was confirmed that the process of settlement does not need to discover the positions of any party to be started. According to Obama's administration, the ideas that were put forward are debatable, and at every hurdle, it is possible to put pressure on the weaker party, to bring the views closer.

Remarkably, the Trump administration is trying to combine the past American ideas about the settlement with Netanyahu's economic peace plan, and that there has been a growing debate about the supposed economic depth of the regional peace that the new administration has talked about, under the rubric of "the Trump deal"; which is clearly a political, economic and security framework, for the normalization of official Arab relations with the occupation, regardless of settlement's consequences on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a matter that has been confirmed on by Trump's administration, in its effort to hold a summit in Washington for this purpose, as an extension of efforts that have been made previously by Obama's administration in this regard.

It is noteworthy that the Palestinian negotiator is waiting for the start of negotiations again, and if he has bet recently on the "new" Trump's administration, then, ''reviving'' the old documents and ideas, that this negotiator has not been able to adopt, reaffirms that he is sitting on the waiting bench only for wasting time. As the solutions for issues of refugees, Jerusalem, the borders, the Jewishness of the state of Israel and unleashing the Zionist institution to increase racism against the Palestinians of the 48, clearly show that there is no "deal", that the Palestinian negotiator can take responsibility for accepting it, regardless the available coverage to make it.

On the other hand, the harmful steps of the Palestinian official leadership, including the freezing of the Palestinian effort towards the United Nations, and stopping the struggle against the occupation in its institutions are continuing, while we are witnessing an American-Israeli attack against the campaigns of boycotting and isolating the occupation; this means that the announcement of the reluctance to judge Israel, comes as an additional action that faces the BDS, while the duty of the official Palestinian leadership, according to the decisions of the national consensus is to support and protect this boycott.

Mohammad Al-Sahli is an Editor in Chief of Al-Hhourriah newspaper, the official speaker of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by: Hassan Barazi
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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