As an organization dedicated to working for true justice and peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, emphasizing political and human rights for Palestinians, the Palestine Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF/PIN) condemns virtually every aspect of the US plan for resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict issued by President Trump on January 28, 2020.
This plan should be of paramount interest to members of the Episcopal Church, for the Church has lent ardent support to the parish, educational, healthcare, and hospitality ministries of the Diocese of Jerusalem for many years. The many Palestinian Christians who are served by these ministries will be severely and adversely affected by this plan. Our baptismal covenant to seek justice for all peoples compels us to speak out on what is at stake.
Although subtitled A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, the plan does none of this. As conceived, it does not bring peace or freedom, or especially any kind of justice, to Palestinians. It violates international law, and violates Palestinian political and human rights. Neither, in the long term, we believe, will it bring peace to Israelis.
Although it is intended as such, this plan is not a peace agreement or even a reasonably framed blueprint for a peace agreement: Palestinians themselves have had no say in its design, and there has been no negotiation between sides. The plan is rather a diktat imposed unilaterally by the United States on behalf of Israel to further Israel’s illegal consolidation of permanent control over all the territory of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
The plan essentially puts a seal of official US endorsement and recognition on the status quo, which has existed since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in 1967. As one Palestinian has aptly noted, this simply “normalizes our oppression.” The borders and restrictions imposed are not new, only being drawn with bolder lines on maps.
The plan puts a further seal of approval on unilateral diplomatic steps already taken by the Trump Administration, including its official recognition in May 2018 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and its declaration in late 2019, in contravention of all international law, that Israeli settlements in occupied territories do not conflict with this international law.
Major provisions of the plan:
As many observers—including several Israeli commentators—have noted, this is a de jure apartheid plan. Although it allows some Palestinians to opt for Israeli citizenship, for the most part it envisions officially separating the intertwined Jewish and Palestinian populations along ethnic/religious lines. Far from connecting geographic areas and populations, the supposedly connecting roads, tunnels, and bridges separate rather than unite, and this is deliberate.
Significantly, the plan puts a physical seal on Israel’s recent adoption of a law that officially renders it a “Jewish state.” The Israeli parliament enacted the “nation state law” in July 2018, declaring Israel to be “the national home of the Jewish people” and explicitly asserting the exclusionary claim that “the right to exercise self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” This apartheid provision would clearly extend to the areas Israel will annex under the Trump plan.
It is important to keep in mind a little-noted reality: that the number of Palestinians living under Israeli control in Israel and the occupied territories equals, and may slightly exceed, the number of Israeli Jews; there are approximately seven million Israeli Jews and also seven million Palestinians, including citizens of Israel and non-citizen inhabitants of the occupied territories. In the relatively small geographical area of Palestine-Israel, keeping these numbers of people separated by religion and ethnicity will necessarily require stringent controls and restrictions on the subordinate population, the Palestinians.
This plan is a classic example of colonialist planning and domination, designed with the participation only of parties that have the power to implement it. Israel plans to declare the annexation of West Bank territory very soon, and new Israeli settlements are being built at a rapid pace. Neither Palestinians nor anyone else has the power to stop any of this. Although the plan is being broadly condemned, not least by the Palestinian leadership that was excluded from its conception, only those with no power to undo it are objecting.
Kathleen Christison, who authored this statement on behalf of EPF PIN, is a member of the EPF/PIN Steering Committee, and the author of several books on the Palestine situation. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.