How to serve up a raw deal as the deal of the century!

As lawyers we were always taught that a contract involves an offer and an acceptance and thus an agreement is created. But getting to some sort of consensus is rarely without a whole series of offers and counter-offers as each side reduce the gap between two opposite poles. Sometimes they remain poles apart, and at other times they reach some sort of accommodation. Mediators like me and dealmakers are often brought in as intermediaries to help. We have ACAS in trade disputes, Senator Mitchell and his team in Northern Ireland, the UN in countless foreign fields, and in Israel and Palestine we have … Donald Trump or Tony Blair and many more seeking to add their own perspective. No of course mediators are or should be entirely neutral or at least unbiased towards either party. That’s why in an interfaith conflict it’s that much more difficult for someone of one faith or the other to appear to be as unbiased as they may well be. So unbiased intermediaries such as UN diplomats like Kofi Annan seek to mobilise political will to overcome threats to peace, development and human rights. You then have intermediaries who are perhaps more partial to one side or another making very partial recommendations and that’s where raw deals can get in the way of good deals.

Take Israel and Palestine where Trump announces a peace plan that he calls the deal of the century. It’s a deal he imagines that both sides might accept to resolve almost 80 years of continuing conflict. It’s a deal hatched between the intermediary – Trump and his colleagues as intermediaries and Israel and the Israeli government on the other. It wasn’t in any way a triangular negotiation. It didn’t exclude the Palestinians as they simply refused to take part, as perhaps they had no confidence in the impartiality of the process. It presents a peace plan which normalises annexation of a large part of what remains of historic Palestine, and flies in the face of international conventions over the rights of peoples living under occupation. It seeks to legitimise making some sort of Palestinian state based on enclaves, a sort of Lilliput society where Palestinians live in or on bits of the West Bank surrounded by Israeli land and separated by Israeli access roads along which they are largely prohibited from travelling.

Tiny statelets cannot ever make for a sustainable viable country

Any peace plan between Israel and Palestine be it involving two states or even one state must revolve around the precepts of international law. So this afternoon all the UK based NGO’s working in the area signed up to the following declaration:

‘Last May, a group of UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights and faith organisations working to support the rights and welfare of the Palestinian people raised the alarm over President Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan’. Since then, we have witnessed only further devastating human impacts of occupation: increasing rates of demolition of Palestinian structures and the displacement of families, obstruction of access to healthcare and education, and the chronic deterioration of the Palestinian economy which is leading to unemployment and destruction of livelihoods.

There is a major risk that the so-called ‘peace plan’, set to be released imminently, will lead to the formal annexation of Palestinian land, perpetual Israeli occupation, and the negation of Palestinians’ collective right to self-determination. Such an outcome will only deepen poverty and polarisation.

Formal annexation would also seriously breach a foundational principle of the post-WWII international legal order, with implications far beyond the Israel-Palestine context.

The UK has repeatedly stated that annexation of part of the West Bank would be contrary to international law and could not pass unchallenged.

Joint statement for Palestine Platform

Palestinians are already losing their land with creeping de-facto annexation of the West Bank, forcing them to become perpetually aid dependent despite abundant natural resources.

A sustainable peace for Palestinians and Israelis can only be built on the foundations of international law. We are deeply concerned that the basic human rights and civilian protections guaranteed to the Palestinian people are now in even greater danger.

We therefore reiterate our urgent call on the UK government, parliamentarians and civil society organisations to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of international law and justice at this critical time, and uphold their respective legal and moral responsibilities to robustly defend the rights of the Palestinian people.

The UK has repeatedly stated that annexation of part of the West Bank “would be contrary to international law, damaging to peace efforts and could not pass unchallenged." Now is the time for the UK to outline what form such a challenge would take, and how it will work with other states to support the Palestinian people to attain their fundamental right to self-determination.

There is a possible path to sustainable peace if we listen, learn, and bring more voices to the table. Peace should be rooted in the recognition of the human rights and dignity of all Palestinians and Israelis, as well as a firm foundation in international law.

Statement endorsed by the 16 agencies including ABCD Bethlehem, Care International, Christian Aid, Oxfam and others’

Ma’aal Adummin settlement near Jerusalem

This all goes to show that a raw deal can never be either a good deal or any sort of deal of the century. One based on full participation, fairness, respect, and the rule of law has a chance of creating a viable solution. This plan is barely going to get off the drawing board.