A Western Sahara model for Palestine

Opinion: Trump has challenged the international community to reevaluate positions favoring national aspirations and independence over peace and stability through economic development; will a future administration adopt the same view?
Solon Solomon|
Re-establishing diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco is another building block for the new Middle East in which people of different religions and ethnicities can live in peace and harmony.
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  • But the announced deal came with formal American recognition of Morocco's claim over Western Sahara, which was annexed by the North African kingdom in 1975.
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    מפה חדשה של מרוקו לאחר שארצות הברית הכירה בריבונותה על סהרה המערבית
    מפה חדשה של מרוקו לאחר שארצות הברית הכירה בריבונותה על סהרה המערבית
    Morocco unveils a new map following U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over Wester Sahara
    Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump implied that peace and stability can be achieved when Western Sahara remains part of Morocco and not an independent entity. This represents not only a complete shift in U.S. policy, but has far reaching ramifications in any final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Guelmim Province President Mbarka Bouaida told Ynet this week that there was no comparison between the national aspirations of Western Saharans and those of the Palestinians, but there are similarities between the two.
    Both Western Sahara and the West Bank were occupied by countries that insist on describing them as disputed territory.
    Both the Polisario Front of Western Sahara and Palestine Liberation Organization were recognized by the United Nations as the representatives of their respective people in the 1970s.
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    מרוקו סהרה המערבית אוהלים של פוליסריו בוערים
    מרוקו סהרה המערבית אוהלים של פוליסריו בוערים
    Tents belonging to the Polisario Front in Western Sahara are set alight
    (Photo: AFP)
    In both territorial conflicts, the Trump administration reversed a long-standing position of the U.S. government that was based on international norms and principles and supported by international law.
    The U.S. now regards the resolution to both conflicts as a matter of creative thinking and pragmatism.
    International law puts its faith in states. It regards the national aspirations of a people as a matter to be resolved within the framework of an independent state. But recent events have shown that the establishment of new countries does not always contribute to regional peace or stability.
    Neither Kosovo nor South Sudan were able to emerge as successful new countries.
    East Timor, the latest entity to achieve independence, has also failed in its efforts. The violence that erupted there in the post-independence period prompted regional powers such as Australia to dispatch forces to the area and question whether independence was the best solution that the international community could offer.
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    דונלד טראמפ מלך מרוקו
    דונלד טראמפ מלך מרוקו
    King Mohammed VI of Morocco and U.S. President Donald Trump
    (Photos: EPA)
    Trump's announcement last week affirming his recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara challenges the international community on resolving territorial conflicts.
    No longer is the focus on the requirement of an occupier to withdraw and allow an independent state to be established. The new question to be decided is whether the withdrawal contributes to peace and stability.
    Such a shift in the U.S. position could have a significant effect on the way it regards a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
    Officially, Trump's Mideast peace plan calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, but if the ultimate goal could no longer be to advance the national aspirations of the Palestinians, what would a future White House see as the right resolution to this conflict?
    Such an administration may be convinced that a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would lead to a politically and economically viable independent Palestinian state.
    It may also regard the historic example of Israel's pullback from the Gaza Strip and its subsequent takeover by the Hamas terror group as a warning that peace and stability are not the guaranteed outcome of an Israeli withdrawal.
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    בעקבות ההסלמה וירי הרקטות מעזה: פגיעה במפעל בשדרות
    בעקבות ההסלמה וירי הרקטות מעזה: פגיעה במפעל בשדרות
    A car in the southern city of Sderot burns after it was hit by rockets fired from Gaza last year
    (Photo: AFP)
    The future for the Mideast in that case would be dictated not by a political vision but by an economic one.
    The United States, Trump announced, will open a consulate in Western Sahara to promote economic cooperation and growth. Trump's self-styled "deal of the century" was also predicated on an economic plan for the Palestinians.
    The term the outgoing president chose to explain his policy shift on Western Sahara - "a just and durable solution" - borrowed from the international community's hopes for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Those words may not have been chosen by chance.

    Solon Solomon is a visiting lecturer at King's College London and a former staffer at the Knesset Legal Department
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