Donald Trump’s Arab-Israeli peace plan rests upon the absurdity of the Palestinians accepting a state in name alone. Since 1993’s Oslo accords, hope had been kindled that a “Palestine” could be created from most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. The Trump administration’s document pays lip service to such an entity while shrinking its size and mutilating its scope to non-existence. It envisages the potential transfer of Palestinian towns out of Israel. It contains a blatant attempt to stop Palestinians seeking justice for war crimes – including those currently under way. Mr Trump boasts he is a dealmaker, offering $50bn in investment if Palestinians trade away their civil and national rights. But Palestinians see a conman with no intention of making good on empty promises.

This proposal is a sop to rightwing ideologues in the US and Israel. It ends the charade that Mr Trump could play a mediating role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has good reason to think his visit to Washington is his finest hour. He once warned Israel would be in mortal danger if a viable Palestine existed alongside it. The indications are Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet will vote in days to begin annexing all settlements in the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley. The old gibe against the Palestinians – that they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace – is singularly inappropriate. Mr Trump’s blatant support for Israel and his snub of the Palestinians in drafting his plan has let Mr Netanyahu do whatever he wants.

This looks like a transparent attempt by Mr Trump to help Mr Netanyahu, who faces a trial for bribery and fraud, in upcoming Israeli elections. With an impeachment trial in the Senate, Mr Trump will also help himself with his plan – by rallying pro-Israeli evangelical support. The Trump plan does have the virtue of diminishing the distance between the situation on the ground and euphemisms deployed to describe it. Israel controls the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. If two viable states cannot be constructed in the Holy Land, the status quo will cement a one-state reality or perpetual occupation. Israel’s attempt to remain Jewish and democratic while controlling a space in which Arabs are as numerous as Jews is a quandary. The trilemma is how to retain a strong Jewish majority, all the land and a full democracy. Israel can live with such contradictions as long as Mr Trump allows international law to be flouted with impunity.

Half a century of occupation has led to a system of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians. Israel will seize on the fact Washington has ignored UN resolutions and endorsed its brutal, unlawful policies. Mr Trump wants to create new facts on the ground. Without Palestinian backing, some Arab states may be lukewarm about the plan. A two-state solution was the result of American peacemaking within a rules-based world order, which Mr Trump detests because it is inimical to the raw power that he prefers to govern global affairs. Outside the European Union, the UK’s foreign policy will become hostage to such an approach. London’s welcome of Mr Trump’s “serious proposal” is as depressing as it is predictable. The US annexation proposals should be rejected and the illegality of Israeli settlements reiterated. A peace won’t last without an acceptance of past wrongs. Washington once championed international law to manage global relations. It now promotes the law of the jungle, where every country fends for itself. We are present at the creation of dangerous times in the world, not just in the Middle East.

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