Leaked information about Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” varies in some details, but the one thing that is consistent is that there will be no more on offer than autonomy for parts of the West Bank, without Jerusalem. There will be no Palestinian sovereignty and no return of the refugees, not even compensation for them, although there will be talk about linking autonomous areas with Jordan in a federal arrangement8. In the meantime, relations between Israel and Arab states will be formalised.
What will be discussed when marketing the “deal”, of course, is that this solution is not the end product, and that the so-called “final status” issues, especially Jerusalem, will be left for another time after the neighbours are more reassured about each other’s intentions. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the plan is based on making the status quo permanent in due course, because no one in Israel wants to give up Jerusalem, nor allow the return of any Palestinian refugees.
This reminds me of the paradox of former minister Tzipi Livni’s response to Saeb Erekat mentioned in the well-known negotiation leaks, when the Palestinian official told Livni that the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had agreed to the return of 10,000 refugees in what were called, rather euphemistically, “reunions”. She insisted that this was Olmert’s personal opinion and that the number of people who will return to Israel is nil.
The details of the deal are of no concern, but what is, is that those involved in marketing and supporting such a proposal — and pressing for its acceptance by Palestinians and Arabs — are in more need of advice than the others for two reasons. The first is that such an agreement will be practically impossible to pass, even though it might seem possible to get through some of its early stages; and second, their position will be harmful to them.
In the first context, keep in mind what Netanyahu said a few days ago about it being the Arab people who reject normalisation of relations with Israel, not the regimes; this is true to a large extent. The people generally do not approve of Israel’s existence in principle, even if they accept the Arab Initiative, which proposed giving the Israelis 78 per cent of historic Palestine. Things will get more difficult when discussing a much worse proposal which involves the effective abandonment of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The people’s position on normalisation means that the new game will not pass. The stance of the Egyptian people after nearly four decades of the Camp David Treaty is the best evidence of this; there is also the position of the Jordanians 25 years after signing the Wadi Araba peace deal with Israel.
That is not all. The Palestinian people will not be silent about eradicating their cause in such a miserable way, and they will rise again, and the Jordanians will not accept the federalism being spoken of. It all, in any case, assumes that the Palestinian resistance forces will agree to the new proposal, which they won’t, or at least the majority of them won’t. Those in the Arab world who try to market the Trump deal will clash with their people if they go ahead and back a proposal to wipe out the Palestinian cause.
As a backdrop to all of this, it is clear that America and Israel will continue to be keen on keeping the regional conflicts going so that only Israel will remain as a strong and cohesive state, which everyone then seeks to befriend. Will those involved in supporting the Trump plan reconsider their positions? I hope so.
Translated from Thenewkhalij, 27 November 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.