I was not surprised by the news that the administration of US President Donald Trump intends to postpone the announcement of the political part of the “deal of the century” until the formation of an Israeli government by November. This has raised questions in the US about the feasibility of presenting the plan at all.
Since Trump was elected president on 20 January 2017, his administration has pledged to present its vision of peace in the Middle East within the first few months of his presidency. However, two and a half years later, the deal still has not gone public and its details are not officially known.
Some question whether the proposal can be revealed later, because this will coincide with the US presidential election season which follows the formation of a new Israeli government. The Iowa primary will begin in early February. On Tuesday night in Florida, Trump officially announced his candidacy for re-election in 2020 on the Republican ticket.
The failure to put forward the “deal of the century” in the form of a written plan serves many of the conflicting parties’ goals.
First, it is easy to reject a plan that is presented in written form. President Trump does not want to be exposed to this test, especially considering the unpopularity of the ideas believed to be included in the “deal of the century” among Arabs and Palestinians in particular.
President Trump is afraid of being humiliated by the rejection of countries he views as small or insignificant. He also does not know the nature of the Arab governments, nor the status of the Palestinian cause among Arabs, despite the frustrations and defeats they have suffered over the past decades.
The President also does not realise that the essence of the conflict for the Palestinians and Arabs is more than just improving their living conditions in exchange for accepting Israel and normalising relations with those who seized their land and violated their rights.
How could President Trump know any of this, when he has chosen a negotiating team headed by three envoys who have financial interests and family ties in Israel and in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank? This team is defending Israel’s ambitions in a manner that does not allow any follower to forget that they represent the US side.
Secondly, not presenting the “deal of the century” in written form would avoid embarrassing the Arab leaders in front of their people. While some Arab countries announced their participation in the Bahrain economic summit – during which economic aspects of the deal are slated to be unveiled next week – no Arab country announced its support for political aspect of the plan.
While the details of the deal have yet to be released, the various and systematic leaks have meant its general outline is no secret. It is difficult for Arab countries to accept the written deal after the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced its rejection of the idea even before it was proposed.
This came in response to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, which represented an attempt by the Trump administration to take practical steps in preparation for the announcement of the alleged deal. His moving of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018 served the same purpose.
President Trump then reduced financial aid to the PA and cut its contributions to UNRWA, which serves Palestinian refugees. The Trump administration also closed the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) office in Washington, the office that carried out tasks similar to that of foreign embassies and consulates in the US capital.
A study published by the Congressional Research Service on US-Israel Relations believes that, although President Trump and senior officials in his administration have expressed great desire to mediate a final peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis, many of their positions and policies raise doubts about the timing and effectiveness of any US diplomatic initiative.
While Washington circles are aware of the lack of pragmatism in the “deal of the century”, Egyptian thinkers have called for accepting reality and first looking for a “Palestinian deal of the century,” referring to the division between Fatah, which controls part of the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip.
These writers deliberately forget that the Palestinian division is only ten years old, while Israel’s occupation is over half a century old. Israel did not give up what it gained by war before the Palestinian division took place.
I am not calling for the continuation of the division between the Palestinian factions, as no one but the Israelis benefits from it. However, I refuse for it to be a condition or means to pressure the Palestinians to accept Israel’s occupation and surrender to foreign rule.
The “deal of the century” was announced little over two and a half years, after President Trump came to office. I do not expect the details of the deal to be announced anytime soon. I believe that the Trump administration prefers to impose a new reality on the ground, instead of proposing the deal and waiting for the concerned parties to either accept or reject it.
Trump, like other US presidents, did not criticise the continuation of illegal Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. Instead, reports emerged mentioning his intention to recognise any annexation of territory from the West Bank by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just as he recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
In addition to this, neither President Trump nor his advisors mention anything about the right of the Palestinians to an independent free state. So why do they need to announce the deal that is already being implemented?
This article was first published in the New Khalij on 21 June 2019 in Arabic.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.