Much has been said about the so-called “deal of the century” promoted by the US government, although those with different perspectives might use other names. The deal has been in development for two years and parts of it have been unveiled this week in Bahrain after a number of delays. The team behind it includes US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, with the assistance of the President’s adviser on Israel, Jason Dov Greenblatt, and US Ambassador to Israel, David Melech Friedman.
Real estate developer Kushner is politically inexperienced and ignorant of Middle East history, but this hasn’t stopped him from being appointed as a senior adviser to Trump. Kushner is also an ardent Zionist Jew, who backs and finances Israeli colony-settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Kushner family foundation has made financial donations to the Bet El settlement.
Greenblatt was Trump’s personal lawyer before his appointment as his adviser on Israel and an assistant for international negotiations. He is also an ardent Zionist Jew and backer of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. According to Greenblatt, such colonies are not obstacles to peace.
Ambassador Friedman was a bankruptcy lawyer and the chairman and president of the Trump Organisation. Like Kushner and Greenblatt, he is an ardent Zionist Jew who supports and finances Israeli settlements. He told the New York Times on 8 June that Israel has the right to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
This overtly pro-Israel Zionist team claims that it has put together this “deal” to improve the lives of Palestinians by investing Arab money from the Gulf to invigorate the Palestinian economy. This, they insist, will lead to a political deal that in turn will lead to peace and prosperity. The team has no Palestinian or even Arab member. It is as if these Zionists believe that Palestinians are incapable of understanding or planning an economic plan for themselves.
The mentality behind the deal is that of a business transaction, whereby money can buy everything at a price agreed upon after skilful negotiations. In an interview with Reuters — whose reporter seemed to be bored reading questions from a prepared script —Kushner talked about “a global investment fund” of $50 billion to lift the Palestinian and neighbouring Arab States’ economies, and a $5 billion fund to build a transportation corridor connecting the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
Kushner explained that $25 billion would be spent in the Palestinian territories over a 10-year period, while the rest of the fund would be split between Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Some of the projects to be funded would be in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where Palestinians from Gaza could benefit from them.
The money for his deal, explained Kushner, would come from wealthy Gulf States, Europe and Asia — but not America — and from private investors. It was implied that most if not all would come from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This week’s event in Bahrain brought together government and business leaders to launch the plan.
In this “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” — pushing what Kushner called the “opportunity of the century” rather than “deal of the century” — Trump’s son-in-law gave a presentation on developing the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Stating that Israel is not the problem, he blamed the Palestinians’ poor political decisions for sabotaging previous plans to solve the conflict. Throughout, he gave the impression that he believes that Palestinians are uneducated and incapable of having a vision for a prosperous future.
Kushner’s plan is built on the belief that building the economy will lead to peace, yet during his speech he contradicted this premise many times by claiming that, “if we have real peace and we don’t have fear of terrorism… then we can thin the borders and allow for much flow of goods and people”; “all these plans could be phased in real time if there is a real ceasefire and real peace”; and we need to see “how to make a safe environment so people can invest in the area.” Kushner’s economic plan puts the cart before the horse, for how can a country’s economy be developed if the government does not know where its political borders are?
Two businessmen attending the workshop — Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone Group, the world’s largest equity investment firm; and Mohamed Alabbar, the UAE’s leading developer and chairman of Emaar Properties — stated clearly that safety, security and the rule of law — meaning peace — are prerequisites for any investments. An independent country with secure borders and a government are obviously necessary before investment will flow and the economy can develop. Kushner, though, apparently doesn’t get it.
He kept insisting that his plan will “help the Palestinian people” when what he really means is it will “help the Israelis”, who will eventually control all of the projects funded by the deal as has happened after all the previous peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries, which all, incidentally, also promised peace and prosperity for the region. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt; the 1994 Wadi Araba Treaty between Israel and Jordan; and the 1994 Paris Protocol and later 1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation all allowed Israeli goods to go through and into Arab countries, thus boosting the Israeli economy, but not the other way around. The Oslo Accords gave Israel total control of the Palestinian economy: control over customs, taxes, agriculture, industry and all gateways to the world. To prevent Palestinian and Arab economies from competing with its own, Israel has violated all of those treaties and broken international laws. The Zionist state will also take control of all of Kushner’s proposed economic projects built mainly by Arab money.
Although Kushner’s plan is in two parts, with the political details to be released in November, everyone knows that the politics have already been settled by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital; his closure of the PLO office in Washington; the withdrawal of support for UNRWA, which provides essential services to Palestinian refugees; his recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights; and the hint that Israel should also annex large parts of the West Bank. This is Trump’s mafia-like imposition of life-threatening pressure in order to enforce his “deal of the century”.
Leaks have provided us with details of other political aspects of the deal. They include forcing Jordan to give the fertile Baqoura area, where the River Yarmouk flows into the River Jordan, to Israel, in return for which Saudi Arabia would give Jordan part of its northern desert. Saudi and Emirati money will be used to buy El-Arish in North Sinai near the Gaza Strip, as well as Tiran and Sanafir islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. According to Kushner’s plan, a Saudi oil refinery and a water desalination plant would be built in El-Arish for the benefit of Palestinians living in Gaza, while the two islands would be controlled by Israel, giving it free access to the Red Sea. This is likely to be the cause of even more future conflicts.
The “deal of the century” is similar to the Sikes-Picot Agreement, Balfour Declaration and all the other Arab/Israeli agreements in being another phase in the implementation of the Zionist project to establish Greater Israel. The main goals are the elimination of the Palestinian refugee issue and the confirmation of the state of Israel as a legitimate entity in the region which could normalise relations with some Arab countries and even become their military and intelligence partner against an outside enemy, namely Iran. It also means the end of the two-state solution and confirms the Palestinian Authority as a tool of Israeli security to keep local dissent in check.
All of this has been rejected by the PA and credible Palestinian factions and individuals from the beginning. Indeed, the factions have held demonstrations across the occupied Palestinian territories for the duration of the Bahrain workshop under the banner “Palestine is not for sale”.
None of the Arab countries and their people have accepted the deal, apart from the governments of Saudi Arabia, Saudi-client state Bahrain and the UAE. Protests have taken place across the Arab world from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. In Bahrain itself, Palestinian flags were flown on private homes in solidarity against Kushner’s workshop.
The EU, meanwhile, has always supported the two-state solution and also rejects this deal. High-ranking former European politicians, 25 former foreign ministers, six former prime ministers and two former NATO secretary generals signed a letter to the EU calling for the rejection of the deal, and for the implementation of the two-state solution with the states of Israel and Palestine living side by side.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that the deal will fail in a speech to Jewish leaders in New York, calling it “a deal that only the Israelis could love” and admitting that the plan is “un-executable” and “may be rejected”.
The economic conference will serve only to intensify the Palestinian and popular Arab hatred of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who claim that their goal is to help the Palestinians. If they really wanted to help, they could have done so directly without any of America’s pro-Israel mediation.
The Palestinians have learnt the hard way not to depend on Arab leaders. The only method of liberating the whole of Palestine and building their state is through resistance of all kinds. They have done so generation after generation throughout the past 71 years since the 1948 Nakba. Previous generations used stones and knifes; this generation has rockets that can reach Tel Aviv. Hence the efforts to destroy the Palestinian cause once and for all with the help of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That is the real shame of the shameful “deal of the century”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.