US President Donald Trump has revealed his long-awaited “deal of the century” which has been cunningly rebranded as a “peace plan” to bring “precise technical solutions” for the Palestinians and Israelis and make the Middle East “safer” and “much more prosperous”. He described it as a “win-win opportunity” for Israel and the Palestinians. As America’s most generous deal ever for Israel, I doubt that it will do much of note for the Palestinians.
The basic premise of Trump’s plan is to give Israel as much land as possible at the expense of the Palestinians, prioritising Israeli security over international laws and conventions, as well as the dignity and freedom of the people of historic Palestine.
According to Trump, the plan guarantees the Jewish identity of the state of Israel. This means that the 20 per cent of the population who are not Jews will be denied full citizenship rights. These are the Palestinians who survived the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 when Israel was created in their land.
As far as a Palestinian state is concerned, the international consensus that it will be based on the 1967 borders (basically the 1949 Armistice — “Green” — Line) has been ditched by Trump. Along with it, I presume, is the widely accepted “two-state solution” with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Trump has already given all of occupied Jerusalem to Israel, and now just wants to leave the Palestinians with symbolic access to the city.
The non-contiguous scraps of historic Palestine — about 15 per cent, in fact — will have to be connected by bridges and tunnels, making it very easy for the Israelis to cut transport links whenever it suits them. This “state of Palestine” will have no control over its air space, territorial waters or borders and will not be allowed to forge alliances with other countries. International law allows people under military occupation to resist that occupation, but Trump has unilaterally torn up the statutes, believing Palestinian resistance to be “malign activities”. With no army and “demilitarised” Palestinian resistance factions — which Trump called “terror groups” — Palestine will be defenceless; Israel’s security comes first, and we already know from deadly experience what that means.
Trump is oblivious to the humiliation of such conditions. “Today’s agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own,” he claimed. “Palestinians will be able to seize the new future with dignity, self-sufficiency and national pride to ensure a successful Palestinian state.” Quite rightly, the New York Times pointed out that, “President Trump’s proposal strongly favours Israel…”
Most of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements will be annexed to Israel; the process is expected to begin as early as Sunday. In exchange, Trump proposes an Israeli agreement for “a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.”
Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes in 1948 are viewed by Trump on a par with Jews who were paid to leave the Arab countries and migrate to Israel. The “generous” US President will allow a symbolic number of refugees to return to the future Palestinian state. However, the Israeli Prime Minister pulling Trump’s strings, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was behind the deal, made it clear that Palestinian refugees would not have a right of return under the “peace plan”, claiming that this is a political issue.
“I know that there will be opposition,” said Netanyahu. “There is always opposition. I know there will be many obstacles along the way, much criticism. But we have an old Jewish saying: ‘If not now, when? And if not us, who?’”
The deal would see the end of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as Trump believes that it will “end the cycle of Palestinian dependence on charity”, a clear reference to the Agency, from which he has already stopped America’s annual donation.
Both Netanyahu and his main political opponent Benny Gantz applauded the deal and thanked Trump for it.
“Today, Israel has taken a giant step towards peace,” Trump said at the White House. “Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that he is willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations — and, I will say, [Gantz] also endorsed and very strongly — with the Palestinians a historic breakthrough.”
Netanyahu himself described the move as a “historic” day. “On this day, you [Trump] became the first world leader to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] that are vital to our security and central to our heritage.” He said that he is ready to start peace talks on the basis of Trump’s deal.
According to Gantz, “The president’s peace plan is a significant and historic milestone indeed. Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable, functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region.”
Characteristically, Trump was full of self-praise. After noting that forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians may be “the most difficult challenge” of all, he pointed out that, “All prior [US] administrations have tried and bitterly failed but I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.” He then insisted that America will be there — presumably covering Israel’s back — every step of the way. “It will work. If they do it, it will work.”
This deal does nothing to address historic wrongs against the people of Palestine. From the 1947 UN Partition Plan to the present day, the Palestinians have rejected all attempts to steal their land, and why shouldn’t they? History, geography and politics are evidence of Palestinian ownership. Nevertheless, Trump and the Israelis will no doubt find some Palestinian quislings who will either accept the crumbs thrown down to them, keep quiet or suppress any resistance to this latest act of grand larceny. Most Palestinians, though, will reject Trump’s “peace plan” out of hand.
The rhetoric coming out of Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority is mere words for media and public consumption. The PA under the current leadership will never end security collaboration with the Israeli occupation forces, nor dissolve itself and bring about a de facto one-state solution. If, however, Mahmoud Abbas is indeed serious about his “heroic” remarks he should accept the calls for unity with the other Palestinians factions ahead of taking joint action on the ground.
The Arab nations, especially the Gulf States — with the honourable exception of Qatar — will endorse the deal. Indeed, the ambassadors of Oman, the UAE and Bahrain were in the room when Trump made his announcement yesterday. It is they who will pay for the economic side of his “peace plan”. The head of the Arab League, Ahmed Abul Gheit, said that the umbrella body will follow the PA’s lead on the issue; in other words, it will accept it or keep silent.
The UN has rejected the deal and insisted that the Israel-Palestine conflict must be resolved based on Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. “The UN remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements and realising the vision of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines,” insisted a spokesman of the UN Secretary-General in a media statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO. However, this remains nonsense as long as there is no real action to achieve Palestinian goals and put an end to Israel’s aggressive colonialism.
The real test of the “deal of the century” will come when the dust settles and we see a return to “business as usual” by Israel. This will mean ongoing settlement expansion to create more “facts on the ground” and ever more restrictions placed upon the Palestinians living under the Zionist state’s brutal military occupation. Until and unless that is brought to an end, no “deal” can ever be called a viable peace plan.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.