At last it is now out in the open and US President Donald Trump so-called “deal of the century” can be discussed and debated. However, before we dwell on the details — the bad, the good and the ugly — it was the announcement of the plan itself that was disturbing in its complacent and self-congratulatory nature.
For a major policy declaration dealing with the lives and future of the Palestinians and the Israelis, it was inappropriate, arrogant and on the verge of embarrassing to the very idea of a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Delivered by Trump and hailed by one of the most mortifying displays of disingenuous flattery by the Israeli prime minister to his American host, there was not a single Palestinian in attendance. The very people who are going to be most influenced by every detail of this plan were not consulted, while their fate is dictated by stronger powers, who, in their “generosity,” allowed them four years to go and think about it. Well, as long as they do the right thing and surrender to the wishes of the US and Israel. Equally disturbing is the notion that, in the 21st century, a superpower grants an ally the right to annex territories that are, according to international law, illegally occupied. Is this something that should be acceptable in the post-colonial era?
All along there was something unsavory about the urgency and hastiness of announcing Trump’s deal. After all, it was slow cooking for most of the three years of the current White House occupant’s presidency. Let us not be fooled by the fanfare of the announcement of this plan. It had more to do with the domestic predicament of the impeached and the indicted, pandering to their voters as they will soon need them at the ballot box, and less to do with any genuine attempt to bring this tragic conflict to an end.
However, it is not all bad news with this Israel and US-concocted peace plan. Considering Israel is governed by the most right-wing government in its history, acknowledging a two-state solution as the answer to settling the conflict is progress, even if one doubts its sincerity about ever implementing it. Moreover, there is recognition that the capital of a Palestinian state will be in East Jerusalem. Needless to say, what was outlined by Trump and reinforced by Benjamin Netanyahu falls short of the minimum that any Palestinian would ever accept, as this plan comes straight from the Israeli hymn sheet of obstructing peace and grabbing land. However, with the principals of Palestinian self-determination and East Jerusalem as their capital being agreed by Netanyahu, the details now remain open for future negotiations.
These are the sole benefits one can see in this plan, and even this pushes optimism and positive thinking to the limits — the rest is bleak, very bleak. To begin with, the plan represents a flagrant violation of international law by unilaterally annexing occupied territories and is in complete disregard of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is not for the US to absolve any country for their annexation of occupied territory, let alone to legitimize moving hundreds of thousands of people to live and build communities there, and illegally confiscate land, including privately owned land. If, as was suggested by Netanyahu, he intends to bring a bill to the government by next week, allowing the jurisdiction of Israeli law to apply to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including the outposts, this can only be seen as a blatant provocation of the Palestinians, the international community and the role of international law.
Consequently, both settlements built by the government and outposts that are illegal also by Israeli law, will be part of Israel. If the Hebron model is about to be applied to these isolated settlements, this is not a proposal of peace, coexistence and reconciliation, but one of never-ending, explosive friction. This is not a case of whether Jewish Israelis and Palestinians should or should not live in the same neighborhoods, as settlers claim, rather it is about living as equals. I don’t see the Israeli government inviting Palestinians to live in Jewish neighborhoods inside Israel proper anytime soon.
Furthermore, by proposing the annexation of the Jordan Valley — as opposed to previous plans that concentrated on ensuring security arrangements around it — this plan leaves a future Palestinian state surrounded on all its borders by Israel, lacking contiguous territory. This would leave a Palestinian state at the mercy of its more powerful neighbor, militarily, politically and economically.
The recognition of some part of Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine, established in Abu Dis, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, means that most East Jerusalemite Palestinians would remain inside Israel and with apparently no rights to equal citizenry. Moreover, this idea excludes an independent Palestine from any role in the holy places, which could hardly be acceptable not only to the Palestinians, but also to the rest of the region and the Muslim world.
This is not a proposal of peace, coexistence and reconciliation, but one of never-ending, explosive friction.
In the hullabaloo of mutual admiration between Trump and Netanyahu, once again the bait of economic prosperity was thrown to the Palestinians, insultingly suggesting that they would give up on their sense of integrity, national aspirations and pride in exchange for economic investment. It adds to the unpleasant colonial flavor of the “launch” of the deal but, even more poignantly, the $50 billion promised is mere pie in the sky with no actual plan as to where it will come from. Considering that the sum promised is to be allocated over 10 years and is aimed not only at building the newly established Palestinian state, but also at settling and compensating the refugee diaspora, it is hardly a real incentive. The most conservative of estimates for resolving the predicament of the Palestinian refugees is at least three times this amount, and probably more.
This plan was born in sin, conceived for the wrong reasons, and it won’t live beyond Trump and Netanyahu’s time in office. It is more likely to spread apprehension across the region, especially Jordan, and might possibly lead to the resumption of an active Palestinian resistance of the occupation, rather than anything resembling peace.