US President Trump’s monarchical-style edict masquerading as a deal was received with fury in Ramallah and has been rejected by the Arab League as well as the United Nations. It is no wonder that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promptly turned down this gift to an Israeli prime minister indicted on three counts of corruption in the midst of battling to be reelected.
Only fools or chronic optimists could imagine that the Palestinian side would welcome the idea of a non-contiguous demilitarised Bantustan shorn of [occupied] Jerusalem and 30 per cent of the West Bank, one with no control over its borders or coastline!
What is ostensibly on offer is not a state but rather the possibility of a future apartheid enclave conditional upon the Palestinians agreeing to a longlist of preconditions over the coming four years by which time there is likely to be a new right-wing Israeli government, one that eschews any official Palestinian entity on the land they refer to in biblical terms as Judea and Samaria.
The 80-page ‘plan’ titled Vision for peace, prosperity and a brighter future gaily tramples over decades of negotiations since the Oslo Accords that enshrined the Palestinian’s right to 22 per cent of historic Palestinian on the West Bank.
This situation does not require bluster or the rehashing of old arguments no matter how just; it needs a clever strategy on the part of the Palestinian leadership. Abbas would be wise to throw the ball into Israel’s court and see where it lands.
To quote the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy it represented “the final nail in the coffin of that walking corpse known as the two-state solution” and “created a world in which the US president’s son-in-law is more powerful than the UN General Assembly …”
Abbas has turned his back on the United States administration. He has refused to take President Trump’s calls and missives and he is severing all security ties with both Israel and the US. His instincts are easily understood. Trump is no friend to the Palestinians and neither is the ‘deal’s’ architect Jared Kushner, who rather than woo the Palestinians to come onside now accuses their leadership of never doing anything right.
Abbas is behaving true to form. Of course he doesn’t want to go down in history as the man coerced into selling his people’s rights and aspirations in return for a $50 billion (Dh183.5 billion) purse. There was no crystal ball required to predict his response which came as no surprise to Trump and Netanyahu.
Trump's green light for Israel’s annexation of colonies
Perhaps those 80 pages were not designed to constitute an honest offer of statehood but rather a pretext oiling a green light from Trump paving Israel’s annexation of all its colonies on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley in violation of international law, the Geneva Conventions and a host of UN Security Council Resolutions.
Could it be that Abbas is playing right into the hands of this cosy joined-at-the-hip duo with his refusal to engage in what Kushner has billed as last chance talks? Is he being set-up as the fall guy robbing Palestinians of a secure and prosperous future because that is surely how he will be painted by Israel’s propaganda machine? That old canard “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” will be churned out ad infinitum by Hasbara operatives, who have turned blaming Palestinians into a fine art.
Tragically, Abbas has few cards to play. When asked on the BBC what solution was left to the Palestinian leadership, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the website Rai El Youm, who was born in a Gaza refugee camp, struggled to come up with an answer. The Palestinians could resort to launching a third intifada but there is little appetite among this crushed population to re-engage in violent resistance when the odds are stacked against them.
Israeli right-wing opposes 'Deal of the Century'
However, if it is the case that Trump’s plan isn’t meant to be taken seriously, Abbas might consider throwing a spanner in its wheel. For instance, if he expressed his willingness to deal in good faith, he would discombobulate the architects of this farcical offer and, moreover, his assent would ignite a political firestorm flaming Netanyahu’s cabinet.
Defence Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the religious right-wing Yamina Party, says he would never agree to transfer even a centimetre of land to the Arabs. Israel’s moderate parties including Labour and Meretz have slammed the plan on the grounds that one hand cannot clap to execute a peace plan unilaterally and have questioned whether an indicted caretaker prime minister possessed a mandate to take life-altering decisions.
If the far right and the left are dissenting now when because of Abbas’ intransigence the plan has no hope of getting off the ground, what will they do if the Palestinian President chooses to get on board? In the event, my guess is that Trump’s slap of the century will die a death by a thousand Israeli cuts. Most Israelis do not want a Palestinian state even a miniature one; they have the upper hand and are content with the status quo.
This situation does not require bluster or the rehashing of old arguments no matter how just; it needs a clever strategy on the part of the Palestinian leadership. Abbas would be wise to throw the ball into Israel’s court and see where it lands. After all, unless he has something better up his sleeve, what does he have to lose!
— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.