The US president’s ‘Deal of the Century’ is due to be unveiled after Ramadan. However, chances are it will be no monumental gift to the region but rather a futile attempt by a dishonest broker to impose a settlement that likely contradicts decades of United Nations Security Council Resolutions and U-turns on America’s long-held adherence to a two-state solution.
The details remain under wraps but, in light of the Trump administration’s fervently pro-Israel leanings, Palestinian leaders who have rejected negations with the occupier and its powerful sugar daddy are bracing themselves for the worst.
And who can blame them for being sceptical when the United States has recognised [occupied] Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, withdrawn aid to the Palestinians as well as UNRWA that cares for refugees, and has rubber-stamped Israel’s theft of sovereign Syrian territory, the Golan Heights.
Moreover, Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election pledge to annex areas of the West Bank raised few eyebrows in Washington.
Judging by a report in the Washington Post, the White House hopes to buy the compliance of Palestinians and their neighbours on a deal which eschews sovereignty for some type of autonomy with the dangling of economic incentives and investments benefitting the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Egypt.
Pie in the sky
The idea that filthy lucre can purchase Palestinians’ longing for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital is mere pie in the sky. It is hard to imagine that Trump’s advisers believe that these long-oppressed people would agree to remain under Israel’s boot in exchange for economic benefits which leads me to suspect that the deal is a set-up, a ploy designed to elicit rejection.
Israel can once again promote the line “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, Trump can announce he tried his best and then he will feel free to make further unilateral concessions to the poor victimised Jewish state.
Alternatively, the US administration may have had a very different blueprint to start with, one that was predicated on a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation and an enlarged Gaza involving a swath of Egypt’s northern Sinai. Those options would not be acceptable to Amman or Cairo let alone Ramallah.
Interestingly, US envoy Jason Greenblatt was driven to tweet his denials. “Rumours that our peace vision includes a confederation between Jordan, Israel and the PA, or that the vision contemplates making Jordan the homeland for Palestinians, are incorrect,” he wrote. An earlier tweet wrote off any extension of Gaza on Egyptian soil as “false”.
Sure, such unrealistic scenarios that would have seriously destabilised the Middle East may be off the table now due to fierce opposition, but it is likely they were once the plan’s bedrock. I suspect that the coming ‘Deal of the Century’ will probably be a watered-down version without guts.
Hamas has held a meeting of Palestinian factions in Gaza in an attempt to unite “a broad participation of faction leaders and national forces” against the potential danger to the Palestinian cause, no matter the costs.
Hamas’ senior political leader Esmail Haniya is anxious to mend bridges with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the way forward, saying he is ready to meet with him anywhere at any time.
In truth, Palestinians of all political stripes do need to overcome their differences to show a united front so that allies can coalesce behind them. It is practically a given that the so-called deal will end up in the round bin. America’s Ambassador to Israel David Friedman concedes there is little interest on the part of the Israelis but when asked by the Jerusalem Post whether its unveiling and subsequent rejection might make matters worse, his reply was ominous. The US continues to “calibrate” and is “cognizant of all the factors implicated by the roll-out,” he said.
The question is whether Trump’s peace plan is a genuine attempt at peacemaking or a provocation that could result in violence giving Israel a pretext to crack down and continue its land grab? We shall see!
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.