Details of the US president’s much-touted ‘Deal of the Century’ are scheduled to be announced at the White House today to coincide with visits by Israeli political rivals Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White centrist alliance.
Notably the invitation comes as the Knesset debates on whether Netanyahu should receive immunity from prosecution on charges of corruption and at a time when Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is in full swing. Certainly bringing the ‘deal’ into the light is not only guaranteed to distract public opinion from the murky clouds both men are under, it will also excite their respective right-wing bases.
The mood will be very different in countries neighbouring Israel however. In light of leaks by the Israeli media and Trump’s unapologetic generosity towards Israel, most regional leaderships view this upcoming occasion with trepidation, concerned that the plan’s release will further destabilise a region troubled by conflicts and public unrest.
Altering the identity
Jordan’s King Abdullah is especially concerned at the pressure from the US to open the door to Palestinian refugees in return for billions of US aid, which from the Hashemite Kingdom’s perspective would create a demographic time bomb altering the nation’s identity forever. For as long as I can remember, Israeli politicians have cited Jordan as a future Palestinian state.
Rather than a deal, an agreement entered into by concerned parties for their mutual benefit, this is a mob-style lose-lose offer the Palestinians cannot refuse … or else. In fact, the Palestinian National Authority that has had no input whatsoever in the making of this ‘deal’ will not gain sight of the small print until it reaches the public domain.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected US mediation following Trump’s unilateral gifting of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and rightly so. The current American administration has shown open hostility towards the Palestinians from the get-go, withdrawing all aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as to UNRWA tasked with caring for Palestinian refugees.
Honest peace broker
Moreover, the US has vetoed all UN resolutions critical of Israel’s policies and, adding insult to injury, Trump recently signed an executive order equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and he has overturned decades of his nation’s policy with an announcement that the US does not consider Israeli colonies on the occupied West Bank to be illegal. In short, the US has disqualified itself from any pretence at being any sort of peace broker.
There is not a chink of light between the Trump and Netanyahu administrations and so for all intents and purposes, together they represent a single entity; one that eschews any negotiations with the other side in favour of coercing the Palestinians to choose between very bad and worse. So let’s not continue deluding ourselves that there is a ‘deal’ in the offing. This is what we know or think we know at this juncture courtesy of reports in the Israeli media:
In return for a toothless demilitarised state without any control over its airspace or borders, the Palestinians are being asked to relinquish the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and to cede Jerusalem as well as up to a third of Palestinian territory to Israel. Palestinians should also agree to Israeli annexation of most West Bank colonies and the Jordan Valley. All is conditional upon the disarming of Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza which will be required to recognise Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Green light to annexation
Who in their right mind can imagine that Hamas and Islamic Jihad let alone the Palestinian National Authority will agree to those blatantly one-sided terms in the sole service of Israeli ambitions? It is little wonder that some commentators speculate the ‘deal’ is nothing more than pretext to oil Israel’s annexation ambitions and with good cause. If the Palestinians refuse to play ball, which they inevitably will, Trump will give Netanyahu the green light to immediately annex large West Bank colonies along with the Jordan Valley.
Just a few years ago the idea that hand-in-glove US and Israeli governments could trample over international law, the Geneva Conventions, and dozens of UN Security Council Resolutions to suit their own narrow interests would have been inconceivable. The US has no legal right to give away occupied land to the occupier or to give another country a green light to commit theft. But in our world where silence rings loudest and the powerful are immune from justice, there is only one law that counts—the law of the jungle. Those with the sharpest teeth call the shots.
Make no mistake! This is not just a Palestinian problem; it is part of a trend. The US president has blessed Israel’s annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, has proudly taken control of Syrian oilfields and he has refused to withdraw US troops from Iraqi soil unless Baghdad pays the US billions of dollars as a reimbursement for invading and occupying its soil! The more he gets away with, the more his reach will expand. Unless world leaders raise their objections with one voice, albeit a very unlikely scenario, the one question that springs to mind is where next?
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.