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Trump’s peace plan has been designed to fail – exactly like its predecessors

Opinion
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Donald Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, offering the Palestinians economic bribes in return for political submission, is the endgame of western peace-making, the real goal of which has been failure, not success.

For decades, peace plans have made impossible demands of the Palestinians, forcing them to reject the terms on offer and thereby create a pretext for Israel to seize more of their homeland.

The more they have compromised, the further the diplomatic horizon has moved away – to the point now that the Trump administration expects them to forfeit any hope of statehood or a right to self-determination.

Even Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and architect of the peace plan, cannot really believe the Palestinians will be bought off with their share of the $50 billion inducement he hoped to raise in Bahrain last week.

That was why the Palestinian leadership stayed away.

But Israel’s image managers long ago coined a slogan to obscure a policy of incremental dispossession, masquerading as a peace process: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

It is worth examining what those landmark “missed opportunities” consisted of.

The first was the United Nations’ Partition Plan of late 1947. In Israel’s telling, it was Palestinian intransigence over dividing the land into separate Jewish and Arab states that triggered war, leading to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of most of the Palestinians’ homeland.

But the real story is rather different.

The recently formed UN was effectively under the thumb of the imperial powers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. All three wanted a Jewish state as a dependent ally in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

Fuelled by the dying embers of western colonialism, the Partition Plan offered the largest slice of the Palestinian homeland to a minority population of European Jews, whose recent immigration had been effectively sponsored by the British empire.

As native peoples elsewhere were being offered independence, Palestinians were required to hand over 56 per cent of their land to these new arrivals. There was no chance such terms would be accepted.

However, as Israeli scholars have noted, the Zionist leadership had no intention of abiding by the UN plan either. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, called the Jewish state proposed by the UN “tiny”. He warned that it could never accommodate the millions of Jewish immigrants he needed to attract if his new state was not rapidly to become a second Arab state because of higher Palestinian birth rates.

Ben Gurion wanted the Palestinians to reject the plan, so that he could use war as a chance to seize 78 per cent of Palestine and drive out most of the native population.

For decades, Israel was happy to entrench and, after 1967, expand its hold on historic Palestine.

In fact, it was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who made the biggest, unreciprocated concessions to peace. In 1988, he recognised Israel and, later, in the 1993 Olso accords, he accepted the principle of partition on even more dismal terms than the UN’s – a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

Even so, the Oslo process stood no serious chance of success after Israel refused to make promised withdrawals from the occupied territories. Finally, in 2000 President Bill Clinton called together Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to a peace summit at Camp David.

Arafat knew Israel was unwilling to make any meaningful compromises and had to be bullied and cajoled into attending. Clinton promised the Palestinian leader he would not be blamed if the talks failed.

Israel ensured they did. According to his own advisers, Barak “blew up” the negotiations, insisting that Israel hold on to occupied East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and large areas of the West Bank. Washington blamed Arafat anyway, and refashioned Israel’s intransigence as a “generous offer”.

A short time later, in 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Peace Initiative offered Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for a minimal Palestinian state. Israel and western leaders hurriedly shunted it into the annals of forgotten history.

After Arafat’s death, secret talks through 2008-09 – revealed in the Palestine Papers leak – showed the Palestinians making unprecedented concessions. They included allowing Israel to annex large tracts of East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ expected capital.

Negotiator Saeb Erekat was recorded saying he had agreed to “the biggest [Jerusalem] in Jewish history” as well as to only a “symbolic number of [Palestinian] refugees’ return [and a] demilitarised state … What more can I give?”

It was a good question. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s negotiator, responded, “I really appreciate it” when she saw how much the Palestinians were conceding. But still her delegation walked away.

Trump’s own doomed plan follows in the footsteps of such “peace-making”.

In a New York Times commentary last week Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, candidly encapsulated the thrust of this decades-long diplomatic approach. He called on the Palestinians to “surrender”, adding: “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.”

The peace process was always leading to this moment. Trump has simply cut through the evasions and equivocations of the past to reveal where the West’s priorities truly lie.

It is hard to believe that Trump or Kushner ever believed the Palestinians would accept a promise of “money for quiet” in place of a state based on “land for peace”.

Once more, the West is trying to foist on the Palestinians an inequitable peace deal. The one certainty is that they will reject it – it is the only issue on which the Fatah and Hamas leaderships are united – again ensuring the Palestinians can be painted as the obstacle to progress.

The Palestinians may have refused this time to stumble into the trap, but they will find themselves the fall guys, whatever happens.

When Trump’s plan crashes, as it will, Washington will have the chance to exploit a supposed Palestinian rejection as justification for approving annexation by Israel of yet more tranches of occupied territory.

The Palestinans will be left with a shattered homeland. No self-determination, no viable state, no independent economy, just a series of aid-dependent ghettos. And decades of western diplomacy will finally have arrived at its preordained destination.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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6 Responses

  1. on July 2, 2019, 12:22 pm

    well written article

  2. LiberatePalestine on July 2, 2019, 12:24 pm

    → The recently formed UN was effectively under the thumb of the imperial powers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. All three wanted a Jewish state as a dependent ally in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

    The Soviet Union opposed Britain’s Zionist entity. It voted in favour of the UN’s criminal «Partition Plan» because Britain’s Zionist entity was already a fait accompli.

    The Zionist entity never would have come about without Britain.

    → As native peoples elsewhere were being offered independence,

    Rather, colonial empires elsewhere were collapsing.

    → Palestinians were required to hand over 56 per cent of their land to these new arrivals. There was no chance such terms would be accepted.

    Of course. Why on earth should they have been? No country would have handed over 56% of its land, or even 0,56%, to a group of invaders—especially an imperialist-backed group with an avowed intention of taking the whole country and for that matter much of the surrounding territory.

    → David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, called the Jewish state proposed by the UN “tiny”. He warned that it could never accommodate the millions of Jewish immigrants he needed to attract if his new state was not rapidly to become a second Arab state because of higher Palestinian birth rates.

    Yet another reason for which Zionism was always wrong.

    → It is hard to believe that Trump or Kushner ever believed the Palestinians would accept a promise of “money for quiet” in place of a state based on “land for peace”.

    Of course they did not. Their so-called «deal» was nothing but a dog-and-pony show designed to deceive the uninformed and frame the Palestinians yet again as intransigent when that jackboot is squarely on the other foot.

  3. wondering jew on July 2, 2019, 11:48 pm

    Propaganda!

    A keen eyed description of the negotiations that took place between 2000 and 2001 and again in 2008, would be they got very close, but Israeli leaders were unwilling to close either of the two deals that were within reach those years, because those leaders had to face the Israeli electorate and the Israeli electorate was not willing to back the deals that the leadership was capable of. That would be accurate: still placing the blame on Israel, but not the false process, but the very real fact that the Israeli public was not willing to back Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert.

    The way this article is written is just propaganda. not trying to describe the facts, but with an agenda of something to prove. tendentious propaganda. the truth should be enough
    but Cook has something to sell. an angle, a headline. but in the end a distortion when the truth can be written in fifty words or less.
    Israeli leaders came close to signing a deal with the PLO both in 2001 and in 2008 and the reason neither deal came to fruition was because Israel has elections and the deals, had they been signed, would have been defeated at the polls.

    • LiberatePalestine on July 3, 2019, 10:11 am

      Cook is quite right. Your explanation «that the Israeli public was not willing» does not contradict Cook in any way. On the contrary, it underscores the commitment of the settler-colonial public to the criminal Zionist project of apartheid and genocide.

      There’s nothing wrong with having «an agenda of something to prove». In a discussion of the criminal Zionist project, it would be wrong not to have an anti-Zionist agenda.

    • Misterioso on July 3, 2019, 10:12 am

      @wondering jew

      Reality:

      The Camp David summit (July 11-25, 2000) failed primarily due to the fact that Barak and Clinton made no offer to the Palestinians that provided a credible basis for negotiations.

      As Aaron David Miller, a key member of the U.S. negotiating team, revealed to author Clayton Swisher (The Truth about Camp David: The Untold Story about the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process, Nation Books, 2004), even at this late stage President Clinton remained poorly prepared. “Things got no better as the final months of Clinton’s administration went on. Miller confesses to Swisher that the so-called ‘parameters’ that Clinton finally presented [at Camp David] – the first time the Clinton team had ventured to adopt a policy position – were still being revised the very day they were presented, meaning that, as Miller notes, ‘we were not ready.’ This was less than a month before the end of eight years in office. Clinton and company lacked a clear strategy and ‘dithered’ over what exactly the parameters were to define.” (Kathleen Christison, “Camp David Redux, Counterpunch, 15 August 2005)

      Even before the summit began Arafat expressed serious concern that it might fail as not enough time had been devoted to preparation. Nevertheless, he agreed to attend following President Clinton’s assurance that he would not be blamed if negotiations collapsed. According to Palestinian negotiator Abu Ala’a (Ahmed Qurei), as quoted by New York Times columnist Deborah Sontag, “[w]e told [Barak that] without preparation it would be a catastrophe, and now we are living the catastrophe. Two weeks before Camp David, Arafat and I saw Clinton at the White House. Arafat told Clinton he needed more time. Clinton said, ‘Chairman Arafat, come try your best. If it fails, I will not blame you.’ But that is exactly what he did.” (“Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,” Deborah Sontag, New York Times, 26 July 2001)

      “In July 2000, at President Clinton’s Camp David retreat, he [Barak] laid before Arafat his take-it-or-leave-it compromise. In return for his solemnly abjuring all further claims on Israel, Israel would acquiesce in the emergence of a Palestine state. Or at least the pathetic travesty of one, covering even less than the 22% of the original homeland to which he had already agreed to confine it; without real sovereignty, East Jerusalem as its capital, or the return of refugees. Most of the detested, illegal settlements would remain.” (David Hirst, The Guardian, 11 November 2000.

      The contention by Israel and its supporters that Arafat and his negotiators failed to come up with any proposals of their own regarding key issues is contradicted by the facts. As Robert Malley and Hussein Agha note regarding the Palestinians’ readiness to negotiate a solution to the refugee issue that would not threaten Israel’s majority: “No other Arab party that has negotiated with Israel, not Anwar el-Sadat’s Egypt, not King Hussein’s Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Asad’s Syria ever came close to even considering such compromises.” (Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, The New York Review of Books, 9 August 2001)

      Arafat and his team also put counter proposals on the table. Regarding the very difficult matter of East Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister and chief Israeli negotiator at Camp David 2000, Shlomo Ben-Ami, revealed that “he spent considerable time after Camp David trying to explain to Israelis that the Palestinians indeed did make significant concessions from their vantage point. ‘They agreed to Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, 11 of them’, he said. ‘They agreed to the idea that three blocs of the settlements they so oppose could remain in place and that the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter could be under Israeli sovereignty.’ ” (Deborah Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,”, New York Times, 26 July 2001)

      With Clinton’s approval, “Dennis Ross, actually worked with an Israeli negotiator in the middle of the night before the [Camp David] summit collapsed to draft Clinton’s ‘blame speech,’ casting Arafat as the bad guy and Barak as the courageous risk-taker…. [Ross also] spent four hours with [Colin] Powell during the transition [to the Bush administration after Taba II] and reportedly told the incoming secretary of state not to believe a word Arafat said because he was ‘a con man.’ “(Kathleen Christison)

      Furthermore, according to author Clayton Swisher, “Clinton spent Inauguration Day 2001…telling the incoming Bush team about his disappointment with Arafat, who he said had torpedoed the peace process, and he urged Colin Powell not to invest any energy dealing with the Palestinian leader….” (Kathleen Christison)

      In short, working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat during the 2000 Camp David Summit. It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel’s foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

      Taba II, January 22 – 28, 2001:
      Although the Taba II talks were ultimately suspended in the midst of discussions, official reports indicated that some progress had been made. “‘Peace seemed very possible at Taba’,” [Israeli Foreign Minister] Mr. Ben-Ami said. And [Palestinian negotiator] Mr. Abu Ala said, ‘In Taba, we achieved real tangible steps toward a final agreement’.” (“Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,” Deborah Sontag, New York Times, 26 July 2001)

      As had occurred following the breakdown of the Camp David Summit, Israel (and subsequently, President Clinton, Dennis Ross et al.) falsely accused Arafat of turning down another “generous offer” at Taba II and contrary to reality, blamed him for the suspension of talks.

      While his remarks received scant attention in the media, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel’s foreign minister, set the record straight regarding the suspension of Taba II: “Despite reports to the contrary in Israel, however, Mr. Arafat never turned down ’97 percent of the West Bank’ at Taba, as many Israelis hold….” (Deborah Sontag)

      The “offer” made in 2008 by then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was never seen as serious because it lacked cabinet approval, he was under indictment for corruption with only a few weeks left in office, had only a 6% favorable rating, and, therefore, couldn’t have closed the deal, even if the Palestinians had accepted it. (Olmert was imprisoned.)

    • Mooser on July 3, 2019, 7:58 pm

      “Propaganda!The way this article is written is just propaganda.” “wj”

      And article is way too short!

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