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Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ won’t bring peace – that was the plan

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Much of Donald Trump’s long-trailed “deal of the century” came as no surprise. Over the past 18 months, Israeli officials had leaked many of its details.

The so-called “Vision for Peace” unveiled on Tuesday simply confirmed that the US government has publicly adopted the long-running consensus in Israel: that it is entitled to keep permanently the swaths of territory it seized illegally over the past half-century that deny the Palestinians any hope of a state.

The White House has discarded the traditional US pose as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders were not invited to the ceremony, and would not have come had they been. This was a deal designed in Tel Aviv more than in Washington – and its point was to ensure there would be no Palestinian partner.

Importantly for Israel, it will get Washington’s permission to annex all of its illegal settlements, now littered across the West Bank, as well as the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. Israel will continue to have military control over the entire West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to bring just such an annexation plan before his cabinet as soon as possible. It will doubtless provide the central plank in his efforts to win a hotly contested general election due on March 2.

The Trump deal also approves Israel’s existing annexation of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians will be expected to pretend that a West Bank village outside the city is their capital of “Al Quds”. There are incendiary indications that Israel will be allowed to forcibly divide the Al Aqsa mosque compound to create a prayer space for extremist Jews, as has occurred in Hebron.

Further, the Trump administration appears to be considering giving a green light to the Israeli right’s long-held hopes of redrawing the current borders in such a way as to transfer potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians currently living in Israel as citizens into the West Bank. That would almost certainly amount to a war crime.

The plan envisages no right of return, and it seems the Arab world will be expected to foot the bill for compensating millions of Palestinian refugees.

Map of a future Palestinian state in the Trump administration plan.

Map of a future Palestinian state in the Trump administration plan.

A US map handed out on Tuesday showed Palestinian enclaves connected by a warren of bridges and tunnels, including one between the West Bank and Gaza. The only leavening accorded to the Palestinians are US pledges to strengthen their economy. Given the Palestinians’ parlous finances after decades of resource theft by Israel, that is not much of a promise.

All of this has been dressed up as a “realistic two-state solution”, offering the Palestinians nearly 70 percent of the occupied territories – which in turn comprise 22 percent of their original homeland. Put another way, the Palestinians are being required to accept a state on 15 percent of historic Palestine after Israel has seized all the best agricultural land and the water sources.

Like all one-time deals, this patchwork “state” – lacking an army, and where Israel controls its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace – has an expiry date. It needs to be accepted within four years. Otherwise, Israel will have a free hand to start plundering yet more Palestinian territory. But the truth is that neither Israel nor the US expects or wants the Palestinians to play ball.

That is why the plan includes – as well as annexation of the settlements – a host of unrealisable preconditions before what remains of Palestine can be recognised: the Palestinian factions must disarm, with Hamas dismantled; the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas must strip the families of political prisoners of their stipends; and the Palestinian territories must be reinvented as the Middle East’s Switzerland, a flourishing democracy and open society, all while under Israel’s boot.

Instead, the Trump plan kills the charade that the 26-year-old Oslo process aimed for anything other than Palestinian capitulation. It fully aligns the US with Israeli efforts – pursued by all its main political parties over many decades – to lay the groundwork for permanent apartheid in the occupied territories.

Trump invited both Netanyahu, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, and his chief political rival, former general Benny Gantz, for the launch. Both were keen to express their unbridled support.

Between them, they represent four-fifths of Israel’s parliament. The chief battleground in the March election will be which one can claim to be better placed to implement the plan and thereby deal a death blow to Palestinian dreams of statehood.

On the Israeli right, there were voices of dissent. Settler groups described the plan as “far from perfect” – a view almost certainly shared privately by Netanyahu. Israel’s extreme right objects to any talk of Palestinian statehood, however illusory.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition will happily seize the goodies offered by the Trump administration. Meanwhile the plan’s inevitable rejection by the Palestinian leadership will serve down the road as justification for Israel to grab yet more land.

There are other, more immediate bonuses from the “deal of the century”.

By allowing Israel to keep its ill-gotten gains from its 1967 conquest of Palestinian territories, Washington has officially endorsed one of the modern era’s great colonial aggressions. The US administration has thereby declared open war on the already feeble constraints imposed by international law.

Trump benefits personally, too. This will provide a distraction from his impeachment hearings as well as offering a potent bribe to his Israel-obsessed evangelical base and major funders such as US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the run-up to a presidential election.

And the US president is coming to the aid of a useful political ally. Netanyahu hopes this boost from the White House will propel his ultra-nationalist coalition into power in March, and cow the Israeli courts as they weigh criminal charges against him.

How he plans to extract personal gains from the Trump plan were evident on Tuesday. He scolded Israel’s attorney-general over the filing of the corruption indictments, claiming a “historic moment” for the state of Israel was being endangered.

Meanwhile, Abbas greeted the plan with “a thousand nos”. Trump has left him completely exposed. Either the PA abandons its security contractor role on behalf of Israel and dissolves itself, or it carries on as before but now explicitly deprived of the illusion that statehood is being pursued.

Abbas will try to cling on, hoping that Trump is ousted in this year’s election and a new US administration reverts to the pretence of advancing the long-expired Oslo peace process. But if Trump wins, the PA’s difficulties will rapidly mount.

No one, least of all the Trump administration, believes that this plan will lead to peace. A more realistic concern is how quickly it will pave the way to greater bloodshed.

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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13 Responses

  1. eljay on January 30, 2020, 10:41 am

    According to brent, the Palestinians can “outsmart” Trump – get him to turn his back on Israel and Zionists and to favour justice, accountability and equality in I-P – in four simple steps:
    – restate things he has said;
    – ask for clarifications;
    – not say ‘no’; and
    – NEGOTIATE* with him.

    Israel and Zionists won’t know what hit ’em!
    _____________________
    (*It’s not exactly clear what they’re supposed to negotiate with, since they don’t have the benjamins, the political influence, military strength, Jerusalem (or much territory at all) or control of exploitable natural resources.)

  2. bcg on January 30, 2020, 1:41 pm

    Well, at least the New York Times will (occasionally) allow someone to tell the truth in an editorial. Today Nathan Thrall’s opinion piece appeared in the NYT, titled “A Mideast Plan and the Ugly Truth”. You can’t get in unless you’re a subscriber so I’ll copy a few paragraphs –

    On Tuesday, President Trump released his long-gestating plan for Middle East peace, the so-called “deal of the century.” It calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza; for Jerusalem, including its Old City, to be the undivided capital of Israel; and for Israel to annex all settlements, as well as the Jordan Valley — which makes up nearly a fourth of the West Bank, including its eastern border with Jordan — creating a discontiguous Palestinian archipelago state, surrounded by a sea of Israeli territory. ….For over a century, the West has supported Zionist aims in Palestine at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population. In 1917, the British government promised to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, where Jews made up less than 8 percent of the population. Thirty years later, the United Nations proposed a plan to partition Palestine: The Jews, who made up less than a third of the population and owned less than 7 percent of the land, were given the majority of the territory. During the ensuing war, Israel conquered more than half the territory allotted to the Arab state; four-fifths of the Palestinians who had lived in what became the new boundaries of Israel were prevented from returning to their homes. The international community did not force Israel to return the territory that it had seized, or to permit the return of refugees….There are now more Palestinians than Jews living in the territory under Israel’s control, according to the Israeli military. Whether in Mr. Trump’s vision or Mr. Clinton’s, American plans have confined most of the majority ethnic group into less than a quarter of the territory, with restrictions on Palestinian sovereignty so far-reaching that the outcome should more appropriately be called a one-and-a-half-state solution…..Mr. Trump’s plan has many severe faults: It prioritizes Jewish interests over Palestinian ones. It rewards and even incentivizes settlements and further dispossession of the Palestinians. But none of these qualities represent a fundamental break from the past. The Trump plan merely puts the finishing touches on a house that American lawmakers, Republican and Democrat alike, spent dozens of years helping to build. During the last several decades, as Israel slowly took over the West Bank, putting more than 600,000 settlers in occupied territory, the United States provided Israel with diplomatic backing, vetoes in the United Nations Security Council, pressure on international courts and investigative bodies not to pursue Israel, and billions of dollars in annual aid….Israel’s defenders like to say that Israel is being singled out, and they are right. Israel is the only state perpetuating a permanent military occupation, with discriminatory laws for separate groups living in the same territory, that self-identified liberals around the world go out of their way to justify, defend and even fund. In the absence of advocating policies with actual teeth, the Democratic critics of the Trump plan are not much better than the president. They are, not in words but in deeds, supporters of annexation and subjugation, too.

  3. Talkback on January 30, 2020, 2:39 pm

    Z: Hey Palestinians, we want to colonize Palestine. What are your thoughts?
    P: We don’t want that. That would violate our right to self determination.
    Z: Ok, but what if Great Britain becomes the mandatory of Palestine, and facilitates our immigration and colonization of Palestine through force?
    P: Through force? Great Britain would not have even the right to do that. And by the way, we want the US to be our mandatory.
    Z: Ok. How about this. We colonize Palestine under a mandate implemented by Great Britain and then we accept Great Britain’s proposal to partition Palestine.
    P: No, we don’t want to partition our country. We only want it to be released into independece as fast as Syria and Lebanon was realeased into independece.
    Z: Ok. but what if the UN recommends partition afte we have colonized Palestine without your consent?
    P: Nope, for the same reasons. And why would the UN not even ask us but other countries? The right to self determination and territorial integrity is enshrined in its charter.
    Z: OK, then how about we forget the UN and partition Palestine through war?
    P: No, no, no. That’s a legal no go. We are the majority and we don’t want either thhat nor war. We want an independent democracy, governed by majority ruling and including minority rights.
    Z: That’s what we want, too! So how about we partition Palestine an take 55% through war and expell the majority and then we hold elections?
    P: But that would not only be an illegal war, but also a crime against humanity. Do you think that it is a democratic principle to expell and denationalize voters, because of their heritage or faith? That’s Apartheid.
    Z: Mhm, You are right. Then how about we take not only 55%, but 78% through war and expell even more.
    P: Are you stupid? What did I just say?
    Z: Yeah, that was pretty stupid. But here’s an intelligent proposal: We take 78% through force, occupy the rest, expell even more Nonjews, illegally annex Jerusalem and illegaly settle in occupied territories and call the disputed. How about that?
    P: You must be totally out of your mind That’s even totally against international law.
    Z: And if we additionally build an illegal wall, de facto annex more occupied territories and keep the illegal settlements?
    P: What’s wrong with you? Are you on drugs?
    Z: No, but I’m running out of ideas. Let me ask the US to make a proposal on our behalf.
    US: Maybe this could work: Z illegaly annexes the Jordan Valley, too, demilitarizes P, so that P can’t defend themselves against Z, Z gives them some sort of limited souvereignity like a South African Apartheid Bantustan and Z keep P’s refugees expelled forever. And if that’s not convincing enough (allthough everybody knows that we are the leading country in the world when it comes to spreading freedom and democracy, USA!, USA!, USA!) we name it the deal of the century.
    Z: Yes, yes. that’s it! The deal of the century.
    P: I think that you both are a danger to the world and should be both put into a mental hospital.
    Z: See US, how many times they rejected our generous offers? They seem to hate us for no reasons.
    US: That’s obvious. You know what? Screw them. Just implement the deal of the century through force and I will recognize it.
    Z: Your’re the best. Allthough, while we are making peace, could you also …

    • JWalters on January 31, 2020, 4:13 am

      Laughed out loud!

      • Talkback on January 31, 2020, 9:51 am

        Glad you liked it. There were also a few more lines that didn’t make it, because the comment was closed.

        Z: Your’re the best. Allthough, while we are making peace, could you also …
        US: Recognized
        Z: We also have this illegal issue…
        US Recognized
        Z: And this another violation of international law of us which …
        US: Recognized
        Z: Some more human rights we want to violate, but …
        US Recognized
        Z: ….
        US: Recognized
        Z: Antisemite!
        US: Wtf?
        Z Sorry, I accidentally pushed that button.

    • Truthbug on February 3, 2020, 12:44 pm

      Excellent. Very accurate and well written. Though you left out the Benjamines, which could go into the “could you also…”

      Publish this elsewhere. I’ll spread it around, and thanks!

  4. Mooser on January 30, 2020, 6:38 pm

    US: Just implement the deal of the century through force and I will recognize it

    Z: You’re the best. But this kind of apartheid, keeping the Palestinians bottled up, an infrastructure of oppression, will be expensive, if we don’t want Jewish lives lost, very expensive, and we will blame any lives lost on the US since it’s your plan…

    • Talkback on January 31, 2020, 3:07 am

      Z: We can forgive the Palestinians who try to kill us to resist Apartheid, but we will never forgive them for forcing us to kill them to maintain it.

  5. Misterioso on January 30, 2020, 7:27 pm

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-peace-plan-farce-fraud-fury-200128164004266.html

    “Trump’s ‘peace plan’: The farce, the fraud and the fury” Al Jazeera, Jan. 30/20 by Marwan Bishara.

    “US arrogance towards the Palestinians will backfire, bigly.”

    “The Trump administration has finally lifted the curtains on the final act of its Middle East diplomacy by revealing the long-awaited, ahem, ‘peace plan’ in a surrealistic White House celebration.

    “I will admit from the outset that I cannot write about it with a straight face, considering the absurdity of the last three years of Trump policies towards Israel and Palestine.

    “To call it a ‘peace plan’ is to do injustice to the infamous ‘peace process’ and its many failed ‘peace plans.’ It is so much worse, that a better term for it would be an ‘assault on peace.’

    “Everything about the plan is farcical.

    “Its pompous name, the “Deal of the Century”; its unfit author, Jared Kushner, a fanatic Zionist supporter of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land; its premise, ‘when humiliation does not work, more humiliation will; its bizarre framing as a lovefest between the American and Israeli right; and its absurd substance, which punishes the victims and rewards the aggressors.

    “In the three decades of the American-led ‘peace process,’ successive administrations at least pretended to engage, consult or listen to the Palestinian side, even when doing Israel’s bidding.

    “But since occupying the White House, the Trump administration has, on Netanyahu’s advice, unashamedly acted to permanently deprive the Palestinians of their participation in the negotiations – and deprive them of their land, liberty and dignity.

    “And today, the Trump administration, in complicity with the Netanyahu government, is taking the root causes of the protracted conflict in Palestine, repackaging them and presenting them as a permanent solution.

    “Theatre of the absurd”
    “The devil is not in the detail; it’s in the headlines of Trump’s initiative.

    “So, to resolve the problem of the illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, Trump wants them legalised and recognised as part of Israel.

    “To resolve the problem of Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied Jerusalem, Trump wants it recognised as the capital of Israel and Israel alone.

    “To deal with the question of Palestinian refugees and their inalienable right of return and compensation, Trump wants to prevent their return.

    “To solve the problem of violent, repressive and inhumane Israeli control over the Palestinians, Trump wants to see that extended indefinitely. Even after the Palestinians meet all the new conditions imposed on them, they would still be at the mercy of Israel’s security forces.

    “The Trump plan tramples over United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which requires Israel to return to its 1967 borders (or to their approximate, according to past US initiatives), and redraws the borders to suit Israel’s settlements and facilitate its control.

    “Instead of ending Israel’s apartheid system in Palestine, Trump wants to see it continue under a different name, at least until his promise for a provisional Palestinian ‘state’ is fulfilled, one which will have no sovereignty or independence.

    “Basically, Trump envisions half a Palestinian state on half of the West Bank, but only after the Palestinians combat terrorism and recognise Israel as a Jewish state extending over some 90 percent of historic Palestine.

    “Trump’s embrace of apartheid in the holy land, as a pragmatic even indispensable prerequisite for ‘peace’ and stability adds insult to Palestinian injury.

    “And lest we forget, the Trump administration has already closed down the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority, transferred the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and repealed US recognition of the refugee issue by suspending all funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

    “The fraud behind the farce”
    “Future generations will probably remember nothing of significance from Trump’s 80-page plan, but they will recall the soap opera behind the ‘Deal of the Century’: how an inexperienced but ambitious man-boy named Jared manipulated his father-in-law, the powerful president, to support the fraudulent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay in power, and help Israel maintain all it gained illegally through war and violence.

    “If Jared cannot solve the Middle East conundrum, Trump remarked last month, no one can. He actually said that! A slap in the face to countless able American diplomats.

    “At any rate, no one really believes Trump is acting deliberatively, fairly or altruistically. No one. I suppose not even the president himself.

    “Nor does any reasonable person believe that the talented Mr. Netanyahu is anything but a fraud – certainly not Israel’s own attorney general, who indicted him on fraud charges just weeks before the US House of Representatives impeached Mr. Trump over the abuse of power.

    “What a great couple they make! What a match!”

    “Netanyahu has obviously a lot to gain, but what is in it for Trump?

    “The president is clearly after the vote of evangelical Christians, especially after some have denounced him recently; and of course, he is after the support of rich radical Zionists like Sheldon Adelson.

    “And Trump is seemingly buying into the ego trip – or trap – laid out for him by radical evangelicals and Zionists who have designated him a Jewish Messiah, destined to save not only the Jewish people, but the world.

    “Being a messiah certainly beats being a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It has a nicer ring to it.

    “So it is opportunism, populism and cynicism all wrapped in one deal, as Trump sacrifices whatever is left of US credibility on the international scene to get himself a second term – and Netanyahu a fourth.

    “Indeed, as one prominent former US diplomat remarked, never has an American president conceded to a foreign leader so much, so quickly, for so little, until the self-declared ‘great dealmaker’ appeared on the scene.

    “And so the farce continues: the blatant lies, the obvious complicity, the offensive deceit – and the disastrous consequences.

    “It is so outrageous that even leading American Zionist officials and diplomats, who long stood behind unconditional support for Israel, feel eerie and anxious about Trump’s ‘disastrous’ plan.

    “It is as tragic as it is laughable. But it will also prove dangerously disruptive for the region and America’s standing in it.

    “Arrogance before the downfall”
    “The Trump administration is banking on the more vulnerable or the more cynical Arab regimes to support and finance its plan despite its unbearable shortcomings.

    “That is why the plan is modelled, at least structurally, on the Bush administration’s 2003 road map for peace that was conceived after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq to ensure
    Israeli supremacy and Arab support.

    “Like Trump and Netanyahu, President George W Bush, in complicity with Israeli then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also envisioned a Palestinian pseudo-state in the form of self-governing autonomy, somewhere down at the end of a long road of Palestinian concessions and humiliation.

    “It was the sort of bait necessary for Arab and European leaders to justify their support – or at least non-rejection of the plan to their people. And it was the sort of trick that allowed Sharon to claim moderation and concession despite opposition from his fanatic settlers.

    “Bush hoped Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be gone before the final implementation of the final phases and replaced with the ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas.

    “Today, Trump hopes to see the 84-year-old Abbas, now considered an obstructionist, also
    gone and replaced by someone more amenable to US dictates.

    “Meanwhile, Trump has been deluded into thinking that if the US cannot write off the Palestinians altogether, at least it could pay them off with Arab money.

    “Kushner’s Bahrain summit last year was designed to pave the way for that kind of Gulf investment in his ‘Deal of the Century.’

    “Billions in of dollars may buy the Trump administration some time and some leverage, but that will be short-lived, as such bribery proved in the past.

    “Sooner or later, the Trump plan will find its way to the same place where the Bush plan
    ended, the dustbin of history.

    “Subservient Arab dictators will eventually fall but the people will endure, and they will not be so forgiving to American and Israeli arrogance. Their pent-up fury will come out sooner rather than later.

    “So, before president Trump gets too comfortable in his new anointment as messiah, he should familiarise himself with basic biblical wisdom: arrogance leads to downfall.”

  6. RoHa on January 31, 2020, 12:11 am

    Saw this on Moon of Alabama.

    https://www.moonofalabama.org/images10/palestine2.jpg

    (MoA says it’s Lebanese.)

  7. JWalters on January 31, 2020, 4:11 am

    These events reveal starkly that Trump is a quid pro quo puppet of Netanyahu and Adelson. THAT would be impeachable. But Nancy is also in on the deal, making sure the Israelis get their money every year.

    • Truthbug on February 3, 2020, 12:47 pm

      Yes, when it comes to Israel, official – and most of the unofficial – America prostrates profusely.

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