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The ‘Deal of the Century,’ an architecture of exclusion

Opinion
on 22 Comments

It has been one week since the Trump administration announced the “Deal of the Century”, a plan ostensibly meant to devise a formula for brokering a just and sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, however, has already been rejected by Palestinians, who protested across the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the Arab League, and the UN. The president of the Palestinian Authority, or PA, Mahmoud Abbas, has even threatened to dissolve security coordination with the State of Israel as a result. As the dust settles from the unleashing of the plan, it’s worth examining why it has been met with such hostility.

President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” much like his presidency, is a morbid joke. Sadly, however, the punchline running centerstage in this theater of the absurd is set to come at the expense of the Palestinians. This is because it is the culmination of an architecture of exclusion that has, for close to a hundred years, denied the Palestinians their agency and undermined their quest for self-determination, justice, and freedom. It treats the Palestinians not as equal partners with legitimate national rights and aspirations, but as a defeated party accepting the terms of surrender in the aftermath of a grueling conflict – unarmed, besieged, and left with the indignation of only having the option to accept whatever settlement is superimposed on them by the state of Israel. 

At worst, the deal outlines the parameters for their submission. At best, it proposes a deceptively delirious pathway to peace fashioned without consultation from the Palestinian side. It is a plan void of all Palestinian representation, a trap that is meant to present the indigenous Palestinians – namely, as a party fundamentally opposed to peace – but not represent them. 

The long-anticipated Middle East peace plan was unveiled last Monday at the White House by the president, who announced the directive with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. There, he bragged about every brazen aberration of international law his administration has enacted – from moving the embassy to Jerusalem to recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights. The crowd at the event also included, among others, Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law-made senior White House advisor and engineer of the so-called plan, conservative pro-Israel members of the U.S. establishment, and diplomatic envoys from Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – in summary, everyone except the Palestinian leadership.

This is more than simply symbolic. It is reflective of the irrelevance of the very notion of Palestine and the Palestinians in the eyes of Kushner, Trump, and Netanyahu. While successive generations of American leadership have treated Palestinians with a paradigm of impertinence, so one-sided is the current administration’s sidelining that the asymmetry in the dynamic crafted by this trio’s proposal, deceivingly titled “Peace to Prosperity,” was done without consultation or involvement from the side of the Palestinians.

And it shows. The plan, which virtually calls for the development of a Palestinian proto-state under the control of Israel, meets none of the rights and demands articulated by, and entitled to, the Palestinians, and endorsed by the international community. Instead, the plan offers the people of occupied Palestine an arrangement that depoliticizes their plight and reduces the conflict – particularly the daily perils of living under military rule – to an institution-building project that makes economic development, especially in the form of infrastructural projects driven by external investment, the centerpiece of the initiative. 

Palestinian protesters burn pictures depicting President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the Trump administration’s peace plan, in Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza Strip on January 31, 2020. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)


Palestinian protesters burn pictures depicting President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the Trump administration’s peace plan, in Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza Strip on January 31, 2020. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Following the Bahrain workshop, the plan calls for $50 billion in economic investment to build tunnels and bridges connecting the various Palestinian communities in the West Bank to one another and to Gaza. It will also give them access to two ports within Israel – Ashdod and Haifa. But Israel will maintain full control of borders, the registry, and essentially all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It effectively gives Israel final say in every aspect of the daily lives of Palestinians – without any assurances to stem Israeli military abuses, settler violence, home demolitions, and settlement expansions – and without the right to vote over a government which ultimately presides over their future. In other words, the plan constitutes an affirmation of apartheid.

Instead of sovereignty, the Palestinians are to receive perpetual occupation, cynically rebranded as statehood. Instead of the right of return for the descendants of those displaced during the nakba, the Palestinians are permitted to resettle 50,000 Palestinian refugees – all of whom are subject to denial by the Israeli government. Instead of a centralized military, the Palestinians are to live in a demilitarized entity comprised of a series of Bantustans. Instead of freedom, the Palestinians are afforded internal autonomy – ostensibly only nominally more than what is granted under the Oslo Accords. However, as Kushner’s conceptual map reminds us, the implementation of the blueprint, conveniently, is subject to “the terms and conditions provided in the Vision for Peace.”

And therein lies the problem: after enduring nearly a century of colonization, dispossession, subjugation, and violence, Trump, Netanyahu, and Kushner have presented the Palestinians with a proto-state, the “terms and conditions” of which were crafted without their input. This plan cements Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza and eternalizes the occupation under the veneer of statehood, legitimizing Israel’s disregard for international law in an attempt to structurally shift the annexation from de facto to de jure, and thus complete the process of land theft that began decades ago.

Occupation and annexation aside, the plan’s cynicism shines a light on what the Palestinian cause is consistently forced to endure. When they aren’t excluded and sidelined, the Palestinians are vilified and demonized. In other words, the Palestinians, to Israeli and American leaders, do not exist except as useful antagonists on which the failing peace process can be blamed and through which they can exonerate themselves of any and all culpability for the violence, bloodshed, and suffering shed on both sides, though Palestinians disproportionately bear the brunt.  

When they aren’t enduring military bombardments, the Palestinians are suffering at the perils of Israel’s sophisticated and repressive occupation apparatus. And when they resist – whether through non-violent civil disobedience or through physical force – they are labeled terrorists, rioters, those wishing to see Israel “wiped off the map”, supporters of Hamas, and antisemites. And when people rally behind their cause in order to push for an end to the occupation and a just solution to the conflict, as with the proponents of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions initiative, they are discredited based on their anti-apartheid activism. 

Overcoming this bifurcation – of being either excluded or demonized, invisible or an existential, demographic threat – will require creative thinking on the part of Palestinians everywhere, not least the PA, whose moral and political mandate has long expired. Palestinians must break the chains of this architecture of exclusion – and it starts with pressuring the PA to abandon the outdated and ineffectual peace process that has given Palestinian civilians living under occupation nothing but settlement proliferation, an internally repressive governmental authority, and the ongoing continuation of the nakba. It’s time to pursue alternative methods to obtain peace and justice in Palestine. 

Nizar Mohamad

Nizar Mohamad is an MA student at the University of Waterloo. His research has focused on the politics of the Levant, particularly Syria, Iraq, and Israel-Palestine.

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22 Responses

  1. Misterioso on February 4, 2020, 3:14 pm

    http://normanfinkelstein.com/2020/01/31/i-just-read-the-trump-administrations-vision-for-palestine/

    “I just read the Trump administration’s ‘Vision’ for Palestine….” by Dr. Norman Finkelstein, Jan. 31/20

    “Its essence is that the Palestinian people are retarded, but the US and Israel are prepared to usher them into Civilization. The only caveats are:

    “(1) Palestinians must forfeit about half the West Bank–this is called a ‘significant concession’ by Israel and ‘in the spirit of’ UN Resolution 242;

    “(2) Until they achieve Civilization–as certified by the US and Israel–Palestinians can’t have a ‘state’; and

    “(3) Even were this ‘state’ to eventually materialize, it would not possess any attributes of sovereignty–indeed, Israel would even maintain the right to decide, as in Gaza, whether a ‘dual-use”’item such as cement and medical equipment can be imported by this ‘state.'”

    • oldgeezer on February 4, 2020, 10:07 pm

      @Misterioso

      By my reading Palestinians may control and issue building permits but they are subject Israeli ‘security considerations’. Security considerations in the past have only served to provide cover for oppression and theft. Are we to expect Israel will change on it’s own accord?

      Immigration is not controlled by Palestinians. If they’re sovereign nations what right does Israel have to control it?

      The plan is a fraud. The Palestinians are being offered no sovereignty or even input into any significant issue that impacts on their daily lives. Residents of a western municipality have greater control of their lives and freedom from the higher levels of government than Palestinians can expect even if they ‘behave’according to their criminal oppressors.

    • Talkback on February 5, 2020, 8:36 am

      Nothing’s going to change even according to the plan. The plan is only the US pathetic attempt to sell its recognition of the illegal annexation of settlements land and the Jordan valley.

      • Ernie on February 5, 2020, 2:40 pm

        Well, actually, it’s more likely an attempt to cast the Palestinians as the intransigent obstacle to peace who ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’, once and for all. Even emanating from the smarmy gob of the ‘participation trophy son-in-law’. It may seem pathetic to us, but in a world where most of those who have heard of Palestine think of it as ‘the old name for Israel’, it will probably work.

        I think it also aims to avert the ‘South African-style struggle for equal voting rights’ that Olmert feared. Those ‘liberal Zionists’ who aver, like J Street, that ‘The two-state solution represents the best way to ensure that Israel remains a democracy and a national home for the Jewish people’ (https://jstreet.org/policy/the-two-state-solution/#.XjW9liNxU2w) will bleat that the Kushner proposal is not the Two State solution they meant (https://jstreet.org/press-releases/trumps-plan-is-a-push-for-endless-conflict-and-occupation-not-peace/#.XjW80iNxU2x) to no avail.

        As I wrote some years ago, ‘A popular misconception among advocates of the Two State “solution” is that ongoing encroachment by Israeli settlements, bypass roads, and the rest of the “matrix of control” will reduce the eventual rump Palestinian state to a series of discontiguous bantustans. While not actually false, this view misses the point that a Palestinian state was never going to be anything other than a bantustan, or more likely two or more discontiguous bantustans, even if it comprised the full 22% of Mandatory Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, because their function is to isolate a population in an ethnically homogeneous enclave adorned with some of the trappings of political autonomy with a view to preventing their exercise of citizens’ or residence rights in the metropole, exactly analogous to Bophuthatswana.’
        https://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-defeat-of-straw-men.html

  2. bcg on February 4, 2020, 4:25 pm

    Couldn’t Israel just send all the Palestinians to Liberia? …. oh, wait a minute, that was the attempt to get rid of unwanted African-Americans in the U.S. in the 19th century, sorry, sometimes it’s easy to get all the schemes to get rid of the Other mixed up….

    https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam002.html

    • Rosetta on February 4, 2020, 5:54 pm

      Big difference, African Americans came from Africa. Palestinians came from Palestine. Israelis come from Europe and are the analogy you sought for sending them back.

  3. Rosetta on February 4, 2020, 5:51 pm

    Israel cannot kill or drive out more than 6 million Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Neither can it maintain permanent occupation. This just brings the one-state solution that much closer. Justice will be done as every other coloniser has done, the land shared by equal citizens, indigenous and colonisers.

  4. HarryLaw on February 5, 2020, 7:43 am

    After studying this map … https://brilliantmaps.com/palestine-archipelago/ the question needs to be asked, how many walls will be needed to surround all these fragmented Palestinian Bantustans, sorry prisons?

    • Talkback on February 5, 2020, 8:14 am

      As much as needed so the Bantustans, sorry prison guards feel safe. You how frightened chicken can get when they see a Palestinian girl on its way to school, because that’s “education terrorism”.

      • RoHa on February 5, 2020, 11:10 pm

        Dammit, Talkback, that girl was armed with a bike! That’s an existential threat to the Jewish People. It had to be confiscated.

      • eljay on February 6, 2020, 7:23 am

        || RoHa: Dammit, Talkback, that girl was armed with a bike! … ||

        Not a bike – a terrorcycle.

      • Talkback on February 6, 2020, 9:13 am

        That’s unfortunate for the soldiers who only get promoted if they kill them.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iman_Darweesh_Al_Hams

  5. James Canning on February 5, 2020, 11:21 am

    Trump has no legal or moral right to distribute Israeli-occupied territories to Israel. Trump’s “might makes right” philosophy obviously is highly dangerous to the national security interests of the American people.

    • eljay on February 5, 2020, 11:45 am

      || James Canning: Trump has no legal or moral right to distribute Israeli-occupied territories to Israel. Trump’s “might makes right” philosophy obviously is highly dangerous to the national security interests of the American people. ||

      I remain baffled by just how diligently and fervently Zionists work to undermine international laws and human rights and the protections they are meant to afford all people and countries including themselves and their actual (and imagined) homelands.

  6. Misterioso on February 5, 2020, 11:27 am

    From Canada:

    https://www.ijvcanada.org/canadian-jews-stand-with-palestinians-in-rejecting-trumps-peace-plan/

    “Canadian Jews Stand With Palestinians in Rejecting Trump’s ‘Peace’ Plan.” February 3, 2020,IJV (Independent Jewish Voices) Canada

    “On January 28, 2020, US President Donald Trump unveiled his ‘peace’ plan for Israel-Palestine alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Notably absent alongside these two embattled leaders, fighting to hang on to their damaged political careers, was any of the Palestinian leadership. This is simply because the disastrous plan that Trump has touted as the ‘Deal of the Century’ is being seen by much of the world for what it really represents – the ‘Steal of the Century.’ Trump’s new plan is a significant shift from previous American foreign policy in the region, and a slap in the face of international law.

    “Independent Jewish Voices Canada condemns this ill-fated plan in no uncertain terms. We stand with the Palestinian people who are taking to the streets in the thousands, both in Palestine and throughout the world, to denounce what many have called Trump’s ‘apartheid plan.’ Moreover, we call on the Canadian government and Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne to unequivocally denounce this plan, and instead to remind Trump, Netanyahu, and the international community of their responsibilities to follow the principles of international law and justice.

    “There has never been a better time for BDS”

    “While the Trump plan could represent a disastrous turn for any chance of peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, for us it means staying the course, digging in our heels, and continuing the work we’re already doing.

    “IJV was the first national Jewish organization in Canada to endorse the Palestinian campaign of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS). Trump’s plan is a stark reminder of the importance of BDS at this critical juncture.

    “It is worth recalling the main demands of the BDS campaign, and how they relate to Trump’s apartheid plan:

    “1. Ending the Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the wall.”

    “Trump’s plan proposes that Israeli settlement blocs inside the occupied West Bank remain under Israeli control; that Jerusalem be Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital; and that some form of a Palestinian state also be created, albeit with limited sovereignty.

    “The Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is the longest military occupation in modern history. Trump’s position to suddenly view the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as legal under international law is a complete reversal of previous American foreign policy, and patently dangerous. The path towards a just peace in the region must include dismantling Israeli settlements, ending the occupation, and tearing down the inhumane wall.

    “2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.”

    “Trump’s plan suggests stripping nearly 250 000 Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship, and transferring them to a future Palestinian state. The mayor of Tayibe (one such Israeli town slated for a population transfer), Shuaa Massarweh Mansour, stated in no uncertain terms, ‘There will not be another Nakba’ (the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine during the war of 1948).

    “Palestinian citizens of Israel already face incredible discrimination in areas related to land rights, cultural and language rights, and education. Rather than stripping them of their citizenship, Palestinian citizens of Israel must be granted full civil and human rights under Israeli law.

    “3. Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194

    “Trump’s plan will effectively put an end to one of the central tenets of the Palestinian struggle: the right of return for all Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed by Israel from 1948 onwards. The plan lays it out in a blunt and cruel fashion: ‘The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement shall provide for a complete end and release of any and all claims relating to refugee or immigration status. There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel.’

    “We know that there can be no just peace in Israel-Palestine until all refugees are allowed the right to return home.

    “IJV invites all people of good conscience to join us in BDS actions, and resisting this plan with all our hearts and energies.”

    • eljay on February 5, 2020, 12:55 pm

      || Misterioso: From Canada:

      https://www.ijvcanada.org/canadian-jews-stand-with-palestinians-in-rejecting-trumps-peace-plan/ … ||

      Thanks for the article. It inspired a donation to IJVCanada.   :-)

      • Misterioso on February 5, 2020, 8:02 pm

        @eljay

        Your most welcome. Canada is an island of sanity in this screwed up world.

      • eljay on February 5, 2020, 8:33 pm

        || Misterioso: @eljay

        Your most welcome. Canada is an island of sanity in this screwed up world. ||

        Not always (and no, RoHa, that’s not poutine’s fault) but I do appreciate the comment.  :-)

      • just on February 5, 2020, 8:37 pm

        Ireland is also an “island of sanity in this screwed up world”. Thank you, Misterioso and eljay.

        IJV stands for justice ~ hooray!

      • oldgeezer on February 5, 2020, 8:44 pm

        @Misterioso

        As a canuck I wish I could agree with you about Canada. I feel that like other western states our rights and freedoms are under attack, our political system has been compromised to benefit foreign states and our sanity is rapidly disappearing.

      • oldgeezer on February 5, 2020, 9:36 pm

        @just

        Personally I think Ireland is not only sane but a bit more sane than Canada. Of course you don’t Trump, and the dirtbags he’s surrounded himself with, living as near to you.

  7. Ernie on February 5, 2020, 2:43 pm

    Isn’t what the Kushner plan actually proposes bad enough, without unnecessary distortions and misreadings like, ‘the Palestinians are permitted to resettle 50,000 Palestinian refugees – all of whom are subject to denial by the Israeli government’?

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