US President Donald Trump will finally unveil his long-awaited “Deal of the Century,” or roadmap for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Underlining the event, Trump invited the Israeli prime minister to the White House.
Trump's peace plan has already been rejected by Arabs and Palestinians and caused much dismay in the Arab world, angered that the deal is heavily in Israel’s favour.
The relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the recognition of the city as Israel’s capital as planks of the US president’s Middle East policies only added to distrust of his “Deal of the Century.”
Above all, mediation for or acceptance of any agreement needs the presence of both sides of any conflict. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who does not consider Mr Trump’s administration credible and qualified to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and was absent from the decision-making process. Thus, the Trump plan is null and void.
Among pre-conditions envisaged in the “Deal of the Century” are: disarmament of Hamas and the whole of the Gaza Strip; permanent military presence of Israeli forces at the borders with Jordan; permanent annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories; and other concessions in favour of Israel.
Now, let us look at Palestinians and the condition under which they live.
Palestinian aspirations, and the freedom movement that once inspired freedom fighters across the world, are history now. The world’s image of Palestine is one of extremism, violence and terror, poverty, and the desperation of besieged people who are neither welcome by other nations nor — by being locked in by Israel — enjoy freedom of movement.
It is fair to say that the shattered dream of a "two-state solution" and the disintegration of Palestine into a hundred pieces is not necessarily the result of Trump’s imposing policies, or Netanyahu’s attempts to take advantage of the current situation.
Futile wars of recent years between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Gaza, provoked and supported by Iran which only served the Islamic Republic’s interests, made the life of the ordinary Palestinian that much harder and more complicated, and strengthened the presence and power of extremist and jihadi groups.
It is said that the unveiling of Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is partly aimed at boosting his re-election campaign (to gain American Jewish votes), realising his election pledges, muddying his impeachment process in Congress. and diverting attention from Netanhayu’s indictment on corruption charges.
I think these reasons are not sufficient. I think the most important reason for inviting Netanhayu to Washington to unveil the so called “Deal of the Century” is to take advantage of the atmosphere created by Iran’s threats against Israel and the region as a whole. Iran has, over the past two weeks, launched the most serious security threat in its history against Israel and Middle East countries.
Iran’s missile attacks against US bases in Iraq, along with its threats against countries that would allow the US to use their territory for undermining Iran’s interests (meaning the Gulf countries) alerted the whole region and put these countries in a difficult situation.
Security is the most important concern of the countries of the region, but Trump has repeatedly talked of the security of Israel only. Palestinian aspirations are considered an Arab issue. This is a sacred ideal, but in the face of Iran’s threats, perhaps Trump could — with the cooperation of other countries — shrewdly conjure up an agreement that would pave the way for his “Deal of the Century.”
The “Peace and Prosperity Workshop” for Palestinians held in Bahrain back in summer was received coldly by Arab countries. The US administration had hoped that the rich countries of the Gulf region would be persuaded to invest in Gaza and the West Bank. Jared Kushner’s economic plan for attracting $50 billion at the Bahrain conference did not bear fruit. High level delegations from Arab countries were absent from the conference. Israel did not send its officials and Mahmoud Abbas kept to his position of boycotting any gathering initiated by Trump and his administration.
Before committing themselves to any participation in economic programmes, rich countries of the Gulf region first and foremost wanted to know the political arrangements of Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”
Arab countries are not prepared to accept Trump’s position on Jerusalem and the unilateral annexation of the Golan Heights to Israel. On the other hand, serious threats from Iran and concern over their national security might put them in a position where they find themselves obliged to submit to Trump’s pressure for participation in the “Deal of the Century,” and even give some concession towards it.
Perhaps the dream of an independent Palestine will never materialise. But the end of this dream does not mean more security for Israel and the end of tensions in the region. The disintegration of this dream would confront the region with more crises and more challenges. It would encourage antisemitism and the growth of more extremist groups in Palestinian areas.
The only peace agreement that would bear fruit is the one in which Palestinians and their representatives are part of. To reach that goal, peace negotiations should be brokered between Hamas and Fatah.
The only peace agreement with Israel that would be sustainable is the one in which Arab countries that have a stake and influence in the region are included in negotiations and bless it with their support. They have repeatedly said that they favour the late King Abdullah’s roadmap for peace and recognition of Israel. In the absence of such a framework, their participation in such gatherings and their cooperation with the US is not out of support for Trump's plan, but because threats from Iran have forced them to do so.
Iran’s change of position toward its Arab neighbours could have been a key factor in the annulment of Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” but it is most unfortunate that Iran itself is the main factor for its fruition.