In a new turn in the history of the Middle East, the Palestinian cause is facing another challenge from the administration of US President Donald Trump. Trump announced on Tuesday a deal that will extend Israeli sovereignty over what remains of the Palestinian territories, and prevent the creation of an independent Palestinian state. This threatens more turmoil in a region that is already suffering the repercussions of civil wars and weak national governments in many countries. The US move comes at a very fragile moment in the Arab world, when regional institutions are not as effective on the Palestinian cause or any other issue. Most political settlement decisions are being taken in capitals outside the region, which has encouraged Washington and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to forge ahead with a plan that muzzles the rights of Palestinians.
The announcement by Trump that he intends to unveil the “Deal of the Century” triggered anger among Palestinians. Fatah said Trump used the deal to support Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections scheduled for March. Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said the new US plan is the “scam of the century”.
The US move also comes at a time when political settlements in Syria, Yemen and Libya are still floundering and conditions in Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan are on the verge of disaster, while key countries in the region — most notably Egypt — are confronting one wave of terrorism after the next due to conspicuous support by some countries in the region. Regional countries are also the target of increasing interference by major world powers in their internal affairs, while Turkey and Iran continue their dubious involvement in domestic conflicts and support for radical militias across the Arab world. They are taking advantage of the strategic vacuum created after the state of chaos that struck the region amid the Arab Spring.
The biggest threat to stability in the Middle East today is the continuation of ongoing open-ended scenarios. The US administration is adding another burden to events in a chaotic region, and destroying the capabilities of countries by abandoning its role as an honest broker in the peace process, despite strong objections inside the US and in major Arab capitals to its ideas. It is also giving a free hand to extremists who could take advantage of this unilateral move to promote their ideologies and start new cycles of violence in the region. This would make any peaceful settlement impossible any time soon.
Taking advantage of the fragile state of affairs in the Arab region by imposing measures that serve the interests of Israel is not a good idea, and demonstrates extreme ignorance and arrogance when dealing with the people of this region. It also ignores the fact that historic rights do not have a statute of limitation; nor are they buried by time. Not listening to the people of the region and leaders of countries involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while other major powers, such as China and Russia, stand silently by, as well as the absence of the UN in this proposal, will lead to a more dangerous path.
The deal will exacerbate the anger of the Arab masses who still believe the Palestinian cause is the top Arab priority, and that there is no alternative to a national Palestinian homeland as the product of a two-state solution. This is what the US always sought under previous administrations, and until recently insisted was the basis for a solution.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.