Donald Trump tried to sugarcoat his words to the Palestinians, who are angrily rejecting his so-called “peace plan.” He urged them to accept the proposal, which, he said, offered a historic opportunity—and the last one they were going to get—to realize their aspirations. He repeated the promise made last summer in Manama by his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, that there would be $50 billion in funding for the Palestinians and some Arab states.
However, in the end, the “Deal of the Century,” the plan on which the Trump Administration has been working for almost three years, is nothing more than an outright denial of international law and of the UN-sanctioned principle of the equality of all peoples and their right to freedom and dignity.
In Washington on Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at his side, Trump outlined the proposed solution by which the United States is officially giving over almost the entire territory of historic Palestine to Israel (this has been the de facto reality on the ground since 1967). With the exception of a few scraps of land, where the American president is proposing the establishment of a Palestinian “state” without sovereignty, without control of its airspace and borders (technically, it won’t have any borders), and which will remain de facto under the control of Israel.
Trump is offering the Palestinians a series of ragged strips of land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip—to be connected by a combination of roads and tunnels—that will be called the “State of Palestine.” However, the offer only stands if Hamas disarms and if the Palestinians agree to respect a series of strict security and administrative conditions. This “state,” Trump claimed, would have East Jerusalem as its capital, the Arab part of the city that has been occupied by Israel since 1967 along with the West Bank and Gaza. However, it remains a mystery how that would be possible, since—as Trump emphasized—all of Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of the State of Israel. US officials have clarified that the Palestinian capital would in fact be located only in some peripheral areas of East Jerusalem.
They also added that Israeli sovereignty would be recognized over Jewish colonial settlements in the West Bank (built in violation of international law), but with a requirement that no new buildings should be built there for four years, in order to give the two sides the opportunity to negotiate the details of an overall agreement. There is much skepticism on this particular point, also because the settlers and the bloc of right-wing parties led by Netanyahu will never accept a freeze on building activities.
Tuesday, Yesha, the council of the Jewish colonies, expressed itself almost unanimously against the Trump plan, saying it will never accept the existence of a Palestinian state, even in name only. Taking into account the fact that several Israeli ministers are themselves settlers and representatives of settlements, Netanyahu cannot afford to break up his right-wing coalition during the election campaign for the March 2 vote.
Taking advantage of the obvious Palestinian rejection of a proposal tailored exclusively to Israel’s interests, Netanyahu will commit to the part of the plan that all the right-wing parties agree on (and on which his “centrist” opponent, Gantz, has also expressed his approval): namely, the unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley and large portions of the West Bank, which the maps offered by the US administration present as part of the State of Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister said as much Tuesday, and as early as next week, the Netanyahu government is expected to draft a law for the official extension of Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territories that have been under military occupation for over 50 years. As the Israeli ambassador to the US, David Friedman, explained last night, Israel believes it is free to annex the colonies at any time.
There were Palestinian protests and gatherings in Gaza, Ramallah and other locations yesterday, in a “day of popular rage” against what they are calling the “deal of shame.” The President of the PNA, Mahmoud Abbas, refused to receive a copy of the 50-page US plan and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League. There was also a meeting between leaders of his Fatah party and representatives of the rival Hamas movement. However, for now, the Palestinian appeals to the world, to the Arab countries and to the EU in particular to reject the American deception seem to be falling on deaf ears.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a close ally of Trump, has already offered his seal of approval to the plan, and while they won’t say it openly, the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia and Emirates, are favorably disposed to Trump’s proposal, which would finally put an end to the Palestinian question and open the way to making deals between the Arab world and the Jewish state.
Paradoxically, it is Jordan and Egypt who are more skeptical or are against this plan; they are the only two Arab states to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Trump has told Jordan that it would retain its custodianship over the religious sites on the Jerusalem Holy Esplanade, but this is not enough to reassure Amman.