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The 'ultimate deal' keeps popping up

Feb 06,2018 - Last updated at Feb 06,2018

Donald Trump began talking about his ability to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict even before he took office. He did not seem to believe that relentless failure of decades of efforts to deal with the issue, American or otherwise, were related to the complex nature of the century-long conflict. Rather, he thought it was the lack of skill and determination on the part of peacemakers. Selling himself as the world's greatest dealmaker, he naturally claimed he could succeed where others have not.

Many of the basic ingredients of his "ultimate deal" have already leaked. None give rise to any hope that what the Trump peace team has in mind would lead to any progress. On the contrary, the ideas circulating about Jerusalem, the right of return and settlements have only widened the existing gaps between the sides and distanced any remaining chances of agreement, however slim.

Following Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital — a reckless act that he claims took Jerusalem "off the table" — there have been rumors about an American plan to recognise the settlements as part of Israel. That would be another step towards Israeli annexation of the West Bank, or most of it. That would mean the global outrage at the Trump Jerusalem announcement as demonstrated by overwhelming UN Security Council and General Assembly votes had little deterrent effect on Washington.

Now reports say that Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Middle East peace envoy, has told European diplomats in Jerusalem that the "ultimate deal" is already in its final preparation stages and will be unveiled in the spring. Some of them leaked details that cause serious alarm. 

If accurate, Greenblatt seems to have informed the Europeans that the final plan — which would keep the settlements in place, exclude Jerusalem and abolish the right of return of the Palestinian refugees — will not be subject to Palestinian approval. The Palestinians will not have a say in a plan meant to liquidate their cause, abolish their rights and block their self-determination once and for all.

Recent revelations, according to Greenblatt’s briefing to the European diplomats, reaffirm that Abu Dis, a small village outside Jerusalem, will be offered as the "capital" of the Palestinian state, but other Arab neighbourhoods like Beit Hanina and Shu’fat will be added to Abu Dis to enlarge the envisaged future Palestinian capital.

East Jerusalem, including the walled Old City including Muslim and Christian holy places, will remain in Israeli hands. A corridor will link the invented Palestinian Jerusalem to the Haram Al Sharif for worship purposes only. The settlements and the settlers on the occupied Palestinian land will remain in place and, of course, will continue to grow.

The Palestinians will also be offered a state in name only on remnants of the West Bank — leftover shreds of territory between the settlements, their security corridors and the highways linking them — and possibly Gaza, without any kind of sovereignty. Israel will maintain total control. The occupation remains albeit under a different label.

In reality, Israel wants to turn the current reality into a permanent situation, though not a final solution.

The final solution in Israel’s view is when all the land is ethnically cleansed from its Palestinian owners no matter how long this may take. There is no question that the Trump peace plan, if reports are accurate, is an exact replica of what Israel would have authored on its own.

Clearly, the Trump team, as fully advised, indeed misled, by the Netanyahu government, are convinced that an alliance against Iran, with possible Arab regional partners, could facilitate the passing of such a disastrous and a deeply destabilising conspiracy.

The final plan will be thrown at the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take it or leave it. The view of the "peace makers" that the Palestinians are powerless, isolated and dependent for their survival on the very parties that will confront them with the liquidation deal, including their Israeli occupiers, is likely the reason for such a contemptuous approach.

We already see the kinds of pressure being exercised: Defunding UNRWA, the UN refugee agency, with worse to come.

Over the years the PA has shown excessive readiness to compromise. They started by accepting a state in just 22 per cent of historic Palestine — the West Bank and Gaza — ceding the rest to the Zionist project before negotiations even began.

They kept reducing the ceiling of their demands to the point where they ended up as nothing more than security providers for their occupiers.

But they will not — can not — go as far as even considering such a plan no matter how severe the circumstances may be.

No one should be in doubt about the dangers of trying to force a Palestinian surrender. The Palestinians' attachment to their land did not weaken in seven decades of destitution, suffering and harsh oppression.

Though fiercely crushed, mismanaged and weakened, the Palestinian struggle did not end. The potential for renewal remains viable. And so is the potential for an even bloody conflict if Palestinians are further humiliated and left in total despair.

Even if a few Arab states go along with this conspiracy, it will have no chance of success if the Palestinian people, the 13 million of them, not just the PA, reject it. Palestinians are the owners of the right and victims of the injustice.

It is not a sound approach to take advantage of the weakness of the victim to impose disastrous terms. In history, we were taught that the humiliating conditions imposed on Germany after World War I — when it was weak — set the stage for the disasters to come. Other examples attest to that too.

 

An attempt to impose a disastrous American-Israeli plan on the Palestinians will plunge the region into further unforeseen chaos and violence, even worse than the instability and war unleashed by the American invasion of Iraq 15 years ago.

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