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US ultimate deal shelved again

Jan 08,2019 - Last updated at Jan 08,2019

Once again, the so-called “ultimate deal”, US President Donald Trump's long awaited plan for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has been delayed. The postponement was just announced by the US ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Since Trump first mentioned the deal more than two years ago, there have been repeated declarations of its imminent official announcement. This has never materialised. Only a couple of months ago, promises from Washington to launch the plan in the early part of 2019 were renewed, unless, it was warned, the Israeli government would decide on early elections.

The Israeli government did, indeed, decide to arrange for new elections in late spring this year. Therefore, the deal had to be postponed, not only until the Israeli elections were completed, but also until a post-election Israeli government was formed and sworn in. This may indicate early summer. By then, only God knows what the fast-shifting situation in the region is going to look like.

Right from the very early days of the age of this additional US peace initiative, I repeatedly argued on this page that the so-called deal would have no future. I did not foresee any chance of success for such renewed US effort. My doubts were further reinforced when parts of the deal started to leak. The same doubts were solidly vindicated when the US decided, most likely as part of the plan, to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there. This was followed by the Israeli Knesset’s decision to declare Palestine, which now includes Israel, as the land of the Jews, to exclude Palestinian rights, existence and presence in the same land, their own land, at any time: past, present and future.

Other measures, obviously part of the ultimate deal as well, included the abolition of UNRWA, the UN agency that has, for the past seven decades, been offering services and basic living needs for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees, in the hope that such a step would also abolish the Palestine refugee issue and the internationally recognised "right of return".

When I first expressed my deep belief that the deal would not see the light, I based my conviction on the largely known fact that the US would not formulate any ideas for such a peace settlement without Israel’s full endorsement of every single letter of it; which means Israel would not endorse anything that would consider the bare minimum of Palestinian legitimate rights. This has been the case since peace plans started to develop more than five decades ago. If there were chances for compromise in the past, they certainly do not exist under the current US administration, which seems, as the Jared Kushner's peace team clearly proves, to be totally under Israel’s direction and tight control.

If, as we have recently been informed, the deal was almost complete and ready for presentation to the concerned parties, “with or without Palestinian participation”, it would be right to assume that the ultimate deal draft was approved by Israel. Similarly, and according to this same concept, repeated postponements would have also been approved or even advised by Israel, which sounds ironic. Why would Israel want to delay a plan of its own making, serving its best interests?

Simple. Just as with many previous cases, such as the 15-year old Quartet Road Map, which was approved by Israel initially but sabotaged afterwards, and also the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, to cite just two examples.

Israel does not always declare all of its hidden territorial and political ambitions, knowing that such disclosures may sound excessive, even to its most loyal allies. This is why Israeli leaders go along, though strictly verbally and deliberately vaguely, with formulas such as the two-state solution.

Most likely, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government seems to be pleased with the parts of the deal that have already been implemented without agreement. An agreement that may put a stopgap on Israel’s undeclared demands might not be that desirable. Reports from Washington have indicated that the content of the ultimate deal may please neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians. That it may not please the Palestinians is obvious and well-known, but why it should not please the Israelis is the hard question, particularly if Israel was consulted about the content beforehand and went along with it.

Israel may have accepted some symbolic American proposals in favour of the Palestinian side to make the deal seemingly reasonable, but only because Israel knows the other side would anyway reject it altogether.

Any careful examination of the sequence of developments in the last two years would come to the inevitable conclusion that Israel is constantly unwilling to consider any final settlement, even this historic deal President Trump is trying to implement. I am not saying that the deal, as we believe it is, would be possible even if Israel genuinely accepted it.

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