Palestine Update 242
The Kushner deal is ‘Dead on arrival’!
‘The deal of the century’ was probably termed that way mostly because Trump needed to sell it under a big banner. As it turns out, the whole idea has backfired and Kushner has proven that he is a mere political upstart in global politics. His experience as a real estate manager has been far from enough to manage the world’s most protracted and complex conflict. To put it crudely, Kushner is dim-witted to have even embarked on such an undertaking. His father-in-law was even more mindless in handing this sensitive task to a novice who, at best, could have interned in the office of such an undertaking.
Selected leaks from the plan and totally pro-Israel tilt of the Trump administration show how unfeasible the deal is going to be. Three years of tinkering show the drawing board on which the deal was designed has proven to be a disaster. The deal is dead on arrival. It is, at best, a recipe for disaster. For all the high profile and decorated political investment that Trump imparted on this, it is going nowhere.
An elementary political principle has been violated in this entire process. The people are subjects of their destiny. When their aspirations are gagged, there is little or, no prospect, for a permanent solution.
Israeli-Palestinian peace plan shouldn’t be released (Excerpts)
Dead on arrival!
That’s what almost every expert predicts will be the fate of the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Developed in secrecy for the past two years by Jared Kushner, the peace plan’s release has been repeatedly postponed. According to news reports it will finally be made public sometime next month. That’s after the new Israeli government is formed and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends. It is not, as expected, eagerly anticipated and widely welcomed. It seems that no one is enthusiastically waiting for this plan or ready to embrace it, least of all Israelis and Palestinians. Even President Trump has kept his distance from the plan and, reportedly, hasn’t read it in full. About the only thing the Trump administration’s peace plan has going for it is the fact that nobody expects it to succeed. With expectations so low, there’s less risk that the likely failure of the plan will trigger another round of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
That’s what happened previously when U.S.-led efforts to make peace failed. The Second Intifada, for example, erupted shortly after the failure of the peace talks at Camp David in July 2000.
Dim chance of success
There are many reasons why Kushner’s peace plan seems doomed to fail. Some of these are the Trump administration’s own making.
President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 – with no mention of Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem. Since then, relations between his administration and the Palestinian leadership based in the West Bank have gone from bad to worse.
The administration has taken a series of punitive actions against Palestinians. They include ending U.S. funding for the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, slashing aid to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, closing the PLO’s office in Washington, D.C. and even eliminating funding for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs. But those actions have not forced the Palestinian leadership to be more compliant and compromising. Instead, the measures stiffened their resistance to American pressure while angering and alienating the Palestinian public, who have suffered as a result of the cutbacks in U.S. aid.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has railed against the Trump administration’s pro-Israel bias, and the Palestinian Authority that Abbas heads has refused to meet with or talk to Trump administration officials.
Political aspirations vs. money
Even if President Abbas were not so hostile to the Trump administration and vice versa, he would never accept the terms of the peace plan that Kushner and company have devised. In exchange for a massive infusion of aid and investment financed by wealthy Arab Gulf States, the Palestinians would have to accept Israeli settlements deep inside the West Bank, Israel’s permanent control over the Jordan Valley and a long-term Israeli military presence in the West Bank, where roughly 2.8 million Palestinians live.
The Palestinians would also have to abandon their demand for a capital in East Jerusalem and maybe even give up their decades-long quest for sovereign statehood. No Palestinian leader would agree to these terms, which effectively amount to a surrender to long-time Israeli demands, not a peace agreement based on mutual compromise.
Palestinians desperately need economic opportunities. But they will not pressure their leadership to capitulate – as Kushner apparently hopes they will – or forsake their long struggle for national self-determination. And many younger Palestinians, who are less committed to the goal of Palestinian statehood, would prefer to have Israeli citizenship than live in a small, fragmented, autonomous Palestinian entity.
Nor will Arab states like Saudi Arabia force the Palestinians to accept such a one-sided deal. Kushner’s friend, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, might be willing to offer Abbas billions of dollars, but that won’t entice Abbas to give up Palestinian political aspirations and territorial demands.
Prelude to Israeli annexation
While the Palestinians are bound to reject the Trump administration’s peace plan, the Israelis are unlikely to fully embrace it, despite its decidedly pro-Israel bent. Prime Minister Netanyahu will certainly be careful not to antagonize President Trump, with whom he has forged a friendship and political alliance. But he will also be careful not to lose the support of his coalition partners on which the survival of his government depends. It seems likely that Netanyahu’s government will include far-right parties that want Israel to annex the West Bank, in whole or in part. They will object to any plan that cedes West Bank territory to the Palestinians, since they regard it as sacred land that belongs to the Jewish people for eternity. There is a real risk that a new, right-wing Israeli government will seize upon Palestinian rejection of Kushner’s peace plan to justify annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Shortly before the recent Israeli election, Netanyahu promised to extend Israeli sovereignty to its settlements in the West Bank. This was undoubtedly a last-minute bid by Netanyahu to convince right-wing Israelis, especially settlers, to vote for his Likud Party. Yet Netanyahu may have no choice but to fulfill this promise if he forms a right-wing government with a slim parliamentary majority. The inevitable failure of Kushner’s peace plan might give him the perfect opportunity to do this – with American acquiescence, if not support.
To avoid this danger, the Trump administration will do well to just keep its peace plan to itself. Releasing the plan will probably do more harm than good. It almost certainly won’t bring peace, and it could ultimately lead to a severe deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Dov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies, Northeastern University