“The deal of the century”: A deceptive pill that will trip, tumble, and fall”

Palestine Update  163

“The deal of the century”: A deceptive pill that will trip, tumble, and fall”

Jared Kushner is pushing Trump to abolish UNRWA the agency a few days before the announcement, writing that “It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA [the refugee agency].” Kushner has no clue that the tangible role UNRWA plays in the governance and administration of Palestinians’ lives has no replacement. It is crucial to regional stability because, if the agency were to be abolished, the agency would shift the weight of servicing Palestinians directly onto the countries housing refugees notably Jordan and Lebanon. Kushner is unwittingly creating a four-state solution under which Lebanon and Jordan will have direct stakes in the peace process currently being negotiated by Israel and Palestine.  Kushner’s lack of vision and lack of common sense for Middle East peace could plunge the region in serious political and humanitarian crises.

UNRWA is a virtual parallel government committed to guarantee millions of Palestinians in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan access to services like health care and education since 1949. The camps that UNRWA set up now resemble stable cities rather than temporary camps. For its work, it is acknowledged as the principal governmental point of contact. It is far more than just a U.N. charity or aid organization.

A report from Al Bawaba describes the scenario best. In Jordan, millions of Palestinians utterly depend on the services UNRWA provides, and the government has allowed UNRWA to carve out a governmental space for itself in administering the population. UNRWA runs parallel schooling, health care, facilities and neighborhoods in Jordan’s cities that are designed for Palestinians. Dissolving the agency would create a socio-political vacuum in the country that could engulf all of Jordan in crisis. These facilities and neighborhoods would go government-less unless Jordan steps in to take control of these services. This would drain an already-cash strapped kingdom’s state coffers and accelerate a political dilemma. The peace UNRWA has been able to quietly keep could loudly rupture by the demand for more political representation and access to basic welfare.

In Gaza, UNRWA’s disappearance would be an all-out catastrophe. A crowded and cut-off patch of land, UNRWA is the only functional servicer for most of the 1.9 million people. Kushner’s desire to eliminate UNRWA will only create disaster and bring Jordan and Lebanon into the peace process as their stability would then be existentially tied to the deal. In point of fact, Kushner’s dim move may end up with the Palestinians currently living in host countries to be trapped there, deprived of any future right to return to their homeland and without aid or access to rights. If Kushner got his wish and UNRWA was abolished, he would shoot himself in the foot.

Writing in Al Jazeera, Marwan Bishara asks “What’s the big deal… of the century?” Bishara challenges Trump’s ‘sadistic assault’ on UNRWA which cares for the survival and education of 4-5 million refugees. He asks how such a crude injustice can happen with Israel’s relentless extension of its illegal settlements, strangulation of the Gaza Strip, and the new legislation that legitimizes Jewish supremacy in the land of Israel, i.e. all over historical Palestine. He laments how “as foreign aid shrinks, political divisions deepen, and the Arab world implodes in conflict. Palestinians find themselves with fewer remedies every day”. The fear is that they may, in desperation bite the bitter pill because, “in this environment, any prescription that promises a new horizon for a healthier future may seem like a necessary medicine, no matter how bitter”.

Abu Holi, PLO Executive Committee member rejected the call made by the White House to change UNRWA’s mandate, pointing out that such call is coupled with the hostility campaign led by the Israeli government against UNRWA and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusations that its continued mandate has perpetuated and prolonged the refugee issue. UNRWA will continue its work – as mandated by the United Nations – providing services to Palestinian refugees until the implementation of Resolution 194 and the return of Palestinian refugees to the homes they were displaced from in 1948. Palestinians in the Diaspora and their homeland will drop the American plot that targets their cause, including the right to return to its homes they were forced to leave in the year 1948; as stipulated in Resolution 194.

Bishara asks: “But how could the Palestinian leadership accept a demilitarized half state on half of the West Bank and an isolated Gaza Strip, one that lacks contiguity and sovereignty – a state that looks more like Swiss cheese than it does the Swiss federation? And how can they forgo a fair solution for the millions of refugees?” He notes how Palestinian and Arab pragmatists argue, as they did in favour of the Oslo accords a quarter of a century ago, that inaction means isolation and irrelevance, and that there’s no choice but to take-and-build, engage and try to extract as many compromises as possible. The realists counter that it’s the Oslo logic that led the Palestinians to the present dire circumstances, and that the biased Trump administration cannot be trusted as a sponsor of any deal.

But as the disputes on the intrinsic worth and contempt of Trump’s “deal of the century” continues, the Palestinians have their work cut out. They need to forge a unity and sustain their “summud” in the hope, as Bishara says succinctly observes “the political shock waves of what appears to be a shockingly bad deal withers”. Bishara adds a note of engaging optimism” “Fingers crossed, Trump and Company could be gone in two years”!

Palestinians have been eternal torchbearers in the fight against colonialism around the world. Today, their struggle for freedom and justice symbolizes the struggle against US-supported tyranny throughout the Middle East. You have to ask the question now: “Palestine, Quo Vadis”?

Ranjan Solomon

The best peace plan never

President Trump has promised “the greatest” peace plan ever to settle what he concedes is the toughest negotiation of all: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The “Trump Peace Plan,” drafted by a team led by Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, is the most widely discussed peace proposal not yet made. It should stay that way. The administration should avoid adding another peace plan to the list of failed U.S. efforts. It should work instead on improving Palestinian and Israeli security and well-being; its peace initiative should focus on Saudi Arabia, the Muslim State most likely to make peace with Israel.

Mr. Abbas may meet with U.S. emissaries, but moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, while long overdue, made negotiating with him much more difficult. Very likely, after the usual frenetic activity, the negotiation will collapse: Security and economic cooperation will decrease; violence will increase; and the plan will take its place in the dustbin of Middle East diplomacy.

Arab rights group petitions Israel’s Supreme Court against Jewish nation law
An Arab rights group in Israel has filed a petition with the Supreme Court against the new and controversial Jewish state law. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement on Tuesday that the law “has distinct apartheid characteristics” and denies “civil and national rights of Palestinians in their homeland.” Adalah insists the legislation should be annulled, AP said. The law, passed by parliament last month, defines Israel as the Jewish nation-state and downgrades the Arabic language to a “special status.” Critics say it marginalizes the country’s Arab minority, while supporters say it ensures the Jewish character of the state for generations to come.

The Cost of Occupation: Jerusalem
Three Israeli policies target Palestinian economic life in Jerusalem: the expulsion and banning of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce; the separation barrier; and high municipal taxes.

Innumerable political challenges stand in the way of the development of a healthy economy for Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. Under the shaky status of “permanent residents,” Palestinians in the city continue to live without passports or political representation. A byzantine Israeli permit regime not only bars Palestinians from building new structures in Jerusalem, but also sanctions the systematic demolition of their homes. The result is the proliferation of Jewish-only Israeli settlements throughout the city and its surrounding hinterlands. An Israeli security dragnet further suffocates Palestinian life in the city. Israeli police, armed with combat-grade weapons and armor, routinely raid Palestinian neighborhoods and conduct sweeping arrests. Occasionally, Israeli police shoot and kill Palestinians without cause. Permanent checkpoints exist and flying checkpoints can be erected at moment’s notice.

Related to these political challenges are Israeli tactics of economic exploitation and economic warfare in the city. This report analyzes three Israeli policies that target Palestinian economic life in Jerusalem: the expulsion and banning of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce; the separation barrier; and high municipal taxes. These policies intentionally prevent Palestinians from developing any sort of viable economic life and create unlivable conditions for Palestinians, another pretext for their expulsion from Jerusalem.

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.