Neither ‘ultimate’ nor ‘deal’

Jun 26,2018 – JORDAN TIMES –

I did previously argue on this page that the so-called President Donald Trump’s “ultimate deal” would never materialise. I still believe so despite continued movement of the US team tasked with the peace mission; Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, Dina Powell and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

I base my reasoning on one simple fact. The Trump deal does not intend to either resolve or dissolve the very complex century-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Anyone with the simplest sense of history knows that both goals are impossible to reach. What likely the Trump team is hoping to achieve would not be more than turning the current status quo into a semi-permanent situation, but with some modifications that may make Israel more comfortable and more secure, hence the emphasis on Gaza.

Details of the Trump plan have not yet been officially disclosed. However, only two days ago, Kushner, while in the region, informed the Palestinian Arabic daily “Al Quds” that the deal will soon be officially released with or without Palestinian approval. Expecting a historic settlement of this significance between Israel and the Palestinians without the Palestinian involvement or acceptance is quite rare. Although Kushner blames Abbas for failing to grasp the opportunity by matching Israeli compromises with Palestinian ones and, therefore, holds him solely responsible for obstructing more than 25 years of peace efforts, the Palestinians for their part blame their leadership for conceding almost everything and for making endless compromises to the point where nothing is left to concede; practically and realistically nothing.

The Kushner team’s continued visits to the region seem to be still struggling to work out some final specifics that may help marketing a project that have hardly so far been able to attract ardent clients.

Maybe the only side to openly and categorically reject the plan are the Palestinians, which means a lot, but none others have made any indication otherwise. Even the claim that some Arab countries have lent their support is yet to be proven. But even if some did, or would at some point in the future go for some of the presented ideas, more to gain favour with Washington than anything else that would hardly help progress. Some Arab countries may have approved of the principle of resuming negotiations and examining ideas, but it will be impossible for any to consider what has already been leaked about the controversial deal.

Moreover, the Kushner ideas have not gained any visible traction in international circles. In fact, the Trump decision on Jerusalem, which could not be separated from the deal, was rejected at the UN as well as globally.

So what is going on?

The Kushner team must have realised by now that a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without Jerusalem, with the settlements, with much of the West Bank remaining under permanent Israeli control, with total abolition of the Right of Return and without meaningful Palestinian self-determination, let alone a state, would be farfetched.

The alternative is to deal with Gaza by dressing the Kushner deal as a noble humanitarian venture.

Apparently, the 2005 Sharon Gaza disengagement turned to be completely counterproductive. The idea then was to separate Gaza with some two million inhabitants from the West Bank to deal with an Israeli growing headache known as the demographic bomb.

To cut the size of fast growing Arab presence in historic Palestine that was close to outnumber Israeli Jews, Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, decided to disengage from Gaza. But not to set it free, rather to turn it into a besieged, deprived and incapacitated entity.

The result was the exact opposite, with Gaza transforming into the main danger that neither siege nor barbaric war has managed to subjugate. Only a miracle has so far been able to prevent a major Gaza explosion in the face of Israel. The situation there continues to worsen.

For more than ten years, the “civilised” world, the UN in particular, has been maintaining a deadly, a cowardly and a shameless silence on one of the most humanitarian tragedies in modern times. The handy, but feeble, excuse is that Gaza fell under the control of a terrorist group, Hamas, whose rockets threaten Israel’s very existence. Therefore, Hamas’ actions, not the tight siege, not the daily air raids and not the routine deprivation and collective punishment, not the recent severing of the UNRWA funding, are to be blamed for the misery befalling the two million Gaza inhabitants.

There is no question that an initiative to attend to the Gaza situation is noble. But is that what really is on offer.

As the tragic situation is obviously caused by the siege, the first easy and straightforward step is to relax, not even end the siege. That is if the goal is to end the Gaza population suffering.

If on the other hand the idea behind the entire scheme is to focus on Gaza to enable Israeli total colonisation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, to disarm the resistance in the hope of radically eradicating Palestinian national aspirations by providing better living conditions and to transform the status quo into a permanent headache-free situation for Israel, then that is a totally different matter.

Even more ironic is the talk about planned mega projects for Gaza, a seaport and an airport, to be built on Egyptian territory and to be financed by Arab money. Perhaps the work would provide Israeli construction companies with massive and lucrative business opportunities on top of the more significant political gain of normalising with concerned Arab parties, a goal sought by Israel for a very long time.

Unfortunately, none of this constitutes thoughtful, let alone objective, peacemaking diplomacy. It is too amateurish to have any meaningful impact on the grave situation in the region.

Every American administration since 1967 has tried to address the Middle East situation. All were serious and purpose oriented. Some had succeeded (Carter Camp David Accords) while many others have failed despite strenuous and well-intended work. None were purely objective, but none were so blatantly and openly dictated by Israel.

For a Middle East peace, including an Arab Israeli settlement to be accomplished, it must rest on the rule of law and the provisions of the UN resolutions, on the recognition on the Palestinian rights, on ending the occupation of all Arab lands and removing illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Arab land the same way as they were removed from Sinai and Gaza.

Any attempt to resolve the conflict by consolidating the factors that caused it is destined to fail. The Kushner plan is a flagrant attempt to build peace on heaps of injustice and illegally established conditions.


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