February 02, 2020
Taking a random district in the West Bank and calling it Al-Quds is no more a magical method for conjuring up a capital city than taking a swath of the Amazon jungle and calling it London.
Circling an area of the Negev desert on a map and writing “agricultural” over the top doesn’t miraculously make the sands bloom into irrigated gardens to eternally nourish the inhabitants of Gaza.
Boasting about state-of-the-art road systems, customs facilities, hospitals, and an underground tunnel connecting Gaza to the West Bank is all very nice. But given that these pledges rely on still-unconfirmed foreign donors, Jared Kushner could have promised gold-plated pavements and diamond-studded street lighting.
Previous peace plans necessitated that the wild-eyed Zionist fanatics in dozens of tiny settlement “outposts” would be sent packing back to Israel. Kushner’s plan not only gives them the right to remain, but Palestinian lands are dissected to accommodate roads and supporting infrastructure for even the most remote and provocative locations. The map provided with the plan is sufficiently vague to allow settlers to carve out additional kilometers of “natural growth.” It is difficult to imagine a bigger incentive for settlers to inaugurate hundreds of new sites, hoping that a future US president may give the nod to additional “facts on the ground.”
As well as announcing the severance of security contacts with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was right to respond with “a thousand no’s,” given Benjamin Netanyahu’s inflexibility over the fundamental issues. Fruitful negotiations require at least some shared consensus on the parameters for discussion. The deal was also angrily rejected in states circling Israel, where about 1.5 million Palestinian refugees reside. The cancelation of refugees’ right of return is just one of the issues that will have long-term consequences for these nations.
The deal’s promised incentives are dependent on Palestinians agreeing to the wholesale theft of their territories, and disarming of all militant groups. Based on previous precedents, even if Palestinians bent over backwards to do everything they were told, Israel could still exploit flimsy security pretexts to permanently obstruct the implementation of plans for industrial zones, connecting roads and other infrastructure.
The global media almost universally acknowledged that this deal offers Israel everything, while being a nonstarter for the Palestinians and trampling on the religious rights of the millions of Christians and Muslims who venerate the many holy sites in these territories. The Economist described Donald Trump’s deal as the “steal of the century,” noting that the new Palestinian “capital” amounted to a “few grim neighborhoods, such as Abu Dis and Shuafat, that sit on the other side of a hulking concrete separation barrier.”
It is easy to dismiss Trump’s proposals as a meaningless sideshow concocted by two deeply problematic leaders drowning in corruption allegations. The nauseating adoring gazes, back-slapping and effusive compliments with which this incestuously negotiated travesty was launched say everything we need to know about its intended beneficiaries.
However, with Netanyahu rushing to annex the immense territorial concessions carved from the occupied Jordan Valley, West Bank, Jerusalem and Golan Heights, we shouldn’t be in denial that this is a catastrophic game-changer; representing the demise of three decades of post-Oslo relative consensus over the parameters of a two-state deal. Future, more enlightened, US presidents will have to expend almost unconceivable political capital in rowing back on Trump’s sovereignty giveaways.