By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
No matter how the packaging of an item is attractive or interesting, a rotten item is a rotten item!
There are multiple reports these days about the “Deal of the Century,” although the US administration has so far not presented any clear and public vision about the alleged deal, despite being the party concerned with it according to most political and media circles!!
Is this the result of “constructive ambiguity” designed to attract more attention? Are the leaked features of the purported deals “test balloons” to probe possible reactions and prepare appropriate measures to tackle them? Or are the leaks meant to prepare the landscape for receiving the “newborn baby”?!
At any rate, if what has been leaked about the “Deal of the Century” is true, then we are not seeing a historical proposal offering real or acceptable solutions for the parties to the conflict with the Israel…, but are facing a new attempt to liquidate the Palestine issue. Therefore, it is not a “deal” between two sides, but an expression of US-Israeli arrogant power, and an attempt to impose the will of the Israeli occupation, its terms, and its visions for ending the Palestinian issue. No matter the nature of the small details, this kind of “deals,” no matter how much its features are oversold, its fate is to be consigned to the dust bin of history, not to be tailored to fit until it is “sold and closed.”
Not many know that the term “Deal of the Century” is nothing new. In 2006, it was used to describe an offer by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, or the so-called Olmert–‘Abbas Accords, and what was leaked at the time suggested they were conditional agreements pending the results of the Israeli elections, which brought a defeat for Olmert.
Part of the so-called Deal of the Century being peddled these days is something that Israel’s former Head of the Israeli National Security Council Giora Eiland had written about in 2010, when he proposed one of two possible solutions to the Palestine issue:
First: Jordanian-Palestinian federation by establishing “a Jordanian kingdom that includes three “states”: the East Bank, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
Second: Territorial Exchange: This offer would see Egypt transfer 720 square kilometers of the Sinai Peninsula to a future Palestinian state. This territory is a rectangle built from a rib of 24 km along the Mediterranean coast from Rafah westward toward al-Arish (but not including al-Arish), and a rib of 30 km long. This would be equivalent to 12% of the West Bank (WB), which Israel wants to annex as part of final arrangements. In return, Egypt would be given equivalent territory in the southwestern Negev from “Israel” (i.e., the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories) in Wadi Firan (Paran), and would be allowed to build a 10-km tunnel link to Jordan under Egyptian sovereignty. A railroad link would also be allowed to be built alongside a highway and an oil pipeline with Egyptian levies would be imposed on “all traffic from Jordan, Iraq, and the Gulf to the Gaza port,” as well as international economic aid to Cairo…
Pursuant to this plan, the Palestinian population can settle in Sinai areas that will be annexed to the Gaza Strip (GS), and they will be allowed to build an international airport and seaport. Jordan would benefit from the project through the port of Gaza on the Mediterranean, as a transit for European goods imported through GS and exported to the Gulf and Iraq. Jordan would also be allowed to repatriate 70,000 refugees from GS to the “expanded Strip.” On the other hand, Israel would annex all WB settlements and everything falling within the Separation Wall.
In the secret meeting held on 21/2/2016 during Obama’s tenure, revealed by Israeli newspaper Haaretz a year later (19/2/2017), Netanyahu, Kerry, Sissi, and King ‘Abdullah II met to discuss “new ideas” for a “final peace settlement.” The ideas discussed included a “Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed-on exchanges of territory,” while the solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees “will not influence the basic character of Israel.” As for other Arab countries, the end of the conflict and of demands “will allow a normalization of ties and increased regional security for all.” After that, Netanyahu seemed unserious about following up with the path and commitments of the peace process. Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite its deep involvement in this track and despite being the main party concerned, was absent as it was not invited to that meeting.
However, on 14/2/2017, The Times of Israel mentioned that Minister Ayoub Kara announced that Netanyahu and President Trump will discuss a plan to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula and not in WB, reviving an idea long rejected by the international community. Kara said that the two would give their support to a proposal reportedly put forward by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi; a reported 2014 Egyptian proposal to resettle Palestinian refugees in a large tract of land in the Sinai Peninsula to be annexed to the Gaza Strip.
On 20/9/2017, The Washington Times quoted Mahmud ‘Abbas, following a meeting with Donald Trump in New York, as saying that the peace accord the US was working on would be “the deal of the century”. “He said the Trump administration’s negotiators, including White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, have met with the Palestinians more than 20 times in eight months.”
Kushner and Greenblatt then made successive visits to the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE, as well as the Palestinian territories and Israel, to prepare for the peaceful settlement project. Ahmad Majdalani, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, remarked on 9/1/2018 that the proposals related to the so-called Deal of the Century were aimed at liquidating the Palestinian question. He suggested the proposals had been communicated to the Palestinian side via Saudi Arabia.
Regardless of the substance of the American project, following the developments indicate something is being “cooked” in this context. Moreover, the US marketing of the deal is pushing in the direction of normalizing ties between Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain) and Israel prior to reaching a final solution with the PLO and PA leadership, in return for forging an alliance among these countries against Iran and “extremism” while turning a blind eye to the intrigue related to the domestic politics of Saudi Arabia.
It seems that the Deal of the Century being touted now is not much different from the ideas of Giora Eiland. This deal speaks of a long “confidence-building” stage during which security is shored up and the Palestinian resistance is disarmed, especially in GS. The deal then includes establishing an interim Palestinian state that would lead negotiations that could last a whole decade, during which regional countries would join the project of the peace process, normalization, and collaboration with Israel in all areas led by “security” (this means the security of Israel and the regimes at the expense of trends for change, revival, and resistance). This would be followed by a land-swap phase, where the PLO and PA would cede up to 12% of WB, including settlement areas and areas in the Jordan Valley, and implement the proposals of Giora Eiland regarding GS and the Sinai…. Furthermore, the security guarantees for Israel (in the land, sea, and air) will invalidate the sovereignty of the putative “Palestinian state”
on its own territories. The Deal ignores Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees as well. In other words, the Deal offers an expansion of the ad-hoc PA’s self-rule, not statehood or liberation.
Therefore, this is a liquidation project under Israeli terms and conditions.
Perhaps Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was an indication that the Deal’s implementation has begun to impose a fait accompli. This was also confirmed by the US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who—according to the Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA), on 5/2/2018—stated that “the Palestinians, in his eyes, are not part of the political process nor is he interested in their opinion,” adding, “The plan, which was drafted by Israel and adopted by the US administration, transcends the Palestinians and favors dealing with regional actors while dropping the Palestinian factor from efforts to resolve the conflict while trying to bring Israel together with some countries of the region under the label of the ‘Iranian threat.’” Furthermore, Arab, Islamic, and international reactions did not exceed what was expected by the Americans and Israelis. It was clear that the concerned and active Arab countries sought to issue the usual positions while working to contain popular reactions and tone down
the media rhetoric, avoiding everything except a bare minimum highlighting of the issue without any practical measures to confront the US decision. Interestingly here, there were leaks involving an Egyptian intelligence officer who was giving instructions to prominent journalists in Egypt to tone down and absorb the situation, and prevent the resistance forces from mobilizing support in the street… Interestingly as well, the Friday sermon in Mecca in Saudi Arabia following the Jerusalem move focused on treating parents well and avoided all talk about one of the most dangerous decisions affecting the pan-Islamic nation. The Arab countries that have relations with Israel did not withdraw their ambassadors from Israel, downgrade their ties, or take any punitive measure against Israel.
It does not appear that those in charge of the “Zionist project” and the Americans will find a better time than now to try and impose their peace process vision. There is Palestinian division and weakness, and Arab and Islamic fragmentation. Corrupt and tyrannical regimes control the countries in the region surrounding Palestine, which is beset by conflicts and unrest, amid attempts for sectarian and ethnic partition by force, diverting the focus of the conflict away from the Israel.
However, I believe that this “deal” will not pass. Until now, there is not a single Palestinian (even those who support the peace process) who accepts such a deal, and the maximum that Israel is willing to offer for is below the minimum the Palestinians may accept. So long that the Palestinian people are the main concerned party, Israel and the US cannot impose their will on them. This people, who have thwarted dozens of projects over the past 70 years, can no doubt thwart this “deal.” Even assuming that someone claiming to represent the Palestinians were to agree to it, the Palestinian issue with its Arab and Islamic dimensions cannot be liquidated, and there will always be someone to defend it, fight for it, and thwart the plans to liquidate it.
The major Israeli influence is an exceptional and temporary phenomenon in the history of Palestine, and it will not remain strong forever, as we (Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims) will not remain weak forever.
The strategic landscape surrounding Palestine that was swept by revolutionary change a few years ago constitutes an increasingly strategic and existential threat to Israel. If there is a wave pushing in the opposite direction currently, a counter-revolutionary wave, then it is only a round of backlash. Indeed, the region is still in a state of flux, which opens the door to inevitable change. Perhaps the current dismal political, social, economic, security, and moral situation of the regimes and the counter-revolutionary forces will prepare for a coming new wave that would learn the lessons of the previous rounds, and then impose the will of the nation in freedom, unity, and renaissance, and redirect the struggle towards liberating Palestine.
Therefore, what is required now is steadfastness and holding on to rights, and not compromising the future of Palestine no matter the pressure and the cost, and to seek to re-put the Palestinian political house in order on the basis of a new agenda that would discard the legacy of the Oslo Accords, return to will of the nation, reactivate the resistance platform, and benefit from the huge potentials of the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, of the nation, and of all international forces that support Palestinians right to their land and holy sites.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 7/2/2018