By: Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay.
(Exclusively for al-Zaytouna Centre).
Exactly a year ago (February 2019), al-Zaytouna Centre published my strategic assessment The Prospects of the US Deal of the Century, which if compared to Trump’s current 181-page document, Peace To Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People (January 2020), and Trump’s statement in the press conference held on 28/1/2020, one doesn’t find any fundamental differences from that study except in the details.
The new document consists of 22 sections, four appendices including two conceptual maps illustrating the geography of Israel, the supposed Palestinian state and the distribution of settlements.
Given the many details of the document’s topics, it’s better to define its most strategic features as follows:
First: The Proposed Palestinian State: It is characterized by the following:
1. A completely demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank (WB) and the Gaza Strip (GS), committed to the prohibition of any armed organization, and on condition that GS be governed by forces other than Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other armed organizations.
2. The Palestinian capital would be in the suburbs adjacent to East Jerusalem, where the US would open an embassy, while Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital.
3. Israeli settlements in WB would be annexed to Israel.
4. No return to the 1967 borders, while keeping the borders of the Palestinian state undefined for four years, during which a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian State would be established and settlement building would be frozen. This would be achieved provided that the the Palestinian state;
a. Does not pose any risk to Israel’s security, where the definition of a security risk is left to the Israeli side.
b. Gives up its weapons, a matter insinuated at in Trump’s statement that the Palestinian state mast have a “firm rejection of terrorism.”
c. Withstand Iran and counter its activities.
d. The Palestinian state laws to be directed to restricting “terrorist” activities, where Israel has the right to destroy any Palestinian facility it deems dangerous.
e. During negotiations, the Palestinian Authority (PA) refrains from joining any international organization without the consent of Israel.
f. Recognizes Israel as the “Jewish state.”
5. Israel will not uproot any settlement, and the Israeli enclaves located inside the contiguous Palestinian territory will become part of Israel and be connected to it through an effective transportation system. The Palestinian population located in Israeli enclaves will have access routes connecting them to the PA territories.
6. The Jordan Valley will be under Israeli sovereignty. Agricultural enterprises owned or controlled by Palestinians shall continue without interruption or discrimination, pursuant to appropriate licenses or leases granted by Israel.
7. Israel will retain sovereignty over Gaza’s territorial waters.
8. The Triangle Communities (Kafr Qara, Ar‘ara, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Umm al-Fahm, …) shall become part of the State of Palestine, and the l and swaps will provide the State of Palestine with land reasonably comparable in size to the territory of pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza.
9. The borders of the State of Palestine will remain monitored by Israel, and the US will recognize Israeli sovereignty over occupied lands (Jordan Valley and the settlement enclaves in the WB, which was reiterated by Netanyahu in the joint statements).
Second: The Refugees:
The Palestinian refugee issue was linked to the Jewish refugees who fled the Arab countries. The deal indicated that Israel deserves compensation for lost assets and the costs of absorbing Jewish refugees from those countries. As for the options for Palestinian refugees seeking a permanent place of residence, it includes:
1. Absorption into the State of Palestine.
2. Local integration in current host countries.
3. The acceptance of the rest of refugees in individual Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries.
4. Expanding GS to help improve the refugees’ conditions through neighboring areas in the Negev, where industrial zones would ease some of the population pressure in GS.
Third: Regional Economic Integration
Section three of the document is entitled “A vision for peace between the state of Israel, the Palestinians and the region,” which would be implemented by:
1. Promoting normalization between Israel and Arab countries, and sharing relations with Europe.
2. Connecting WB and GS with fast-track transportation system, subject to Israeli control.
3. Allowing the State of Palestine to use and manage earmarked facilities at both the Haifa and Ashdod ports.
4. Facilitating movement across the Palestinian-Jordanian border, where Israel has the right to control the transported goods.
5. A free-trade zone between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Palestine will be established.
6. Israel, the State of Palestine and the Arab countries will work together to counter Hezbollah and Hamas.
7. The US wants to reduce over time the Palestinians’ dependence on aid and donated funds from the international community.
Fourth: The Prisoners
The release of Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons, except those “convicted of murder or attempted murder,” thus members of the resistance forces will not be released.
The Plan’s Future Implications:
It is more likely that this plan (Vision) sets the stage for a very tough fight that Palestinian organizations will face. Most probably, GS would be exposed to political pressure (by restricting the movement of its leaders), media wars (With fabricated pictures, malicious news, rumors, etc), economic wars (more economic strangulation, especially of GS), military wars (successive air strikes, assassinations, suspicious bombings and assassinations, etc).
The second facet of the fight would be an increasing US pressure on Arab countries to accelerate normalization, until a military alliance is forged that would merge with the expansion of NATO’s action to the east and south. In addition, more pressure would be exerted on every state or public or private entity that provides any assistance to the Palestinians.
The third fact is trying to lure some European countries, particularly the UK, to participate in the success of the US Vision.
This US project is a conclusive evidence of the absurdity of any peace process with Israel, which will work with this Vision as it did with Oslo, i.e., it would apply what’s in its favor—which is the largest part—while disabling the implementation of what it deems inappropriate for it.
Facing this US project needs a clear strategy that would primarily aim to make it fail. This means that relations with everyone who opposes the project or has reservations —however modest—must be developed. It calls for abandoning the root cause of this ordeal—the Oslo Accords—and the consequent security coordination, WB submission, while returning to armed resistance after rearranging the ranks.
Map Source: Donald J. Trump on Twitter (@realDonaldTrump), 28-1-2020 (click here)
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 30/1/2020