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Trump’s deal takes a knife to Palestinian hopes for justice

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. (AFP)
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. (AFP)
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27 Jan 2020 03:01:54 GMT9
27 Jan 2020 03:01:54 GMT9

If there is any truth to details leaked to the Israeli media ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz’s upcoming US trip, Donald Trump’s “peace deal” is a blueprint for gutting aspirations of Palestinian statehood. Israel is to be gifted full sovereignty over Jerusalem, along with more than 20 percent of the West Bank, allowing most of Israel’s 100-plus illegal settlements to be territorially contiguous. Trump’s deal furthermore reportedly grants Israel full security control over the Jordan Valley — one-third of the West Bank — which both of Israel’s major parties have pledged to annex in its entirety.

Trump’s deal appears to envisage additional annexations, for which Palestinians would be “compensated” through land swaps involving inaccessible and unusable areas of the Negev desert. Some reports went a stage further, claiming that the plan envisaged surrendering “open areas” of Area C (rural areas, amounting to 61 percent of the West Bank), which would mean confining Palestinians to overcrowded urban cantons. 

The dissection of the West Bank into lacerated ribbons by settlements and their associated roads and infrastructure would fatally constrain economic activity and free movement, while having a devastating impact on Palestine’s all-important agricultural sector. Some lands may be designated as Palestinian, yet their location beyond Israel’s separation wall, between bands of settlements or under arbitrary security regimes will make them inaccessible for citizens.

The loss of East Jerusalem, more than 20 percent of the body of the West Bank, plus the Jordan Valley — even without additional Area C annexations — envisages West Bank Palestinians surrendering well over half of their territories without any meaningful concessions in return. 

Peace agreements are supposed to be approved and implemented by both sides, with support from international parties. Trump’s plan promises support for Israel to unilaterally steamroll ahead with implementation. This is an illegal land grab masquerading as a peace deal; every bit as inimical to international law as Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, South Africa’s apartheid system, or Serbia’s attempts to annex regions of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. 

The plan farcically suggests that, if Palestinians give their blessing to these grotesque amputations (along with demilitarizing Gaza and other concessions), they would be permitted to describe this truncated abortion as a “State of Palestine” — a cluster of squalid prisons inmates could only escape by fleeing into permanent exile.

Palestinian leaders warn about “not crossing red lines,” yet this plan sails far over and beyond all possible red lines. White House sources, for once, weren’t exaggerating when they described the proposals as “the most pro-Israel plan ever produced or presented.”

This deal, both in the short and long term, is a catalyst for violence and instability.

Baria Alamuddin

Trump’s systematic defunding of refugee and development programs (even failing to offer funding via Jared Kushner’s 2019 Palestinian economic conference), will result in  starving Palestinians out of existence. Western nations generously fund Palestinian programs under the premise that these are necessary for establishing a viable state. Why would they provide funding in perpetuity in support of an illegal deal they weren’t consulted on, with no hope of creating a viable economy, when Israel should, according to international law, continue to bear this responsibility as the occupying power? The Oslo process of the 1990s largely took the burden of occupation off Israel’s shoulders; the international community would have a right to tell Israel that, if it signs up to this plan, it alone should bear the immense permanent costs.

The full weight of America’s diplomatic apparatus only persuaded a few Pacific island nations to support Trump’s 2017 Jerusalem declaration. And there is no reason why the international community should now move one iota beyond the position long enshrined in international law and multiple UN resolutions that the occupation of all Palestinian land is illegal and Jerusalem’s status must be resolved through negotiation. With his anti-multilateralism mindset, Trump probably relishes the upcoming confrontation.

The question is whether the civilized world will be passive in its rejection or take action to outlaw and block these unjust measures.

The Arab world’s low-key reactions to Trump’s earlier giveaways let the US administration believe that there would be no consequences for a deal that eviscerates the vision for a Palestinian state. For more than a century, the Arab world’s steadfast position on the Palestinian question went to the heart of our identity, presenting Arabs as a united force to be reckoned with on the world stage. Arab states remain principal donors to the Palestinian cause. However, the diminished Arab voice has allowed the issue to be exploited by hostile forces with agendas that undermined the Palestinian cause. We must not make this mistake over a deal that opens entire new chapters of injustice.

This travesty was cooked up by one leader enmeshed in impeachment hearings and another about to embark on a third round of elections within a year in the hope of winning sufficient votes to keep him out of jail for corruption. 

Trump’s previous generous pre-elections gifts to Netanyahu proved insufficient to guarantee the Israeli prime minister an outright win. Trump and Kushner now appear willing to serve up Palestine in its entirety to get their crony across the finish line in March. Given the unhealthily close relationship between Kushner, Netanyahu and Trump, some commentators have suggested that the whole charade of Netanyahu’s US visit on Tuesday and the grand unveiling of Trump’s deal was cooked up to distract attention from an uncomfortable day in the Knesset discussing the merits of granting immunity to a corrupt prime minister. This was highlighted by the fact that Gantz will meet US officials at an earlier juncture in order to get back for this debate and a possible vote on annexing the Jordan Valley.

Trump’s understanding of the Palestinian issue is negligible. Before agreeing to give away the Golan Heights, he had to be briefed by his ambassador, David Friedman, about where the Golan was and why it mattered. Friedman, with his intimate links to extreme-right, messianic fringes of the settler movement, is the ideological force behind Trump’s intellectually bankrupt Israel policies.

Those behind this deal didn’t just shun Arab voices; they ignored all voices of sanity — including experts from former US and Israeli administrations. This deal, both in the short and long term, is a catalyst for violence and instability. Given that Palestinians and the international community will reject this deal, all it effectively achieves is illegally consolidating Israel’s hold over huge swaths of territory, while setting the stage for the absorption of still more Palestinian land in the future.

By undermining the prospects of amicably coexisting alongside other regional powers, it represents a poisoned chalice for Israel. For the Palestinians, this wholesale rejection of their rights and struggle constitutes one of the most nauseating injustices the world has ever seen. 

  • Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
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