Al-Jazeera / January 29, 2020
US arrogance towards the Palestinians will backfire, bigly.
The Trump administration has finally lifted the curtains on the final act of its Middle East diplomacy by revealing the long-awaited, ahem, “peace plan” in a surrealistic White House celebration.
I will admit from the outset that I cannot write about it with a straight face, considering the absurdity of the last three years of Trump policies towards Israel and Palestine.
To call it a “peace plan” is to do injustice to the infamous “peace process” and its many failed “peace plans”. It is so much worse, that a better term for it would be an “assault on peace”.
Everything about the plan is farcical.
Its pompous name, the “Deal of the Century”; its unfit author, Jared Kushner, a fanatic Zionist supporter of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land; its premise, “when humiliation does not work, more humiliation will”; its bizarre framing as a lovefest between the American and Israeli right; and its absurd substance, which punishes the victims and rewards the aggressors.
In the three decades of the American-led “peace process”, successive administrations at least pretended to engage, consult or listen to the Palestinian side, even when doing Israel’s bidding.
But since occupying the White House, the Trump administration has, on Netanyahu’s advice, unashamedly acted to permanently deprive the Palestinians of their participation in the negotiations – and deprive them of their land, liberty and dignity.
And today, the Trump administration, in complicity with the Netanyahu government, is taking the root causes of the protracted conflict in Palestine, repackaging them and presenting them as a permanent solution.
Theatre of the absurd
The devil is not in the detail; it’s in the headlines of Trump’s initiative.
So, to resolve the problem of the illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian lands, Trump wants them legalised and recognised as part of Israel.
To resolve the problem of Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied Jerusalem, Trump wants it recognised as the capital of Israel and Israel alone.
To deal with the question of Palestinian refugees and their inalienable right of return and compensation, Trump wants to prevent their return.
To solve the problem of violent, repressive and inhumane Israeli control over the Palestinians, Trump wants to see that extended indefinitely. Even after the Palestinians meet all the new conditions imposed on them, they would still be at the mercy of Israel’s security forces.
The Trump plan tramples over United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which requires Israel to return to its 1967 borders (or to their approximate, according to past US initiatives), and redraws the borders to suit Israel’s settlements and facilitate its control.
Instead of ending Israel’s apartheid system in Palestine, Trump wants to see it continue under a different name, at least until his promise for a provisional Palestinian “state” is fulfilled, one which will have no sovereignty or independence.
Basically, Trump envisions half a Palestinian state on half of the West Bank, but only after the Palestinians combat terrorism and recognise Israel as a Jewish state extending over some 90 percent of historic Palestine.
Trump’s embrace of apartheid in the holy land, as a pragmatic even indispensable prerequisite for “peace” and stability adds insult to Palestinian injury.
And lest we forget, the Trump administration has already closed down the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority, transferred the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and repealed US recognition of the refugee issue by suspending all funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
The fraud behind the farce
Future generations will probably remember nothing of significance from Trump’s 80-page plan, but they will recall the soap opera behind the “Deal of the Century”: how an inexperienced but ambitious man-boy named Jared manipulated his father-in-law, the powerful president, to support the fraudulent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay in power, and help Israel maintain all it gained illegally through war and violence.
If Jared cannot solve the Middle East conundrum, Trump remarked last month, no one can. He actually said that! A slap in the face to countless able American diplomats.
At any rate, no one really believes Trump is acting deliberatively, fairly or altruistically. No one. I suppose not even the president himself.
Nor does any reasonable person believe that the talented Mr Netanyahu is anything but a fraud – certainly not Israel’s own attorney general, who indicted him on fraud charges just weeks before the US House of Representatives impeached Mr Trump over the abuse of power.
What a great couple they make! What a match!
Netanyahu has obviously a lot to gain, but what is in it for Trump?
The president is clearly after the vote of evangelical Christians, especially after some have denounced him recently; and of course, he is after the support of rich radical Zionists like Sheldon Adelson.
And Trump is seemingly buying into the ego trip – or trap – laid out for him by radical evangelicals and Zionists who have designated him a Jewish Messiah, destined to save not only the Jewish people, but the world.
Being a messiah certainly beats being a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It has a nicer ring to it.
So it is opportunism, populism and cynicism all wrapped in one deal, as Trump sacrifices whatever is left of US credibility on the international scene to get himself a second term – and Netanyahu a fourth.
Indeed, as one prominent former US diplomat remarked, never has an American president conceded to a foreign leader so much, so quickly, for so little, until the self-declared “great dealmaker” appeared on the scene.
And so the farce continues: the blatant lies, the obvious complicity, the offensive deceit – and the disastrous consequences.
It is so outrageous that even leading American Zionist officials and diplomats, who long stood behind unconditional support for Israel, feel eerie and anxious about Trump’s “disastrous” plan.
It is as tragic as it is laughable. But it will also prove dangerously disruptive for the region and America’s standing in it.
Arrogance before the downfall
The Trump administration is banking on the more vulnerable or the more cynical Arab regimes to support and finance its plan despite its unbearable shortcomings.
That is why the plan is modelled, at least structurally, on the Bush administration’s 2003 road map for peace that was conceived after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq to ensure Israeli supremacy and Arab support.
Like Trump and Netanyahu, President George W Bush, in complicity with Israeli then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also envisioned a Palestinian pseudo-state in the form of self-governing autonomy, somewhere down at the end of a long road of Palestinian concessions and humiliation.
It was the sort of bait necessary for Arab and European leaders to justify their support – or at least non-rejection of the plan to their people. And it was the sort of trick that allowed Sharon to claim moderation and concession despite opposition from his fanatic settlers.
Bush hoped Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be gone before the final implementation of the final phases and replaced with the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas.
Today, Trump hopes to see the 84-year-old Abbas, now considered an obstructionist, also gone and replaced by someone more amenable to US dictates.
Meanwhile, Trump has been deluded into thinking that if the US cannot write off the Palestinians altogether, at least it could pay them off with Arab money.
Kushner’s Bahrain summit last year was designed to pave the way for that kind of Gulf investment in his “Deal of the Century”.
Billions in of dollars may buy the Trump administration some time and some leverage, but that will be short-lived, as such bribery proved in the past.
Sooner or later, the Trump plan will find its way to the same place where the Bush plan ended, the dustbin of history.
Subservient Arab dictators will eventually fall but the people will endure, and they will not be so forgiving to American and Israeli arrogance. Their pent-up fury will come out sooner rather than later.
So, before president Trump gets too comfortable in his new anointment as messiah, he should familiarise himself with basic biblical wisdom: arrogance leads to downfall.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al-Jazeera