‘Deal of the Century’ born in sin

Israeli Arabs were severely affected by the part of the plan that raises the possibility that Israeli borders will be redefined so that the “triangle communities” become part of Palestine.

U.S. President Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu at the unveiling of Trump's "Deal of the Century," January 28, 2020 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
U.S. President Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu at the unveiling of Trump's "Deal of the Century," January 28, 2020
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
President Donald Trump’s “peace plan” was born in sin at a time to serve the political interests of the two leaders: a month before elections in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fighting for his political and legal survival, and during the impeachment debate of the American president.
Even before its official publication it was clear, to those who know the Middle East, that there is virtually no chance it will bring peace between the two sides, however, there is a realistic chance it will cause fierce political battles and a new wave of major violence.
The Palestinian side is the main casualty of the plan, with a clear preference for Israel’s needs in the territorial, security and political fields, and without coordination, consultation or participation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Standing apart from Trump and Netanyahu on stage were members of the Israeli delegation, several American donors to the president and prime minister, and three Arab ambassadors (from Oman, Bahrain and the UAE), whose presence soon would appear superfluous.
Israel only apparently emerges victorious.
Netanyahu has received a great gift for the Likud campaign while some right-wing parties are vehemently opposed to establishing a Palestinian state, although there is a long way to go to it, if at all.
The US administration was alarmed by the pressure of the moderate Arab states and required that the plan be fully accepted and that implementation of annexation wait until after the elections and in coordination with it.
Benny Gantz, the contender for prime minister, has managed to bypass Netanyahu and met personally Trump, but he and his Blue-and-White Party were put in an awkward position in which they had to make tough decisions before the elections.
Israeli Arabs were severely affected by the part of the plan that raises the possibility, subject to the agreement of the parties, that Israeli borders will be redefined so that the “triangle communities” become part of Palestine.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley, if it is not part of a comprehensive agreement and understandings with Jordan, will endanger the peace agreement with the Hashemite kingdom and its own stability, and will jeopardize the current security belt on the eastern front.
As expected, PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan altogether, threatening to cease essential security coordination with Israel, and succeeded in persuading or forcing the Arab League and its 22 members to reject the Trump plan.
The Israeli leadership, which in recent years has been in close contact and strategic cooperation with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, in the struggle against the Iranian threat and jihadist terrorism, has underestimated the mood of the Arab street, which is the existential threat for the Arab regimes.
DESPITE SOME encouraging statements from the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers, the Arab League has returned to the principles of the 2002 Arab initiative, which does not exactly align with the Trump plan. The US administration was “surprised” by the decision of the Arab League.
The people behind the American plan – Jared Kushner, Ambassador David Friedman and presidential envoy Jason Greenblatt – are not exactly Middle East experts and are too close to Israeli settler circles to be cautious and creative. It will not be a surprise therefore, if manifestations of antisemitism in the United States will intensify during the election campaign and among extremist American circles.
However, it should be stressed that Palestinian leaders have continued to resist any real compromise since the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. Yasser Arafat first and then Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) did not agree with prime minister Ehud Barak and US president Bill Clinton’s proposals and the proposal by prime minister Ehud Olmert, which were much more generous.
Although the PA demands a state within 1967 borders, an issue that was largely resolved in previous negotiations, the real decisive problems are the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
The Trump plan talks about the need to demilitarize Gaza and disarm Hamas. The plan does not mention how the move will be implemented. Indeed, a real agreement between the PA and Israel cannot be achieved as long as Hamas, which wants to destroy Israel on the basis of its extremist Islamist ideology, continues to militarily control Gaza.
And what has the Israeli government been doing for the past two years? It seeks to “settle” with Hamas but, in fact, perpetuates Hamas’s military rule and control of the Gaza Strip.
Residents of the Arab triangle community in Israel are right in opposing the proposed plan. At the same time, some of its leaders have expressed extreme positions that do not favor relations between the two peoples. The raising of Palestinian flags during protests will only convince Jewish citizens that it is desirable to move the triangle towns and villages to a future Palestinian state.
The only winners at the regional level are the regime in Tehran – which will surely encourage any Palestinian party to oppose the plan through violence and terrorism – and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who strongly criticized the plan and has already stuck a stake in Gaza and Jerusalem through his proxies
Let’s hope that the Israeli government and the Trump administration will overcome the temptation to carry out pre-election annexation moves that will only increase the likelihood of renewed violence. A chance should be given to the government to look seriously at the positive points of the Trump plan, in dialogue with the PA and the moderate Arab states. The next government must also finally decide how to resolve the Gaza problem in a way that will not perpetuate Hamas’s rule and ensure peace and quiet to the citizens in Israel’s South.

The writer is senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and The Institute for Policy and Strategy at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.