This is no 'Deal of the Century' for the Palestinians - opinion

The main problem is that while the deal takes full account of Israel’s legitimate concerns and aspirations, it does not take into account those of the Palestinians.

PALESTINIANS REJECT the ‘Deal of the Century.’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
PALESTINIANS REJECT the ‘Deal of the Century.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Trump’s “Deal of the Century” touches upon most of the issues that must be dealt with if one wishes to reach a two-state solution.
However, even though the deal speaks of a four-year transition period, it is constructed in such a way that the chances of the proposed process leading up to the establishment of a Palestinian state (according to Netanyahu, a Palestinian state minus) are virtually nil, and the only concrete element is the American explicit approval of an Israeli annexation of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank – though it isn’t absolutely clear whether these also include “illegal” settlements (i.e., outposts and settlements that were not approved by the Israeli authorities in advance or ex post facto) or only the settlement blocs over which there is a fairly broad Jewish consensus, and when exactly this annexation is to take place.
What do I mean when I say that the deal includes all the elements that must be considered in a two-state solution? It delimits the territory within which the two states are to exist; it speaks of the territory to be included in each of them, including an exchange of territories between the two; it speaks of a tunnel that will connect the two halves of the Palestinian state – 70% of the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip; and it lays down basic conditions that are necessary so that the two states will be able to live in peaceful coexistence.
So what is the problem?
The main problem is that while the deal takes full account of Israel’s legitimate concerns and aspirations, it does not take into account those of the Palestinians. It includes Israel’s basic demands, such as the Jordan River as Israel’s eastern security border, a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, the annexation of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Israel, the total demilitarization of the Palestinian state and the disarmament of Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc., but doesn’t include a single one of the basic Palestinian demands, such as that the Palestinian capital should be in east Jerusalem (not a few insignificant suburbs of Jerusalem and villages annexed by Israel to Jerusalem after 1967), the end of the Israeli occupation of all the territories occupied by it in 1967, and the right of return (or reparations) for the 1948/9 Palestinian refugees.
The offer of $50 billion in foreign investments in the Palestinian state-to-be (little if any of it from the US itself) cannot compensate for this lacuna.
Why do I suggest that it might be justified to consider the deal nothing more than deceit?
In Trump’s case, it is difficult to tell whether he really believes that the 181-page document has any chance of leading to a viable peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, or whether he views it as casting bread upon the waters with the hope that sooner or later it might bring dividends – or not.
However, one cannot help wondering what immediate returns Trump hopes to receive. Is he concerned with the fulfillment of a promise he made when elected over three years ago? Is he trying, toward the November presidential elections, to please his Evangelical supporters who support Netanyahu’s annexationist ambitions for their own messianic reasons? Is he seeking to help Netanyahu finally win an election?
No, I do not detect a deliberate attempt to deceive in Trump’s possible motives – at most, amateurism, ignorance, vanity and a soft place in his heart for Netanyahu, one of the few leaders in the world who enthusiastically supports him.
Netanyahu’s case is different. I have no doubt that he does not believe the deal will lead to a Palestinian state (which he opposes) or a settlement of the conflict. What interests Netanyahu at the moment is to leave as much of a concrete heritage as possible, and since he has no way of knowing how his approaching trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of faith will end, time might be a rare commodity for him. The unilateral annexation of part of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, but especially the Jewish settlements established in these territories since then, are considered by him a worthy heritage. Concealing this goal in Trump’s deal increases the chances of realizing it more rapidly than any other way. In fact, Netanyahu was hoping to get the cabinet to approve his annexation plan yesterday, not only for the sake of his heritage, but also as an election campaign ploy toward next month’s general elections.
BUT SOMETHING went wrong. Though US Ambassador David Friedman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appear to actively support an immediate annexation (Pompeo without understanding the full political and international law implications of the move, and Friedman out of full identification with the Jewish settlers), Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, feels otherwise, and has insisted that a decision on annexation should not be taken before the elections, and should be preceded by discussions on the details between the US and Israel.
Kushner’s motives might have to do with the expected negative reactions to the deal in the Arab world in general, and Jordan in particular, and with the understanding that Netanyahu might not remain prime minister after the elections, and that Benny Gantz does not share Netanyahu’s agenda.
Incidentally, Netanyahu’s motives for enthusiastically praising and exalting Trump’s deal are not completely clear, though there are those who argue that some of its premises seem to originate in his 1994 book A Place Among the Nations.
Despite the fact that the deal might offer Netanyahu a fast track to annexation, he is certainly aware of the fact that even though the Likud MKs and the New Right are delighted with the prospect of annexation, they are totally opposed to a Palestinian state, or anything resembling a state, and are opposed to Israel adopting it as a basis for negotiations.
Furthermore, the transfer of Israeli territories to the Palestinians in return for the 30% of the West Bank that Netanyahu seeks to annex is unlikely to receive the support of at least 80 MKs in the Knesset, or a majority in a referendum, as Israeli law requires before the government can relinquish any Israeli territory. The territories mentioned in the deal are an area south of Hebron on the Israeli side of the border, two stretches of land along the border with Egypt and adjacent to the Gaza Strip (one of them, the Halutza sand dunes, was considered by some of the Gush Katif evacuees as a possible location for resettlement), as well as most of the “triangle” – the area in central Israel inhabited by over 300,000 Arabs.
Finally, on a positive note, even though the “Deal of the Century” is unlikely to bring about a breakthrough in the peace process, which the Left desires, or major annexations, as the Right desires, at least it has placed all the pertinent issues on a future Israeli-Palestinian settlement on the table, and the election campaign in the coming month will not be only about “yes Bibi or no Bibi.”