The concept, merger & acquisition and the road show

The so-called “Deal of the Century” will never be implemented because there is no Palestinian partner for the deal that will legitimize Israeli annexation, expansion and settlement.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump announcing the ‘Deal of the Century.’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump announcing the ‘Deal of the Century.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I am writing from Dubai. I have come here to participate in Arab Health, an international exposition of medical supplies, devices and innovations. There are thousands of participants here from all over the world with a strong emphasis on participants from every country in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, I have met several other Israelis here, all with foreign passports, mostly hiding their Israeli identity. There are several Israeli manufacturers in the expo, all hiding their origin. Last night I spent the evening with a group of young Palestinian businessmen from the West Bank and Gaza and some who are living in Dubai for the past years.
All of us were glued to our smartphones watching events unfold as President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out their plans for lighting the fire of another possible round of violence in our common homeland. Our fears are not misplaced.
The so-called “Deal of the Century” will never be implemented because there is no Palestinian partner for the deal that will legitimize Israeli annexation, expansion and settlement while denying the Palestinians any true sense of self-determination and sovereignty. There may be many aspects of Trump’s plan which remain unclear, but what is crystal clear is that there has not been any Palestinian partner taken into account from the very beginning of the process of creating a new American peace plan.
The plan is most certainly viewed here as an initiative of Netanyahu, successfully presented to Trump who, with his merger and acquisition mentality, went public with Netanyahu’s road show to market it to their bases in Israel and the US.
The deal so far has succeeded in creating unity among the Palestinians, bringing together independents, Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Palestinians foresee that Trump has given Netanyahu a license to annex large parts of the West Bank and that Netanyahu, in full coordination and cooperation with Trump, is planning to take action immediately. This is clearly an election tactic for both men.
Amazingly, Trump has no right to grant Israel permission to take an illegal action completely in contravention to international law, and Netanyahu, serving as a non-elected interim prime minister, has no legitimacy within the context of Israeli law and politics to do something weeks prior to Israeli elections that he has not done in more than 10 years of being in power.
Netanyahu was clearly against Ehud Barak reaching agreements with the Palestinians prior to Israeli elections in 2001, just as he was regarding Olmert’s negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008-9. How can Netanyahu believe that he has the legitimate right to annex even one inch of the West Bank weeks prior to elections?
The Trump plan may have put the final nail in the coffin of the morbid Israeli-Palestinian peace process. We might be witnessing the final death blow to the two-state solution. The aspirations of both peoples for a territorial expression of the identity on the same piece of land has not gone out the window of history, though.
The fundamental belief of the complete legitimacy of each side’s own right and ownership of the land of Israel/Palestine is not going to diminish. In fact, with another possible round of extreme violence in front of us, the mutual non-recognition of those rights is very likely to be strengthened, which will only intensify the violence and the sense of self-justification for extracting severe pain on each other.
IF WE CAN manage to pass the next weeks without casualties, without funerals, it may be possible to reach a point of understanding on both sides that the Trump plan will just be another failed attempt by an American president for a Pax Americana in the Holy Land. We can only hope that this will be the extent of the damage done in Washington. My fear is that Trump is not just another American president.
Trump represents a failure of the American system and the international rules of the game and norms. The Trump presidency is hopefully an anomaly and not a trend. I am hopeful that very soon Netanyahu will also be history. But the damage has been done, and it will most likely leave a grave mark in our present reality.
There have been several very basic axioms for any chance of genuine peace. These have included the essential by-in by the main players – meaning the Israelis and the Palestinians. Jerusalem must be shared in a way that allows for two capitals in an open city with special regimes for the holy places that confirm the understanding that al-Aqsa/Temple Mount is controlled by the Muslims and the Western Wall is controlled by the Jews. The refugee issue needs to be dealt with to reach an agreed formula which does not threaten Israel’s existence and does not undermine the Palestinian leadership’s legitimacy.
The creation of a Palestinian state has to be based on the pre-June 5, 1967, borders with agreed territorial swaps on a one-to-one basis. Gaza and the West Bank have to be reunited and both included as forming the Palestinian state. Both sides need to make clear and implementable security arrangements based on cooperation.
The Israeli and Palestinian people need to enjoy as much free movement and access as possible, encouraging interaction, trade and cooperation across recognized borders. The agreements have to be based on mutual recognition of legitimacy, and both sides must engage actively in fostering a culture of peace. None of this exists in the Trump-Netanyahu deal.
The presentation of this deal and the subsequent damage that will undoubtedly be done by both sides on the ground in its wake will more likely than not remove the chances of a two-state solution from the realm of possibility and from the political discourse on both sides of the conflict lines. Without a swift and sharp course change we are heading toward an abyss that will lock us into the essential confrontation with our own self-definitions – for both Israelis and Palestinians.
One of the Palestinians I sat with last evening while looking at the Trump-Netanyahu map and all of the land between the river and sea stated clearly (in Arabic), “This was our land, this is our land and this will always be our land.” No doubt that many if not most Israelis and Palestinians feel exactly the same. As history should teach us, we will either fight to the death or divide the land or find a way to share it. I cannot see any other options.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.