Why America’s ‘ultimate deal’ for peace may still fail

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Why America’s ‘ultimate deal’ for peace may still fail

There has been much speculation over President Donald Trump’s plan to reach an “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians and, until Dec. 6, when the US president announced his infamous decision with regard to Jerusalem, the Palestinian leadership was cautiously optimistic over its prospects. But the Jerusalem declaration dashed all hopes and gave the Palestinians, as well as all Arabs, a reality check on where the US administration stands with regard to the classical two-state solution, previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and pertinent UN resolutions on the issues.
And, if we are to believe the leaked report that Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat submitted to the Palestinian Central Council last week, then we now have a first look at the main parameters of the proposed peace plan to be unveiled by the White House in the coming few weeks or months.
The parameters include defining Palestine as a “state minus”, whatever that term means. They also propose giving Israel security control over the Palestinian entity, which is another vague term that could be interpreted to mean an open-ended occupation.
Other parameters make it clear Israel will maintain a permanent presence along the Jordan River and there will be land swaps but not based on the 1967 lines. It is also proposed there will be no settlement evacuation, and that the refugee problem will have a "just solution.”
These are the alleged broad settings that the US peace plan will be based on. And they can only mean one thing: The White House has “borrowed” these terms and conditions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s playbook on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. In effect, the proposed plan does away with the Oslo agreement and with all previous US positions and commitments, in addition to sidelining UN resolutions and associated international laws on the issue.
With the US’ unilateral decision on Jerusalem in mind and with the latest US move to slash aid to UNRWA still fresh, the above parameters appear to be in sync with the perceptions and convictions of the US administration. As much as the proposed plan gives zero attention to Palestinian rights, which happen to be in line with international law, UN resolutions and the position of the vast majority of countries, it would be foolish to assume that the US can simply force such a humiliating settlement on the Palestinians.
But what is likely to happen is this: The US will present its plan — barring a sudden change in calculations in the White House — and the Palestinians will reject it immediately. Israel will embrace it, with the usual reservations, and will kick-start a series of unilateral moves to implement major portions of the plan. This will include annexing the settlements and imposing military rule over East Jerusalem in order to justify steps to hasten the forced transfer of its Palestinian residents and embark on plans to evict them from villages along the Jordan Valley. 
Illegal as all these steps are, Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners will go even further by passing laws that annex major chunks of the West Bank, while underlining the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. Meanwhile, the US will try to tempt the Palestinians to accept or re-engage in return for substantial aid packages.

While leaked parameters will lead to a scenario that is depressing and infuriating, it is unlikely Israel’s unilateral actions and America’s blind support will be accepted by the Palestinians or the international community.

​Osama Al Sharif

But, as much as this scenario is depressing and infuriating, it does not mean that Israel’s unilateral actions and America’s blind support will be accepted by the Palestinians or the world community. All the plan will do is make the Palestinian cause a top priority among all of the world’s major crises. It will deepen US isolation on this matter and will trigger violent reactions by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. It will likely entice European, Asian, Latin American and African countries to recognize the state of Palestine; albeit a state under occupation.
The Palestinian leadership has been cautioned by close Arab allies and European friends not to adopt radical stands — such as rejecting US mediation and withdrawing recognition of Israel — at least until the White House unveils its proposed peace plan. The idea being that quiet behind-the-scenes diplomatic engagement can influence the US and alter its position. International rejection, including by America’s closest allies, of Trump’s unilateral move on Jerusalem has rattled the US administration and may force it to review its stand. 
More importantly, perhaps, the crisis over Jerusalem has done a lot of damage to US credibility in the region, and has dampened support for Trump’s mediation efforts. It would be reckless for the US administration not to look back and take world and regional reactions into account. But, if the US ignores its allies and pushes ahead, thus ending all realistic prospects of a two-state solution, then the Palestinians can still derail such plans by changing their strategy and embracing the one-state option and upending Israeli schemes.
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010
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