Palestinians can use flawed US deal to their advantage
Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” will fail. This is because Palestinians will not exchange their 70-year-long struggle for freedom for US cash; nor will Israel accept it, even if there is a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank.
The order of that anticipated failure is likely to go something like this: The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah will reject the deal once the full details of the US administration’s plans are revealed; while Israel is likely to withhold its decision until the Palestinian rejection has been thoroughly exploited by the pro-Israeli US media.
The reality is that, considering the massive surge enjoyed by right-wing and ultra-nationalist forces in Israel, an independent Palestinian state on even 1 percent of historic Palestine would not be acceptable by Israel’s current political standards.
There is more to consider: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s troubled career as a long-serving leader is being dogged by accusations of corruption and several police investigations. His position is too weak to even guarantee his own survival until the next general elections, let alone champion a “deal of the century.”
However, the embattled Israeli leader is expected to play along to curry more favor with his American allies, distract the Israeli public from his own corruption, and hold Palestinians accountable for the political fiasco this is sure to unleash.
It is Bill Clinton’s Camp David II and George W. Bush’s “Road Map for Peace” all over again. Both initiatives, as unfair as they were to Palestinians, were never accepted by Israel in the first place, yet in many history books it is written that the ungrateful Palestinian leadership had torpedoed US-Israeli peace efforts. Netanyahu is keen on maintaining this misconception.
The Israeli leader, who has received the ultimate American gift of the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, knows how important this deal is to the Trump administration. Before assuming his role as president, Trump spoke of his “ultimate deal” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in November 2016. He offered no details, aside from the claim that he was able “to do… the deal that cannot be made… for humanity’s sake.”
Since then, we have relied on occasional leaks, starting in November 2017. We learned that a demilitarized Palestinian state would be established on a small part of the West Bank, without East Jerusalem as its capital; that Israel would keep all of Jerusalem, annex illegal Jewish settlements and even keep control of the Jordan Valley, and so on. Palestinians would still have a “Jerusalem,” albeit an invented one, where the neighborhood of Abu Dis would simply be branded as such.
The US-PA fallout and looming destruction of the status quo might be the chance the Palestinian people need to unleash their power through mass mobilization.
Despite the hype, nothing is truly new here. The “deal of the century” promises to be a rehash of previous American proposals that catered to Israel’s needs and interests. Remarks by Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East peace envoy, in an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds corroborate this view. He claimed that the Palestinian people are “less invested in politicians’ talking points” than they are in seeing how a deal will give them and their future generations new opportunities, including more and better paying jobs.
Where did we hear this before? Oh, yes, Netanyahu’s so-called “economic peace,” which he has been peddling for more than a decade. Certainly, the PA has proven that its political will is a commodity to be bought and sold, but to expect the Palestinian people to follow suit is an illusion without historical precedent.
Indeed, the PA has grown to be an obstacle to Palestinian freedom. A recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey indicated that the majority of Palestinians put the blame mostly on Israel and the PA for the Gaza siege, and that they mostly believe the PA has “become a burden on the Palestinian people.” It is hardly surprising that, as of March 2018, 68 percent of all Palestinians want PA President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.
While Israel deserves most of the blame for its decades-long military occupation, successive wars and lethal sieges, the US too stands accountable for backing and financing Israel’s colonial endeavors. However, the PA cannot play the role of the hapless victim.
What makes the “deal of the century” particularly dangerous is the truth that the PA cannot be trusted. It has played its role, assigned by Israel and the US, so well and for so long. PA policy served as the local arm in the subjugation of Palestinians, thwarting their protests and ensuring the demise of any political initiative that does not revolve around the glorifying of Abbas and his goons.
It is hardly an achievement when much of PA foreign policy in recent years was invested to ensure the complete economic and political isolation of impoverished Gaza, as opposed to unifying the Palestinian people around a collective fight to end the horrific Israeli occupation.
For PA officials to decry the “deal of the century” as an infringement on Palestinian rights while they have done little to respect these rights in the first place is the very definition of hypocrisy. No wonder Kushner thinks the US can simply buy off Palestinians in a “cash-in-your-chips, go-for-broke, take-it-or-leave-it (type of) deal,” in the words of Robert Fisk.
What can the PA do now? It is trapped in its own imprudence. On the one hand, its financial sponsor in Washington is turning off the money source, while on the other the Palestinian people have lost their last iota of respect for its so-called “leadership.”
Trump’s “deal of the century” may inadvertently mix up the cards, leading to a “much-needed reckoning for all other parties involved,” argued Anders Persson. One option available for the Palestinian people is the expansion of the popular mobilization model, which has been manifesting itself at the Gaza-Israel fence for many weeks.
The US-PA fallout and the looming destruction of the status quo might be the chance the Palestinian people need to unleash their power through mass mobilization and popular resistance at home, coupled with an active role for Palestinian communities in the diaspora.
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story” (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud