'Deal of the Century': Palestinians feel letdown but can they resist American and Israeli dictation?

'Deal of the Century': Palestinians feel letdown but can they resist American and Israeli dictation?
Details of the controversial 'Deal of the Century' plan will be revealed in a historic event at the White House, but it's obvious that the deal is in Israel's favour.
7 min read
28 January, 2020
Palestinians protest against the Bahrain workshop for the US Mideast peace plan last year [Getty]

US President Donald Trump has announced that the controversial "Deal of the Century" plan will be revealed in full on Tuesday afternoon, after almost three years of delays.

From the point of view of the current American administration, the long awaited Middle East Peace Plan aims to resolve the ongoing prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The deal is also known also as Kushner's document – referring to the Senior Adviser to the US President, Jared Kushner, who is also the son-in-law of Trump and who was instructed to come up with the plan.

The Palestinians were not consulted about the proposal as the peace process was frozen for some years over Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and the building and expanding of illegal Israeli settlements.

Diplomatic ties have also been severed between Washington and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

It is obvious that the proposed deal is in Israel's favour. Palestinians who rely on financial support from the West and some rich Arab Gulf countries are the weaker side here, and will be expected to accept what is being offered on the table. This could mean pressuring and blackmailing Palestinians to make more concession and compromises.

The details of the deal will be revealed in a historic event in the White House. Trump has invited Israel's two largest political parties; Israeli caretaker PM Benjamin Netanyahu leader of the Likud party and opposition leader Benny Gantz, chairman of Kahol Lavan, who served as the former military chief of staff.

The plan, parts of its terms which were leaked by some Israeli media, was rejected from the start by the Palestinian side due to Trump's many gifts to Netanyahu, most notably in December 2017 when he declared Jerusalem as Israel's eternal undivided capital, moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and severed all financial support to the PA and UNRWA – the UN agency that caters for millions of Palestinian refugees.

The PA had already rejected an American offer of a $50 billion economic revival plan during a workshop held in Bahrain last July to lift the Palestinian and neighbouring Arab state economies.

Trump's meeting with Netanyahu and the generous offers are another continuation to help one another – a friend in need, as both Trump and Netanyahu are on the same boat. The first is facing an impeachment trial, whereas the latter is charged with corruption, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, and bribery in one, as he does his best to gain immunity.

Both are sacrificing the Palestinian cause and exploiting their cause, a conflict that is considered as one of the main reasons for instability in the Middle East.

As if all of this anti-Palestinian approach is not enough, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennet said that Israel will "under no condition allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state". According to Israeli sources, the American plan will assure full Israeli sovereignty in all the existing settlements and annexation of the Jordan Valley, which will become Israel's eastern border.

Read also: King Abdullah pledges to reject Trump's Deal of the Century if it penalises Jordan

The leaks reveal applying Israeli sovereignty to all "illegal Israeli settlements" built in the occupied West Bank and annex them to Israel, Palestinians are asked to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israel as a Jewish state, to demilitarise Gaza and the disarmament of all armed groups in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

But there is no mention about ending Israeli military occupation and the shape of the Palestinian state. The plan consists of a four year transitional period after which Palestinians will have their own mini-state with no sovereignty or power.

We know such statements aim to pressure Netanyahu and his rival to fulfil the promises of their election campaigns and appease the settler movements in Israel and the Zionist lobby in the US, but the ultimate and real intention is to kill any chance for the establishment of a "viable and de-militarised" Palestinian state – which was supposed to be established within five years of signing the Oslo Accords in 1994. It kills the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees scattered around the world who have been living in miserable conditions in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab countries for over five decades.

These refugees are still dreaming to return to where they or their ancestors once lived before they were forced to flee their homes and towns in 1948

These refugees are still dreaming to return to where they or their ancestors once lived before they were forced to flee their homes and towns in 1948 when Israel came into existence at the expense of Palestinians who had inhabited the land for decades.

Trump's plan leaves Palestinians no option but to reject it. Just as he intended
Read also:  Trump's plan leaves Palestinians
no option but to reject it. Just as he intended

The Palestinian leadership, which has been isolated and pushed to a corner for the past three years by the US and abandoned even by some fellow Arab regimes, have made some threats to counter this plan.

"We warn of serious consequences for the whole region if the peace plan harms the Palestinian people's sovereignty or identity," read a statement by the Palestinian presidency office in Ramallah.

Read also: Palestinian President Abbas refuses to accept call from Trump amid fury over 'peace' plan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Monday regarding the expected release of the plan. This rejection of communication was not the first, as there were similar attempts made recently to sooth the tense atmosphere and invite Palestinians to Washington for discussions.

Furthermore, a threat to dissolve the PA and leave a political vacuum was made by Senior Palestinian Peace Negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Dr Saeb Erekat.

"If Netanyahu officially begins the annexation of Palestinian territory, this means Israel's withdrawal from the signed Oslo Accords and agreements. It is an attempt to destroy the two states," Erekat tweeted. The official described the US deal as a dictation, calling it the "Deal of Fraudulence" that aims to evade from implementing international law.

Palestinian political factions have also called for a 'day of rage' on Tuesday, the day the deal will be announced. The largest two armed resistance groups in Gaza – Hamas and the Islamic Jihad – have pledged to reject the deal unless it grants the Palestinian people their full rights.

A number of meetings by representatives of Palestinian factions took place in Gaza ahead of the announcement of the deal, in addition to statements and threats made by some Fatah officials to counter the dictating US measure.

A small gathering of protesters burned an effigy of President Trump as well as Israeli and American flags in Gaza city, but in reality all events and developments concerning the US deal were met with apathy and mockery by Palestinians.

We must be united and focused on the goal of defending our rights and overturning the plan

Ismael Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' political bureau, called for a meeting with the Fatah leadership in Cairo to discuss a response to the Trump plan, but in light of the lack of trust between the two sides this meeting is unlikely to materialise.

"If the plan is published in accordance with the details that have been released so far – which we totally reject – the Palestinian leadership will announce a series of steps to preserve the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and Israel will bear responsibility. We must be united and focused on the goal of defending our rights and overturning the plan," Haniyeh said.

But reality on the ground indicates that ordinary Palestinians are fed up and frustrated from years of internal division and the abandoning of the Palestinian cause by majority of Arab regimes, many of whom have openly announced their normalisation and diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Palestinian cause has become a burden for many but it is up to the Palestinians to decide their fate and the next step.       

Yousef Alhelou is a Palestinian journalist and political analyst from Gaza, based in London. He is a United Nations fellow and alumni, and served as a Reuters journalist fellow at the University of Oxford.

Follow him on Twitter: @YousefAlhelou