To be precise: Not Deal, but chutzpah of the Century

To be precise: Not Deal, but chutzpah of the Century
Comment: The ideas of the 'Deal of the Century' are already a reality, it will simply confer legitimacy on what Israel has snatched by force, writes Azmi Bishara.
8 min read
13 May, 2019
According to reports, details of the so-called 'Deal' will be released in June [Getty]
What has been dubbed, in an affront to history, a "Deal of the Century", is nothing but a plot by extremists on the Zionist right that has embedded itself in the current US administration to impose The Problem itself, as a solution. 

The arrogant mind that produced these ideas must have extrapolated the pattern of developments in our region to impose a conclusion on the Palestinians that nature dictates that they are going from bad to worse. It would, it follows, be best for the victims or those appointed as their custodians not only to accept the current injustice as being better than the worse injustice to come, but also to confer upon this injustice legal and historic legitimacy.

This so-called deal, which is nothing more than a set of incoherent ideas that reflect the status quo as it is, and relinquishes any attempt to change it, will not be acceptable to any Palestinian. However, this is not to say it is unimportant.

Indeed, the so-called Deal of the Century marks a major shift in the already pro-Israeli American position, which has now become identical to the position of the Israeli far-right; and any future US administration will need time to readjust this position.

More importantly, the "deal" has scored for the Zionist right embodied in the government of Binyamin Netanyahu gains hitherto undreamed of, such as gaining broader international legitimacy for the annexation of Jerusalem, expanding settlement activity, winning - probably - US recognition of annexing some settlement clusters, and taking the refugee issue officially and completely off the table.

This so-called deal is nothing more than a set of incoherent ideas that reflect the status quo as it is

No doubt, the Zionist ideological right, which has formed the core of Israeli governments in recent decades, and which today holds a huge sway over Middle East policy and decision-making in the US administration, is assigning major strategic and conceptual importance to these "victories: Particularly the elimination of "final status issues" to use the terminology of the Oslo Accords, which include the refugees, Jerusalem, borders, and Israeli settlements, and the erosion of international consensus on these issues.

For their part, Trump, Netanyahu and politicians of their ilk, who combine far-right attitudes and political opportunism, see in the "deal" a chance to score a major coup in the eyes of their constituencies, as well as shoring up Israel's position internationally and weakening the Palestinians in any negotiation process.

Indeed, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which suspended negotiations with Israel out of misplaced optimism in Barack Obama's initial positions against settlements when he assumed office, before proving himself to be toothless, finds itself today facing off with an American president who has not only backtracked from that position but also publicly endorsed Israeli settlement.

Not only that, but Trump has also proceeded to close down the PLO's office in Washington, suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transferred the US embassy there, and repealed US recognition of the refugee issue by suspending all funding to UNRWA.

All these steps have been made even before the anticipated announcement of the terms of the "Deal of the Century".

A future US administration may revise these steps, if the US electorate and the world manage to be spared another Trump term. However, it will be difficult for any administration to revise them all at once, especially since some of them enjoy majority support in Congress in the context of domestic policy, while the White House has hampered translating them into foreign policy until now.

The "Deal of the Century" scheme is being executed at a time when the forces that oppose US-Israeli policies in the region are extremely weak, for reasons including their state of profound crisis, the internal conflicts with their societies, and the opportunism of their lip service to the cause of Palestine.

Meanwhile, the Arab regimes that fall into the satellite of US policy in the region broke free of all shackles after the Arab uprisings. They became more intertwined with Washington, because they are fighting for survival and believe the cure-all is an overt alliance with the Israeli lobby in the United States.

This is what the current rulers of the UAE and Saudi Arabia are doing, for they believe Iran is the main threat and Israel an ally in that fight.

This shift in the Arab landscape has not only facilitated the radical shift in the already pro-Israeli American position, but also laid the groundwork for executing this shift without any Arab resistance to speak of.

The Arab regimes, including the Palestinian Authority, made no real steps to object to these measures

This has been reflected in the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the suspension of funding to UNRWA, the halt to all criticism of settlement expansion, and the recognition of Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. Bar some feeble statements issued by even feebler summits, the Arab regimes, including the Palestinian Authority, made no real steps to object to these measures.

The ideas of the "Deal of the Century" have already been executed by conferring legitimacy and recognition on what Israel has snatched by force. Waiting for the announcement of the deal's terms is absurd, and a distraction from what is really happening. To be sure, the anticipated terms of the "deal" are being implemented, they are already reality in our lands, having long obliterated the foundations of the so-called peace process.

Read more: Aid will never be a substitute for Palestinian statehood

Chance has allowed a rich, spoiled, inexperienced and unlearned youth who loves Israel and admires Netanyahu, and who is the son-in-law of a man who oddly enough became president, to manipulate the fate of an entire region and its people, gifting whatever of their land he chooses to Israel.

It is a chutzpah that our century has never known before and deserves to be named the Chutzpah of the Century. This young brat has captivated the media, elites and public opinion with vague ideas and hyped-up release dates, even though the deal is already being executed, and there is nothing left worth waiting for.

This young brat has captivated the media, elites and public opinion with vague ideas and hyped-up release dates, even though the deal is already being executed

Perhaps some terms of the deal have not yet been made public. However, regimes with "weathervanes" such as the Jordanian regime have sensed them ahead of time and realised their danger.

One of these terms is abolishing the idea of Palestinian statehood, which poses a threat to Jordan, especially when coupled with possible attempts to pressure the Hashemite kingdom into becoming the "sovereignty framework" for the Palestinian Authority. This means turning the latter into an autonomous region governing highly populated areas in the West Bank while allowing Israel to annex the remainder of the West Bank and execute the land swaps it favours.

Needless to say, the Palestinians and Arabs do not accept the current status quo, let alone accept legitimising it in a deal with Israel.

However, the issue here is how such rejection of dictates has played out in the past, the dynamics of the current status quo and what it may lead to. The missing link here is the Palestinian response that would be able to impose itself on the agenda of the Arab regimes, and other world states astonished by the sleight of hand of the US president's son-in-law and his "genius" ideas.

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Palestinian official conduct since the second intifada has practically been to surrender to the status quo, albeit with theoretical objection in diplomatic corridors.

The current leadership of the Palestinian Authority considers its own establishment, with dozens of institutions, hundreds of positions of high office, and tens of thousands of civil servants and security officers, to be a great historic achievement.

Therefore, the Palestinian Authority does not want to risk this though any form of resistance. This, in a nutshell, is the current situation: An administration was created without a state. It developed policies and interests that justify its continued existence without statehood. And under this administration, power struggles have erupted that have deeply divided the Palestinian people.

The missing link here is the Palestinian response that would be able to impose itself on the agenda of the Arab regimes

Yet we are not in agreement even over this assessment.

Some of us believe that this "historic achievement" is a major obstacle holding back the aspirations of the Palestinian people. In its wake, the Palestinian cause splintered into many causes. The refugee issue became a set of disparate conditions (slums, migration, and so on) being addressed (or rather, left unaddressed) outside the context of the Palestinian issue.

The blockade of Gaza became another cause, with the administration there preoccupied with securing sustenance and survival and anticipating the next Israeli attack. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and security coordination with Israel that is both the lynchpin and the undoing of its relationship with Israel, and Jerusalem, still another issue.

The Palestinian entity that once brought together all such issues under the banner of the Palestinian cause, i.e. the PLO, was supposed to lead the resistance against the "Deal of the Century" and develop a strategy to counter it without considerations related to how to preserve the Palestinian Authority.

However, this entity is today marginalised and made absent. It has been brought under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in what constitutes an undeclared assassination of the PLO.

As a result, any talk about the "Deal of the Century" will be meaningless, as long as it avoids the following issue: How will the Palestinian people (meaning its leaders and political forces) confront this "Deal of the Century"?

Because it will not be the Arab regimes currently normalising their ties with Israel that will do so, nor the regimes preoccupied with their internal battles. Nor will it be Europe or others who will undertake this task on our behalf.

Azmi Bishara is a Palestinian intellectual, academic and writer.

Follow him on Twitter: @AzmiBishara

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.