Surrender to Israel or disappear: Trump's 'Deal of the Century' is an ultimatum to Palestinians

Surrender to Israel or disappear: Trump's 'Deal of the Century' is an ultimatum to Palestinians
Comment: Trump and Netanyahu's 'deal' is just normalisation of the status quo - the formalisation of Palestinians as a people without a land, under permanent occupation, writes Sam Hamad.
6 min read
29 Jan, 2020
No Palestinians were present at the unveiling of Trump's 'Deal' [AFP]
One of the tired cliches used over the years by apologists of Israel is that Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" when it comes to peace. 

This quote, beloved of those who peddle the lie of Palestinian "rejectionism", emanates from the Israeli politician Abba Eban during the Geneva peace conference of 1973. When it has come to all major moments of the so-called "peace process" for Israel-Palestine, the focus has been not on justice, but on multiple concealed attempts by the US and Israel to circumvent it.

Enter Trump. 

It's only from the collectively fevered mind of Trump's White House that this "Deal of the Century", officially termed the "Vision for Peace", could be presented to Palestinians as something that delivers the twin necessities of self-determination and justice. 

A brief read of the 181-page document is enough to reach the conclusion that this is the most explicit attempt by the US to swindle the Palestinians out of what is legally theirs. In fact, it makes a mockery of international law and any notion of justice regarding the reality of Palestinian statelessness, exile, besiegement in Gaza, and the daily injustices of illegal military occupation and annexation in the West Bank.

If this plan had been written by the pen of Netanyahu himself, you wouldn't be surprised, such is the explicit pro-Israel bias that underlines its every contrived sentence. 

It's a "deal" that gives Israel everything it has ever wanted, including every inch of land it has annexed via illegal settlement in the West Bank, as well as control over all of Jerusalem and the total annexation of the Jordan Valley.

This is the most audacious attempt yet by the US to circumvent international law

The Palestinians would be left not with a recognisable contiguous 'state', but with veritable bantustans, scattered among the West Bank and Gaza, masquerading as a state. 

The plan claims that these Palestinian enclaves would be linked up by a complex network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Though apologists might claim this as "contiguity", the reality is it represents the simultaneous normalisation and expansion of the apartheid-like conditions that exist in the West Bank.

Any serious form of contiguity would mean a direct territorial land link between Gaza and the West Bank - that's all of the West Bank. Trump's plan has the gall to claim to conform to UN Resolution 242, and thus international law, but it is the most audacious attempt yet by the US to circumvent international law as it relates to a two-state solution.

There is no ambiguity in the law: Palestinians have the legal right to every inch of Gaza and the West Bank, while Israel must retreat to its pre-June 1967 borders, including all of East Jerusalem. Not, as the plan would have it, a few measly bits of East Jerusalem that are partitioned by Israeli settlements.

These "Arab neighbourhoods" is what the plan presents as a viable Palestinian capital, while reproducing the ahistoric, illegal and deeply biased notions of Jerusalem being the "'undivided" capital of Israel. 

The illegal occupation of Palestinian land itself is casually justified in the plan by a single sentence, which reads "withdrawing from territory captured in a defensive war is a historical rarity". That the US is defending war crimes so openly ought to send a shiver down the spine of the world.

Every aspect of the internationally recognised two-state solution is nullified this deal. The legal necessity for a right of return of Palestinian refugees is swiftly abrogated by the tiresome pro-Israel talking point that so absurdly holds Palestinians collectively responsible for the exodus of Jews from Arab lands in the 20th century. 

That the US is defending war crimes so openly ought to send a shiver down the spine of the world

Though the plan concedes that the only meaningful way to forge a nation is through self-determination, Palestinian self-determination only lasts for a few pages. According to the document, a prerequisite of the recognition of the proposed "State of Palestine" is that while Israel can elect fascists who at different times have proposed ethnically cleansing Palestinians, Palestinians won't be allowed to vote in a way that the US and Israel disagree with. 

Hamas, of course, is singled out as the main impediment to peace and prosperity in Gaza, despite the once popularly elected group's position being more reasonable than almost any major political force in Israel, with it repeatedly endorsing the legal two-state solution. This is precisely why the Trump regime targeted it in the plan, as well as appealing to Trump's evangelical - more Zionist than the Zionists - Islamophobic base.

But more fundamentally, the actual sovereignty of a Palestinian state detailed in the plan is essentially non-existent. In fact, it really is just a normalisation of the status quo – the formalisation of the Palestinians as a people without a land under permanent occupation. 

Israel would retain security over the Palestinian enclaves, with border checkpoints patrolled solely by Israeli security forces - airspace and maritime access would continue to be controlled by Israel, with key provisions such as water supply and electricity also under the control of the Israeli state.

There is no other way to describe this than the construction of territorial apartheid. 

This is a plan written with the intent of ensuring Israeli supremacy and enshrining Palestinian submission. In decades gone by, there would have been widespread outrage among Arab leaders at such a plan, but perhaps the most depressing sight at Trump's unveiling yesterday was the presence of the ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and the UAE. 

This is a plan written with the intent of ensuring Israeli supremacy and enshrining Palestinian submission

And that's a major part of the plan. The Palestinians play not even a secondary role to its true purpose, which is not only about normalising Israeli supremacy, but also an attempt to further economically integrate Israel into the network of pro-US autocrats and authoritarians in the region. 

And, in this respect, whether it's Sisi's Egypt, which is already a close friend of Israel along with Jordan, or Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the US and Israel will find little resistance to this deal among the collection of gangsters, kleptocrats and tyrants who keep the Arabic-speaking world in a constant state of brutal injustice. These are now kindred spirits with Israel.

The countries that once swore to eternally support the struggle for Palestinian self-determination are now, more than ever before, controlled by those who will abandon it in a heartbeat. 

The Palestinians truly are alone. And Trump's entire plan is predicated on this reality. 

Though Trump called it a 'win-win' for Palestinians and Israelis, it's actually a win-win for Israel. If the Palestinians reject the deal, the status quo of occupation continues informally without any recompense for Israel, while if they accept it, the status quo of occupation would continue formally without a modicum of justice. 

Many people like to draw on the comparison of apartheid South Africa with Israel-Palestine. This plan certainly resembles the Bantu Homelands that the apartheid regime attempted to create in order to formalise territorial apartheid and white minority rule forever. 

They failed because the world gradually recognised this project as evil. 

Unfortunately for Palestinians, the great evils that they continue to suffer are precisely what the authoritarian forces that prevail in the US and Israel want to normalise. 

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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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.