Will Israel accept Trump's peace deal?

Will Israel accept Trump's peace deal?
Comment: If a 'peace plan' does in fact exist, it will be rejected if it calls on Israel to make even the tiniest of concessions.
7 min read
24 Sep, 2018
President Trump has so far been ticking every box on Netanyahu's wishlist [Getty]
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated an ardent and unwavering commitment to the American-sponsored "peace process" and the Oslo accords for 25 years - despite the absence of any commitment on the Israeli side since 2001.

Abbas' dedication to Oslo has even reached the point where the PA has faced unrelenting accusations from the Palestinian people of being "Israeli stooges" and "subcontractors of the Israeli occupation".

Now, however, the Palestinian Authority stands accused by the Trump administration of turning its back to peace - only because the PA refuses to engage in talks surrounding a deal designed to liquidate all Palestinian rights and the foundations of a viable Palestinian state.

After the PA cut ties with Washington over its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the Trump administration started taking one measure after another which directly affected the Palestinian people's already vulnerable living conditions.

These punitive measures were "justified" by citing the PA's rejection of engaging further with talks led by the Trump administration's Middle East team. But much evidence says these measures against the Palestinians were going to happen anyway.

The US Middle East Team: Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and David M Friedman seem to be working to tick every box that's ever been on Netanyahu's wish list, and they constantly parrot Netanyahu and Israeli leaders' rhetoric and positions.

The severing of aid to UNRWA, a humanitarian organisation that provides food, education and health services to approximately 5.4 million vulnerable Palestinian refugees, was a direct request from Netanyahu. The move is designed to terminate the Palestinian refugee problem; the biggest issue on Israel's agenda for decades.
  In 35 sessions conducted with Trump administration officials in 2017, we told them that we want to meet the Israelis to pick up the negotiations where we left off, but they - US officials - refused  

And the recent US decision to cut aid to six hospitals in East Jerusalem, which serve the Palestinian population not only in the city but also in the rest of the West Bank and in Gaza, has Israeli fingerprints all over it; as Israel is intensifying its war on the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem and continues to annex Palestinian properties there, those hospitals remain among the last Palestinian organisations left in the occupied city.

Motivated by the same repugnant goal, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
vowed recently to expel UNRWA institutions.

All of those measures and others, including the US State Department's recent decision to close the PLO office in Washington, were allegedly justified mainly because the Palestinians "have not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

However, Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, said: "They say that they're doing this because we refused to come back to the negotiations table. In 35 sessions conducted with Trump administration officials in 2017, we told them that we want to meet the Israelis to pick up the negotiations where we left off, but they - US officials - refused."

While virtually all the politicians currently governing Israel now loudly and proudly reject the establishment of a Palestinian state and are all at the forefront of supporting the settler movement that's sweeping East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and while the number of settlers in the occupied territories amount to approximately 650,000, it's now Abbas who is hypocritically accused of being "anti-peace" despite his ongoing - and sometimes unreasonable - commitment to the Oslo Accords and security coordination with Israel.

Abbas' commitment to these has doubtlessly saved countless Israeli lives, and the PA president has been praised by numerous Israeli security officials over the years.

But what's crucial to point out is that, despite how rewarding the Trump Administration has been to Israel's behaviour, its denial of Palestinian rights and its violations of international law, Israel is just as likely to reject Trump's "peace deal" as the PA.

It's unclear up to this point what the Trump "peace plan" is going to be like, or in fact whether there is a plan at all - or whether it is merely just the steps already taken: legitimising Israeli colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and ending Palestinians' claims and rights.

But, in the extremely unlikely circumstance that Kushner and Greenblatt propose a plan that exacts any price on Israel, it's going to be automatically rejected by Tel Aviv.

Extreme rage and hysteria swept Israel's leadership, media and public upon hearing that President Trump said in a rally - in West Virginia on August 22 - that Israel, in future negotiations with the Palestinians, would have to pay "a higher price in return for the Jerusalem embassy move.

Despite the fact that current US administration is fulfilling every one of Israel's dreams, Israeli leaders, right-wing figures and media commentators were outraged at the mere possibility that something in the deal might not go their way - and that they might have to concede something to the Palestinians.

If there is an actual peace plan that demands any tiny concession from Israel - no matter how much the deal is going to be heavily tilted in favour of Israel - it will be defiantly rejected by Israel.

There are ultra-nationalist and far-right religious figures ubiquitous within the government who won't even acquiesce to the mere admission of a Palestinian right to the land, and who won't accept the establishment of any Palestinian entity on the land between the Mediterranean sea and the River Jordan - even if only in the fragmented cantons of Area A and B - and certainly won't accept any concessions to the Palestinians.

When Netanyahu was asked recently about Trump's peace plan, he plainly hoped that it would never see the light of day, saying that he didn't see "any urgency" for the White House to reveal its plan.

  The Americans will not force anything on to Israel, but are glad to suffocate the Palestinians into submission  

Netanyahu and Israeli leaders are enthusiastically cheering and celebrating the Trump administration's assaults against the Palestinians and are happy to see US politicians encourage the full annexation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan heights - but they want all of those American services and manoeuvres with no strings attached; they are unwilling to pay any price to achieve even a nominal peace that would give as little as nominal recognition to Palestinians.

Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman have a seemingly contradictory piece of rhetoric on the issue of a peace deal, but it's not rocket science to unpack its significance. They have said on multiple occasions that they will not seek to impose any deal, while simultaneously contradicting their statements by imposing extreme punitive measures against the Palestinians to force them to accept a deal.

So, the statement applies only to Israel; the Americans will not force anything on to Israel, but are glad to suffocate the Palestinians into submission.

The Israeli concerns about Trump's "higher price" line were later assuaged by those who know better about the plan and are directly involved in formulating it; both Friedman and National Security Adviser John Bolton contradicted Trump's statement by saying there would be no quid pro quo for the embassy move.

"There is not and there never was any demand made of Israel in exchange for the United States embassy move," said Friedman. And this raises questions on whether the "high price in return" is something that Trump's Middle East team only said to him - to trick him and encourage him to go along with the decision.

The reality is that Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman are acting as mercenaries working for Israel, and on every single major issue in the conflict, they have embraced the Israeli position as opposed to the international community's position, based on human rights and UN Security Council resolutions.

"The only way this team can be part of the negotiations is if Netanyahu were to announce them as a part of the Israeli team in the negotiations," said Erekat. "We cannot say no to that because Israel has the right to choose its delegation."

In conclusion, if there's a peace plan that exacts any price on Israel, it's just as likely to be rejected by Israel as the PA - but never rule out the possibility that there's no peace deal at all, and that the "deal" is merely the inhumane, unsavoury, and illegal measures taken against Palestinians on behalf of Israel.

Ahmed Zed is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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.