The Deal that Was Never Meant to Be

Palestine Center Brief No. 337 (January 30, 2020)

By Mohamed Mohamed

On January 28, 2020, US President Donald Trump finally revealed the details of his so-called “Deal of the Century.” The proposal is so condescending and ludicrously biased in favor of Israel that it is almost comical and not even worth discussing. But this was expected.

To begin with, let us look at the definition of a “deal,” which is very straightforward. It is when two or more parties enter into an agreement for their mutual benefit. In this case, one would logically expect the “Deal of the Century” to be negotiated between Palestinians and Israelis. But Palestinians were never included in this process. How can there be a deal when one of the primary parties is excluded?

The reality is that this “deal” was never meant to be a serious one. The input and legitimate grievances of Palestinians were never meant to be taken into consideration.

In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee from their homeland in historic Palestine thanks to the violence and terrorism of invading Zionist forces. Most of these people, along with their descendants, were never able to return to their homes. Later that year, the UN General Assembly issued Resolution 194, which called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.  

To this day, Israel has not only failed to comply with this international resolution, but it has also stated that the Palestinian right of return is out of the question. The Trump proposal reinforces this explicitly: “There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel.”

In 1967, Israel initiated a war and invaded the West Bank, Gaza, and parts of Egypt and Syria. This situation created another wave of Palestinian displacement and refugees, and shortly after, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 237, which again called on Israel to allow the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. Later in the year, the UN Security Council also issued Resolution 242, which called on Israel to fully withdraw from the territories that it acquired by force. Again, Israel did not comply with either of these resolutions.

On the contrary, since 1967, Israel colonized tens of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land on at least 200 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a total population of between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers. Under international law, these settlers are occupying land illegally, and until recently, even the US considered the settlements to be illegal.

But unsurprisingly, the Trump plan calls for these illegal settlements, along with the Jordan Valley, to be officially recognized as sovereign Israeli territories.

This plan also pictures any future Palestinian state as a neutered one. Israel would continue to “maintain control over the airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum west of the Jordan river” as well as all international crossings into Palestine. The State of Palestine would be a demilitarized one that will be prohibited from possessing a military or weaponry that could endanger the State of Israel, and Palestine “will not have the right” to forge agreements with any other state or organization that “adversely affect the State of Israel’s security, as determined by the State of Israel.” In effect, Israel would be able to maintain its current control over almost all aspects of Palestine’s politics, economy, and military.

Perhaps one of the most insulting proposals of the plan is that the capital of Palestine “should be in the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier, including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine.” In other words, Palestinians are expected to establish a capital city on other pieces of land and just call it Al Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem).

The matters of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and the status of Jerusalem are widely known as the most contentious issues in the conflict. So how is it possible that such a plan, which favors Israel on all issues, could be taken seriously? There is no attempt to even appear as a fair, “honest broker.”

The answer is that this so-called “peace” plan was never meant to be reasonable. The Palestinian leadership, along with many observers, said that the proposal would be dead on arrival. They were right, but this seems to have been the intention of the proposal all along.

The reason is very simple. Israel benefits much more by perpetuating the status quo regarding Palestine. Even with a deal that is so skewed in its favor, Israel would have to commit to allowing the creation of a state of Palestine, officially defining Israeli borders, giving Palestinians more autonomy over their affairs, and bearing more responsibility for its total control of Palestinians. For as long as Israel can maintain it, the status quo of occupation, oppression, and exploitation of Palestine is preferable.

Israel and its allies in the US government know that no Palestinian can accept such a horrible proposal, but this is no accident. From the leadership to the average person, Palestinians have overwhelmingly rejected this plan. This happens to serve Israel’s propaganda efforts. Israel and its Zionist supporters will point the blame on Palestinians and claim that they are not interested in peace. Once again, Palestinians will be painted as the obstacles to the resolution of the conflict.

Even worse, if by some magical reason Palestinians agreed to the terms of the US plan, they would likely fall into the same trap as the Oslo Accords of the 1990’s, which Israel breached and ignored. Palestinians have every right to doubt the credibility of Israel and the US as well.

The bottom line is that Israel’s best interest is to maintain its current occupation and control of Palestinians for as long as it can. It has no incentive to commit itself to a “peace plan” that will be more costly than the status quo. As long as the US and other world powers continue to provide diplomatic, economic, and military cover for its human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel will never change its behavior.

 

Mohamed Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Palestine Center. 

The views in this brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.