The Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, characterized Trump’s idea of buying Greenland as “absurd”. On a similar note, I would characterize Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ – particularly the political component – as ‘super absurd’.
Trump, Netanyahu, Kushner and Greenblatt have collectively come up with ‘The Deal of the Century’ made of an economic component and a political component. The ‘Deal’ is presumably a road map for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem. The economic component was the subject of an economic workshop dubbed “Peace to Prosperity” held Bahrain but was subsequently shelved. The political component of the ‘Deal’ will presumably be tabled after the September 17th Israeli elections; don’t hold your breath.
While the economic component had something meager to offer the Palestinians – a few loaves of bread – does the political component have anything to offer the Palestinians?
In a previous article titled “The Trump ‘Deal’: An Ultimatum and a Setup”, published in Strategic Culture on May 5th, 2019, covering the economic component of the ‘Deal’, I reflected on the political component of the ‘Deal”, speculating and reading between the lines of what had been published. Now, there is no need to speculate or read between the lines about the content of the political component regarding the Palestinian core issues. A large amount of detail was vocalized in the Security Council and through interviews with Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations who has been speaking about the political component of the ‘Deal’. Having been a contributor in drafting the sixty-some pages ‘Deal’, Greenblatt reflected knowledgeably about the basic components of the ‘Deal’ and spoke authoritatively on behalf of the troika of Netanyahu, Trump and Kushner.
It is noteworthy that the economic component of the ‘Deal’ was dealt with first. One would logically assume that the normal procedure would be to deal with the political component prior to the economic component. The reason for the reverse sequence reflects a Western conception of a presumed Arab trait that an Arab would sell himself for financial gain.
In his presentation at the Security Council and separately through some interviews, Greenblatt indirectly spelled out the central political points in the ‘Deal’, which center around four core issues: 1.) The Settlements, 2.) A Sovereign Palestinian State on the West Bank, 3.) East Jerusalem as the Capital of the Palestinian State and 4.) The Return of the Palestinian Refugees. I highlight below preliminary conclusions from Greenblatt’s Security Council presentation and interviews regarding these core issues.
1. The Settlements: These constitute a litmus test for a successful peace process. If dealt with to the satisfaction of the parties, the process can proceed; if not, then dealing with the other three core issues becomes a moot question, an exercise in futility. Greenblatt, in his meeting at the Security Council, made it very clear that the Settlements are not a litmus test. “Let’s stop pretending that the Settlements are what is keeping the sides from a negotiated peaceful solution,” said Greenblatt, adding, it is a ‘farce’. Even the term ‘Settlements’ is not acceptable to him, it is ‘pejorative’ he claims – Settlements are just “neighborhoods and cities”. Indeed, they are neighborhoods and cities, but Greenblatt ignores the fact that these ‘neighborhoods and cities’ are established in occupied Palestinian land in violation of International Law, international consensus, and a multitude of U.N. General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, Greenblatt rejects the term ‘occupied’ describing the West Bank ‘disputed land’. In a recent speech, Netanyahu went the ultimate step when he declared “with God’s help, we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all settlements.” As such, one can reasonably conclude that any further discourse of the political component a mere intellectual exercise.
2. A Sovereign Palestinian State on the West Bank: It appears that just the mere mention of a ‘Palestinian State’ and ‘Two States’, have become anathema and taboo. Kushner has decided to “not say” the words “Two States.” In response to the question posed by Ari Shapiro on NPR’s All Things Considered “…whether the Palestinians deserve to have independence the way Israelis have independence”, Greenblatt responded: “…you can’t summarize such an extraordinarily complex conflict with the word ‘independence.’ You can’t summarize the conflict with the words ‘Two State solution ‘. There are just too many things, too many layers to this conflict to allow one- or three-word slogans or phrases to summarize the conflict.” So ‘independence’ and ‘Two State solution’ which are the core issues and the essence of a political solution are, for Greenblatt, speaking on behalf of Netanyahu, Trump and Kushner troika, mere slogans and phrases.
3. East Jerusalem as the Capital of the Palestinian State: Irrespective of what the political component says about Jerusalem, the subject of East Jerusalem was settled when Trump recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu added, “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.” He further added, “You can only build peace on truth, and that is Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish State.” Thus, Jerusalem, united and permanent capital of Israel eliminates the notion of East Jerusalem ever becoming the capital of a potential Palestinian State.
4. The Return of the Palestinian Refugees: This is a follow up to the first three core Palestinian issues. If there is no stoppage of settlement building and expansion, no Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, the return of the refugees becomes academic; a moot question. Furthermore, the question of the Palestinian refugees has already been settled by Trump – on behalf of Netanyahu – when he defined a Palestinian refugee as one who ‘was alive when Israel was established in 1948’ – an equivalent to 71 years of age; a tiny subset of overall refugees that surely has limited reasons for return.
The Palestinian leaders, starting with Abbas, have already rejected the economic component which offers them, presumably, substantial financial gains. By comparison, the political component, from all indications, denies them everything. As for the Palestinians commitment to Palestine, contrary to the presumed Arab trait that an Arab would sell himself for financial gain, and the expectations in some Arab and Western quarters that Palestinians will sell out, it has been a century plus since the infamous Balfour Declaration and seventy one years since the establishment of Israel and to their credits, the Palestinians have not sold out and are still carrying the torch. But then there is so much suffering the Palestinians can withstand while the international community turns a blind eye.