- Created: Wednesday, 08 August 2018 15:48
- Written by Wesam Khaled
Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, is due to release the details of what Trump has referred to as his ‘Deal of the Century’: a plan that will supposedly put an end to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict once and for all. The details of the plan that have been revealed confirm that it will continue the Trump Administration’s policy of unconditional support for Israel’s expansion into as much Palestinian territory as possible at the expense of the Palestinians living there. Meanwhile, as US leaders trade in empty promises of peace, Israel continues its onslaught against the Palestinian people unabated. WESAM KHALED reports.
Before his inauguration, Trump pledged to find a peace agreement that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ‘Deal of the Century’, Trump claimed, would succeed where all previous attempts at negotiations had failed. However, what details have emerged show that Trump, the so-called Master Dealmaker, has proposed a deal that is almost completely unacceptable to the Palestinians.
The deal itself requires massive concessions from the Palestinians in exchange for promises of aid and development assistance. The Palestinians would receive a carved-out shell of a ‘state’. Instead of a capital city in East Jerusalem, a pillar of all previous negotiations, this new ‘state’ would be allocated a suburb of East Jerusalem, Abu Dis, as its capital. The rest of East Jerusalem would be joined to West Jerusalem and serve as Israel’s capital. Large tracts of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, where there are already 400,000 settlers, would also be annexed to Israel. The Palestinians would be left with a fractured statelet on a fraction of the land of the West Bank, its borders under Israeli control, with Israel seizing the land on the West Bank’s eastern border with Jordan.
The impoverished Gaza Strip, which has been besieged and repeatedly bombed by Israel since 2007, would not be part of this new ‘state’. Instead, the Strip would be handed over to the effective control of neighbouring Egypt, which would be expected to suppress Palestinian resistance in the territory. The aim is to undermine any political unity between the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
In exchange for these overwhelming sacrifices on the part of the Palestinians, Kushner offers a package of aid and investment aimed at luring the Palestinians with the hope of economic development and prosperity. If they accept this deal, Palestinians will become, according to Kushner, ‘leaders in the next industrial age,’ enjoying ‘massive investments in modern infrastructure, job training and economic stimulus’. Egypt would be rewarded with a plan to build a solar-power grid, a desalination plant, a seaport and an airport in the Sinai, which borders Gaza, along with a free trade zone with five industrial areas. Most of the funding would come from US allies in the Gulf Arab states. Gazans would be expected to work in the new developments, supposedly providing jobs to the Strip where youth employment is currently over 60%.
Kushner’s fantasy contrasts starkly with the reality of Palestinian history and illustrates how little consideration Kushner has for the Palestinians. The notion that a fragmented and fenced-in West Bank statelet could develop into a ‘leader of industry’ beggars belief, as does the notion that Israel would allow it to happen. In reality, such a statelet would mirror the bantustans of apartheid South Africa – nominally independent non-contiguous territories under the domination of the apartheid regime. Equally unbelievable is the notion that the Palestinian people would accept such an arrangement. Nothing in Kushner’s deal will do anything to halt Israel’s regular invasions, bombings, and demolitions of Palestinian towns and cities. The deal also appears to make no mention of the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel and whose return Israel continues to deny.
In fact, such a deal would not be accepted by Israel; the existence of any Palestinian state in the West Bank is out of the question for the Israeli right-wing, which includes the majority of Israeli cabinet members and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, given that it aims to annex the entirety of the West Bank. However, Israel has not openly rejected Kushner’s plan, knowing that the Palestinians will certainly do so. The Zionists will maintain the myth that it is the occupying Israelis rather than the occupied Palestinians who truly want peace.
In late June, Kushner jetted between Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar to convince the US’s Arab allies to back the deal before concluding his trip in Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was notably absent from the list of Kushner’s visits, having broken off ties with the US after Trump announced in December the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
The full details of the deal were meant to be released shortly after that. The fact that it has been postponed indicates that Kushner is struggling to win the support he needs. The PA has already rebuffed the deal, with top PA negotiator Saeb Erekat accusing Kushner of consolidating ‘Israel’s colonial control over Palestinian land and lives while telling the Palestinian people that money will compensate for our inalienable rights.’ The leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states may have qualms of their own; they are well aware of the possibility that cooperating with Zionism and US imperialism in implementing such an outrageous deal against the Palestinian people may stir up dissent among their own populations. Egypt in particular will not be easily persuaded to take over the brunt of the work of suppressing Palestinians in Gaza. Kushner’s deal may turn out to be, as Erekat described it, ‘dead on arrival’.
Deal or no deal, Israeli expansionism presses on
Meanwhile, Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements into the West Bank continues unabated. Early July saw a wave of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank to make room for more settlements. Among the targets for demolition is the town of Khan Al Ahmar which is of particular strategic importance. It is located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, the third largest settlement in the West Bank. Building Israeli settlements in this area would spell the end of any hope for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank as it would separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the territory and split the remainder into two non-contiguous blocks comprising land in the north around Ramallah and land in the south around Bethlehem and Hebron. Plans to demolish Khan Al Ahmar have been halted pending a court case regarding its status; the case is set to be heard in mid-August.
On 19 July, Israel’s parliament passed the Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People Act, which states that ‘the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people’. When it was passed, Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament yelled: ‘You passed an apartheid law, a racist law.’ While Palestinians living in Israel have always faced systematic discrimination in employment, movement, housing provision and planning permission, this new law reaffirms their status as second-class citizens.
The new law also says that ‘the state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labour to encourage and promote its establishment and development.’ The expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, further undermines what little remains of the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. The rate of settlement expansion has more than tripled since Trump was elected in November 2016, with almost 14,000 settlement housing units in the West Bank approved in that time. On 3 July Israel introduced a plan to build 1,000 more units in East Jerusalem. That Israel is renewing its commitment to such expansion at the same time as Kushner is peddling his new peace plan is indicative of Israel’s intentions.
That Israel has chosen to pursue these demolitions and implement this blatantly racist law now is no doubt influenced by the zealous support it has received from the Trump Administration. The Israeli government feels that it can act with a free hand compared to when it was backed by the Obama Administration, which put some minimal pressure on Israel to maintain at least a veneer of restraint when crushing the Palestinians. Since Kushner’s deal was announced, two Palestinian children in Gaza have been killed by Israeli rocket strikes on 14 July, and a subsequent peace agreement between Israel and Hamas was broken when Israel unleashed new airstrikes and tank fire on 20 July, killing four Palestinians. An Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian sniper fire on the same day. A 15-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem in the West Bank during an overnight raid on 23 July.
Palestinian resistance will not be bought off
In the face of these Israeli aggressions the Palestinians have demonstrated renewed forms of resistance. The Great March of Return, which began in March and saw tens of thousands of Gazans marching to demand their right to return, has continued unbroken despite over 140 Palestinians being killed by Israel since it began. In April, Palestinians in Gaza began flying kites and balloons dangling coals and burning rags over the walled border between Gaza and Israel. Sarcastically dubbed by Palestinians as ‘the new F-16s’ after the Israeli bombers that regularly target Gaza, these kites have persistently harassed the Israeli occupation forces, who have been unable to figure out a way to put a stop to them.
In discussing his seemingly doomed deal, Kushner has ignored Israel’s central role in creating the inhumane conditions under which the Palestinians live. Instead he has chosen to blame the PA and Hamas leadership for the Palestinians’ plight, suggesting that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is ‘only focused on his political survival and cementing a legacy of not having compromised than on bettering the lives of the Palestinian people.’ That image could not be further from the truth. While Kushner has speculated openly about replacing PA President Mahmoud Abbas with a more compliant leader, this will resolve nothing. The PA’s refusal of the deal is a reflection of the fact that the Palestinian people, whether or not the PA capitulates, will never accept such a betrayal of their demands and will resist any attempts to impose it.
The Palestinian masses have proved themselves willing to go much further than the PA leadership in demanding their political rights, while the PA is all too willing to make compromises on their legitimate demands and to use force to get the Palestinians to accept them. On 14 June PA security forces attacked protesters in the West Bank city of Ramallah who were demonstrating for an end to PA sanctions on Gaza. The security forces used sound grenades and tear gas against the protesters and arrested 46 of them.
Offers of economic aid will do nothing to blunt the Palestinian resistance. The Palestinians are not hapless victims in need of handouts from the US or its allies, the very forces that have enforced the injustices inflicted upon them for decades. Rather, they are a people full of a spirit of hope and resistance who demand justice, liberation from occupation and their rights to return, freedom, equality and national self-determination.
Images of Palestinian kite-flyers are reminiscent of stone-throwing Palestinian children facing up to Israeli soldiers and tanks during the First and Second Intifadas, and a reminder of the resilience and determination of the Palestinian people in demanding all the rights to which they are entitled against tremendous odds. They have not endured the sacrifices of decades of struggle against Israeli occupation, apartheid and war for the sake of a pot of money. Trump and Kushner, thinking everything has a price, believe they can bribe the Palestinians into giving up their resistance, their rights, and their dignity. The Palestinian people will prove them wrong.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 265 August/September 2018