On Jan. 28, 2020, Donald Trump, to alarums, polite cheers and claps, and the ubiquitous glare of mobile screens, marched Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel to a podium in the East Room of the Whitehouse and released his keenly anticipated Deal of the Century. Throughout the entire episode, these two kept nudging and touching each other, sweet like that; and Netanyahu smiled like a Cheshire cat that had not only been given milk, but his cream.
The last time I saw Americans so happy, so full of bonhomie and cheer, was when George Bush Jr outlined his rationale for invading Iraq before the US government. Congress was packed. Boy, the seats could not grow warm. Everyone kept jumping up like Jack in the Boxes at every turn in the speech. And like the Iraq war, this speech will lead to ash and death. It will lead to no peace. It will lead to more war. Here are three reasons why:
NOAH TALKING TO MOSES
There were no Palestinians present. Noah was talking to Moses. The only three Arab state officials present, of the 22 members of the Arab League, were the ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, three satrap states of the US in the Middle East. The ‘Deal of the Century’ is supposed to be a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians, who from the beginning distrusted the deal, even as Trump moved the US Embassy into Jerusalem and recognized Israeli “right” to the Golan Heights, had called this deal a slap in the face. They had been told to wait. Wait and see, don’t be presumptuous. Now they waited. And this is what they saw.
Hours later the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas called the deal, “a slap of the century. By God we are going to return several slaps against the oppressors.” He called it “nonsense from beginning to end,” and excoriated: “One thousand times, no no no to the slap of the century.” The imbalance was patent. The deal was Israel-centric. Abbas said it gave anything and everything to Israel: policy for Israel, sovereignty for Israel, occupation for Israel, control for Israel.
A NEW BANTUSTAN
The deal gives Israel “undivided” control of Jerusalem, and a sliver of East Jerusalem to host a Palestinian capital. It gives them a permanent border on their “Eastern front,” and control of Golan, Samaria and Judea, ancient holy and historical sites. It gives them the settlements, insidious and hostile encroachments into Palestinian territory. It threatens to disarm HAMAS, the paramilitary wing of the Palestinian cause and to de-radicalize Gaza. It slices into Gaza. Abbas complained that the 1967 War had left Palestinian with only 22 percent of its territory, and this plan wants 40 percent of this 22 percent.
Donald Trump boasted that $US50 billion would be invested in Palestine should they accept the deal, and one million Palestinians would find employment. Netanyahu affirmed: “It takes enormous talent to reject $50 billion worth of investment. I know what that does to the economy.” Abbas declared: “Our rights are not for sale. Jerusalem is not for sale.” The deal for him is a “conspiracy” to make Palestinian into what the Balfour Declaration of 1917 had failed to do: build a Bantustan, a colonial enclave for the British Empire; in this case a Judea-Christian canton.
NO PALESTINIAN HISTORY
The history of Palestine was absent. Palestinian heritage, hurt, feelings, fears were nowhere part of the deal. Trump spoke exuberantly about himself: “I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.” He spoke of the deal as a “win-win” solution. He said it was an “obligation of humanity” to get this deal done, the most difficult deal in history. He gloated. He had assassinated “the world’s top terrorist”, the Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani; and had quashed the Iran Nuclear deal. Netanyahu praised the deal for granting Israel “sovereignty where our prophets preached and kings ruled, places inscribed in Bible — historic and religious places, etched in soul of Jewish people – a permanent part of the Jewish state.”
No one mentioned the Palestinian martyrs, heritage, history, soul. It was left to Abbas to inscribe this on the day’s proceedings: “Our martyrs in all our villages will not be betrayed, your blood will not be wasted.” He declared: “Not a single child in Palestine is going to accept a state of Palestine without Jerusalem.” He said that whilst his nation would rely on the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity (in which he is the vice-president), and the UN for resolution, ultimately it was the struggle and initiative of the Palestinians that would count. The Palestinians were the ultimate vanguard. He vowed: “We are going to continue our uninterrupted struggle to protect our nation.”
In this deal, fake as fake could be, Trump has nothing to lose. He is facing re-election in November. When the plan falls through he will say to his constituents that he gave it his best shot, he kept his promise; it was the Palestinians who failed to accept peace. Netanyahu, his political fate hanging on a string, has nothing to lose either; he desires to be seen as patriotic peacemaker for Israel’s general elections on March 2nd 2020. The deal sought to prolong on our planet the well-established gospel: US and Jewish / Israeli exceptionalism.