Palestinians fear ‘deal of the century’ will finish off their state

Updated June 01, 2019

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Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on the draft plan say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution. — AFP/File
Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on the draft plan say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution. — AFP/File

BEIRUT: The US blueprint to end the conflict between Israel and the Pales­tinians, still in draft form after almost two years, is seen by Palestinians, and by some Arab officials and politicians, as a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.

The initiative, driven by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, was billed by the US president as the “deal of the century”.

While its precise outlines have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on the draft plan say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution — the long-standing US and international formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

After several postponements, Washin­g­ton plans a first formal outing of the economic components of the plan at a “Peace for Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain in June.

The plan faces possible delays due to political upheaval in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fight another election after failing to form a government.

Kushner and Trump, with backgrounds in real estate rather than diplomacy, seem to be approaching this hitherto insoluble conflict as a transaction, three Arab officials briefed on the plan said.

If the politics keep failing, the reasoning seems to be, then try dangling tens of billions of dollars before the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbours and do a deal that could unlock prosperity for the Palestinians and security for Israel, these officials said.

Politically, the deal envisages an expansion of Gaza into part of northern Egypt, under Egyptian control, Palesti­nian officials briefed on the plan said.

Palestinians would be left with a smaller share of the West Bank and some areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem and no control over their borders.

Western and Arab sources confirmed the outline of the plan.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, said “rumours” about an expansion into Egypt’s Sinai desert were false. He declined to give details of the political plan before it is released.

On the decision not to use the the term “two-state solution”, Grenblatt said: “We believe that using certain phrases and labels is not helpful because they lack detail and nuance they mean different things to different people. The detailed plan, once released, will show what we think may be best solution for the two parties.” The Palestinians are not buying it.

“What we’re seeing from the plan is that it will blow up the Palestinians,” one Arab official said. “The plan doesn’t give justice to the Palestinians.”

One senior Palestinian leader said: “The Palestinian cause is being liquidated — no Jerusalem (as capital), no right of return for refugees, no sovereign state. That is why this American project is dangerous.”

The deal, as outlined so far, has been dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Auth­ority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas has boycotted political dealings with the Trump administration for 18 months. This followed Trump’s decisions in 2017 to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Since then, the Trump administration has curtailed aid to the Palestinian Authority, shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) delegation in Washington and cut off finance to UNRWA, the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2019