Can the US plan for Middle East deliver peace?
This year has been full of speculation about what Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for Israel-Palestine peace might look like. Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident. What is thus far known goes something like this. Jerusalem, which was recently shuffled, is now completely off the table. Thus, an eventual Palestinian state would be carved from half of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; with the capital scrambled together from villages and communities surrounding the old city. And sovereignty over the Palestinians in the occupied territories will be either divided or shared among Israel, Jordan and Egypt. This is a deal that has been sealed by these regional players as well as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the United States. And, its implementation has begun with the shifting of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The “deal of the century” that President Trump has promised will resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict may be easily dismissed in terms of its substance, considering the extremist views of its authors, but it will have to be dealt with eventually – one way or another.
For the past 18 months, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, along with his cohorts, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, have been preparing the grounds for a great bargain between Israel and “moderate” Arab regimes, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia – one that would end the Palestinian problem, allow for normalisation of relations, and pave the way for a new strategic alignment against a surging Iran.
Judging by their smirks and statements, Kushner and company have succeeded in tightening the noose around Palestine in complicity with Egyptian and Saudi leaders and are now waiting for the right time to unleash a diplomatic blitzkrieg.
But, how could such a trio of staunch supporters of Israeli settlement expansion come up with a deal that merits the moniker “deal of the century?” One that is comprehensive and acceptable to both Israel and the Arabs, who insist on a two states solution that includes East Jerusalem?
The answer lies in the timing, packaging and delivery.
The Palestinians should prepare for the day the Trump administration offers to be the first Western power to recognise “a Palestinian state” while simultaneously recognising Israel’s sovereignty over settlement blocks and accepting its security red lines. The US will ensure Palestine becomes a full member of the United Nations with all the trappings of independence, even if it lacks full control over its borders, skies, ports and immigration. And Washington could also send an ambassador there, encourage Israeli and Arab governments to exchange ambassadors and sponsor joint projects with the two states.
The US may also recognise Palestine’s capital in East Jerusalem with special status for the holy Islamic sites, but leave it to the parties to draw the lines between East and West Jerusalem. Mind you, Israel has redrawn and expanded the borders of metropolitan Jerusalem several times since the occupation five decades ago, and will only agree to withdraw from east of East Jerusalem, if at all.
Read More: Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit
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