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CWA # 61, 17 October 2018

The Middle East
US and Israel: Trump's Deal of the Century

  Lakshmi V Menon

Today, states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have a better rapport with Israel. Turkey is the only middle eastern state spearheading for the Palestinian cause. The sheer lack of unity in the Arab/Muslim world will eventually sacrifice the Palestinian cause to geopolitical trends.

Lakshmi V Menon is pursuing MA in International Studies at Stella Maris College, Chennai

 

The Trump administration’s plan for West Asia billed “the deal of the century” is bound to have multi-dimensional methods and magnitudes.

Unveiled with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem the new strategy has looming concerns. What did the Jerusalem vote actually mean? What should one expect with the impending peace plan? Will it succeed in bringing peace?.

 

From Truman to Trump: The US and Israel

The US Presidents have backed Israel from its inception. Obama administration tried not being pro-Israel by refusing to veto the UNSC Resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. However, Trump’s recognition of united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the cuts in funding to UNRWA has made him the “most pro-Israeli President” ever.

It called for global condemn and media celebration. The truth is that all Trump did was - pull the plug. It had been a long time coming. Trump’s policies are no major departure from foregoing American policies of disdain and arrogance. Definitely not anew or an anomaly for the US or “Israel’s lawyers”. The difference was bolder language and the use of words. Previously, both the Bush administrations have used a similar language of bribes, threats and punishments when unable to mobilize international support for the Iraq wars in the 1990’s and 2003.

Now, to put the Jerusalem vote in perspective: The President was appealing to a domestic audience – one with Jewish magnates and Evangelists – for fiscal and geo-strategic benefits. Principally, the vote on the final status issue is not terribly important for the US. The display of disdain merely confirmed American agenda was all Washington cared for. Nevertheless, it is a concern whether Trump is challenging the whole international establishment which was based on the idea of cooperation.

 

Victor: Netanyahu

Firstly, Benjamin Netanyahu will be the victor of any Trump-Jared initiative. The embassy move seems to support various Israeli policies deliberated to fabricate a “Greater Jewish Jerusalem”. Soon to be unveiled or shelved “deal of the century” has kept Netanyahu “in the loop” awarding him a free rein and a US nod for apartheid rule over the Palestinians. Netanyahu has deepened his clutches on West Bank and East Jerusalem. He has strengthened punitive measures upon Palestinians still residing in East Jerusalem to encourage relocation outside the wall. A move orchestrated to erode and eventually wipe out Palestinian identity.

According to Palestinians, the deal is likely to offer provisional borders over fragments of land comprising half of the occupied territories or just 11% of what was recognized as Palestine by the British mandate. These regions would be demilitarized but Israel will exercise control over the region’s airspace and borders.

A shift in US diplomatic language from “occupied West Bank” to “occupied Palestinian territories” has paved the way to policy conjectures that wipe out the illegality of Israeli settlements.

With gerrymandering of Jerusalem and Netanyahu’s “Greater Jerusalem Bill”, the Palestinian village of Valaja and Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba will be demolished. The bill will annex Jewish settlements near occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality.

 

Gaza and Golan Heights for Israel?

There are rumours of US and Israel are pressurizing Cairo to allow Palestinians to settle in the Sinai Peninsula. An economical and industrial hard-to-say-no scheme, pumping in about $1.5 billion into Cairo would be no surprise. Attempts to weaken the Egypt-Gaza border are also rampant. Thus, enabling Palestinians to work and live in North Sinai. A longitudinal goal would be the gradual transference of responsibility for enclave away from Israel onto Egypt. As for Golan Heights, US may be prepared to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the illegally annexed Syrian territory.

 

Abu Dis – future Palestinian capital?

Making Abu Dis (to be renamed “Al-Quds”- Arabic for “the Holy”) the future Palestinian capital while falsely claiming that Abbas and the PA had accepted the proposal in the 1990’s is an attractive proposition for Israel. In January, Abbas scorned the idea. However, in May, Yair Lapid (Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party’s leader) underscored reports regarding the impending change of Abu Dis’s status in remarks aimed at Netanyahu.

The Abu Dis idea favours Israel purely due to the impractical functionality of the densely populated village that shelters 13,000 Palestinians as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Presently, the bulk of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control counting the 40,000 residents of Maale Adumim. A narrow land corridor for Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa mosque would be an added bait.

 

Israel gets the Spine of West Bank?

According to Oslo accords, about 62% of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C (the heartland of any future Palestinian state), under provisional Israeli control. The current policies and initiatives by Israel to move Palestinians from Area-C to Area-A and Area-B is with the quiet US-Israel understanding that the Trump plan (as per reports) will offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on almost half of West Bank, thus awarding most of Area-C and in-effect Jordan valley, the long spine of West Bank to Israel.

Presently, Palestinians are denied access to 85% of the Jordan valley of which nearly half has been declared military firing zones where, on the pretext of ensuring safety, systematic eviction is justified.

Further, the “outposts” (settlements on Palestinian land, violating a “no new settlements” agreement with the US) are underway for “legalization”. Meanwhile, destruction of Palestinian communities in Area C obstructing efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem is snowballing.

 

Dispensing Peace?

The Arab leaders simultaneously want to consolidate their relations with the US, normalize relations with Israel (if they can get away with it); and want to appeal to domestic sentiments. Are these mutually exclusive? The answer is yet to unfold.

Today, states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have a better rapport with Israel. Turkey is the only middle eastern state spearheading for the Palestinian cause. The sheer lack of unity in the Arab/Muslim world will eventually sacrifice the Palestinian cause to geopolitical trends.

 

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