What's the big deal... of the century?

Welcome to Trump's Pax Americana in the Middle East.

by
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump chat during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017 [Reuters]
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump chat during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017 [Reuters]

    When I was asked to write a commentary on the so-called "deal of the century", I could only roll my eyes in frustration.

    First of all, the plan hasn't been released. Second, leaks signal it will consist of the same tried and failed ideas. Third, the radical American Zionists behind it take their cue from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, except when he's not radical enough for their taste.

    And to top it off, the "deal of century" is actually the title of a 1983 comedy, which features a bunch of hapless arms dealers and a weapon named the "Peacemaker". A coincidence? Perhaps. But the plot of Trump's deal seems to be the same.

    In short, I have struggled to take all this seriously, even if I admire the patience of those who commented on the pros and cons of the deal and the potential conflict of interest of Zionist extremists masquerading as peacemakers.

    Radical American Zionists are sure to produce radical Zionist proposals. It's the nature of things. And the dealmaker trio - Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman - even boasts of supporting and funding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

    It must be said that each and every American administration over the past three or four decades was subject to major Zionist influence over its Middle East policies, especially in regard to Israel and Palestine. Indeed, recent administrations have gone out of their way to appoint Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists to their Middle East posts whether at the White House or the Departments of State and Defense. These included hardcore Zionists like Dennis Ross and Elliott Abrams and the more pragmatic Zionists like Martin Indyk and Aaron Miller.

    But make no mistake, Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman are no ordinary diplomatic conmen. In fact, they are ideological hitmen on a mission to kill the national Palestinian aspirations and all prospects of a sovereign independent state. Entrusting them with peace is like leaving a fox to guard the hen house.

    Blind old vision…

    As I read last week's rather accommodating Al Quds interview with Jared Kushner about his evolving deal, my frustration turned to disdain. Trump's son-in-law has nothing new or credible to say; he merely peddles the ideas presented at the outset of the "peace process" in the early 1990s by then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

    The latter wrote a book called The New Middle East purporting to chart a new vision of a prosperous region with Israel at its heart and Palestine at its bottom.

    Peres' vision reached a dead-end in no time, and both the US and Israel governments came to recognise the importance of a political solution based on two states.

    And so did Netanyahu, albeit disingenuously. But he soon hardened and even reversed his position for fear of losing his government coalition, foregoing withdrawal from the occupied territories in favour of Israeli-controlled Palestinian autonomy alongside Israeli settlements.

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    Netanyahu revised Peres' old proposal and proposed "economic peace" - presumably a "realistic" approach to the "complex" and "historic" conflict. It requires "moderate" Arab regimes and a sensible Palestinian leadership that puts aside the "grandfather's conflict" for the sake of the "children's future" - as Kushner parroted in his Al Quds interview. If no such leadership exists, it must be invented. For "if there is peace, Israel's prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians." 

    When the "economic peace" approach was first invoked in the mid-1990s, I wrote a long critique, summarised in a New York Times article that dissected and refuted its main arguments. I am guessing little Jared couldn't have read it, considering back then he was still doing math homework in the basement as uncle Bibi Netanyahu was dropping in at the Kushners' house in New Jersey and staying in his room.

    After a quarter of a century of failed peace process, Israel's colonial mindset along with its American lackeys seem to have evolved very little. They still blame all failures on the Palestinian leadership, notably President Mahmoud Abbas for sticking to his "talking points", i.e. respect to international law and signed agreements.

    That's the same Abbas who signed the original peace deal on the White House lawn along with Shimon Peres, and who later replaced Yasser Arafat on account of his moderation, and who has since staked his political career on defending the peace process and justifying his dependency on Washington despite its unconditional support to Israel.

    Eight years of Bill Clinton followed by another eight years of George W Bush produced more of the same deadlock, more of the same Israeli intransigence and occupation, more of the same US complicity, and more of the same illegal settlements.

    Eight years of Barrack Obama started on a "hopeful" note that his administration may behave less like Israel's Likud and more like its Labor party. But Obama's Cairo speech at the outset of his tenure proved, like his subsequent sermons, long on words short on action.

    Worse, Obama went further than any previous president to reward Israel for its political chutzpah with $38bn military aid.

    … and a new reckless vision

    Then came the election of Donald Trump against the backdrop of total regional breakdown. His ignorance of Middle East affairs and his susceptibility to radical Jewish and Christian Zionist influence have all presented the Israeli Right with a new and perhaps unprecedented opportunity: to shape the Middle East region around Israel. This Greater Israel would extend from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

    And here lies the danger of the new proposals. The more I think about it, the more alarmed I get by the degree to which Trump's minions are exploiting Arab weakness and the new autocrats' eagerness to please Washington.

    Behind their talk of fanciful prosperity lies a cynical strategy to build a new regional order based on an alliance between a Greater Israel and Arab dictatorships against the Islamic Republic of Iran and violent Islamist groups.

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    It started with Trump's chummy rapprochement with Saudi royalty, followed by his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the elimination of the Iran nuclear deal.

    President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi of Egypt has reportedly accepted the US move on Jerusalem and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reportedly told Israeli lobby leaders in New York that the Palestinians should shut up or accept the peace terms dictated to them by the Trump administration.

    These and other regimes have already proven terribly accommodating - read, needy of American support. Some even boast of being the architects and hence stakeholders of the new regional designs since Trump's visit to Riyadh last year.

    All this may encourage President Trump to ask President Vladimir Putin to support the deal of the century and to distance Russia from Iran during their upcoming summit in mid-July, in return for recognising Russia's influence over Syria and the rehabilitation of the murderous Assad regime.

    Chances of success

    After some 18 months of scheming, the Zionist trio is yet to release the big deal. They might have made some progress during their recent visit to four Arab capitals plus Israel, but clearly not enough for them to go public with the plan. 

    The Palestinians refuse to meet them despite threats of forcing a change of leadership or bypassing them altogether. And Arab regimes, even the most accommodating, continue to insist - at least publicly - that they support a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine.

    The Saudi monarch, who's been criticised for his subservience to Trump, succumbed to pressure and called the last Arab summit he hosted, Al Quds Summit, for fear of public outcry across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

    Furthermore, the Middle East doesn't exist in a vacuum. Zoom out of the miniscule Arab region and the picture becomes more complicated for the Trump administration, which seems to be losing credibility by the day among world players.

    Turkey and Iran are getting closer to the Russian orbit as Syria implodes; nuclear Pakistan and India joined the China-based Shanghai Cooperation Organization; the US war in Afghanistan has entered its 17th year; and Europe is pursuing a more independent path from Washington in global and Middle Eastern affairs.

    So, in spite of all my frustration, disdain and alarm, I remain hopeful that Trump will come to learn, like his predecessors, that he cannot simply dictate deal terms to the Palestinians and that they are in fact more attached to their national rights than their leadership.

    And despite countless setbacks and injustices, I continue to draw solace from the fact that the struggle for Palestine remains the overarching pan-Arab cause that embodies the Arabs own struggle for freedom and democracy.


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