The toxic fallout of the ‘deal of the century’

Kushner and Netanyahu’s ‘with us or against the US’ campaign breeds anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

This handout picture provided by the US Embassy in Jerusalem, shows Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu (R) shaking hands with the US president''s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner in the holy
Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with US presidential adviser Jared Kushner during his visit to Jerusalem on May 30, 2019 [File: AFP]

Ever since United States President Donald Trump tasked his boy genius, Jared Kushner, with bringing peace to the Middle East, he has been a man on a mission – or perhaps more accurately, a man-boy on a mission impossible.

Whenever he has not been busy reinventing the US government, overseeing its major trade agreements, supervising Trump’s presidential campaign, and fighting the coronavirus epidemic, Kushner has focused on resolving the century-old conflict in Palestine.

With little time and little interest in the complicated diplomacy needed to reach a fair solution, he has instead imposed his own preferred solution – or more accurately – that of his mentor, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which will certainly deepen the apartheid regime in Palestine.

But Kushner has dismissed the notion of apartheid just as he has dismissed the coronavirus as “more about public psychology” than an actual reality.

No wonder then, the ridiculously dubbed “deal of the century” (DoC) has been losing steam and momentum.

But Kushner remains adamant.

He has been leveraging US power to co-opt Arab leaders or coerce them into supporting his “peace scam” and embracing Israel, despite its occupation of Palestine.

However, with mounting regional crises, falling oil prices, and a persistent Israeli political deadlock, after three elections within a year, can the sedulous Kushner save the deal in a US election year?

Quid pro quo

Aside from being investigated for benefitting financially from relations with Gulf countries, Kushner has been promising US support to Arab leaders in return for meeting with Netanyahu and supporting the DoC.

Although such quid pro quo practices in the White House have gained notoriety and in fact, Congress impeached Trump over one such incident, they remain a fixture in US Middle East policy.

The Trump administration has reportedly shown readiness to side with Egypt in its dispute with Ethiopia over the Renaissance dam being built on the Nile River in return for President Abdelfattah el-Sisi’s support for the DoC.

Kushner has also enticed Sisi promising some $9bn out of the proposed $50bn dedicated to luring, not to say bribing, Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian and Lebanese leaders into supporting his scam of a plan.

As Trump’s “favourite dictator”, Sisi has welcomed the plan and “appreciated” the US effort, while also assuring the Palestinians of Egypt’s continued support, just in rhetoric.

This has alienated Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, an evangelical Christian ally, who reluctantly accepted US mediation.

A similar approach was tried on the new rulers of Sudan, who have been desperate to rid themselves of international sanctions, which were imposed on the previous regime of Omar al-Bashir.

To that end, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s de facto leader and chairman of the Transitional Military Council, was encouraged by Washington and Abu Dhabi to meet Netanyahu and “set the stage for the normalisation of ties” in order to “protect the national security of Sudan”.

He did. Over lunch. In Uganda.

A month later, Sudan Central Bank announced that US sanctions on 157 companies had been lifted.

Netanyahu has also reportedly tried to entice Morocco’s King Mohammad VI with Israeli and US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, if only they were to meet in support of the DoC.

But nowhere have Kushner and Netanyahu been more eager than in rapprochement with the Gulf region in order to facilitate a new pact against Iran, albeit at the expense of Palestine.

The UAE has consistently facilitated Kushner’s moves, while Bahrain hosted the DoC’s first economic forum last year. Also Oman’s late leader, Sultan Qaboos, hosted Netanyahu in Muscat last year, while Qatar has maintained contacts with Israel, albeit mainly to mediate with Hamas over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

But for Kushner and Netanyahu, the big prize has always been Saudi Arabia.

The big catch

Netanyahu’s and Mohammad bin Salman‘s (MBS) shared hatred for former US President Barack Obama and their deep love for Trump, made it easier for Kushner to court the Saudi Crown Prince on Israel’s behalf.

So much so that it was difficult at times to discern who is courting whom.

But it was never going to be easy for Saudi Arabia, the self-declared defender of Islam and champion of the Islamic world, to normalise relations with an expansionist Israel that insists on controlling all of Jerusalem, Al Quds – the sacred one.

That is why Kushner, with the help of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, organised a shambolic international conference on the Middle East in Warsaw early last year, with the main objective of bringing Netanyahu closer to Arab and Gulf officials.

The Saudi regime began to normalise the idea of “normalisation with Israel’ within Saudi society, punishing those who opposed it and rewarding those who cheered it.

Riyadh has also opened secret channels to Israel and cracked down on Hamas sympathisers in the kingdom, putting some on trial for “supporting terrorism”.

MBS has been in favour of Arab recognition of Israel and pressured the Palestinian leadership into accepting whatever is on offer by the Trump administration; in other words, they must keep up or shut up.

These steps have been met with a nod of approval from Kushner & co, but they want more. They want a public meeting between MBS and Netanyahu.

They reckon MBS needs Washington’s support more than ever considering his never-ending screw-ups, the falling oil prices, and his eagerness to become king before the end of the year.

And they are trying to convince him that the time is now, considering the possible alternatives – Bernie Sanders detests Saudi leaders, whom he considers “murderous thugs”, and Joe Biden wishes to reinstate the nuclear deal with Iran at the expense of the “deal of the century”.

Trump White House at the service of Israel

As long as Trump is president, expect Kushner’s cynical abuse of American power to continue advancing the interests of Netanyahu’s “greater Israel”, which if history is any guide, will backfire on the US.

It also feeds into anti-Semitism and to despicable notions of a global Jewish conspiracy, complicity and control.

It is no secret that some Middle Eastern, indeed world leaders, assume that improving relations with Israel automatically translates into better relations with Washington, thanks to Israel’s huge influence over the US government through its influential lobby.

Netanyahu has never discouraged such thinking. In fact, he encouraged it.

Never has Israeli influence over a US government been so scandalous as it has been under its current lying, corrupt, fraudulent, and undeserving prime minister.

Kushner & co are exploiting the vulnerabilities of Arab autocrats and encouraging their vindictiveness towards their detractors to benefit Netanyahu. They are rewarding bloody and repressive dictatorships for any positive gesture towards Israel.

Make no mistake, these policies will not save Netanyahu nor secure Israel’s future. Rather they will foster hatred towards the US and encourage despicable anti-Semitism in the region and beyond, leading to some form of a blowback sooner or later.