According to a Washington Post report Monday (“Trump peace package for Middle East likely to stop short of Palestinian statehood“), President Trump’s “deal of the century” to be offered early this summer focuses on large-scale improvements in the lives of Arabs outside the green line, and does not usher in a sovereign Palestinian state.
The administration has been leaking in recent months small bits of information about the direction of the latest US-brokered peace agreement, and the president’s envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have elicited the support of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in helping to finance it, but this is the first time a comprehensive report about the substance and conditions of the deal has been leaked to the media.
Last February, Kushner told Sky News in Arabic that “what we’ve tried to do is figure out what is a realistic and what is a fair solution to the issues here in 2019 that can enable people to live better lives.”
Kushner added: “We want people to be able to have the freedom of opportunity, the freedom of religion, the freedom to worship, regardless of your faith. We want all people to have dignity and to respect each other [and] be able to better their lives and not allow their grandfather’s conflict to hijack their children’s future. And the final one is security.”
A senior White House official added last Friday that ““we believe we have a plan that is fair, realistic and implementable that will enable people to live better lives.”
“We looked at past efforts and solicited ideas from both sides and partners in the region with the recognition that what has been tried in the past has not worked. Thus, we have taken an unconventional approach founded on not hiding from reality, but instead speaking truth,” the official said.
Greenblatt tweeted last week: “To the PA: Our plan will greatly improve Palestinian lives & create something very different than what exists. It’s a realistic plan to thrive/prosper even if it means compromises. It’s not a ‘sell out’ — if the plan isn’t realistic, no one can deliver it.”
Needless to say, the Palestinian Authority is not amused. They’ve been on the outs with the Trump administration since the president first promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. Then the PLO was asked to evacuate its offices in Washington, DC. Then President Trump kept his above promises.
It is not yet clear whether the rich Arab states are committed to the Trump plan. In fact, Kushner’s meeting with Saudi and other gulf state officials in late February was described as confrontational, with the American coming across defensive when his hosts insisted on supporting a Palestinian state regardless of the idea of improving the condition of the Arab residents in the area.
The peace package is very attractive, if one ignores the statehood factor. It calls for tens of billions of dollars in aid and investment in the PA and the Gaza Strip, as well as billions more to Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab states that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
A PLO official speaking to Israeli radio on Monday morning sneered at the American proposal, saying it meant selling out the homeland. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told his new cabinet on Saturday he had opposed the deal all along because it took away Jerusalem. One of the richest living Arabs today, Abbas could not be bothered with the economic promises to his people who endure 40-60% unemployment.
A senior US official told the Post that “the economic plan only works if the region supports it. This is a very important part of the overall equation. But this is not a so-called economic peace. We are taking very seriously both aspects of this — the political, which deals with all the core issues, and the economic.”
Three consecutive American presidents have attempted to deal first with political issues separating Israelis and Arabs from a peace deal: the settlements, the Arab right of return, the possibility of a full Palestinian statehood, and the status of Jerusalem. All three have failed, more then once each. President Trump’s attempt to set aside those issues and concentrate on empowering local Arabs makes great sense. It would also go a long way to help create an Arab middle class which is less concerned with ideology than it is with jobs, education, healthcare and the infrastructure. But, of course, such a robust middle class would not tolerate clowns like Abbas as their leader, and would demand its democratic rights — Abbas last requested the trust of the voters in 2005. It’s been sheer tyranny since.