Israel is using its influence over the US establishment to try to impose the “Deal of the Century” to enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to officially occupy the West Bank. This would violate the Oslo agreement signed in 1993 and legalise all illegal Israeli settlements in Oslo-designated zone C of the occupied West Bank. The countries directly concerned in the “deal” (Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria) are unwilling to give away any part of their territories. However, Israel has managed to create enough noise around this “deal” to distract the world from its doings in Palestine, where it is in essence already implementing the “Deal of the Century”. The Israelis won’t wait for the results of US negotiations in the Middle East.
President Donald Trump seemed indifferent to Palestinian President ad interim Mahmoud Abbas’s comments that the US is “no longer viable as a partner and unfit as a mediator for any peace talks between Palestine and Israel”, in response to Trump’s gift to Israel of what doesn’t belong to him: Jerusalem. The Palestinians see the US playing the role of judge and executioner, totally biased in favour of Israel–and disrespectful of United Nations’ resolutions.
Palestine was lost when Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo agreement. He believed Israel would abide by the agreement, particularly regarding the West Bank in zones B and C. Israel disregarded Oslo and the Wye River Memorandum, giving the Palestinians less than 2% of the 13% of the land granted in both agreements.
A UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report confirms that Israel had confiscated 35% of East Jerusalem even before Trump’s “gift” and that, in the West Bank, 5,773 structures were demolished displacing 9,033 people and affecting 51,491 Palestinians in zone C. “Israel planned for Palestinian development on only 1% of the land”, according to the OCHA report.
Indeed, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many Palestinian hilltops as they can to enlarge the Jewish settlements because everything we take now will stay ours…Everything we don’t grab will go to them”.
Israel can grab as much land as possible but the Palestinians, including Fatah and President Abbas, will never give up Palestine for any amount of cash on the table. Thus, the Arab countries incapable of facing down Trump’s bullying (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt) must count on Palestinian refusal of the “Deal of the Century”.
The Palestinians cannot rely on Europe; the old continent lacks the courage or resolve to stand up against US bullying. This was shown already in the Iran deal, when Europe reacted negatively to the US decision but took no steps to meet its commitments, for fear of US reprisals. Moreover, when Trump gave away the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, Europe was only able to express its “disapproval”. Europe has lost any vestige of its position as a potential partner in the Palestinian peace process (if anything is left of this process).
Jordan, directly concerned by the US “Deal of the Century”, is expanding its horizons towards Syria and Iraq. King Abdullah II is trying to boost the Jordanian economy by re-establishing economic ties and commerce with Syria, notwithstanding US pressure to keep the borders closed. Baghdad has agreed to construct a $10bn oil pipeline between Basra and Aqaba, providing the Kingdom with 150,000 barrels/day of crude oil. Jordan will provide Iraq with much-needed electricity and is aiming for a customs exemption between the two countries. King Abdullah also visited Turkey to ease the commercial relationship between the two countries; he lifted the customs duties on Turkish imports re-imposed last year. He is also expected to visit the Gulf countries to balance the relationship with all neighbouring countries to the benefit of Jordan’s domestic economy.
Jordan lost its privileged position as an intermediary in the region when Benyamin Netanyahu revealed Israel’s relationships with Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Emirates, Qatar and Bahrein. This has reduced the importance of Jordan for the US establishment, pushing Netanyahu to propose the exchange of Jordanian territory with Saudi Arabia and Palestine as part of the “Deal of the Century” (see part 1).
The differences among Arabs and the Muslim states allowed Netanyahu to take the initiative in Palestine and grab as much territory as possible. He has managed to divert the attention of the Arabs to concentrate on Iran as the “most dangerous enemy of all time.” The Palestinian cause was replaced by the Iranian “threat,” although Tehran has taken no initiative to attack any of its neighbours since the Islamic Republic took power in 1979.
Israel and the US are sending messages of war to both Hezbollah and Iran (and Hamas in Gaza). In reality, the US wants Iran to come to the negotiation table and to forget about Palestine and the Palestinian cause. Brian H. Hook, US Special Representative for Iran and a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, wrote an article entitled: “Isn’t it time to abandon the policies that have kept the people of Iran and the United States apart since 1979? The people of the United States and Iran should have diplomatic ties. We can foresee a new American Embassy in Tehran issuing visas to tourists, business travellers and teachers”. Trump tried eight times to meet President Hassan Rouhani to no avail. Iran, before accepting a meeting, wants first to see the signed nuclear deal honoured.
The question poses itself: how can Iran be considered Enemy Number One of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia (& Co.) with its security forces (IRGC) on the US Terrorist list, while at the same time the US State Department (that takes no initiative without Presidential approval) wants to open US doors to Iran?
By Elijah J. Magnier