Is there no humiliation left for the Palestinians? After Oslo, after the “two state solution”, after the years of Israeli occupation – of “Area A” and “Area C” to define which kind of occupation the Palestinians must live under – after the vast Jewish colonisation of land thieved from its Arab owners, after the mass killings of Gaza, and Trump’s decision that Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem, must be the capital of Israel, are the Palestinians going to be asked to settle for cash and a miserable village? Is there no shame left?
For the Palestinians are soon to be awarded the “ultimate deal” – “ultimate”, as in the last, definitive, terminal, conclusive, no-more-cards-to-play, cash-in-your-chips, go-for-broke, take-it-or-leave-it, to-hell-with-you, cease-and-desist, endgame “deal”. A pitiful village as a capital, no end to colonisation, no security, no army, no independent borders, no unity – in return for a huge amount of money, billions of dollars and euros, millions of pounds, zillions of dinars and shekels and spondulix and filthy lucre, the real “moolah”.
“I believe,” quoth Crown Prince Kushner this week, “that Palestinian people are less invested in the politicians’ talking points than they are in seeing how a deal will give them and their future generations new opportunities, more and better paying jobs and prospects for a better life.” Is Trump’s son-in-law – “adviser” on the Middle East, real estate developer and US investor – delusional? After three Arab-Israeli wars, tens of thousands of Palestinian deaths and millions of refugees, does Jared Kushner really believe that the Palestinians will settle for cash?
Did he not notice – ever – that the Palestinians who have protested and suffered and died and lost their lands for 70 years, have not been demonstrating in their streets for better roads, duty free zones or another airport? Does he think that the people of Gaza have come onto their streets and marched towards the lethal border fence because they are demanding new prenatal clinics? How can he humiliate an entire Arab people by suggesting that their freedom, sovereignty, independence, dignity, justice and nationhood are merely “politicians’ talking points”? Is there no end to this insanity?
No, there is not. For the drip-feed of detail which is emerging about the Trump-Kushner “ultimate deal” in Israeli newspapers – the venerable Haaretz in the lead – is that Palestinians will have to abandon East Jerusalem as the capital of a future “Palestine”, that Israel will withdraw from a handful of villages east and north of Jerusalem – the measly Abu Dis among them – to create a Potemkin “capital”, but will remain forever in the Old City. That a Palestinian state will be completely demilitarised (so much for “security”), but that every Jewish colony constructed illegally on Arab land – for Jews and Jews only – will remain, and that Israel will control the entire Jordan Valley. Right of return? Forget it.
And all this for billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, a free trade zone at Al Arish in the Sinai, an outpouring of money into the West Bank, a new Palestinian leadership – out would go corrupt, arrogant, senile, dictatorial Mahmoud Abbas whose leadership has “no ideas” and has made no “efforts with prospects of success” (this latter from Kushner, of course) in favour of a new and pragmatic man who will (here more delusional thinking) be even more pliant, peace-loving and grovelling than Abbas himself.
All this nonsense depends on the largesse of Saudi Arabia – whose bungling crown prince appears to be arguing with his kingly father, who does not want to abandon the original Saudi initiative for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital – and the feebleness of King Abdullah of Jordan, whose country’s IMF-imposed financial suffering has provoked unprecedented riots and the fall of his government, and the support of Egypt’s field marshal/president who will supposedly be happy to impose law and financial benefits on the Egyptian-Gaza border. Oh yes, and there will be no real contact between Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has been forgotten, it seems.
Does one laugh or cry? When Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amid the massacre of Gaza, the world screamed – but then fell silent. The split screen of diplomatic adulation and mass killing scarcely a hundred miles apart has somehow normalised the combination of death and injustice in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yes, they got away with it. If American diplomats can stand to attention in Jerusalem against the crackle of sniper fire along the Gaza frontier, what’s next?
There is something strange, almost comical, about the photographs of America’s diplomatic “peacemakers” sitting around Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the West, we choose – with good moral reason – not to emphasise the religious or ethnic background of these men. But the Israelis do, philosopher Uri Avnery does, and Haaretz points it out: that all are Jewish – at least two of them enthusiastic supporters of the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian West Bank land, including the US ambassador to Israel who called the moderate J Street Jewish lobby group “worse than kapos”.
Was it not possible, within the entire US diplomatic corps and America’s “advisers”, to find even one Muslim American to join the team? Would the “peacemakers” not have benefited from just one voice from a man or woman who shared the same faith as the “other” half of the proposed Arab-Israeli peace?
But no. Nor would it have mattered. Abbas has broken off all diplomatic relations with the White House since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and withdrawn his ambassador to Washington. The “ultimate deal” – originally the Oslo agreement, although even that was a poisoned chalice, and then a whole series of miniature retreats and withdrawals and further occupations, and then ad hoc “anti-terror” conferences – now represents only the total humiliation of the Palestinian people: no East Jerusalem, no end to colonisation, no recognition of the right to return, no state, no future. Just cash.
Top Photo | Israeli police detain a Palestinian boy outside the Lion’s Gate near the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 23, 2017. Ariel Schalit | AP
Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.