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To Be Rejected: Trump’s Deal of the Century a Palestinian Versailles 2.0

By Chandni Desai

Zionist colonization must either be terminated or carried out against the wishes of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, be continued and make progress only under the protection of a power independent of a native population—an iron wall, which will be in a position to resist the pressure to the native population. This is our policy towards the Arabs.
—Vladimir Jabotinsky (Zionist leader, The Iron Wall, 1923)

For the Zionist settler-state to be is to prepare and strive for territorial expansion.
—Fayez Sayegh (Palestinian historian, 1965)

Over the past two years since US President Donald Trump’s election, his administration has been devising a “peace plan” for Israel-Palestine which they have termed the “Deal of the Century.”[1] The main architects of the deal are Jared Kushner (Donald Trump’s son-in-law and US special advisor to the Middle East) and Jason Greenblatt (special Middle East envoy)—both strong supporters of Zionism. The plan was supposed to be released on May 15, 2019 which would mark the 71st anniversary of the al-Nakba—the Palestinian catastrophe—when over 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and forcefully dispossessed from their lands and homes in 1948 by Zionist militia. Though delayed, the initial anticipated release of the plan on the 71st anniversary of the Nakba shows how violence and negotiations for “peace” are complementary processes that mutually reinforce and deepen settler colonialism and capitalist imperialism  in Palestine—the essence of the deal.

The Deal of the Century will be catastrophic for Palestinians as it will disregard their rights and demands for self-determination, return and liberation. Leaked documents reveal that several central issues are bound to dominate the deal which include: (1) the Palestinian refugees and the right of return; (2) the status of Jerusalem; (3) the question of Palestinian statehood; and (4) Israeli settlements.

Jared Kushner recently advised a Palestinian newspaper editor in an interview, saying, “A lot has happened in the world since this conflict began decades ago. The world has moved forward while you have been left behind. Don’t allow your grandfather’s conflict to determine your children’s future.”[2] What this staunch American Zionist supporter[3]—who has close family ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—fails to comprehend, is that this is not a “conflict” between two equal sides. Rather, Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine was consolidated through imperialist support one hundred years ago, and is still ongoing. The social relations of settler colonialism and capitalist imperialism continues the ongoing dispossession, oppression, exploitation and annihilation of the Palestinian people. In 1965, Palestinian historian Fayez Sayegh provided a definition of Zionist settler colonialism and identified three elements of their project, which includes: racial self-segregation in a Zionist state; racial exclusiveness through eviction and elimination of the Arab Palestinians; and occupation in all of Palestine with Israeli statehood as Zionism’s perennial aim.[4][5] The “Deal of the Century” is yet another move to further these three elements and consolidate the Zionist projects initial goal.

In line with this 1919 Zionist formulation of statehood in historic Palestine, the “Deal of the Century” will attempt to annex even more Palestinian land, and use the language of “peace” and “economic prosperity” to whitewash its aims at liquidating the entire Palestinian cause. The deal will be shaped by the preceding Oslo peace process (1994 onwards), which Edward Said termed “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles.”[6] Israel benefited tremendously from Oslo, as it consolidated settler colonialism and deepened its military control over Palestinian life. It did so by annexing more land in the West Bank to construct Israeli settlements, entrenching a neoliberal order in the West Bank (ideologically weakening Palestinian resistance), attaining a regional position that enabled neighboring counties to embrace economic and political ties with Israel, and undermining the right of return of the refugees by fragmenting the Palestinian people’s struggle to the West Bank and Gaza. The colonial design and agenda that Israel could not fully actualize during the Oslo process will be favored by the US in this deal of the century. Despite the delay in release, what the plan will consist of is evident from the various policy decisions and moves the US and Israel have taken in the past two years. For example, the US embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem in 2017, the US aid cuts to the refugee agency (UNRWA), the US proclamation of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; the Israeli Jewish Nation State Law, the Israeli demolition of the Palestinian village Khan Al-Ahmar, and Palestinian road closures that connect the West Bank to Jerusalem (see endnote for more information)[7].

Economic policy will be at the center of the peace plan. In February 2019, Kushner and Greenblatt made state visits to several Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain to discuss the economic aspects of this “Middle East Peace Plan.” The Deal of the Century attempts to create US, Gulf, and Israeli unity against Iran in exchange for the Gulf’s financing of the economics of the “peace plan.”[8] Adam Hanieh reminds us that understanding the adoption of neoliberal policies by Arab governments in the region from the 1990’s onwards is important to grasp how “neoliberal transformations have also occurred with the internationalization of Gulf capital, the dramatic restructuring of class relations which not only enriched national capitalist classes backed by authoritarian states, it has also acted to strengthen the position of the Gulf states within the wide regional order,” and its relations with imperialism[9]. The US will use economic policies and incentives to enable Gulf States to accumulate surplus capital in exchange for their support for the deal, while deepening imperialist social relations. The US will also capitalize on the severe economic crisis that the region has suffered and in turn attempt to buy or bribe Arab regimes’ support for the deal while also normalizing relations with Israel.

In the most recent leaks revealed by a Hebrew news channel about the deal, it was reported that a Palestinian state called “The New Palestine” will be established in the West Bank and Gaza, with the exception of the settlements[10]. This means that a Palestinian state will be established within provisional borders on half of the West Bank and Gaza, without Jerusalem. This will continue the fragmentation of Palestinian territories as ethnic enclaves akin to the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. The leaks also reveal that Egypt will be asked to lease new land to Palestine for the purpose of establishing an airport, factories and commerce for agriculture. The plan will attempt to establish a free-trade zone between Gaza and Sinai where large industrial projects will be created, which would grant workers from Gaza access to this territorial region[11]. After Israel systematically destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza through its vicious bombing campaigns over the years (from 2009 onwards), and has “de-developed”[12] the territory through its brutal siege, the peace plan seeks to transfer responsibility of the enclave onto Egypt and the financial responsibility for the reconstruction of Gaza to Arab monarchies in the Gulf states[13]. Gulf capital will be the major beneficiary, but the US and European Union will also benefit economically. While the peace plan attempts to reduce Palestine to a humanitarian and security problem, this is a political issue concerning Palestinian liberation and sovereignty and any sensible peace plan would need to understand and address this.

The peace plan will most likely ask the Palestinian Authority to renounce the right of return of Palestinian refugees in exchange for billions of dollars[14]. Arab states will be asked to take an active role in implementing the deal. According to a report published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akbar, Jordan will be asked to permanently settle one million Palestinian Arabs currently listed as refugees. Similarly, Lebanon would be encouraged to grant citizenship to roughly 450,000 Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon (many living in the country as refugees)[15]. Egypt would also be asked to open up the Sinai Peninsula near the Gaza Strip for the establishment of industrial zones[16]. Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon would receive billions of dollars in foreign grants and aid payments for these resettlement activities and economic projects. Economic aid regimes would further entrench colonial and imperialist power in the region, and history tells us that aid will not bring peace, prosperity, or liberation for the Arab people, and particularly won’t do so for the Palestinians. The failure of Oslo is partially a consequence of this aid regime, on which the Palestinian Authority depended on for running its quasi-state, which deepened the stronghold of neoliberal ideologies and capitalist social relations, and its collaboration with its colonial masters via a security coordination that has politically devastated the territory.

Trump’s peace plan will not address the issue of illegal Israeli settlements, and therefore the settlements will remain, as per reports of media that have engaged with anonymous senior officials of Israel’s negotiating team[17]. This will continue to enable settlement expansion (deemed illegal under international law) in many parts of the West Bank, freely allowing Israel to annex most of the West Bank, claim settler sovereignty over more territory, and further settler vigilante terror on Palestinian life[18]. Israel will also maintain control over the Jordan Valley as it sees it as a “strategic defensive belt for the country” and its settlements of utmost importance for security[19]. Additionally, the status of Jerusalem will remain unresolved, and it is most likely that the Old City would be recognized as Israeli. Palestinians would have access to religious sites such as the Al-Aqsa mosque, but under Israeli surveillance, as Israel would have full control of all of the borders—land, sea and air—across these territories. Additionally, “The New Palestine” will not be able to form an army, only a police force would be permitted[20]. A defense treaty is proposed in the deal which will require “The New Palestine” to pay Israel for protection from all external aggression, essentially turning the occupied territories into an Israeli military protectorate. The main aggressors that have continually attacked Palestinian land, life and culture is the Zionist entity and its occupation, thus it is unlikely that Palestinians will give up their right to self defense and pay their colonizers for the continuity of a less visible occupation in the name of “protection.” Doing so would be a complete surrender of their cause and aspirations for national liberation, return and self-determination.

The Deal of the Century is about theft of land, water, resources, and rivalries over territorial expansion, borders, investment deals, and the free flow of capital meant to reproduce Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia as a hegemonic force in the region. Its architects embody the characters and plot of the 1983 comedy film The Deal of the Century[21]. Trump’s peace plan is yet another exercise of settler-nation building.

Trump’s Deal of the Century is a plan for catastrophe, yet another iteration of the Nakba. For the Palestinian people, the Deal of the Century will be a Palestinian Versailles 2.0. It is highly likely that the Palestinians will reject this treaty of Versailles version 2.0 upon its arrival but will be punished for refusal—through aid cuts, sanctions, and war[22]. What is at stake for Palestinians will become clear once the Deal of Century is officially made public in June 2019. Nevertheless, the deal will most likely favor settler colonial and capitalist aspirations of further territorial expansion, which must be refused and rejected. Only organized resistance and solidarity between struggles, both in the region and across the world, against Zionist settler colonialism, capitalist imperialism (and US imperialism in particular), neoliberalism, racism, heteropatriarchy, and fundamentalism, can prevent a catastrophic reordering of the region that is well in order. Palestine is at the heart of this struggle.


Chandni Desai is a scholar-activist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. She is a
member of Faculty for Palestine, was a co-founding member of the University of Toronto
Divestment Campaign, and a member of the International Israeli Apartheid Week Coordinating
Committee.

[1] The architects of the deal of the century are Jared Kushner (Donald Trump’s son-in-law and US special advisor to the Middle East) and Jason Greenblatt, (special Middle East envoy).

[2] Transcript: Jared Kushner’s Interview with a Palestinian Newspaper. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/24/world/middleeast/jared-kushner-interview-transcript.html

[3] Kushner’s interest in Israel-Palestine stems from his pro-Zionist stance in favor of Israeli policies that uphold colonialism, apartheid and military occupation. Kushner, Greenblatt and David Friedman (the American Ambassador to Israel) are also extreme supporters of Zionist settlers in the occupied territories and have charities that finance these settlers, many of whom are violent and vicious towards Palestinians.  See Bishara, M. for more details https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/big-deal-century-180702084056723.html

[4]Sayegh, F. (1965). Zionist Colonialism in Palestine. Settler Colonial Studies, 2(1), p. 214.

[5] The Zionist colonial project influenced by Western imperialism dates back to the late 1800’s. After several failed attempts at gaining control over Palestine, it was not until 1919 onwards that its aspirations for a Jewish homeland in Palestine was actualized with the support of British Imperialism, and later US and Canadian imperialism, which is outside the scope of this article. Nevertheless, it is important to underscore that what is commonly understood or described as the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is not a conflict, it is a colonial, imperialist project that has been ongoing for the past 100 years.

[6] Said, E. (1993). The Morning After. https://www.palestine-studies.org/content/edward-said-morning-after-0

[7] In Israel, in July 2018 a Jewish Nation State Law was passed that calls for Israel to be a Jewish state. In 2018 Israeli authorities also began demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan-Al Ahmar and evicted this community to a garbage dump site in Jerusalem. The demolition and displacement of this village will enable Israel to connect and expand illegal settlements in this area.

The Trump administration has already defunded the United Nations Refugee Relief Works Agency (UNRWA)– a special agency created in 1948 to provide aid to Palestinian refugees– of $200 million dollars of US aid, demonstrating the ideology of assimilation whereby the Palestinian refugees should be absorbed within the nation-states in which they have sought asylum and refuge. In December 2017, The Trump Administration has already unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has transferred its embassy there—violating UN General Assembly Resolution 181. The Palestinian Authority has since boycotted the Trump Administration, and refuses to engage in a US-led peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Also, a US presidential decree recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights—an Israeli occupied territory since 1967, and its first beneficiary for an oil contract has been former US Vice President Dick Cheney. The Trump Administration has also mandated the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Office in Washington. All of these political decisions which violate international law were devised by Jared Kushner, a staunch support of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. Hee, Greenblatt and David Friedman (the American Ambassador to Israel) monetarily support these settlers through charities that finance their activities.

[8] The Israel-US-Gulf Unity will normalize Arab relations with Israel, even before the Palestinian issue is settled which violates the Saudi-led 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which called for peace first, and recognition of Israel after.

[9] Hanieh, A. (2014). A Petrodollar and a Dream. Jacobin. https://jacobinmag.com/2014/01/a-petrodollar-and-a-dream

[10] (2019). First-ever reveal of the ‘Deal of the Century’ details. Maan News Agency.http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=783388&fbclid=IwAR0bcMFiZImTt2lD-vF8z2HX_F37S-7d__EisEkAoO7NJs3hvcohV8WXS0c

[11] Bar’el, Z. (2018). Trump’s Deal of the Century for the Middle East Might Live or Die in Cairo. https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/trump-s-deal-of-the-century-for-middle-east-peace-might-live-or-die-in-cairo-1.6199973

[12] The concept of “de-development” of Gaza is coined by Sara Roy (1995) in her book “The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development.”

[13] This has been seen before in Iraq. After the US imperialist invasion and destruction of Iraq, US corporations were offered deals to rebuild and invest in rebuilding Iraq profiting billions of dollars from war crimes.

[14] Saudi Arabia has already offered to pay Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion for accepting Trump’s Deal of the Century, which Abbas has rejected#.

[15] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 5, 2019

[16] Soloman, R.  (2019). US deal of the century may be a mere real estate arrangement. http://palestineupdates.com/us-deal-of-the-century-may-be-a-mere-real-estate-arrangement/

[17] Persson, A. (2018). What will Trump’s ultimate deal mean for Palestinians. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-ultimate-deal-palestinians-180327082942844.html

[18] Israeli settlers are among the most violent people towards Palestinians, enacting daily acts of racial terror, particularly in al-Khalil (Hebron). This negates addressing the daily acts of racial violence Palestinians are subject to.

[19] Berger. Y. (2017). Netanyahu: Jordan Valley Will Always Remain a Part of Israel. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-jordan-valley-will-always-remain-a-part-of-israel-1.5459148

[20] (2019). First-ever reveal of the ‘Deal of the Century’ details. Maan News Agency. http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=783388&fbclid=IwAR0bcMFiZImTt2lD-vF8z2HX_F37S-7d__EisEkAoO7NJs3hvcohV8WXS0c

[21]  The Deal of the Century ironically happens to be the name of a 1983 American comedy film which follows the adventures of numerous arms dealers that compete to sell weapons to a dictator in South America. This 1983 film title and Kushner’s role as one of the architects of the Deal of the Century is very symbolic, as Kushner has no expertise on the Middle East, is acting as a real estate agent, and has been tasked with selling arms to Saudi Arabia (to use in its war against Yemen).

[22]  If Palestinians refuse to sign the peace plan, leaks of the deal reveal that the US will threaten the cancellation of US financial support to Palestinians and economic sanctions against them; and will support another Israeli invasion against Gaza.

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