The pathetic attempt by U.S. President Donald Trump and his emissaries to remove the Palestinian refugee issue from the agenda of any future negotiations between Israel and the PLO by ending UNRWA’s American funding and closing the P.L.O. offices in Washington breaks the record of ignorance, arrogance and aggressiveness, which Trump himself set only a few months ago when this same group sought to remove Jerusalem from the agenda by recognizing it as the capital of Israel.That group — Trump, Kushner, Greenblatt, Friedman — shares the same approach and policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Gideon Sa’ar, who aspires to be his successor, and the nationalist-messianic coalition in the Israeli government. The Netanyahu gang, drunk with power, fears losing what it perceives as the “historic opportunity” that the Trump administration ostensibly provides, raises various “ideas” for the “solution” of the conflict — from annexation of some or all of the West Bank, granting limited autonomy to the Palestinians in Areas A and B, or alternatively Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship, a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, or even the expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan, the “alternative homeland” in the right’s opinion. In the course of the negotiations between Israel and the P.L.O. on the final status agreement, a “package deal” was established, which meets the most important needs of both sides. Israel’s demand for security was met by the Palestinians in a nine-layered “envelope:” a security fence on an agreed route and a controlled and flexible border regime; the demilitarization of Palestine, which would lack an army and heavy weapons; a Palestinian police force that fights terrorism and enforces law and order; the deployment of multinational forces to enforce demilitarization, control borders and execute special missions, temporary Israeli deployment in the Jordan Valley, warning stations and Israeli controlled airspace, trilateral activity on the Palestine-Jordan borders, conditional strategic depth (similar to the peace treaty with Jordan, with a prohibition on Palestine forging military alliances with countries and organizations hostile to Israel), and regional security agreements against the Iranian-Shiite axis. In return, Israel under Ehud Olmert accepted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s formula that Palestine would cover 6,205 square kilometers (22 percent of Mandatory Palestine) in order to allow the exchange of territory that would leave Israel with the vast majority of Israelis living beyond the Green Line. Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the PLO and President of the Palestinian Authority, agreed to settle the refugee issue through a symbolic and limited return to Israel, with the consent and approval of Israel, in a way that does not threaten the demographic balance in Israel and via compensation — positions he repeated last week to a delegation of Israeli peace activists in Ramallah. In return, Israel agreed to a Palestinian capital in Arab East Jerusalem (which would change the status of 350,000 Palestinian residents of Israel to citizens of Palestine), the annexation of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to Israel, and a “special regime” in the holy basin, where the status quo has been preserved for years. Against the background of these historical facts, which have been presented countless times to Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, and to Jason Greenblatt, his envoy for the conflict, the new formula presented by the Trump administration attests to a deep failure in the basic understanding of the package deal, which can promise two partners in its implementation. For the time being, the Trump administration has only dealt poorly with the issues (Jerusalem and refugees), and absurdly sought to resolve the tension between the demands of Israel and the Palestinians by awarding Israel with a technical victory (2:0) without having it come and face the negotiating table. Israel receives what it wants on the refugee issue — in the throes of one presidential decision, the Palestinian refugees cease to exist, ostensibly there is no one to return and no one will receive compensation. “United” Jerusalem, which over the past 50 years has become more Arab, more ultra-Orthodox, more anti-Zionist, more poor, more discriminatory, and more anti-democratic, will remain the “eternal capital of Israel,” a forceful attempt to make crazy delusions, without any historical grasp, into a reality.
The Netanyahu-Bennett-Shaked-Smotrich gang adopted for itself the issues of borders and security. The minister of justice, together with the Land of Israel caucus headed by Kish and Smotrich, succeeded in laying down the legal, anti-liberal, and anti-democratic foundations for future bills to annex various areas of the West Bank. Some, like Bennett, seek to enjoy the dowry (Area C) and foolishly assume that the bride (millions of Palestinians in Areas A and B) will continue to maintain security cooperation with Israel within the framework of cultural autonomy. To call this proposal a plan is insulting and pretentious to the point of absurdity because it does not provide a political, security, and economic response to the reality of 169 “islands” of Areas A and B that are surrounded by dozens of corridors of Area C.
Others, more modest, seek to annex “only” all areas of Israeli settlement, or “Greater Jerusalem,” or the Jordan Valley. All of these proposals, without exception (none of them accompanied by a map), as promised by their thinkers, will ultimately bring about the fulfillment of the divine promise to grant the Land of Israel (whose borders were determined on the basis of the interests of the victorious powers in World War I) to the Jewish people. Many of them go a step further and consider it the foundation of the necessary conditions for the coming of the Messiah, the establishment of the kingdom of David, and the construction of the Third Temple. With the Greater Land of Israel, the State of Israel, according to their position, will also enjoy absolute security both because it sits on the Jordan River and because the divine presence rests above it, even if hundreds of millions of Palestinians with no rights are breathing down their necks.
Trump’s ultimate deal, if based on the current policies and statements of his administration, is bound to fail. There is no Palestinian or Arab partner for plans that are detached from the history of the conflict and from international legitimacy in the form of UN Resolutions 242 and 338. If no alternative financial sources are found, the UNRWA decision may rekindle the Gaza Strip due to the failure of Hamas’s latest move to reach an agreement with Israel on the lifting of the blockade, a long-term ceasefire, and rehabilitation of systems that have been on the brink of collapse for a long time. Jerusalem is liable to stir as well with the cancellation of American aid to hospitals in the eastern part of the city.
These can stir up the existing relationship between Israel and the Palestinians and could endanger the delicate balance in which it resides in today, but it cannot take it outside the framework of existing agreements and into a completely new reality.
On the other hand, the way the Netanyahu-Bennett-Smotrich gang leads Israel is the most dangerous. The Netanyahu government wants to throw out the nine-layer security plan and transform it into annexation maneuvers that will escalate relations into internal war between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, Jews and Jews, and Arabs and Arabs. Israel will watch the collapse of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and the creation of an extremist religious terror front fueled by the support of Iran, Turkey, and Qatar, and riding on the waves of hatred from the Arab street.
In its first stage, the Netanyahu government is dragging Israel into an apartheid state on the basis of a “plan,” disconnected from reality that the professional establishment has never taken part in and which is to be followed by a collapse accompanied by violence which will bring about a single state, quickly to be replaced by an Arab state with a Jewish minority which is religious and poor, just as the Land of Israel was on the eve of the launching of the Zionist enterprise more than a hundred years ago.