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Bahbah: The "Deal" or "No Deal" of the Century

posted on: May 1, 2019

By: Bishara A. Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist

The much-anticipated and frequently delayed so-called “deal of the century” heralded by US President Donald Trump as the ‘ultimate deal’ leading to the path for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is expected to be unveiled in June.  The timing was determined to coincide with Benjamin Netanyahu’s forming of his new government following his unprecedented fifth win in Israeli elections and the end of Ramadan expected to be in early June.

The plan’s lead architects tasked by Trump to draft the plan are Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and senior advisor; Jason Greenblatt, his top peace negotiator; and David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel.

I, for one, believe that the Palestinian leadership over the past 100 years or so have made grave errors in refusing most potential proposals to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict citing the inadequacies of this or that proposal. Israel, on the other hand, was always willing to take what was offered to it and add to those gains over time until it successfully ended up controlling all of historic Palestine.

Given what little we know about the plan and the hints offered by the lead architects or those US officials who are privy to the plan, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is a disaster in the making and one of the most anti-climatic proposals in history.

Here is what we know so far about the plan includes and does not include:

Israel would retain security control of the West Bank.

Based on what the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stated which was subsequently confirmed by Jared Kushner, the latter said, “from Israel’s point of view, their [Israel] biggest concern is just security.  And I think that what we do, is something that allows for Israel to maintain security…”

Two-state negotiations are non-starters. 

Kushner stated, “New and different ways to reach peace must be tried… We’ve studied the past efforts and how they failed and why they failed.”  When asked by a reporter whether his plan would culminate in “two states,” Kushner replied, “If people focus on the old traditional talking points, we’re never going to make progress.”  In fact, his top aides have already counseled those involved in the peace process not to use the phrase “two-state solution.”

Kushner stated that his plan will emphasize economic benefits for the Palestinians and security for Israel. 

Kushner added, “our focus is really on the bottom up, which is how to make the lives of the Palestinian people better?  What can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable?”

There is no role for Hamas.

In a New York Times opinion piece published recently, Jason Greenblatt argued that “the people of Gaza cannot be helped in any meaningful way until Hamas is no longer in the picture or makes the necessary choices for stability and, eventually, peace.” In other words, there will be no role for Hamas in the envisioned deal.

No Land from Egypt to Gaza.

Greenblatt said that the plan will not involve giving land from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to Palestinian territory in Gaza as was and reported by some sources in the past.

A robust business plan for the region?

With regard to the region as a whole, Kushner expounded on April 22 that “We deal with all the core status issues because you have to do it, but we’ve also built a robust business plan for the whole region.”

Given that President Trump has:

  • Recognized Jerusalem and, not even West Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital and has already moved the US embassy to the city
  • Defunded UNRWA and disavowed its mission of helping Palestinian refugees throughout the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon
  • Cut off all aid to the Palestinians — both direct and indirect aid — including aid to the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus …

Deal or No Deal?

Do we really have to do much analysis to conclude that the deal of the century will not include the basic Palestinian demand of an even “modified” sovereign state in the West Bank, Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital?

If I were representing the Palestinian people, I would want to see the entire document of the proposed “deal of the century” before I pass judgment on it.

If Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman’s statements are remotely accurate and represent what the plan offers, then they should save a tree and not print a copy for the Palestinian side.  

No Deal!


Prof. Bishara Bahbah was the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem based “Al-Fajr” newspaper between 1983-84. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security.  He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.